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Ben Stein's Diary

Performance Art Indeed

By 7.22.14

Monday, Sandpoint, Idaho
A trying day but a rewarding day. The smoke has returned somewhat but temperatures are pleasant and a delightful breeze blows across the lake and the beach. I lay out on the balcony for a while, then came inside to nap with my Big Wifey by my side.

My “smart phone” rang and on the other end of the line was a gossip columnist from New York City. She had a smear item on me. In brief, this is what it’s about.

About five months ago, as I was walking through SFO to get into my car, I met a young woman who was extremely excited to meet me. She was literally jumping up and down with excitement. She told me she was a “performance artist” but hinted at some scary parts of her life. She said she would like to be a writer and asked if I could help. We exchanged texting addresses and off I went in my car. I spent fewer than five minutes talking to her in a busy airport terminal.

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Main Street U.S.A.

At Last — Someone Did Something

By 7.22.14

So, then, what are we supposed to think when the governor of Texas dispatches National Guardsmen to the state border with Mexico in order to deflect the onrush of illegal border-crossers? What are we supposed to do?

Do? A strange concept these days. Do something about the Russians and their depraved allies for shooting down a passenger plane? Do something about the depraved crowd of terrorists who provoked Israel into assaulting the tunnels in which they skulk? Do something about those equally depraved Iraqi terrorists now rounding up and expelling Christians from their midst? Do something about the kidnappers of schoolchildren in Nigeria?

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Freedom Watch

America Invites Calamity Through Weakness

By 7.22.14

Witness the latest fruits of modern leftist foreign policy, as embodied in this instance by the much ballyhooed Obama/Hillary Clinton “Russian Reset”: 298 people who booked a flight on Malaysian Air’s Flight 17, now dead. Brutally slaughtered by those thugs supplied and inspired by Vladimir Putin — the ex-KGB agent who has come to view the president of the United States and his secretary of state (make that secretaries of state, in the plural) as, in the vernacular, wimps. Leaving him free to do anything and everything from invading Crimea to supplying anti-aircraft missiles to his favored thugs prowling the Ukrainian countryside.

There is serious, understandable grief for the deaths of those associated with AIDS research. Here, for example, is the Gay Star News:

The AIDS research community and activists were stunned and horrified to learn that prominent AIDS expert Dr Joep Lange was among those killed aboard a Malaysian Airlines flight which was shot down over Ukraine on Thursday.

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Flick Story

Talking Too Much: Scott Derrickson’s ‘Deliver Us From Evil’

By 7.22.14

In The Brothers Karamazov, after the atheist Ivan has talked for two full chapters—“Rebellion,” the greatest statement of the problem of evil, and “The Grand Inquisitor”—he gives his Christian brother Alyosha a chance to respond. Here we’ve heard the prosecution speak. What’s the case for God?

And Alyosha leans over and kisses him.

Scott Derrickson’s new, sincere horror film Deliver Us From Evil should have listened to how much the wordless Alyosha was saying. Human arguments can only be as big as the arguers. So much of God is left over: outside, eldritch, Other. 

Horror should be the genre which best captures this inexpressibility of God, the wrongness of Him compared to the tidy, familiar, practical mental apparatus by which we make sense of the world. The Exorcist is admirably incomplete: tragic, broken, ferocious in the face of evil but submissive in the face of suffering. It convinces by never trying to convince.

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The Obama Watch

The Gang That Couldn’t Speak Straight

By 7.22.14

Great piece by former colleague Alyssa Mastromonaco who defines smart, savvy and fashionable.

Thus began a tweet on Thursday by Jen Psaki, the execrable State Department spokeswoman who thought it would be a good idea to depart from that day’s shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 over the Ukraine by Russian separatists, if not actual Russian military operators, using a SA-11 missile system.

It was the second Psaki gaffe of the day, as she had already opened her daily briefing not with reaction to the downing of the plane, but rather a series of minutiae so insignificant that Fox News’s Shepard Smith angrily denounced her as “highly inappropriate” for wasting airtime.

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The Public Policy

Bordering on Madness

By 7.22.14

In a recent confrontation between protesters against the illegal flood of unaccompanied children into the United States and counter-protests by some Hispanic group, one man from the latter group said angrily, “We are as good as you are!”

One of the things that make the history of clashes over race or ethnicity such a history of tragedies around the world is that — regardless of whatever particular issue sets off these clashes — many people see the ultimate stakes as their worth as human beings. On that, there is no room for compromise, but only polarization. That is why playing “the race card” is such an irresponsible and dangerous political game.

The real issue when it comes to immigration is not simply what particular immigration policy America should have, but whether America can have any immigration policy at all.

A country that does not control its own borders does not have any immigration policy. There may be laws on the books, but such laws are just meaningless words if people from other countries can cross the borders whenever they choose.

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Ben Stein's Diary

Clearing the Smoke

By 7.21.14

July 19, 2014
Another hot, smoky day. The brown air sears the lungs. The sky is ominous, choking, dense. It is Saturday and I slept late and look forward to a lot more sleep. But I have miles to go before I sleep again. I am having the devil’s own time with slow downloads. I think I need a new computer. A trip to Staples to look around. Very nice people, but that store is extremely low on every kind of supply I was looking for. I wonder what its future is.

I bought a computer but Citibank would not let me charge it on my Citi MasterCard. There was some fuss about an earlier order. It took a lot of telephone struggle with a fraud department clerk to get things straightened out, or so I thought.

Then, a short jaunt to the Walmart. You can make all the fun you want of that store, but the people who work there really want to help. They search and search with you until they find what you need — in my case, immense quantities of Fiji Water. I find Fiji genuinely tastes better than any other brand.

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Special Report

Recalling the Anti-Hitler Plot

By 7.21.14

July 20 was the 70th anniversary of the failed assassination and attempted military coup against Adolf Hitler, nearly the only chapter of that era that Germans can honorably celebrate.

There was a commemorative worship service at the Lutheran cathedral in Berlin, and, as always on this date, a ceremony of remembrance at the courtyard in Berlin where the leading anti-Hitler conspirators were quickly shot after their coup collapsed.

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg is recalled as the decisive leading anti-Hitler conspirator, having placed the briefcase bomb under the conference table where Hitler was deliberating with leading officers at his East Prussian headquarters. Stauffenberg left the complex after the explosion, certain of Hitler’s death, and he attempted to lead a coup against Nazi rule back in Berlin.

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Special Report

Fear in the Other Camp

By 7.21.14

French prime minister Manuel Valls and Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, did the right thing, outlawed anti-Israel demos in the streets of France, and what else would you expect? Socialist though they may be, these are hard boys in the tradition of Guy Mollet and Robert Lacoste, men — leaders of a SFIO (Socialist) government of the Fourth Republic — who said of the terrorism in Algeria, Il faut que la peur change de camp, and they made bloody sure fear did change sides.

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Loose Canons

Death on Putin’s Playground

By 7.21.14

Most of the news coverage of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has been ridiculous if not positively annoying. For days, we’ve been bored by breathless reports of “black boxes” gone missing, the accident scene “contaminated,” moved bodies, and calls for independent international investigations.

Now that BFFs John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have agreed that there needs to be — according to a Russian Foreign Ministry announcement — “an absolutely unbiased, independent and open international investigation” into the “crash” of the Malaysian airliner, we are apparently being told to relax because the “crash” is in safe hands.

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