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Ben Stein's Diary

My Thoughts on Iran and Trump

By 7.28.15

Now for a few thoughts on Iran and Trump and this will be really short.

Iran: the deal is so bad that it could not be an accident, even for a President as inexperienced and foolish as Mr. Obama or a Secretary of State so filled with anger as Mr. Kerry. There is no meaningful verification. The sanctions are already basically gone. The President is paying Iran over $100 billion to go forward with making a nuclear bomb and having the rockets to deliver it.

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Mark Levin: ‘Plunder and Deceit’

By 7.28.15

Uncanny: Mark Levin has done it again. Six years ago, Mark’s Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto appeared, quite coincidentally with the lift-off of the Tea Party. In an instant L&T became what then-Congresswoman Michele Bachmann called the party’s “intellectual foundation.” 

In this space I referred to L&T as “the book that changed America,” writing in part:

Main Street U.S.A.

Choice and Morality

By 7.28.15

Abortion activists and supporters — which is to say, most of the Democratic Party and the entirety of the liberal intelligentsia — like to frame abortion as a liberty issue. You know — choice, as with music and toothpaste.

The Planned Parenthood imbroglio of recent weeks helps dispel that notion. It reminds many (not all, alas) of the grisly, garish consequences to which choice can lead when exercised in a moral vacuum: no lights on, no road signs posted, caution and hesitation sternly shushed up.

I haven’t heard any Planned Parenthood representative address the matter of those internationally known undercover videos by saying something like, “Well, you know, body parts and fetal tissue come with every abortion so get over it.” In responding to her medical director’s role in the video — talking blithely about going “above and below the thorax” so as to procure high-quality body parts — Cecile Richards, head of the Planned Parenthood body shop, regrets her employee’s compassionless “tone.”

The Hillary Watch

Why Voters Don’t Trust Hillary Clinton

By 7.28.15

Voters in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia think Hillary Clinton is not honest or trustworthy. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, a mere 34 percent of Colorado voters think she can be trusted; 62 percent do not. In Iowa, those numbers are 33 percent to 59; in Virginia, Clinton is underwater on trust, too, 39 percent to 55 percent.

Free Market Accountability Project

Cities, States Keep Piling on the Internet Taxes

By 7.28.15

The City of Chicago has the dubious distinction of becoming the first jurisdiction to apply a sweeping tax to “cloud-based” services, ranging from streaming video to tax preparation.

Beginning Sept. 1, residents of the Windy City will be dunned a 9 percent levy on entertainment, online applications, and data processing services that depend on the computing, transmission, and storage  capabilities of the Internet and World Wide Web.

It’s the result of a Chicago Department of Finance decision to extend the city’s Amusement Tax and Personal Property Lease Transaction Tax to Internet downloads. The application of the Amusement Tax means that Chicagoans will be paying 9 percent more for streamed video and music services, such as those from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Spotify, whether the purchase is in the form of a monthly subscription or a one-off order. In doing so, Chicago joins the Alabama Department of Revenue, which wants to apply the state’s 1980s-era tax on videocassette rentals to streaming video.

A Further Perspective

Documented Irresponsibility

By 7.28.15

People who entered the United States illegally may be called “undocumented” in politically correct circles, but what is all too well documented is the utter irresponsibility of both political parties in dealing with immigration issues.

Both Democratic and Republican administrations have left the border with Mexico porous for years — porous not just for Mexicans but for anybody else, including terrorists from the Middle East.

Two very different issues have gotten jumbled together in the political stew called “comprehensive immigration reform.” The first and most fundamental issue is whether we are going to have an immigration policy at all. The second issue is: Just what should that immigration policy be?

If we do not control our own border, then we do not have any immigration policy. We may have immigration laws on the books, but if anybody can cross the border that wants to, those laws are just words on paper and a bad joke.

Political Hay

The Republic As Prey

By 7.28.15

On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz made the most significant break with a party leadership in modern memory when he called Republican majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar over a clandestine deal the latter had made with Democrats to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

Cruz’s war of words with McConnell has an element of strategy to it — he’s without question positioning himself as the anti-establishment GOP hopeful among the “serious” candidates in the 2016 field — but he’s also expressing sincerely and widely held concerns that the Republican Party is powerless to stop the Obama administration’s compound abuses of power through the choice of McConnell and John Boehner.

The GOP leadership in both houses of Congress has perfected something Ace of Spades appropriately called “Failure Theater” back in March — namely, that all of the attempts to move a conservative agenda forward or even to stop the Obama administration’s various power grabs don’t just fall short but are intended to do so while presenting the duped voters back home with a “Well, we tried” shrug.

Ben Stein's Diary

I Love Capitalism, American-Style

By 7.27.15

Sunday
It has been a quiet day in Sandpoint. Alex and I slept late, as always, and then, while Alex was asleep, I made a huge rib roast. I had bought it a few days ago and been making my plans. Lemon pepper. Seasoned salt. (One of man’s great inventions.) Sliced onions. Preheated oven to 350 degrees. I slid it into the oven and a fantastic smell filled the condo.

Then I made immense Idaho baking potatoes, sliced outer space chives, and put the ensemble on the table. Ooops. Alex said she preferred to sleep longer than to eat bloody rare meat at the ungodly hour of 3 in the afternoon.

Never mind. I ate some and it was great. Alex soon came to her senses and wanted some, too.

The Right Prescription

O’Malley, Obamacare, and the Technocracy Myth

By 7.27.15

When Democrat Martin O’Malley announced his presidential bid, the media billed him as part of a new generation of talented technocrats. The former Maryland governor, as one outlet put it, “helped pioneer a data-driven approach that made government more efficient.” These people have evidently forgotten the spectacular failure of Maryland’s online Obamacare exchange, which crashed moments after launch because O’Malley and his administration studiously ignored ominous data provided by its technical experts. In other words, O’Malley’s “data-driven approach” didn’t involve looking at actual data. It consisted primarily of telling the media that Maryland’s exchange would be a “model for the nation.”

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A Timid Take on Economic Inequality

By 7.27.15

Like it or not, economic inequality will be a habitual theme during the 2016 presidential campaign. Democrats are continuing to harp on the topic, with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton making its (hypothetical) elimination the cornerstone of her economic platform. Since the unfortunate arrival of John Edwards on the national scene, the idea of two America—the haves and the have-nots—has been firmly engrained in our national discourse.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see renowned political scientist, Harvard professor, and cultural observer Robert Putnam chime in on the topic. He does so in his latest work, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

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