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Special Report

The Pope’s Climate Confusion

By 6.23.15

As the leader of perhaps the single largest institution in the world — the Roman Catholic Church — the pope potentially influences at least the Church’s 1.2 billion members, and perhaps millions of others around the globe. His sway makes it critical that when pontificating on matters beyond religion — matters which impact public policy both within and among nations — he acquire and consider a wide range of information from experts across the relevant political, scientific, economic, and philosophical spectra before making his influential pronouncements.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment and climate change, about which he just issued an encyclical focused “on care for our common home,” Pope Francis seems to have shrouded himself in confirmation bias of the worst sort, taking in little information that did not conform to his pre-existing anti-capitalist bias and leading to analysis and policy prescriptions that are not just erroneous but harmful.

The Hillary Watch

HIllary and History

By 6.23.15

There are no sure things in politics, but Hillary Clinton is the closest thing to a sure thing to become the Democrats’ candidate for president in 2016.

This is one of the painful but inescapable signs of our time. There is nothing in her history that would qualify her for the presidency, and much that should disqualify her. What is even more painful is that none of that matters politically. Many people simply want “a woman” to be president, and Hillary is the best-known woman in politics, though by no means the best qualified.

What is Hillary’s history? In the most important job she has ever held — Secretary of State — American foreign policy has had one setback after another, punctuated by disasters.

U.S. intervention in Libya and Egypt, undermining governments that were no threat to American interests, led to Islamic extremists taking over in Egypt and terrorist chaos in Libya, where the American ambassador was killed, along with three other Americans.

Political Hay

The Donald’s Log Cabin

By 6.23.15

In announcing his presidential candidacy, Donald Trump used his patented carnival barker’s routine. After that he took off for New Hampshire to actually campaign. 

At his first stop he drew a good-sized crowed. After his pitch, reporters asked some of those attending what they thought of Trump as a candidate. One man told an interviewer, “He says it like it is. I like the fact he started at the bottom and built his success himself.”

The legendary rags-to-riches story? Not exactly. Donald Trump was the son of Fred Trump, a well-established and wealthy real estate developer in New York City. His company, Elizabeth Trump and Son, specialized in middle-class rental housing in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Unglamorous, but it filled a need.

Ben Stein's Diary

The Patron Saint of Kindness

By 6.22.15

What I don’t understand about my wife is how anyone in a world of such evil and selfishness can be so good. Yes, as my sister says, “Your basic human is not such a hot item.” My sister is so right.

But when my dog died, Alex gave me her dog. She had two, but she gave me her favorite, Ginger, a magnificent German short-haired pointer. Who gives away her dog — even to a husband — who is living in Malibu while she is living in the Hollywood Hills? What kind of human is that?

Wives are supposed to be wildly jealous and angry when their men flirt. But Alex is so confident in her position in my life that when I flirt or stare, she laughs, and when other women ask me for money, she cares if they are in genuine need and if so, insists I give it to them. She has no anger in her. My father once said of fellow economist Paul McCracken that he had no anger in him and no meanness of spirit. So it is with Alex. Like her father, she simply has no time in her life for anything but kindness.

Buy the Book

Willie on Willie — Revelations and Recollections

By 6.22.15

It’s a Long Story: My Life
By Willie Nelson with David Ritz
(Little, Brown, 392 pages, $30)

We’re at a scratchy point in our history just now, as we often are, with a lot of sharp-elbows being thrown between the races, the sexes, various political and economic factions. Not the worst we’ve ever seen. But not business as usual either. If some researcher took time away from our current conflicts to identify what more Americans like and agree on than anything else, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s Willie Nelson and his music. (A lot of overseas precincts would agree as well.)

Ben Stein's Diary

The Blessings of Father’s Day

By 6.22.15

It is hot here in Beverly Hills. I flew in from Dulles last night on Virgin America. It is a great flight in terms of leg room, but the food was criminally bad. Just stunningly awful. Who eats food like that? Rice pilaf? In the USA? What?

I am still reeling about the shootings in Charleston. I did some calculations, along with my trusty friend Bob. Dylann Storm Roof (the “storm” is a phony to show he was a Neo-Nazi) murdered nine faithful black Christians in about two hours last Wednesday. It is a national tragedy and should be.

Every ten hours — roughly — black Americans kill nine black Americans, on average, day after day, and again, these are rough calculations. That’s every day. This in no way lessens Dylann Roof’s sin. But it shows how sorrowful is the condition of Black America. Why is it so bad? Because black male children grow up without fathers in the home. Tragedy.

The Right Prescription

King vs. Humbug

By 6.22.15

A week from today, the Supreme Court will tell us whether it is now legally permissible for Executive Branch bureaucrats to rewrite laws that fail to fit their statist agenda. And, the unctuous posturing of Obamacare apologists notwithstanding, that’s all King v. Burwell is about. It will answer one question: Can Barack Obama and his scofflaw administration get away with enacting a statute that was never passed by Congress? Yet, listening to the President, congressional Democrats, and the media, it’s about whether “reform” will be gutted and untold millions deprived of “affordable” insurance coverage. What a bunch of sanctimonious BS.

Free Market Accountability Project

Government Should Stop Subsidizing Tesla, Billionaire Musk

By 6.22.15

Multibillionaire Elon Musk made his first billion as the inventor of PayPal — and, as we all know, the first billion is the hardest.

Musk once showed he knew how to fill a market niche, but lately he has specialized in taking the easy way to more wealth, bilking taxpayers out of billions of dollars through various crony socialist schemes requiring generous state and federal subsidies doled out to his high tech money-losing efforts.

The amount of money the government gives to Musk is a truly shameful, indefensible example of welfare for the well-to-do.

Musk invested the money he made in PayPal in companies making electric cars (Tesla Motors), selling solar panels (SolarCity Corp.), and making and flying rockets (SpaceX).

Together, Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX have benefited from more than $4.9 billion in subsidies, tax credits, grants, and payments, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Public Policy

Public Safety Was the Last Thing on Their Minds

By 6.22.15

Everyone has a story: The time an unlicensed driver rear-ended me. The time an unlicensed driver ran a red light and killed a co-worker’s dog as her husband was walking the dog in a crosswalk. It seems as if there are so many unlicensed drivers in California that authorities are not capable of deterring the unlicensed from getting behind the wheel.

In fact, according to a report by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, 17 percent of licensed California drivers have suspended driver’s licenses — not for dangerous driving but for failing to pay off citations for minor traffic offenses. In March, the U.S. Department of Justice faulted authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, for engaging in a toxic pattern of burying African-American residents in fines and penalties for minor offenses with the goal of serving “revenue rather than public safety needs.” It turns out California has been dishing out the same dirty treatment to its diverse commuting class.

A Further Perspective

Terror, Sanctions, and a Chinese Wall

By 6.21.15

The State Department on Friday released its Annual Report on Terrorism, and we can read all about it in the Washington Post. We learn that there was a 35 percent increase in terrorist attacks around the world, “driven by extremist groups in the Middle East and Africa.” In Iraq, these “extremist groups” have declared “a caliphate.” For our State Department—and its propaganda arm—Islam is the religion that dare not speak its name.