Magazine | November 17, 2014, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ President Obama’s credit card was refused. From force of habit, he shut down the Washington Monument.

‐ Two in Canada, one in Queens: The end of October was marked by three bloody acts of one-man jihad. Martin Couture-Rouleau ran over two soldiers, killing one of them, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal; Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed another soldier in Ottawa before storming the House of Commons. On a Queens street, Zale Thompson struck two cops with a hatchet (neither of them fatally). All three attackers were killed; all three were converts to Islam. The phrase “lone wolf,” routinely applied to such men, does not do justice to the case. The next phase of terrorism, since al-Qaeda’s fascination with grandiose plots has been thwarted since September 11, is the open-ended invitation to individuals to strike as best they can. The Boston Marathon bombers responded to such appeals; ISIS renewed them after the United States, Canada, and other Western countries went to war with it. Where Islamists can band together, they rape and slaughter Christians and Yazidis; where they live apart, they attack soldiers and cops. Western intelligence and law enforcement must be alert and unillusioned.

‐ On normal days the sergeant-at-arms of Canada’s House of Commons opens sessions by parading a ceremonial mace down the center aisle of the Commons Chamber in Ottawa. On October 22, not a normal day, sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers shot and killed Zehaf-Bibeau. “I engaged the suspect and the suspect is deceased,” Vickers reported when the shooting stopped. The following day, after parading the mace, he was given a minutes-long standing ovation, which he acknowledged with stoical nods. It was the Canadian equivalent of an end-zone dance. A fitting tribute, a splendid man. He stands on guard for thee.

‐ President Obama said that his policies were on the ballot this November, and later noted that most of the Democratic candidates who are distancing themselves from him usually vote with him. There must have been a lot of cursing on Capitol Hill and at the DSCC. Obama is right, though, and congressional candidates rarely succeed in running away from presidents of their party. It is nonetheless even rarer for a president to make the tactic quite so hard for his party’s candidates. We have always known that the president had cool relations with Democrats in Congress. Perhaps he has not gotten to know them well because he figures a lot of them will be gone soon.

‐ “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states,” Obama told The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin in an interview published in October. When Obama in May 2012 announced that he was reversing himself on his professed opposition to same-sex marriage, he emphasized that he believed it was a question that should be left to the states. Evidently it goes without saying that the Constitution’s meaning can evolve as rapidly as Barack Obama’s beliefs.

‐ It is sometimes said that Republicans are in the midst of a civil war over foreign policy. To judge from a recent speech by Senator Rand Paul, the war is over: The principles he outlined, which he described as “conservative realism,” will not generate serious disagreement from any conservatives. He argued that we should use force as a last resort, when we have a plan for victory, and when Congress authorizes it. He said that we should neither “retreat” from the world nor seek to “remake” it. This second point was qualified, however, by his assertion that the denial of human rights is a problem for the globe, not just for those countries where it occurs. Senator Paul may have a heavier presumption against military action, and more faith in the power of free trade to facilitate international comity, than other conservatives. Evidently, though, he is not interested in a battle over first principles. If this is a strategic decision on his part, it suggests that he is, just as he says, a realist at heart.

‐ Campaigning in Massachusetts for her party’s gubernatorial nominee, Hillary Clinton said, “Don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know that old theory: trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed.” What creates jobs, then? How many of us can get hired as community organizers? How many of us can get a couple hundred grand for speaking to — ahem — a corporation? When he opened a bed-and-breakfast in Connecticut, George McGovern learned something about business. Perhaps under the pressure of Elizabeth Warren, Clinton is going the other way.

‐ The Democrats’ “war on women” strategy has always been frivolous and intellectually dishonest, and in the lead-up to the midterm election, it was revealed as being not terribly effective, either. Alison Lundergan Grimes, Jeanne Shaheen, and Mark Udall, all of whom raised the alarm about the alleged crusade against uterus-possessors, went into the last days of the election struggling. Texas’s Wendy Davis, whose distasteful abortion-based hate parade made the wheelchair from which Republican Greg Abbott performs his public duties the central image of its attack ads, was as of this writing setting herself up for a thorough drubbing. Part of this is due to the fact that American women, like American men, are at the moment intensely concerned about their stagnating wages and rising health-care costs, problems that have not been ameliorated by signature Democratic programs such as the so-called Affordable Care Act and the lamentably wasteful stimulus. A second factor is that women are as likely as men to oppose grisly late-term abortions. A third is that the category “American women” contains more than Wendy Davis and the leadership of Planned Parenthood.

‐ In two Senate races, those in Iowa and Colorado, Democrats are making an issue out of Republican support for “personhood laws” that treat unborn children as having a right to life from the moment of conception onward. Campaigning for such laws has been controversial among pro-lifers, with most of the movement concluding that it is a tactical mistake, especially when there appear to be five justices on the Supreme Court against the idea. The Democrats charge that personhood laws would prohibit in vitro fertilization, ban several forms of contraception, and make miscarriages police business. These charges range from mistaken to absurd — especially in Iowa, where the “personhood amendment” was too sloppily drafted to have any legal effect at all. The principle the personhood laws seek to vindicate is sound and important, but there is no case for amateurism in life-and-death matters.

#page#‐ “Escort whore out the door,” Vincent Sheheen told a crowd of supporters in South Carolina, referring to Republican governor Nikki Haley, his opponent in the gubernatorial race. Sheheen repeated the sentence, correcting “whore” to “her,” and then joined the crowd in their laughter. Though the southern accent comes in many varieties, none that we know of makes a homophone of the two words in question. Whether Sheheen’s blunder was deliberate or his tongue merely slipped, his judgment clearly lapsed. The first version of his exhortation warranted at least a perfunctory apology, not a nod and wink, as it were, amplified by his beaming and chortling. And his party accuses Republicans of hostility to women.

‐ Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin’s daughter, was recorded claiming that she had been knocked down and dragged across the ground during a drunken brawl in Alaska. The testimony provoked wild amusement among the bien pensant classes, with Andrew Sullivan mocking the family as Jerry Springer bait and CNN’s Carol Costello introducing the tape on her show as “possibly the best minute and a half of audio we’ve ever come across” and inviting her viewers to “sit back and enjoy” it. (Costello later apologized.) It is one thing for skeptics to take a single source of evidence with a pinch of salt, and to wait to arrive at a judgment until further information comes to light. It is quite another to treat a young woman’s reporting that she was assaulted as an opportunity for mirth. But an opportunity it is, if she has the wrong mother.

‐ In October it came to light that Iowa GOP Senate nominee Joni Ernst had once told the National Rifle Association that, if she were attacked by an individual or by a government that no longer respected her rights, she would fight back with her 9-millimeter handgun. Immediately, the Left pounced, casting her as an insurrectionist and asking her to define when exactly she would feel it was acceptable to resist. To respond to a categorical statement such as this with a demand for specifics is at best childish and at worst cynical. The Declaration of Independence makes it clear that revolts are not to be provoked by “light and transient causes” but that there are nevertheless points in the course of human events at which resistance to tyranny is acceptable. In the main, self-defense law operates on a similar principle. The opposite of Ernst’s statement is significantly more alarming: that, were she targeted, she would refuse to defend herself. The Left is always looking for strong, independent women. By all accounts, Iowans have a chance to send one to the Senate.

‐ In 1998 Charlie Crist (R.), running for Senate in Florida, called on President Bill Clinton to resign. “The president has shattered the confidence and trust of the American people. And I think he needs to be accountable for that.” Crist lost that race, but served as governor from 2007 to 2011. In 2014 Crist (D.), hoping to be governor again, called Clinton, who is campaigning at his side, “one of the greatest Americans in the history of our country, one of the greatest presidents ever.” Crist has grown out of office.

‐ Opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Amendment, known as the “bathroom bill,” object that it would allow men who identify as women to use women’s public restrooms. When petitions to repeal the ordinance were rejected by the city, which ruled that more than two-thirds of signatures were invalid, opponents filed suit. The case goes to trial in January. Meanwhile, pro bono lawyers for the city subpoenaed sermons of five Houston pastors who supported repeal, and religious leaders in Houston and across the country were quick to cry foul. While conceding that the subpoenas were overly broad, Mayor Annise Parker argued that their purpose was only to gather information that might bear on the validity of the signatures gathered. “It’s not about ‘What did you preach on last Sunday?’” she said, trying to reassure critics. The city has putatively narrowed its expedition to “communications,” including speeches, related to the petition drive, but sermons are speeches — and last we checked, they aren’t in the category of things that should be rendered unto Caesar.

‐ Even with the usual methodological caveats, the estimate of non-citizens’ voting authored by political-science scholars Jesse Richman and David Earnest and published in the Washington Post is disturbing: Not only do the authors find that non-citizens cast illegal votes at non-trivial rates, they vote in large enough numbers to tip elections — toward the Democrats, naturally — in some states, Florida notable among them. This is not without real consequence: The authors estimate that non-citizen votes were sufficient to carry Al Franken across the finish line, providing the 60th Senate vote needed to pass Obamacare. If the rate of non-citizen voting is even half what the authors estimate, that voter fraud that Democrats keep assuring us never happens is in fact very common. Unsurprisingly, respondents to the 2008 Congressional Cooperative Election Survey who both self-identified as non-citizens and reported having voted went for Barack Obama 80 percent of the time. But then it is no surprise that a country that cannot or will not secure its borders cannot or will not secure its elections, either.

#page#It Gets Better

It might seem like only yesterday, but we are about to hit the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the financial crisis that set off the Great Recession. Looking back, we think that by far the best guide to the miserable growth experience we have just lived through is the landmark analysis of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. Their work documents that, historically, economic growth following financial crises has been much lower in the decade after the crisis began than in the preceding ten-year period. Countries have tried Keynesian stimulus; countries have tried fiscal consolidation; countries have done nothing and hoped for the best. On average, they have limped forward, just as we have.

Surprised by the tepid response of our economy to President Obama’s Keynesian policies, heightened regulation, and increased taxes, today’s Keynesian doomsayers have begun to despair, arguing that we are stuck in this low-growth state for as far as the eye can see. The catchphrase is “secular stagnation,” a term introduced in 1938 by economist Alvin Hansen in the midst of the Great Depression. We now hear that the only chance we might have to escape it is another massive increase in government spending. World War III, anyone?

NOTE: ALL RATES ARE GEOMETRIC AVERAGES OF ANNUAL RATES OF CHANGE (EXCEPT THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE, FOR WHICH THE RATE IS THE AVERAGE LEVEL). AVERAGES ARE BASED ON THE MEDIAN VALUES OF UP TO 15 COUNTRIES. SOURCE: GDP, UNEMPLOYMENT DATA FROM THE WORLD BANK; ASSET-PRICE DATA FROM GLOBAL FINANCIAL DATA, THE BIS, AND C. REINHART (PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE).

The fact that economies tend to grow more slowly for the decade after a crisis invites the question: What happens next? Indeed, as we begin the eighth year, it is natural to ask whether the same data that provided such a trenchant guide to the past seven years have anything to say about our future. The nearby chart plots the average change, during historical financial crises, in four key economic variables: real-GDP growth, the unemployment rate, equity returns, and housing returns. For each, the chart shows the average across countries for the ten years before a financial crisis, the ten years after, and the five-year period beginning in the eighth year — a key guide to what we should expect going forward from today.

The analysis supports significantly more optimism than that peddled by the Keynesians. Per capita GDP growth and unemployment, while not returning to their lofty pre-crisis levels, get pretty darn close. Housing and equity prices tend to increase over the same time period by even more than they increased before the crisis.

In their bestselling book, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, Reinhart and Rogoff recount the words of a trader at a Federal Reserve briefing after the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. “More money has been lost because of four words than at the point of a gun,” he said. “Those words are ‘This time is different.’”

The Keynesian “secular stagnation” hypothesis supposes that current economic conditions and the forces underlying them are exceptional, rather than the result of what is only another financial crisis cut from the same cloth as the many that have occurred over the centuries. And so today it is the Keynesians claiming that this time is different. One might even speculate that the reason equity prices do so well during the time period that we study here is that Keynesian pessimists, in most financial crises, tend to convince the general population that the world has changed. When they are proven wrong, equities celebrate.

#page#‐ Throughout the debate over the Obama administration’s “contraceptive mandate,” many liberals have insisted that they are foursquare behind religious freedom. They are just against Hobby Lobby because it involves a corporation, or because contraceptives aren’t abortifacients. Now they have a chance to prove their sincerity, because the State of California has started requiring churches to cover surgical abortion for their employees. There’s no state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect churches, so it will take vocal objections from liberals to undo this rule. While we wait, churches may have no alternative but conscientious objection.

‐ Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Fed, has joined the “inequality” crusaders. She makes the same mistakes as the rest of them, for instance conflating cross-sectional data — what is happening at a certain income percentile in a certain year — with what is happening to the incomes of actual people and households over time, and treating the income “distribution” — as though some agency were in charge of distributing income — as if it were a zero-sum contest. The problem is that low-income and middle-class Americans are not experiencing enough real improvement in their standards of living absolutely, not that they are experiencing insufficient income growth relative to Warren Buffett and Ben Affleck. Yellen describes four “building blocks” of opportunity and the challenges associated with them: Childhood education is critical, but resources are poorly marshaled; higher education raises wages but costs too much; business ownership is remunerative but difficult; inheritances provide key injections of household wealth but may be diminished by lower savings rates, rising health-care expenses, and, possibly, entitlement cuts. Republicans have for years been working to reform K–12 education and to rein in bloated college costs; Democrats are so enthusiastic about business ownership and inheritances that they propose to raise taxes on both. The problem facing the American economy is not economic inequality but economic stagnation; making professional athletes and movie stars poorer will not make Walmart cashiers richer.

‐ The Left’s preferred story about Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson has all but collapsed. He was said to have murdered Michael Brown, a young, unarmed black man, while Brown was trying to surrender. But FBI forensic analysis, the official court autopsy report, and a half-dozen African-American witnesses (and others) have corroborated Wilson’s account of events: that Brown was shot inside Wilson’s patrol vehicle, then again in the street when he approached the officer. Moreover, his hands were likely not raised in the “Hands up, don’t shoot” position that has become the defining meme among Ferguson protesters. It is not clear whether those facts are conclusive, but they mean that a murder charge, let alone a conviction, is increasingly unlikely. Yet Ferguson-area law enforcement is on high alert awaiting the St. Louis grand jury’s decision. There is a real concern that, in the event that the grand jury refuses to indict, the protesters who have taken to disrupting the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, brawling with St. Louis Rams fans, and burning the American flag will demonstrate their devotion to justice by enkindling a variety of local establishments.

‐ At Harvard University, 28 law professors have denounced their employer’s adoption of new rules for handling allegations of sexual assault by students. They say that these rules trample the traditional rights of due process and are a shameful example of the university’s having knuckled under to the federal government. The group demands that Harvard “withdraw this sexual harassment policy” and start anew. It is heartening to see that old-fashioned liberalism still has some defenders in Cambridge.

‐ Crude-oil prices have been driven to extremes. But don’t look for liberals to use this as an excuse to crack down on speculators: Oil prices are plummeting, not rising. They’re down to about $80 a barrel, from about $100 a couple of months ago. This may have a little to do with the supply glut caused by the U.S. shale boom, but it’s also caused by worries about the European and Chinese economies. It’s almost entirely good news for Americans: If the price drop stays, it’s equivalent to an $80 billion tax cut over the next year, raising the real value of Americans’ wages by hundreds of dollars per worker. Meanwhile, consistently low prices will bust open the budgets of our most cash-strapped geopolitical foes, especially Venezuela and Russia. Prices well below $100 a barrel could slow the development of unconventional North American energy resources, but those costs too have been dropping. Congress can encourage this trend by making leases on federal land easier to get, and by further deregulating production and exports. Most of all, though, it should just let the benefits of the free market flow.

‐ Construction on Tennessee’s Watts Bar nuclear-power plant, which began back in 1972, is finally on the verge of completion. The TVA project has encountered many vicissitudes along the way, including the Arab oil crisis, the Three Mile Island accident, and Chernobyl (a completely different type of reactor that nonetheless put all nuclear power in disrepute). Design standards kept getting stricter, and cheap energy led to the abandonment of most new nuclear construction; Watts Bar was suspended in 1988. But one of its two units went online in 1996, and the second, which will be America’s first new nuclear-power source since then, has just had its reactor core installed and has begun testing. Through all these ups and downs, nuclear has quietly held steady at nearly 20 percent of American electrical generation. To whatever extent fossil fuels contribute to global warming, nuclear power, with zero carbon emissions, is a much better answer than expensive, unreliable boutique methods such as wind and solar; and as the recent start of construction on two other plants has shown, there’s life in the industry yet.

‐ What the Wall Street Journal’s John Carney calls the “Home Ownership Mob” is alive and well, and another sensible banking regulation now sleeps with the fishes. Federal regulators, including Elizabeth Warren’s new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, decided to neuter one of the reasonable ideas in the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill: forcing mortgage lenders to hold some of their risky loans rather than being able to sell all of them to investors. There was an exemption to this requirement: Lenders didn’t have to hold on to loans if they were “qualified” mortgages, which meant, among other things, that the borrower had made a down payment of at least 20 percent. Now, thanks to heavy lobbying from a coalition of mortgage lenders and housing activists, the down-payment rule is out the window and the qualified-mortgage distinction is about to get as hard to come by as an Ivy League A-minus. For Washington, apparently, one housing meltdown wasn’t enough.

#page#‐ “Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power,” declared Paul Krugman in his October 20 New York Times column, “and it uses that power in ways that hurt America.” For what intrigues is the Standard Oil of the 21st century responsible? Krugman cites Amazon’s disparate treatment of two books, Daniel Schulman’s Sons of Wichita, about the Koch brothers, and Representative Paul Ryan’s The Way Forward. “Both are listed as eligible for Amazon Prime, and for Mr. Ryan’s book Amazon offers the usual free two-day delivery. What about ‘Sons of Wichita’? As of Sunday, it ‘usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.’ Uh-huh.” Exposed! Jeff Bezos — who has donated 20-fold to Democratic candidates over Republicans since 2000 — is at the center of a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy . . . to ship conservative books fast. Does Amazon ship tinfoil hats?

‐ Like this magazine, The Nation magazine takes cruises. In fact, they got the idea from us. Unlike us, they travel to one-party dictatorships with a gulag. In February, The Nation is going to the Castros’ Cuba. They will meet with “prominent Cuban professors, government officials,” and so on. The talks with the government officials should be especially cozy. Then they will “tour museums with art historians, relax on the island’s most scenic beaches,” and no doubt have a jolly time. For the island’s democrats and liberals and dissidents, things are far less jolly. Some of them are being tortured in the Castros’ political prisons right now. This dictatorship has been propped up by supporters in free countries ever since it began, in 1959. The Cuban Communists bear most of the blame for the dictatorship, of course. It’s their dictatorship. But Free World fans have done their part. Maybe in the summer, when it’s discouragingly hot in Cuba, The Nation can steam to North Korea.

‐ The “extraordinary synod” of Catholic bishops lived up to its billing. Pope Francis called it, above all, to see if some pastoral response could be made to those divorced and remarried people seeking to receive communion without getting annulments. The press, and progressive elements in the Church, hoped that it would begin a rewriting of doctrine about divorce and homosexuality. These hopes were predictably dashed. African bishops especially revolted at the thought; Walter Cardinal Kasper, leading the progressive forces, then said that the Church should not listen to the Africans and their “taboos,” enraging them further; he denied that he had said it; a recording showed he had. The revolt and the buffoonery leave the progressives in worse shape than when the synod started. The problems faced by divorced and homosexually inclined Catholics must be handled with sensitivity, tact, and love. The main issue regarding marriage throughout the West, however, is its collapse as an institution that channels sexual behavior toward the well-being of children. It is to that grave problem that the Church’s attention, and not only its, should now turn.

‐ It will be hard for anyone to spin the results of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections as another triumph for the Machiavellian Vladimir Putin. Three pro-Europe, pro-democracy, and (by necessity) anti-Russian political parties won 54 percent of the total vote cast in all of Ukraine minus Crimea and the three eastern provinces controlled by “pro-Russian separatists.” Other pro-European parties accounted for about 20 percent of the vote. A pro-Russian opposition bloc won less than 8 percent. Communists won’t be in the next parliament at all. The likelihood is strong that the parliamentary arithmetic will provide the basis for a stable democratic government committed to “joining Europe.” A competent government rooted in a stable parliamentary majority will be absolutely necessary in order to handle the country’s formidable problems. The West needs to step up economic aid in particular, including energy supplies, in the next few years. America and Europe have a major strategic interest in ensuring that Ukraine recovers and becomes stable and independent. Much can go wrong for Ukraine in the next decade, though not enough to transform the country into a victory for Putin.

‐ Ex-Marxist Dilma Rousseff’s first term as president of Brazil saw recession, rising inflation, a major scandal of corruption involving the state oil company, and mass protests. The intention to build a welfare state is clear, but the standards of health and education have remained low. Her opponent, the conservative Aecio Neves, offered a program of reform. Rousseff won narrowly and said, “I want to be a much better president than I have been to date.” She shouldn’t find this too hard.

‐ Murdering its way across Syria and Iraq, ISIS has found support from the British National Union of Students. A motion condemning ISIS was put before the Union’s Executive Committee. Ms. Malia Bouattia, identified as the “NUS black students’ officer,” came out against the motion, on the grounds that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and, wait for it, “blatant Islamophobia.” The motion duly fell. The NUS is practicing politics with these motions, amendments, and counter-motions that are responsible to nobody and nothing in the grown-up world. But even in teacups, storms can be ugly.

‐ In January, Thomas Docherty, a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Warwick in England, was suspended for nine months for “inappropriate sighing,” “making ironic comments,” “projecting negative body language,” and giving off “negative vibes.” The case against him was brought by a colleague who argued that he undermined her authority. Last month a university tribunal lifted the suspension. “Thanks again to you all — and with luck, I’ll see some of you in class, in conference, or just around and about,” he wrote graciously on a Facebook page that students had created in his support. His public expressions since his reinstatement have been clean of irony, negative vibes, and inappropriate sighs, even of relief.

#page#‐ A rumor went around that an NFL quarterback, Russell Wilson, was getting grief from teammates for not being “black enough.” This caused Charles Barkley, the ex–NBA star and current TV analyst, to go on a glorious tear. “Unfortunately, as I tell my white friends, we as black people are never going to be successful, not because of you white people, but because of other black people. When you’re black, you have to deal with so much crap in your life from other black people. It’s a dirty, dark secret. . . . For some reason, we are brainwashed to think, if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not black enough.” There was more where that came from. Sir Charles was fearless on the court, and he is just as fearless off. May he continue, independent and unbridled.

‐ The eco-extremist group Greenpeace has won another stirring victory: depriving kids of Lego toys. Shell Oil service stations used to sell promotional Lego sets, complete with Shell gas pumps, fancy cars, and assorted signs and fixtures; but Greenpeace opposes Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic, so it went after the toy company in hopes that adverse publicity would harm the petroleum giant. To this end, Greenpeace released a video of snow-covered Lego landscapes being overrun with Lego oil rigs and construction vehicles; it climaxed with an assortment of Arctic denizens, including Santa Claus, drowning under a tide of thick black goo. Kids around the world protested, and Lego quickly ended its dealings with Shell. Perhaps next Lego should stop making those little colored bricks from petroleum, and switch to making its toys out of carpet sweepings and recycled organic cornstalks.

‐ In the State of Washington, you need a license to be a stripper. It’s not obvious how the public interest would be harmed if artistes were allowed to disrobe without official sanction: There’s no health hazard, as long as you don’t get too close; educational credentials seem superfluous; and if the intent, as with some other licensed professions, is to keep practitioners from passing off imitation goods as real, it’s usually too late for that. Still, one might think there’s no great harm in making Washington’s aspiring strippers fill out a form, but unfortunately, such forms are considered public documents, and one man has asked to see the completed applications, including names and addresses, of all the licensed strippers in Pierce County. He says his intention is to pray for them. A better solution, though, would be to drop the certification requirement and let Mr. License Snoop go pray for stockbrokers or drywall contractors instead. Even strippers shouldn’t have to expose everything.

‐ In South Carolina, a football coach was abruptly fired when his team’s longtime custom of smashing and eating a watermelon after victories was deemed racist. In another local tradition, a New Jersey football team used a banana to plug a hole in the door between its locker room and that used by visiting teams, until one such team declared the fruit a racial insult. Both of these situations could, and in a simpler time would, have been resolved with a few words between coaches, and possibly the substitution of a different fruit. Instead there were extensive official investigations and hours-long hearings, which in both cases found no evidence of racist intent but ordered punishment anyway. The South Carolina coach has been conditionally rehired, provided he makes a sufficient show of contrition; the New Jersey school must file a “corrective action plan” and certify that it has instructed coaches in every sport on proper conduct. Oh, and both schools’ football coaches, along with their entire staffs, must undergo sensitivity training. That’s race in 21st-century America, where outrage is a virtue, guilt is assumed, explanation is irrelevant, and repentance is a bureaucratic process. Imagine if someone had actually done something wrong.

‐ Political movements need intellectual leaders who formulate ideas. To win practical victories, however, they also need institution builders, whose names are rarely as well known. As a college student at Georgetown University, Leonard Liggio joined Youth for Taft, a group that supported the presidential ambitions of Senator Robert Taft, a warhorse from the early days of the modern conservative movement. Soon after, he attended the seminars of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises in New York. For the rest of his days, Liggio mixed free-market activism with academic pursuits, helping to assemble the infrastructure of professional libertarianism: He was a president of the Institute for Humane Studies, the Mont Pelerin Society, and the Philadelphia Society; a vice president of the Atlas Network and the Cato Institute; and a board member of the Acton Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Liberty Fund. The continuing success of these organizations provides the best testament to his enduring influence. Dead at 81. R.I.P.

‐ David Greenglass, an Army machinist who worked at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, was also a fervent young Communist. His brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, recruited him to spy for the Soviet Union. The sketches of designs for the atom bomb that he passed along confirmed more detailed information the Soviets had gotten from another spy, physicist Klaus Fuchs. At the 1951 espionage trial of Rosenberg and his wife, Ethel, Greenglass (Ethel’s brother) said that she had typed up his notes. Largely as a result of this testimony, Ethel was convicted along with her husband; both were executed. In later years Greenglass said his wife, Ruth, may have in fact typed the notes — “I don’t remember.” It is an article of faith for the neo-Communist Left, enshrined in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, that the Rosenbergs were admirable idealists. Perhaps only one deserved to die; both served Stalin; unlike the Greenglasses, neither repented. David Greenglass, who lived post-trial under an assumed name, has died, age 92. R.I.P.

‐ Dominican-born Oscar de la Renta came to the fashion world of New York City via Madrid and Paris. Along the way he acquired his particules (he was born Oscar Aristides Renta Fiallo). But there was nothing ersatz about his eye for the female form and how to beautify it. He dressed Hollywood actresses, first ladies, and the first lady of National Review, Pat Buckley, exuding as he did so the star power (always molded by elegance) of his clients. He was the last designer of whom it will be said that he owed nothing to Woodstock. Dead at 82. R.I.P.

‐ Ben Bradlee was a joli laid, a Beacon Street swaggerer, and a hard-nosed, inspiring boss. From 1968 to 1991, he was executive editor of the Washington Post. Backed by his publisher, Katharine Graham, who was as smitten with him as his own reporters, he had a career marked by blazing highs and pratfall lows. In the early Seventies, his young stars Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein hounded the Nixon administration with their coverage of Watergate. In 1981, another star, Janet Cooke, had to disgorge a Pulitzer when “Jimmy,” the eight-year-old heroin addict whose travails she had chronicled, turned out to be made up. The big story that Bradlee never covered was D.C. politics as in-group fashion: a liberal Georgetown game which he mastered and from which his targets were debarred. Dead at 93. R.I.P.

#page#PUBLIC HEALTH

Preventing an Ebola Epidemic

The threat of a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States is small; our object should be to keep it that way. The arrival of Ebola on American shores — twice now — suggests the need for strong measures not subject to political whims.

In late October Dr. Craig Spencer, a physician for Doctors Without Borders, tested positive for Ebola in New York City. His Centers for Disease Control–recommended “self-quarantine” in his Harlem apartment turned out to include subway rides, dinner in Greenwich Village, and bowling in Brooklyn, as authorities discovered only after checking his subway pass. In response, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey governor Chris Christie instituted a mandatory quarantine for persons returning from Ebola-stricken parts of West Africa — then rescinded that order four days later following pressure from the White House.

The tent in which nurse Kaci Hickox, the first person subject to the governors’ mandatory quarantine, found herself after flying into Newark from West Africa may have been a touch draconian. But a “voluntary” quarantine failed with Spencer, whose gallivanting across New York City could have placed other people at risk. A strictly monitored home quarantine should be enforced by public-health officials — and the courts, if necessary. Three weeks at home to protect fellow citizens from a potentially lethal virus is hardly too much to ask from medical professionals, such as Hickox, who volunteered to treat the sick and dying in West Africa.

Additionally, banning travel to and from West Africa — most important, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where Ebola is epidemic — is a commonsense measure that would help to keep the disease contained and the risk of its spread abroad low, and also help public-health officials effectively target available resources. The White House, or the White House working with Congress, could quickly and easily establish a blanket ban on travel that would provide for appropriate exceptions to ensure that aid continues to reach afflicted areas. Travel to West Africa should be restricted to approved military personnel and monitored aid and medical workers, while travel from West Africa to the U.S. should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

The ban should, of course, apply to a traveler’s country of origin, preventing persons from West Africa from entering the United States via other countries. Such a ban would, in theory, have prevented the entry of Duncan, who arrived from Liberia via Belgium. Furthermore, it would have protected the two hospital workers who contracted the disease through their interactions with Duncan. As events in Dallas proved, even with American health standards and procedures, treating and containing the virus affords ample opportunities for accidental transmission. The two hospital workers who contracted Ebola were the victims of CDC safety guidelines, which were too lax. The CDC has now, wisely, given up the notion that practically every major hospital in the country is up to the task of handling Ebola patients.

Whether the Obama administration is interested in aggressive, commonsense measures to prevent an epidemic is unclear. The appointment of Ron Klain, a political operative, as “Ebola czar” made clear the White House’s view that Ebola is as much a problem of public relations as of public-health policy. The administration’s refusal to quarantine doctors returning from Guinea, while the Pentagon simultaneously quarantines soldiers who have served in West Africa, indicates the confusion that is regnant on Pennsylvania Avenue.

That said, fear of an Ebola outbreak is probably overblown: There are diseases that are more contagious. But risk multiplies if politicians refuse elementary measures. Prudent action now can help prevent a real emergency in the future.

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Jurassic Cards

The business card seems to be surviving the speedy displacement and long death of print media, but nobody knows exactly why. Already a relic before the 20th century began, an ...
Politics & Policy

The Ike Theme Park

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Features

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Empty Integrity

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “integrity” in part as “soundness of moral principle; the character of uncorrupted virtue, esp. in relation to truth and fair dealing; uprightness, honesty, sincerity.” This ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

A Vanished Breed

‘Republican in name only,” “country-club Republican,” “establishment Republican”: These are the terms grassroots conservatives use to attack their moderate Republican opponents, whom they consider “squishes” and elitists — people who ...
Politics & Policy

Touched by the Divine

Someone who wants to understand why conservative Protestants don’t vacate the public square now that their kind of religion seems to have been so completely routed — can anyone think ...
Country Life

In a Dry Season

The mountains upstate are the tap, the fire hydrant, the wellhead for the city. Decades ago the thirsty megalopolis bought land to serve as gigantic offsite gutters and rain barrels. ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

The Inherent Danger of SWAT Teams Regarding Jay Nordlinger’s piece “A Job Like No Other” (September 22): I certainly sympathize with the police in general. It’s a necessary and difficult job. ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ President Obama’s credit card was refused. From force of habit, he shut down the Washington Monument. ‐ Two in Canada, one in Queens: The end of October was marked by ...
Athwart

It’s Ineffable

If you wanted to change minds and win hearts about the issues that face women today, of course you’d take cute little girls who embody the sweet joy of innocence ...
The Long View

Memorandum

TO: New-Business Teams, Both Dem and Rep FROM: Media Team RE: Signing up new clients for Campaign Cycle 2016 Hi all . . . As we all digest the midterm results, we’ve got to ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

MORE SPACE An anthropology of space? A Cape May Scenario: porches, hammocks, flags; lawns Without stone ornaments, small windows That are bow-shaped for the sea wind, Mail boxes with salt-air-withered signs, The pavements narrow enough for ...

Most Popular

White House

Rachel Maddow’s Turnberry Tale

To a certain kind of Rachel Maddow viewer, there are few more titillating preludes to a news segment than the one she delivered Monday: “If you have not seen it yet, you are going to want to sit down.” Maddow’s story began, as many of her stories do, with President Trump, this time focused on his hotel ... Read More
White House

Politico Doubles Down on Fake Turnberry Scandal

It's tough to be an investigative reporter. Everybody who feeds you a tip has an axe to grind. Or, alternatively, you find yourself going, "I wonder if . . . ?" You put in your research, you talk to lots of people, you accumulate a huge pile of information, but you still haven't proved your hypothesis. A wise ... Read More
Elections

Thin the Herd Further, DNC

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