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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

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.”

Buy the Book

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.

Play Ball

In Praise of Pedro

By 7.27.15

Boston Red Sox fans finally have something to cheer about for a few days at least. The Fenway faithful will get to see Pedro Martinez’s number 45 retired on Tuesday night prior to the game against the Chicago White Sox. This ceremony comes just over 48 hours after Martinez was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame along with pitchers Randy Johnson and John Smoltz as well as Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio.

This ceremony couldn’t come any sooner. The Red Sox own the worst record in the American League and have lost 10 of their last 12 games. Their pitching has been the main culprit and frankly even almost six years after he last pitched a big league game, Pedro would likely fare better against the White Sox lineup than the likes of Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly or Wade Miley.

The Nation's Pulse

For Your Travel Inconvenience

By 7.27.15

Having created the problem of too many passengers lugging their suitcases aboard airplanes by charging for checked bags, the major airlines are now planning to make checked bags even more unpopular. The are testing various methods for making bag-checkers do their own checking instead of giving their bags to attendants with the attendant putting tags on the bags and sending them on a conveyer belt.

Charging for bags became standard procedure in 2008 for most airlines (Southwest is an exception) when they figured it could contribute to the profits that had long eluded them.

Human nature being what it is, more people then decided to tote their bags aboard. Alas, many aircraft don’t have enough bin space. For example, the 737-900 has 180 seats but only bin space for 125 roll-on bags. Result: a last-minute rush before takeoff for flight attendants to tag the surplus bags for stowage in the cargo bay.

Another Perspective

The Ayatollah’s Website

By 7.27.15

The New York Times recently reported that Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has cautioned that the nuclear agreement needs “careful scrutiny.” That warning was posted on his website, “The Office of the Supreme Leader, Sayyid Ali Khamenei,”

Website?? Really. I have always thought of Iran’s supreme leader, and all the other Ayatollahs, as reclusive Luddites who still use quill pens and goat skins or parchment for spewing their hatred. I never imagined that they are embracing social media to get out their message of Death to America and their determined campaign to wipe Israel off the face of the globe.

Another Perspective

Kevin Cooper Is Guilty—That’s a ‘Death Row’ Story

By 7.26.15

Last year, CNN’s “Death Row Stories” ran an episode about a California woman convicted of first-degree murder and then freed when a federal judge overturned the verdict because prosecutors had withheld evidence. I had a few issues with the episode, in part because Gloria Killian was not tried for capital murder and never spent a minute on death row. I wrote at the time that CNN should rename the series, narrated by capital punishment opponent Susan Sarandon, “Death Row Propaganda.”

On Sunday night, I can be seen on an episode of “Death Row Stories.”

The subject is San Quentin death row inmate Kevin Cooper, who was convicted of the brutal murder of Chino Hills, California chiropractors Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and an 11-year-old overnight guest, Christopher Hughes, in 1983. Cooper had escaped from a nearby prison and holed up in a vacant rental house that overlooked the Ryen home when he decided to head for Mexico. Before driving away in the family station wagon, he butchered the Ryens and Christopher and left for dead son Josh, then 8, with his throat slit.

Ben Stein's Diary

A Rainy Summer’s Day

By 7.25.15

Rain is falling all over the lake, as far as I can see. Still a magnificent sight. Gray and white and then green mountains as far as the eye can see.

My wifey is still asleep at 12.30, which is normal for her. We are being visited by Mike and Nancy Visser, our handsome/beautiful couple from Calgary, and their two super gorgeous daughters, Payton and Megan. I am a bit groggy from staying up last night watching a fine documentary about World War I until way too late.

The documentary is simply called “World War I in Color.” It has got to be nine hours long. If it were a million hours long, it could not capture the horror of that war. The suffering, pain, loss of life, starvation, crippling terror of that war is just plain beyond what we in our pajamas at lunchtime can imagine.

Whenever you are feeling sorry for yourself — which I often am — think of being in a trench getting shelled, gnawed on by rats, in total shock, in agony, then being ordered to “go over the top” into a hail of shell fire and machine gun bullets and certain death.

Buy the Book

Economics Made Easy

By 7.24.15

Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey, and LeBron James Can Teach You about Economics
By John Tamny
(Regnery Publishing, 256 pages, $27.99)

If you want to understand economics, all you have to do is read John Tamny’s new book, Popular Economics. After just one reading of this clear, easy to read, and entertaining book, you will understand economics better than most academic Ph.Ds., who are pettifogged by so much PC posturing that even they no longer know what they are talking about.

His book is the 21st century heir to Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt, published in 1946. That book sold over a million copies. But Tamny’s is more sophisticated than Hazlitt’s publication of 70 years ago.