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Conservative Tastes

There’s No Breaking Away

By From the Sept/Oct 2014 issue

This year for the eighth summer in succession I presented—along with free pizza—a collection of old movies on a theme. The theme of this year’s series, jointly sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where I am a resident scholar, and the Hudson Institute in Washington, where the films were shown, was “Middle America and the Movies.” There were six selections, all of them having something to do with the Midwest as seen from Hollywood and, therefore, as in some sense representative of the country as a whole in a way that Hollywood itself never quite managed to be—though it used to come a whole lot closer than it does today. Four of the six movies were set, wholly or partly, in Indiana, which I take to be the movie capital’s Platonic ideal of a Midwestern state, and which was as well the original home of The American Spectator. In fact, Steve Tesich, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Breaking Away (1979), the final movie in the series, was a fraternity brother and roommate of the Spectator’s own R.

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The Current Crisis

A Modest Proposal to My Left-Wing Friends

By 11.20.14

I have a suggestion for my left-wing Democratic friends in light of all the controversy over Obamacare. That the controversy continues all these years after the bill’s passage and that today much of the bill is in danger of amputation must be very dispiriting to those left-wingers who had such high hopes for it. They obviously labored assiduously to render it incomprehensible to the electorate and for a long time they succeeded. Yet the electorate wised up this month and voted into office large numbers of Republicans. Those Republicans are out to gut the legislation.

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Ben Stein's Diary

Terror in Jerusalem

By 11.19.14

Tuesday
A day of horror. In Jerusalem, two Palestinian terrorists took up meat cleavers, knives, and a pistol. They attacked a small shul. In a quick rampage, they killed four rabbis who were unarmed, praying, hacking them to pieces. They also killed an Israeli policeman and wounded three more before they were killed by Israeli police.

On the same day, several older women claimed that they had been raped by the brilliant comedian, Bill Cosby. One by one these older women claimed that Cosby had drugged them, then raped them — then drugged and raped them over and over again as they traveled around the country with him. They knew they had been raped, but they kept traveling around the country with him, getting drugged, getting raped over a course of years. Was this rape? Could it possibly be rape under any normal definition of rape? How can it be rape if the women kept coming back for more? Maybe I am misunderstanding this story, but it sure looks as if we have some major publicity seekers on the move. Surely I must have it wrong.

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The Environmental Spectator

Global Warming’s Rough Patch

By 11.19.14

With much media fanfare, Silicon Valley billionaire Tom Steyer set out earlier this year to put an end to global warming skepticism through campaign contributions to favored candidates. Estimates of what he and his PAC spent range from $57 million to $74 million. What did he get for the money? Zip. A Republican majority in the Senate, an enlarged one in the House, and more Republican governors and state legislatures than before. There will be quite a few global warming skeptics among them.

He must have been paying too much attention to some pre-election academic polls and little to what voters were saying about 2014 priorities. He and fellow Democrats were cheered by two polls that measured perceptions. One, by Stanford University last year, had 73 percent of respondents saying they believed that global warming had been taking place over the last 100 years. And, 81 percent said they think it poses a serious problem for the U.S.

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The Public Policy

Racial Quota Punishment

By 11.19.14

If anyone still has any doubt about the utter cynicism of the Obama administration, a recent agreement between the federal government and the Minneapolis Public Schools should open their eyes.

Under the Obama administration, both the Department of Education and the Department of Justice have been leaning on public schools around the country to reduce what they call the “disproportionate” numbers of black male students who are punished for various offenses in schools.

Under an implicit threat of losing their federal subsidies, the Minneapolis Public Schools have agreed to reduce the disparity in punishment of black students by 25 percent by the end of this school year, and then by 50 percent, 75 percent and finally 100 percent in each of the following years. In other words, there are now racial quota limits for punishment in the Minneapolis schools.

If we stop and think — as old-fashioned as that may seem — there is not the slightest reason to expect black males to commit the same number of offenses as Asian females or any other set of students.

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A Further Perspective

California’s Object Lessons for Democrats

By 11.19.14

If Democrats wanted to know some of the reasons they got skunked in the recent elections they could learn a lot by looking at what’s going on in California. The state of California is a distillation of fundamental flaws that are “hollowing out” the Democratic Party.

The politicians, activists, and contributors holding sway in the Democratic Party are far out of step with average voters. A majority of voters either don’t want or don’t care about the favorite issues of the party elites — climate change, Obamacare, fracking, plastic bags, diversity, sugary soft drinks, GMOs, “corporate personhood,” amnesty, late-term abortions and the Washington Redskin’s nickname. Democrats for some reason put a lot of energy into proposals that very few people care about and will have no measurable impact.

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Special Report

Transparent Tyranny

By 11.19.14

Anxieties within the GOP over a possible government shutdown in the wake of Obama’s promise to push amnesty by unconstitutional executive order continue to grow. Those anxieties don’t show much confidence in the American voter.

The fear appears to be that voters will punish the GOP in two years for opposing Obama’s open tyranny. In other words, GOP leaders think the American people prefer unconstitutional government to a limited government shutdown aimed at stopping it. If that is true, American democracy is as degraded as Jonathan Gruber’s infamous remarks suggest.

In a healthy democracy, politicians wouldn’t even debate whether or not to fund an unconstitutional order. They would automatically defund it. That GOP leaders turn to pollsters and image consultants before deliberating on such a fundamental issue is already a bad sign. By saying in effect that they will lose their power if they defend the Constitution, they reveal the emptiness of that power.

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Political Hay

Don’t Let Lame Ducks Spend Your Money

By 11.19.14

On November 4, voters fired the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, replacing it with a GOP majority that campaigned against Obamacare and big spending. But the Democrats who lost are still running the show. These lame ducks lack the moral authority to govern. They shouldn’t be allowed to do any more than the bare minimum to keep government operating until January, when the new Congress meets. Allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to ram through an omnibus spending bill for the coming year, or make other key decisions, would be like letting your ex-spouse keep using your checkbook. One of the first acts of the next Congress should be to outlaw lame duck sessions.

Lame duck sessions were unavoidable before jet planes. The framers of the U.S. Constitution provided 17 weeks for newly elected lawmakers to travel and take their seats on March 3. That was the 18th century.

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Letter From Paris

Racist, Moi?

By From the Sept/Oct 2014 issue

Israel’s summer offensive against Hamas in Gaza sparked the predictable pro-Palestinian demonstrations across Europe. Organized by groups ranging from pro-Arab associations to far-left fringe parties, they were for the most part peaceful, but the Continent’s centuries-old anti-Semitism resurfaced in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy. In Paris they turned particularly ugly and vicious, with hateful slogans and violent attacks on Jewish synagogues, businesses, and individuals. Aware that France is a racial tinderbox as home to both Europe’s largest Muslim population, some six million, and its biggest Jewish community, around 500,000, President François Hollande had vowed beforehand that “no anti-Semitic or racist act or word will be tolerated.” 

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Politics

The Lois Lerner Curve

By From the Sept/Oct 2014 issue

Corrupt countries, where the rule of law is weak and political pilfering is common, are poor countries. Entrepreneurs and investors cannot safely start or finance businesses in states that don’t respect property rights and honor contracts, or that use the levers of the government to go after political opponents. And it’s not as though America doesn’t have a corruption problem. On Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the U.S. comes in at number 19, behind most of the rest of the First World.

For anyone following the Lois Lerner scandal, that’s not surprising. What should be surprising, perhaps, are her defenders. Lerner tampered with IRS nonprofit applications, and revealed them only when an Inspector General was about to report on them. Then the cover-up began. The IRS put out a story that blamed the shenanigans on low-level Cincinnati employees. We were told that the IRS hadn’t picked on conservative any more than liberal groups. All lies. Then Lerner pled the Fifth, and her emails mysteriously disappeared. 

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