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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

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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Another Perspective

Time to Close Ranks

By 9.12.14

You may note approvingly of the scathing, sarcastic, even condescending reactions of leading conservatives to President Obama’s speech the other day laying out the broad lines of a strategy to defeat the self-described caliphate which has raised its black banner of death against us — and everybody else it disapproves of.

They sure did not lose time letting go their verbal barbs at our beleaguered top exec — elected by the American People in a free and fair election — not even waiting for the airwaves to calm down a bit. The experts at Fox News seemed to be obsessed with the notion that Mr. Obama is entirely “poll-driven” rather than a thoughtful statesman motivated solely by what is right and what is just and what will work for our Republic; nor could they not resist a few jabs of the we-told-you-so and too-little-too-late variety.

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Among the Intellectualoids

Popes versus Nuns?

By 9.12.14

In the unlikely event that administrative assistants behind the “For Dummies” book series are preparing galley proofs for a title called “Religion Reporting for Dummies,” complimentary copies of such a book ought to be shipped to the Washington, D.C. offices of U.S. News and World Report, which just this week published a thinly-disguised plea for help in that area.

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Was Washington a Better Place When Politicians Dueled?

By 9.12.14

What we now call “Washington, D.C.” or “the District of Columbia” was for much of its history known simply as “Washington” or “Washington City.” It was also for many years little more than a swamp, the home of pimps, corrupt cops, thugs, and many ugly buildings. In the following excerpt from Empire of Mud, his new book, J.D. Dickey explains the finer points of old Washington’s dueling culture:

The gentlemen of  Washington City did more than just attend balls, feast with abandon, raise funds for charity, and live in their elite cocoons. They had other concerns too—such as trying to kill each other. The code duello, an elaborate honor code, enabled a gentleman whose pride or dignity was impugned to murder his adversary freely, as long as he did so with the proper etiquette and ceremony.

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At Large

A Forgotten Hero of World War II

By 9.12.14

American and Australian veterans of World War II have rightly honored the heroic doctors of World War II — the Australian surgeon “Weary” Dunlop probably pre-eminent among them — who worked miracles in Japanese prison camps.

But a West Australian doctor with achievements at least as heroic has been largely forgotten except by the few surviving members of the 2nd/2nd Independent Company. He does not even have an entry in The Australian Dictionary of Biography.

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