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Letter From San Francisco

Donald Trump Crosses a Border

By 5.2.16

Donald Trump had to squeeze through a hole in a fence to speak at the California Republican Convention on Friday. He said it felt like “crossing the border.” Meanwhile, his supporters swaggered into the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport banquet hall as if they owned the place. Maybe they know something I don’t, I shuddered.

Before Trump’s talk, I spoke with many party workhorses — the folks who have sustained the GOP in challenging times. They tended to be skeptical of Trump’s credentials as a Republican and of his chance of winning in November. Trump fans, for their part, were in their glory. Their faces glowed with the flush of expected triumph.

A Further Perspective

Communist Party Feels the Bern

By 5.2.16

As it has for months now, People’s World again this past week carried a headline hailing Bernie Sanders “revolution.” As the successor to the Soviet-funded and directed Daily Worker, and as ongoing house organ of Communist Party USA, People’s World is pleased with the long march of “progress” in the Democratic Party. The far-left lurch of today’s Democratic Party is lovingly in line with what the comrades have long desired. These inheritors of the Soviet experiment see Bernie Sanders as an exciting culmination of what they have been fighting for. And they view Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of the Democratic Party as having made a candidate like Bernie possible.

Loose Canons

Time to Tutor Trump

By 5.2.16

George Will, writing in the Washington Post yesterday, said that if Donald Trump is nominated conservatives should help him lose all fifty states. Will wrote that they should do this in order to “…reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power.”

Will is wrong, appallingly so. That’s obvious to anyone who values our national security more than the identity of the Republican Party.

Ben Stein's Diary

What Matters? She Does

By 4.30.16

You might not know this, but I was a speechwriter and lawyer for Richard Nixon in the last year of his administration. I worked on Watergate defense and my part of it went well. I also own an apartment at the Watergate Apartment complex in D.C. As far as I know, I am the last person even vaguely associated with “Watergate” who still lives, even very part-time, at the Watergate.

Recently, I was at my apartment, returning from a speech, and trying to reach my wife who had stayed back at our home in Los Angeles. I had been trying since the night before, leaving messages, texting, and I kept trying to reach her all night.

The next morning, I sent my trusty messengerette, Helen, over to see what was going on. Helen reported back that Alex, my wife, was not there, that her car was not there, that the dogs had made a mess, and that her bed had not been slept in.

I went berserk. Helen called the hospitals. I called the Beverly Hills Police. No sign of her. I filed a Missing Persons Report. What could have happened? She wears jewelry and I could imagine her getting kidnaped and carjacked for her jewelry. I could imagine her getting carried off by terrorists.

Ben Stein's Diary

It’s Nice to Have Friends Like Warren Buffett

By 4.29.16

Now for a few words about Warren Buffett, Capitalism, the stock market, and yours truly, on the occasion of Mr. Buffett’s annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting this weekend. They come from a fan.

Today I was lying in my bed doing what I do best: feeling sorry for myself. Here’s how it went: My parents are long deceased. They were wildly generous to me in their lifetimes and on their deaths, but that money has long since been spent, largely on my own son and his family. My wife used to work as a successful lawyer, but she turned exclusively to charity work about seventeen years ago. I have many friends and a sister, and they are all wonderful people, especially my sister and my best friend, Phil DeMuth. But I could not count on them for any meaningful financial help if things went horribly wrong in the material world.

“I am all alone,” I said to myself, self-pityingly. “There’s no one to help.”

Special Report

Total Politics World

By 4.29.16

Will Ferrell mines laughs out of Alzheimer’s in a forthcoming film about Ronald Reagan.

The Telegraph describes the project as “a new comedy about Reagan’s second term in office – a period during which the head of state suffered from Alzheimer's.” But Reagan did not suffer from Alzheimer’s during his presidency. His diagnosis came more than five years after he left office, and the numerous doctors tending to him in the White House uniformly reported their patient did not exhibit symptoms as president. The film, which seeks laughs as a secondary purpose, has already achieved its primary purpose — to create an impression that dementia ruled the man who ruled in the free world — before even reaching the silver screen.

Politics blinds Ferrell into mistaking bad taste for a good laugh. It also deludes him into equating the laughter generated from ideological solidarity with that generated from genuine humor.

Will Ferrell is funny. This isn’t.

Ideology is a lot like any number of deadly diseases. Once it takes over, it kills it unless aggressively treated.

A Bigger Perspective

Reaching for the Stars, Propelled by a Powerful Laser Beam

By 4.29.16

It’s called Breakthrough Starshot. It’s an ambitious name for a remarkably ambitious project. 

It’s the brainchild of Yuri Milner, a Russian philanthropist and Internet entrepreneur, who, together with a team of prominent astronomers and cosmologists, plans to send a fleet of robot spacecraft no bigger than iPhones to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, 4.37 light-years away, and to report back on what they find, maybe even some forms of extraterrestrial life. Hello ET?

Under their plan, a rocket would deliver a “mother ship” carrying a thousand or so small probes to space. Once in orbit, the probes would unfold thin sails and then, propelled by powerful laser beams from Earth, set off one by one like a flock of migrating butterflies across the universe. Milner announced the project, which may take up to 20 years or more to come to fruition, with an initial commitment of $100 million for research and development.

A Further Perspective

A Trump Presidency Could Cure Our Pharma Affliction

By 4.29.16

Early this year, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump served notice to the pharmaceutical industry that their days of vacuuming up taxpayer money for nothing were at an end. Trump did this by backing a policy that has, for years, been verboten in GOP policy circles: the idea that the federal government should renegotiate drug prices down through the Medicare program.

Coming from a more conventional candidate, there are good reasons that conservatives might find this particular cure worse than the illness. In Trump’s case, however, that debate seems unnecessary. As with everything Trump does, this particular bit of policy heresy seems more like a negotiating tactic than a serious proposal, since Trump’s actual healthcare plan does not mention it, and to all appearances he has dropped the idea completely.

Spectator's Journal

A Conservative Get-Together Like No Other

By 4.29.16

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”

Last week I availed myself of the privilege that every true conservative should by attending the Heritage Resource Bank, held this year in Philadelphia. What is Heritage Resource Bank you ask? Well, let me quote from them directly:

There is a place, once a year, where think tank leaders, policy experts, influencers, donors and activists in the conservative movement come together to share the lessons they’ve learned in the battles for freedom. 

That place is the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank Meeting.

Can I start with a few words of wonder at the enduring quality that is the Heritage Foundation and its staff? It is a tribute to the Heritage legends such as Ed Feulner and the late and deeply missed Baron (John) Von Kannon that the quality remains so high at this organization that remains the sanctum sanctorum of the conservative movement.

Indomitable, peripatetic Bridget Wagner and her staff put together a tour de force.

The Nation's Pulse

Mostly Dead All Day: What’s Happened to Argument?

By 4.29.16

Argument has fallen on hard times. That might seem an odd thing to say in an election year roiled by agitation over social questions and the continuing presence of candidates whom political strategists had thought would go away by now. Wouldn’t argument have to be in the air when musicians cancel North Carolina shows in the name of solidarity with transgendered people? Don’t the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump imply that “Wall Street banks” and “losers” have been defeated in the marketplace of ideas, and are finally getting their comeuppance?

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