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Ben Stein's Diary

Up in Smoke

By 8.25.15

Crash Monday
Oh, yuck. Another terrible day on the stock markets. Down 588 points. This is ruining my summer. It was bad enough that the summer in Sandpoint was wrecked by massive super forest fires in Washington state and Idaho, filling the air with a wretched brown haze, wreaking havoc in my lungs, destroying our spectacular view. It was bad enough that my wife, the goddess of goddesses, has been sick for the last month and barely leaves her bed.

But now, The Crash. It has cost us Steins too much money — at least in the short run. In the long run, it will be fine because Mr. Buffett will snatch up stock and companies at bargain prices and make us Berkshire Hathaway holders a bit of money. Also in the long run we will be dead. So, in the afterlife, money won’t matter. (Or maybe it will!)

Anyway, the media is filled with the most hilarious reasons for the Crash. The main one floating about like that brown haze in Idaho is that weakness in China is going to kill the U.S. economy, and in particular that devaluing the yuan will hurt the U.S. economy.

The Nation's Pulse

Liberalism and Happiness Don’t Mix

By 8.25.15

Although liberals probably don’t realize it, liberalism and happiness don’t mix. A “happy liberal” is almost an oxymoron.

Why so? The reasons are many. For one, liberals, especially white American liberals, are highly critical and dissatisfied with their country, culture, race, and gender. If you don’t like the society, race, culture, and gender that you’re part of, your ability to feel good about yourself becomes much more challenging.

Liberals are humans, but they think humans are destroying the planet. They’re Americans, but they think that America is primarily responsible for most of the problems in the world. White liberals wallow in guilt about “white privilege,” which diminishes any sense of personal accomplishment they might have. Liberals firmly believe in the importance of the “collective,” yet they don’t like the collectives they’re parts of.

In regard to love of country, conservatives far exceed liberals. If you’re “proud to be an American” you’re probably a conservative. If you’re ashamed to be an American, you’re probably a liberal.

Main Street U.S.A.

America in Their Bones

By 8.25.15

President Obama had the grace — and the political good sense — to telephone and congratulate the three young Americans who thwarted the Moroccan gunman aboard that high-speed French train late last week. I wonder if Obama noticed how at odds were the actions of these three heroes with the mood his policies have fostered: a mood of pessimism concerning American capabilities, a growing distaste for “getting involved” in others’ troubles, a related inclination to put “me and mine” and “here and now” at the center of our policy calculations.

It was astounding how the three Americans — Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone — leaped, without appraising personal risk, from their seats and lit into the lug who held an AK-47. They sensed what had to be done. They did it. How American!

Political Hay

Jeb Bush Silent on Mark Levin’s Challenge

By 8.25.15

“Why does baloney reject the meat grinder?” So answered William F. Buckley, Jr. when he was asked why the most popular Democrat of 1967 — New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy — refused to come on Buckley’s television show Firing Line to discuss the issues of the day.

The Buckley remark comes to mind as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush — the GOP Establishment favorite in the presidential race — is silent as a church mouse in response to an on-air challenge from Mark Levin to appear on Mark’s radio show for a discussion of birthright citizenship. 

Bush has been out there defending “birthright citizenship.” As reported in Politico

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush split from many of his fellow GOP presidential contenders on Tuesday and staunchly defended birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants — saying it is a constitutional right that should be protected.

Another Perspective

Heroism, American-Style

By 8.25.15

(Editor’s Note: Debra J. Saunders is off. The following column is by Froma Harrop.)

Every country has its heroes, but something in America’s cultural sauce makes for a unique and unusually effective variety. The ingredient would be improvisation — the ability to perform without preparation, using whatever is at hand to complete the task.

As most of the world knows, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler — three pals on a European jaunt — were on a fancy train hurtling toward Paris, when a terrorist bristling with weaponry started attacking passengers.

The Americans were unarmed, but when Skarlatos said “Let’s go” to Stone, the off-duty U.S. airman ran down the aisle, grabbed the man by the neck and wouldn’t let go, even as the attacker slashed him. Skarlatos grabbed his gun. Sadler and a British passenger, Chris Norman, held down various limbs.

Improvisation requires letting gut instinct take the wheel from overthinking. As Skarlatos, a National Guardsman who spent time in Afghanistan, later told the media, his actions on the train weren’t “a conscious decision.”

The Energy Spectator

Oil’s Down, Gasoline Isn’t — What’s Up With That?

By 8.25.15

A little more than a year ago, oil prices were above $100 a barrel. The national average for gasoline was in the $3.50 range. In late spring, oil was $60-ish and the national average for gas was around $2.70. The price of a barrel of oil has plunged to $40 and below—yet, prices at the pump are just slightly less than they were when oil was almost double what it is today.

Oil and gasoline prices usually travel up or down in sync. But a few weeks ago the trend lines crossed and oil continued the sharp decline while gasoline has stayed steady—even increasing.

Oil’s down, gasoline isn’t. Consumers are wondering: “What’s up?”

Even Congress is grilling refiners over the disparity.

The Campaign Spectator

Sorting the Candidates

By 8.25.15

Despite a nuclear Iran looming on the horizon, the media seem to be putting most of their attention on two candidates for their respective parties’ presidential nominations next year. Moreover, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each make their own party nervous.

If next year’s election comes down to Clinton versus Trump, a lot of people may simply stay home in disgust.

When we are this far away from the official start of the primary election season, we can usually just say, “It’s still early days.” Many a front-runner this early in the process ended up out of the running by the time the party conventions were held, and totally forgotten by election day.

That is the way it usually is. But that is not likely to be the way it will be this time.

This is Hillary Clinton’s last hurrah. It is now or never for her. And the Democrats have nobody comparable as a vote-getter to put in her place.

Eminentoes

Why Natalie Portman’s Holocaust Comments Are Deeply Disturbing

By 8.24.15

In an interview with the British newspaper The Independent, actress Natalie Portman made several comments about the Holocaust. 

Portman was interviewed to promote her directorial debut A Tale of Love and Darkness, a Hebrew language adaptation of Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel about the birth of the State of Israel. She is best known for her appearances in the Star Wars prequels and would later earn a Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan. In the interview, Portman questioned Jews for overemphasizing the Holocaust to the exclusion of other acts of genocide, specifically the Hutu massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994:

Buy the Book

Blonde Ambition Strikes Again

By 8.24.15

At least one reader on a news aggregator website for conservatives recently sniffed that anyone who hates as much as Ann Coulter does should not wear a cross in public. What made that reader’s simmering disapproval boil over was Coulter’s quip to a radio host about how she hates Carly Fiorina with “the hot, hot hate of a thousand suns” because Fiorina has not renounced the idea of birthright citizenship.

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