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If Current Laws Had Been Followed, There Would Have Been No Waffle House Shooting

The Stream - 7 hours 28 min ago

On Monday afternoon, Tennessee law enforcement officers captured a 29-year-old Illinois man suspected of opening fire on diners at a Nashville Waffle House, despite the man having had his firearms seized on multiple occasions in the last two years.

Four people died and several others were wounded by the shooter -- who wore nothing but a green jacket -- before a customer, also 29, heroically wrestled the firearm away and threw it over a counter. The attacker fled the scene naked and evaded police for over 24 hours before being apprehended.

As often happens in the aftermath of highly publicized shooting incidents, blame has already been placed on the lack of "common-sense gun control." But, once again, this blame is misplaced -- had already-existing laws been properly followed and enforced, this individual would not have had access to a firearm.

What We Know About the Suspect

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The Waffle House suspect has a long history of mental health issues, including recent run-ins with law enforcement and an observational stay in a psychiatric unit. The timeline of concerning events, as most recently reported by major media outlets, is outlined below:

May 2016: The Tazewell County (Illinois) Sheriff's Office responded to a call at a CVS parking lot, where the suspect was suicidal and believed his parents were helping music star Taylor Swift harass him. The suspect's relatives talked him out of harming himself and he was detained at a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. It doesn't appear that he was involuntarily committed to a mental institution or otherwise adjudicated to be a danger to himself or others. June 2017: The suspect was accused of threatening someone with an AR-15 while wearing a pink dress outside of a public pool. According to the incident report, he then stripped naked and jumped into the pool before repeatedly flashing his genitals to the lifeguards ordering him to leave. Police responded, but the suspect ultimately wasn't charged with a crime. When officers inquired about the AR-15, which the suspect had placed back in the trunk of his car, they determined he had a valid Illinois firearms license and did not seize the gun.

The accused man's father told police that he had previously taken three rifles and a handgun away from his son and locked them up over concerns regarding his mental health. The father returned the firearms to his son because the father wanted to move out of state.

Officers told the father that he should consider locking up the firearms again until the suspect received mental health treatment, and the father said he would.

July 2017: The Secret Service arrested the Waffle House suspect for attempting to breach a security barrier into a restricted area near the White House. He allegedly told the agents he was trying to set up a meeting with the president. The suspect was charged with "unlawful entry," but the FBI apparently closed the case without pursuing a criminal conviction. August 2017: The accused contacted the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office to complain that dozens of people were "tapping into his computer and phone" after he attempted to send letters to Taylor Swift. At some point soon afterward, Illinois officials revoked his state firearms license, which Illinois requires for the possession of any firearm in the state.

On Aug. 24, deputies arrived to seize the suspect's firearms and remove them from his possession. His father, who had a valid state firearms license, requested that the firearms be released to him under the condition that they be kept secured and inaccessible to his son. Because the father could legally possess firearms in the state and agreed to comply with requirements to keep them away from the suspect, officers agreed to transfer them to the father.

Fall 2017: The Waffle House suspect moved from Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee. His father admitted to police that he returned the firearms to his son -- including the semi-automatic rifle used in the Waffle House killings -- though it is unclear if this occurred before or after the suspect moved out of Illinois. April, 2018: In early April, the accused was fired from his job with a construction company. The reasons for the firing are unclear. Can the Father Be Held Criminally Liable?

It's possible that the father can be held criminally liable for returning the firearms to his son, depending on the specific circumstances of when and where he returned them, and which state laws are being considered.

In Illinois, it's a class 4 felony to knowingly transfer a firearm to an individual who doesn't possess a valid state firearms license. It's apparent that the father knew that his son had this license revoked, because he was both present when officers came to seize the firearms and was told by the officers that the firearms must be kept inaccessible to the son. If the father gave the firearms back to his son before he left Illinois, this statute could come into play for criminal charges.

If the transfer occurred in Tennessee, however, this may not be the case. The Waffle House suspect doesn't appear to have been prohibited from possessing firearms under Tennessee law, because he was never convicted of a disqualifying criminal offense or involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

There are other possibilities for criminal charges in Tennessee, such as for reckless or criminally negligent homicide, but the availability of those charges may depend on how Tennessee interprets those laws.

Stricter Gun Laws Wouldn't Have Prevented This

Like the vast majority of mass public shooters with mental health problems, the man in custody appears to have inexplicably managed to avoid a criminal or mental health history that would have disqualified him from possessing a firearm under federal law.

This incident certainly raises concerns about records-sharing between states. Illinois revoked the suspect's state firearms license, meaning he was prohibited from possessing a firearm in the state of Illinois.

This doesn't, however, mean that other states like Tennessee had access to any information indicating that the suspect presented a heightened risk of danger such that he needed to remain disarmed.

Moreover, millions of relevant disqualifying histories are likely missing from the FBI's background check system because states can't be compelled to submit them, and too often fail to do so.

But realistically, even perfect records-sharing would only have prevented the Waffle House suspect from purchasing new firearms -- which requires a background check -- or from receiving firearms from a private citizen who follows the law and doesn't transfer firearms to dangerous or disqualified individuals. It would not have prevented the accused man's father from recklessly, and perhaps illegally, giving the guns back to his son without informing police.

Nor would prohibitions on "assault weapons" -- a made up term that has no bearing on a gun's lethality -- have stopped this incident. California has long banned so-called "assault weapons," but according to the Mother Jones mass public shooting database, California has experienced far more mass public shootings since 2000 than any other state. Last month's shooting at a veteran's home in Yountville was the state's 10th mass public shooting event in the last 18 years, compared to just four in Texas and two in Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Monday afternoon in Toronto, nine people were killed and another 16 were wounded in a deliberate mass public attack. The deadly weapon was not an AR-15, or a handgun with a "high-capacity magazine." That attacker needed only a van to cause double the carnage seen in Nashville.

Laws have the power to disarm law-abiding citizens who would obey those laws. They have no power to prevent an irresponsible parent from re-arming his son with the very guns he agreed to keep inaccessible, and from failing to inform law enforcement that an individual proven to be a danger to himself or others now has firearms.

Once again, we were not failed by a lack of adequate gun laws. We were failed by human error that neglected to fully enforce those laws.


NYT's Peters Faults Trump's 'Sound and Fury,' Favors 'Lofty Approach of the Obamas'

NewsBusters - 7 hours 32 min ago
<p>In Monday’s <em>New York Times</em>, Washington bureau Jeremy Peters tsk-tsked the new tastelessness among GOP candidates in “Forget About Restraint, G.O.P. Candidates Echo Trump’s Sound and Fury" -- as in "signifying nothing." The text box: “Greater ease talking about vanquishing foes than governing.” Peters much preferred "the lofty approach of the Obamas."</p>

Wife Recalls Stephanopoulos ‘Crying’ When Beyoncé Beat Comey Interview

NewsBusters - 7 hours 37 min ago
<p>ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos and singer Beyoncé are competitors, according to Ali Wentworth. It’s a rivalry worth crying over. On Monday, comedian and actress Wentworth, who also happens to be the wife of George Stephanopoulos, appeared on <em>The Late Show</em> to promote her new book, <em>Go Ask Ali</em>.</p>

The truth about China’s currency - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - 7 hours 48 min ago

The United States and China are waging a trade war of words, where phrases like “coerced technology transfer” and “25 percent tariff” are tossed around but nothing actually happens. Another mostly empty phrase is “currency devaluation.” China won’t devalue the yuan against the dollar, for reasons which may surprise both policymakers and mainstream economists.

@lahano via Twenty20

Most pointedly, the last time Beijing devalued, Chinese exports did not soar. Instead, money fled the country. In August 2015, the People’s Bank of China talked vaguely of a new exchange rate regime and tacked on a small devaluation against the dollar. Money was leaving China on a net basis at the time. The pace of capital exit then roughly doubled, because holders of yuan believed it would become less valuable.

Remarkably, the People’s Bank shot itself in the same foot in January 2016. Capital exit was slower this second round but the cumulative effect was enough to trigger global concern about a balance of payments crisis. Lesson finally learned, Beijing toward the end of 2016 imposed new restrictions on money leaving the country and reversed the yuan’s slide against the dollar with a seven-percent rise during 2017. The result was that foreign exchange reserves stabilized. A devaluation risks money leaving again, directly contrary to China’s policy goals.

What policymakers often fail to understand is Chinese currency policy is not a reflection of strength but weakness. Related, what mainstream economists often fail to understand is China’s exchange rate isn’t meant to adjust to change – for example to new US tariffs – it’s meant to enforce stability.

Capital exit isn’t a problem Beijing solved in late 2016, it’s chronic. From infrastructure bonds to fight the Asian financial crisis to government funds directed to semiconductor firms today, China relies on extraordinary savings by its people to fund state initiatives. Savings are trapped in low-interest accounts at state banks, long known as financial repression.

China claims to have a fast-growing economy but the strain on its financial system is growing much faster – from 2009 through 2016, credit extended to the non-financial sector rose at more than twice the pace of reported gross domestic product. The United States took 34 years to add to its debt burden what China did in eight (the Trump administration seems to sees this as a challenge).

The starting point of Beijing’s financial policy is to ensure ordinary Chinese keep handing their money to domestic financial institutions, to keep the credit machine churning. Tools used are the restrictions on money leaving the country and an exchange rate which is set, first and foremost, to keep people from wanting to test those restrictions.

So the primary goal of Beijing’s exchange rate policy is not to boost exports, as US critics believe. It’s not to adjust to domestic economic shifts, as basic economics indicates. It is impossible identify the yuan’s “true market value”, and hence undervaluation or overvaluation. China has a non-market financial system. It is a non-market system that dictates the yuan’s level and movement.

The International Monetary Fund treating the yuan as if it’s equivalent to the euro or the yen thus has no financial justification, it’s purely political. Meanwhile, those calling China a currency manipulator are correct, but not the way they think. China manipulates the yuan by largely pinning it to the dollar: It has stayed between 6 and 7 to the dollar for the last decade. Beijing does this mostly looking inward for the sake of stability, not outward for growth.

That last closes the circle on devaluation talk. A China devaluation threat stems from the idea it would cost American jobs. But such fear is misguided. In January 1994, China devalued the yuan a staggering 50 percent and the American job market soared. From mid-2005 to mid-2008, the yuan rose 18 percent against the dollar and our job market weakened.

The main reason for this is China’s currency does not matter compared to our own policies. The second reason is China’s currency does not work the way normal currencies work. For both reasons, there won’t be a devaluation. There’s little reason to believe it would hurt the United States and plenty of reason to believe it will hurt China.

Armenia’s president’s power grab failed. Vladimir Putin may want to take notice. - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - 8 hours 37 min ago

Call it the “Putin shuffle.” The president of Armenia tried the now-familiar switch from president to prime minister and it spectacularly failed. What started as a protest movement by a few thousand students ended with over a hundred thousand Armenians pouring into the streets, shutting down the capital, and forcing the Prime Minister to step down.

People march during a protest against the appointment of ex-president Serzh Sarksyan as the new prime minister in Yerevan, Armenia April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure

While it is always nice to see a dictator resign, we should remember that they are typically replaced by another. Expect the leader of the second largest parliamentary alliance and Armenia’s wealthiest oligarch, Gagik Tsarukyan, to take over. He has the look, and style, of a hybrid “oligarch-populist.”

“Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong . . . I’m leaving the post of Armenian Prime Minister. The street movement is against my tenure. I fulfill your demand.” Many have noted the strange frankness of Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation.

Putin is largely silent about this “velvet revolution” ouster in his backyard. RT is largely uncritical. The Russian people are watching. This is important.

For context, Armenia is geographically a little larger than the US State of New Jersey. It suffers from poverty and periodic conflict with Azerbaijan over the unrecognized Republic of Artsahk. It has a declining population of a little less than three million and has a global diaspora two or three times that figure. Freedom House classifies it as a “semi-consolidated authoritarian regime.”

One could similarly classify Armenia as a “competitive authoritarian” regime, where elections are tilted to ensure a specific outcome but still tolerate competition to some extent — similar to Russia, but on a much smaller scale. One could speculate that Moscow is watching Armenia, eyeing an exit plan for 2024 when Putin reaches the end of his fourth presidential term (fifth effective term).

There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy. But when it is so obvious that poverty is a direct result of government criminality — as it is in practically all the former soviet republics — the people tend to notice. This breeds further instability and more poverty. It’s not a revolution, it’s a trap.

The dictator cannot repress the people without the support of the military (which Sargsyan obviously lost). Surely Serzh has stashed enough state funds away somewhere to live out his days with a nice view.

The people in Armenia are rightly celebrating tonight and the West should enthusiastically support the process of reform, being careful not to affect the outcome. Russian commentators are already crafting narratives to fit a particular conclusion.

Learn more:

A bright spot on civics education - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - 8 hours 56 min ago

This month, lackluster reading and math scores from the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released. Often called “The Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP showed that fourth- and eighth-graders have made little to no gains in either subject since 2015. Indeed, the stalled NAEP scores, along with a widening gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students, are cause for concern, but schools have more to teach than the three Rs.

Schools have more to teach than the three Rs. Civic education is also important, and thankfully a public charter school network called Democracy Prep gives reason for optimism. Via Twenty20

Our schools also play an important role in developing engaged and informed citizens. Especially in an increasingly toxic political climate, we continue to hope that our schools are preparing students and future voters to engage in more reasoned discourse. Unfortunately, along the civics dimension — just as in reading and math — progress is lacking. For instance, NAEP’s most recent social studies assessment, administered in 2014, reported that just 23% of US eighth graders scored at or above proficiency in civics, and showed precious little improvement since 1998. This dearth of knowledge continues into adulthood; a 2016 Annenberg Public Policy Center survey found that only 26% of adults can name the three branches of government, down from 38% in 2011.

But a new report shows some progress in civics education worthy of celebration. The Mathematica Policy Research report, released last Thursday, examines the impact Democracy Prep, a public charter school network, had on students’ civic participation during the 2016 election. Indeed, Democracy Prep’s coherent focus on civic engagement appears to pay handsome dividends in the form of a remarkable increase in voting rates. Amid Millennials’ disappointingly low voter-turnout rates nationwide, we can take heart in a school system that is displaying civic progress.

To assess Democracy Prep’s impact on voter registration and participation, Mathematica used the network’s admissions lottery data, which create a natural random experiment that allow researchers to compare students from families that won that lottery from those that did not. The sample for this study included students who entered lotteries to attend any Democracy Prep school in New York City from 2007–2008 through 2015–2016. The sample included 1,060 students, each of which was a first-time applicant in the family (35% were lottery winners) and at least 18 years old by the 2016 election.

See also:

Mathematica’s researchers found, using a conservative (Bayesian) estimate, that “Democracy Prep [charter schools] increase the voter registration rates of its students by about 16 percentage points and increase the voting rates of its students by about 12 percentage points.” The raw numbers were even stronger, a 24-point increase in both, which suggest Democracy Prep doubled its students’ likelihood to register and vote.

Now, as its name might suggest, Democracy Prep isn’t your average charter school when it comes to civics education. Avoiding a civics of abstract ideals, the network of schools explicitly defines the dimensions of citizenship that it seeks to cultivate. Its curriculum and assessment involve three areas of focus: civic knowledge, applied civic skills, and lifelong civic disposition.

While many schools offer opportunities for civic engagement, Democracy Prep goes further by requiring students to demonstrate civic competencies. For instance, each high school graduate senior is required to pass the civics portion of the United State Citizenship test. Students are also required to apply their civic skills through “Get Out the Vote” campaigns, oral testimonies, volunteer work, or other similar activities. The emphasis on civics permeates the culture; Democracy Prep even holds nationwide professional development sessions with the explicit purpose of discussing the civic mission of its school network.

Of course, it’s never wise to seize on one study’s result and suggest we have found a one best solution to scale up. But in the midst of disappointing school report cards and a dearth of constructive political engagement, it is an encouraging reminder that a coherent, focused emphasis on civics can do significant good, and help buck the decline of civility in public discourse. There is still a civics crisis nationwide, but Democracy Prep’s work is one example of how schools can do something about it.

Learn more:

Shooting Illustrated: Firearm Practice on a Budget

NRA Blog - 9 hours 3 min ago
NRA Publications

Why France feels (relatively) comfortable with Trump’s America - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - 9 hours 30 min ago
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To the surprise of many observers who see Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump as polar opposites, Franco-American relations have come a long way since the days of Freedom Fries more than a decade ago.

Since Macron’s election, the Élysée has been able to deal with Trump’s White House in a more relaxed way than other close U.S. allies have managed. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel enjoyed an excellent personal relationship with former President Barack Obama, she now faces unrelenting criticism for maintaining a trade surplus and not spending enough on defense. As for the United Kingdom, even though British Prime Minister Theresa May came to Washington soon after the election in the hope of reasserting the privileged status of the UK in the eyes of the Trump administration, the current relationship seems to fall short of the support needed by London in the context of Brexit.

Why have Germany and the UK found themselves thrown so badly off-balance by the insurgent Trump Administration while France has been relatively unmoved? The answer lies in history.

Read more

Since the end of World War II and the establishment of Germany’s Basic Law (or Constitution) which was based on American recommendations known as the Frankfurt Documents, the Federal Republic of Germany has deemed its relationship with Washington as crucial to its existence, and its own legitimacy as anchored in values shared with the U.S. The perception that the U.S. President might appear to be putting this relationship into question has hit the Germans at the core of their self-understanding. The end result has been some serious soul-searching, best exemplified by the manifesto (“In Spite of it All, America”) penned by leading German foreign policy specialists in October of last year.

CNN's Toobin Has Sad News for James Comey on Leaked Memos

NewsBusters - 9 hours 45 min ago
<p>If CNN's Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin has bad news for former FBI Director James Comey you know it has to be real bad. Toobin delivered his bad news about Comey's leaked memos on Monday's <em>The Lead</em> which was hosted by Jim Sciutto. The news that Toobin presented might be enough for Comey to break out his worry beads: he placed himself in a "pretty vulnerable position" by leaking them. </p>

Anti-Semitism on the Rise

The Stream - 9 hours 50 min ago

The City Without Jews is an Austrian film.

In the movie, the nameless city's Jews are forced to leave on Christmas Day. "Some of the poorer people leave on foot, accompanied by soldiers with bayonets. Whole communities walk slowly through the snow, some on crutches, some carrying Torah scrolls from the synagogues," the BBC writes in its summary of the movie.

The film was not made following the Nazi era or a drama about the Holocaust. It was made in 1924 -- eight years prior to Hitler's coming to power. It’s as relevant today as it was 94 years ago.

In Public and Private, Hate is Growing

There are places in the U.S. where anti-Semitism is in the open. The so-called "National Socialist Movement" held a rally last week in a little town in Georgia to "mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday." The "movement" drew a whopping two dozen supporters, scores of police, and national media that highlighted its moral deformity.

Most incidents of anti-Jewish bigotry are less public but not less disturbing. A survey published in February said there were almost 2,000 reported incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States in 2017. This is up nearly 60 percent from 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

These kinds of things aren't unique to America. Across the globe, from Holocaust denial to white-washed biographies of Hitler, attempts to blot-out anti-Semitic violence are almost a fad.

Why? Scapegoating, bizarre conspiracy theories, a feeling of powerlessness, and the Satanic effort to eliminate a people unique in God's plan for humanity.

Anti-Semitism on College Campuses

In America, there's a growing acceptance of anti-Semitism on many college and university campuses. The problem has become so serious that last fall, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) held a hearing to investigate the matter.

As former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement told the Committee, last year "Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses have included: spray-painting and drawing swastikas on residency halls and predominantly Jewish fraternities; taping the word 'JEW' and a swastika next to a student's Israeli flag in his room; and writing that 'Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber' in a campus bathroom."

From the beginning of time, the devil has hated the Jewish people. He has always wanted to thwart God's plan for those He has called uniquely from all nations.

Much of this is fomented by pro-Palestinian organizations like National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP). The organization claims to be against anti-Semitism. But it asserts it main mission is "freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people, who have been living without basic rights under Israeli military occupation and colonialism since 1948."

Israel Has a Right to Exist

Israel has a moral and legal right to exist as a sovereign state. It is not occupying the land within its internationally recognized borders.

As to the NSJP's influence, a recent report documents that where the NSJP has opened chapters, incidents of anti-Semitism have followed. Just last month, NSJP protesters yelled and chanted for a full two hours at an "Israel Block Party" at the University of Texas. These charming youngsters bellowed such slogans as, "5-6-7-8, Israel is a terrorist state" and "From the River to the sea, Palestine will be free." Ethnic cleansing, anyone?

Is Israel a flawless state? No. It has made mistakes with respect to the Arabs who live in and around its borders.

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But how many countries have been so relentlessly attacked by its own residents and neighbors as Israel? How many countries have yielded back territory it won after being assailed by those who hate it? And how many people have been so exploited by their own leaders as have the people of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? After decades during which billions of dollars have poured into these areas, why do they remain in such great economic need?

Students at dozens of premier U.S. colleges and universities have voted to urge their schools' administrators to divest from Israel. Thankfully, few if any of these student-led actions have been acted upon.

Christians’ Duty

From the beginning of time, the devil has hated the Jewish people. A liar and murderer from the beginning, as Jesus said, he has always wanted to thwart God's plan for those He has called uniquely from all nations.

He still does. He possessed Judas so as to enable him to betray the Savior. He moves in the hearts and minds of many today, deceiving the angry, the bigoted, and the overlooked with that most irrational of impulses, hatred of the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -- and of Jesus.

Christians have a very simple duty: Stand with Israel, vocally oppose anti-Semitism where it rears-up, challenge its purveyors with facts and truth, and pray.

Pray for and write to American policymakers concerning the need for our country to stand with Israel. Pray for "the peace of Jerusalem," as Scripture commands (Psalm 122:6). Pray for the leaders of the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority, that their loathing of Israel will stop and a commitment to the well-being of those they represent will replace it. Pray for Israel's leaders, that they would administer justice to all and have God's special guidance in protecting their people. Pray for the leaders of Israel's enemies, that God would thwart their designs to attack Israel. Pray for the poor souls in our own country, that their anti-Semitism would return to the pit of hell from whence it came -- and that they would find the hope of heaven in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of all men.

America must never become a "city without Jews." Let us, instead, be a shining city on a hill, one in which the Jewish people will always be welcome.

To Change the Church … Or Replace It?

The Stream - 9 hours 56 min ago

Ross Douthat's new book on Pope Francis is judicious, even-handed, and fair to the current pontiff. It attributes to him good motives, and strives to see Church politics from every meaningful perspective. Even that of openly dissenting Catholics who seek revolutionary change in basic Christian doctrine. Nonetheless, I recommend it.

Very highly, in fact. Especially to non-Catholics who wonder what all the fuss is about on the other side of the Tiber.

One Pope against Others

No, the book is not about Pope Francis' utopian views on economics and immigration. Nor is it about his pining for globalists to annex the world economy in the name of fighting "climate change." Douthat focuses on something much more central to the Catholic faith: the words of Jesus Christ Himself on marriage.

Pope Francis has made statements, approved documents, and appointed key officials that imperil the credibility of the papacy. Francis has posed his own authority against that of previous popes. And on the most crucial moral question in human society: the nature of marriage. It's the one sacrament without which none of the others would be necessary. (Since the pews would all be empty.) The documents and arguments he has approved, sometimes with a nod and a wink in the form of a footnote, are already doing damage. Bishops in different countries are adopting totally different practices (implying different doctrines), each citing papal documents. If that's not chaos, I’m not sure what is.

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The Stakes: The Whole Institution

The issue might seem a small one to outsiders. May Catholics who validly married once, then divorced and "married" outside the Church, have sex with their new legal spouses? Or are they "living in sin," and forbidden Holy Communion? As Douthat points out, the teaching on this for Roman Catholics has been rock-solid since the Apostles. Change this, and you can change just about anything.

You don't need to trust me or Douthat on that. The very bishops who supported Pope Francis' initiative to change this teaching made it clear. In the 2014 preparatory synod discussing these issues, they added language friendly to homosexuality. The group of bishops voted to strip that out, but Pope Francis ordered them to put it back in.

And for progressive Catholics the logic follows. If we're going to throw out our first-century definition of marriage, how "homophobic" to draw the line at heterosexual relationships. San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy lost no time in citing Pope Francis' ambiguous teaching on marriage in Amoris Laetitia, to attack those who teach that homosexual activity is (in the words of the Church's own Catechism) "intrinsically evil."

Correctly, Douthat sees the fight over sexual ethics within the Church as of equal significance with previous doctrinal battles. He offers readable, detailed comparisons with previous profound splits in the Church, from the Arian heresy to the fight between Jesuits and Jansenists. He covers the previous cases where popes have flirted with heresy, and how the Church recovered.

Let's say his apparent program goes much further. Barring divine intervention, it's hard to see how orthodox Catholics can carry on. Without becoming large "o" Orthodox, that is. Or joining some hapless schismatic group that is (and this is a punchline) "more Catholic than the pope."

Douthat is a convert to Catholicism and clearly holds to an orthodox interpretation of Church teachings. But in this book he speaks to history. More precisely, to historians 50 years from now. Especially those who want a snapshot of what it was like to be a well-educated and thoughtful Catholic during the Revolution. (In the same way we now might seek out the letters of the Marquis de Lafayette for his views in 1789, and how they changed by 1793.) Of course, how this book is seen depends entirely on how the Revolution ends, and what's left after it.

The New Church?

Douthat sees clearly and says it plainly. Pope Francis isn't simply trying to repackage Catholicism and make it a little friendlier, less white and European. Nor is he carving out narrow pastoral exceptions for "hard cases" like abandoned wives with small children who marry a new, loving husband outside the Church. That's simply the camel's nose. And the tent's already quaking.

As Douthat correctly diagnoses it the problem that faces any pope today is tent-shaped. How to hold together the "big-tent" Church that includes both orthodox, counter-cultural Catholics, and those who seem much more like, frankly, liberal Protestants. The question this book implicitly raises is whether that's remotely possible anymore. And whether it's still worth the effort.

Joy Break: Baby Girl Reacts to the Word ‘Hallelujah’

The Stream - 10 hours 31 min ago

When we turn on our television or smart phones we are bombarded with news that brings us down. Where are all the good stories? Those stories are still there. Here’s one that we hope will bless you.

Christopher Julian’s baby girl has an interesting reaction to the word “Hallelujah.” 

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Julian recently posted a video of his daughter, Yahtai, on YouTube. In the video, Julian is bouncing her on his lap. She’s very excited, but as soon as her daddy says “Hallelujah,” she quickly drops to his chest. Julian explained in the video that she does this every time he says the word. “My wife says [Yahtai] reverences the Lord.”

The family told KTRK that each night when they read the Bible and pray, Yahtai has this reaction.


Celebrate with Eddie Eagle at NRA Annual Meetings!

NRA Blog - 10 hours 37 min ago
You're invited to join in the birthday fun at the Eddie Eagle Zone in Dallas…

PRESS RELEASE: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

American Enterprise Institute - 11 hours 7 min ago

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Washington, DC (April 24, 2018) — With his trademark blend of political history, social science, economics, and pop culture, Jonah Goldberg — who holds the American Enterprise Institute’s Asness Chair in Applied Liberty in addition to being a syndicated columnist and senior editor at National Review — exposes the threats to democracy in the Western world in his new book “Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy” (Crown Forum, 2018). Goldberg makes the case that America and other democracies are losing the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity and, as a result, are in peril. Instead, Americans and others are surrendering to populism, nationalism and other forms of tribalism that rot democracy from within.

In “Suicide of the West,” Goldberg charts a course that begins in 18th century England when humans accidentally stumbled upon liberal democratic capitalism, the miraculous combination of a democratic political system and a capitalist economy. This “Miracle” has lifted many, including Americans, out of the endless cycle of poverty, hunger, and war that previously defined most of humanity’s existence. Americans are doubly blessed that the principles of that glorious accident were written into the Constitution, laying the groundwork for a uniquely prosperous society.

In the last few decades, however, these political virtues have been turned into vices. We are increasingly taught to view our highest principles and traditions as tools of oppression, exploitation and “white privilege,” and the principles of liberty and the rule of law are under attack from both the left and the right.

Americans stumbled into prosperity only once in human history, and can just as easily stumble out it. There is an undercurrent of corruption that appeals to baser instincts flourishing in society today. This can be seen in movies, in the movements people rally behind, and in elected politicians. This undercurrent is threatening to overpower the institutions that make prosperity possible. In “Suicide of the West,” Goldberg urges Americans to renew a sense of gratitude for what civilization has given us and rediscover the ideals that led us out of the bloody muck of the past, or back to the muck we will go.

For interview requests, or for a copy of the book, please contact Madeline James at or 202.862.4870.


The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world.

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