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Enemy of the Week

Another Uninterrupted Stretch of Blowhards

By 9.15.14

“We’ve always said, all options except for boots,” a State Department spokeswoman said last month. “That is still the case.” The catchphrase has become “no boots on the ground.” Nancy Sinatra used hers for walking. But what about our men and women in uniform and under the command of our president? Can they use theirs for golf? Marching on parade? Hiking in the Rockies? Or to think of it another way, what about sneakers or high heels? Can they be worn on the ground?

We were hoping the president’s major address last week would clarify matters. Instead, the only thing that really moved us was his fulsomeness about the country he has found out he really and truly loves. Some would say he was being Reaganesque.

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Special Report

Joan Rivers, Outpatient Surgical Centers, and Admitting Privileges

By 9.15.14

The comedian Joan Rivers died on September 4. She had undergone a “routine procedure,” an endoscopy, for an examination of her vocal chords, on August 28 at what is termed “an ambulatory surgical center” for outpatient surgery. She experienced cardiac arrest, was taken by ambulance to a hospital, put into a medically-induced coma, and then on life support. Her death has prompted public discussion of ambulatory surgical centers. For example, PBS’ NewsHour broadcast such a story on September 12.

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Another Perspective

Ben Carson for Vice President!

By 9.15.14

It may be thought that as an Australian I have no right to publish an opinion on American politics, but the whole world has an interest in who leads America. Your hopes and fears are ours. So, as one who has watched Obama’s policies of defeatism, retreat, and serial blundering with dismay, here goes.

Dr. Ben Carson has many qualities that make him superbly suitable for high office: he has, pre-eminently, brains and force of character. No one can read his biography and fail to be impressed by his achievements and credentials.

He is a fine speaker, and his background is, unlike Obama’s, an open book. He even (an unfortunately relevant consideration in the modern age) looks presidential.

On every comparison with Obama of fitness for the office, Carson aces him: a brilliant neurosurgeon who rose to the top of his profession, contrasted with a “community organizer” and lawyer who as far as I know never conducted a trial in his life. Unlike Obama’s Nobel Prize, Carson’s awards have been earned.

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A Further Perspective

We Need the CIA ‘On That Wall’ More Than Ever

By 9.15.14

The violent ambitions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been condemned across the world: in Europe and the Middle East, by Sunni nations and Shiite ones, and by sworn enemies like Israel and Iran. Now, even Pope Francis has joined the call for ISIS to be stopped.

The recent military successes of ISIS, and the barbarous slaughter of women and children and the beheading of two American journalists sent a new round of national security chills throughout the country. These grisly events were stark reminders of the resourcefulness and dogged determination of terrorists hell-bent on inflicting grievous harm to Americans.

President Obama has vowed “to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.” This vital campaign will require maximum efforts by the CIA and special forces to achieve enhanced intelligence and to execute effective covert operations.

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Loose Canons

When Is a War Not a War?

By 9.15.14

It’s only been five days since President Obama announced his strategy which depends on a coalition of NATO members and Arab states to join with us to degrade and maybe someday destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But, as I predicted on Thursday, that plan won’t succeed. It has already fallen apart.

The Arab nations are, as usual, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” in the war against ISIS. Their resentment and distrust of Obama ensured that the most they’d do is permit us to use bases in their nations. Predictably, they won’t send one soldier to fight with us. Britain, Germany, and Canada have already told us that they’ll sit this one out. Turkey, once a cornerstone of NATO and now ruled by a radical Islamist, has not only refused to join us but has also indicated it will refuse us the use of what used to be our massive airbase at Incirlik.

Although one reported cease-fire between a "moderate" Syrian rebel group and ISIS seems to have been short-lived, Obama's plan to arm the Syrian "moderates" is probably moot.

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Ben Stein's Diary

Popping Off From Coast to Coast

By 9.13.14

Friday
I am back in Beverly Hills after a grueling trip. I don’t feel well so I am going to just give you a few snapshots of what’s been happening in my life.

One. I gave a speech in Orlando to a large (maybe 900) group of super smart construction engineers. They were mostly involved in energy projects and mostly from Houston, one of my absolutely favorite cities, a muscular, powerhouse super city.

After the speech, which was incredibly early in the morning, I took a long, glorious nap in my hotel room for about three peaceful hours. Long naps are far better than nighttime sleep. Then off to the hellish Orlando airport and a flight to Charlotte that was an oven. Why can’t the airlines and airplane manufacturers figure out how to air condition a plane?

At CLT, I met up with Big Wifey, who had flown in from LAX. We got some excellent meatball minestrone soup in the US Air Lounge, and then our diver, Bob Noah, took us in our lordly rented Camry to Greenville, South Carolina.

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Special Report

Mideast Christians, Israel, and Why Ted Cruz Got Booed

By 9.12.14

Senator Ted Cruz’s vigorous affirmation of Israel, which provoked boos from a conference for persecuted Mideast Christians on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., has created a growing controversy. Unfortunately, the strife is unlikely to help either Israel or besieged Christians threatened by ISIS, among other dark forces.

The controversy flows partly from the very different historical journeys of American Christians and Mideast Christians. As the conference keynoter, Cruz was barely a few minutes into his remarks before telling the packed hotel ballroom that Israel was a friend to Christians, prompting a growing chorus of jeers. “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you,” he declared before hastily quitting the podium, startling much of the audience. A cleric restored calm by leading the crowd in the Lord’s Prayer.

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The Obama Watch

Obama’s Spin Can’t Keep Up With America’s Economic Reality

By 9.12.14

At a Labor Day rally in Milwaukee, President Obama turned the limelight on himself, approvingly and inaccurately.

“By almost every measure,” he declared, “the American economy and the American workers are better off than when I took office.”

In contrast to Mr. Obama’s self-congratulatory assertion, the Census Bureau reports that median household income in the United States, adjusted for inflation, is down by more than $2,000 since Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009.

Additionally, as an indicator of the economic downturn, a sixth of the U.S. population is currently receiving food stamps, an increase in the participation rate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of 61 percent since 2008.

Rep. Kevin Brady, (R-TX), chairman of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, summarized the U.S. economy’s subpar recovery several months ago, in May: “Our economy has a real GDP growth gap of $1.5 trillion in this recovery compared with the average of other post-1960 recoveries. And that has left us with a private-sector jobs gap from the end of the recession of 5.7 million jobs.”

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The Nation's Pulse

Songs of Innocence Lost

By 9.12.14

U2 released its thirteenth studio album, Songs of Innocence, earlier this week for free via iTunes.

The if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em approach appears as a belated acknowledgment that fans will take that not given. In late August, weekly album sales dropped below 4 million — a first and a worst since SoundScan began tracking numbers in 1991.

Just as radio once served as a for-free mechanism to promote the money-making LP, actual albums now represent a promotional vehicle for monetized ventures such as concert tours, advertisements, and back-catalogue sales. Seventy-five-years ago, records displayed “Not Licensed for Radio Broadcast” labels, the FCC granted airwave rights on the condition that stations initially avoid playing recorded music, and ASCAP boycotted radio once the feds relaxed restrictions. Music has been here before.

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A Further Perspective

Fighting Words

By 9.12.14

What should we make of the summer soldier/sunshine patriot who sits in the White House and acts both as commander in chief and golfer in chief — never allowing the former to get in the way of the latter? Will he shrink from the crisis presented by the explosive and horrific growth of the Islamic jihad movement, or will he somehow transform himself into someone capable of leading the nation and the free world in a time of war?

If only rhetorically and if only for a few news cycles, Barack Obama moved from flight to fight in his speech on Wednesday night. He stopped doing everything he could to appease a deadly and implacable enemy, and even to deny its very existence. At great long last, he acknowledged the need to confront and destroy this sadistic and monstrous foe.

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