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Political Hay

Extraordinary Irresponsibility

By 8.7.14

In yet another uninspiring performance by our unengaged and unengaging president, this time a press conference at the end of a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama discussed, among other things, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which, according to The One, “we” have achieved.

It’s not entirely clear just how “we,” meaning the president, his feckless Secretary of State John Kerry, and his utterly incompetent foreign policy team (but at least they’re loyal — the most important characteristic for employees of any petty dictator), helped achieve anything other than the emboldening of Hamas, which led to the death of many more of Hamas’ human shields. Obama further asked how “we build on this temporary cessation of violence.”

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Car Guy

Another One Bites The Dust

By 8.7.14

Some unhappy news came in the mail yesterday. A notice that my favorite car magazine—High Performance Pontiac—will be ceasing publication after the October issue.

Pontiac itself, of course, ceased building—scratch that, selling—cars almost ten years ago (in 2006) and really—if you’re a purist like me—hasn’t purveyed anything truly “Pontiac” since the very early ‘80s, when the last-of-the-line Pontiac V-8s were made. I’d go back even farther, to 1979. That was the last year you could buy a brand-new Pontiac powered by a high performance Pontiac V-8. And even those—the final run of “T/A” 6.6 liter 400s—were leftovers from the ’78 production run. They were installed in a relative handful of Trans-Ams and even fewer Formula Firebirds, and only paired with a manual transmission. The smart set knew these would be last of ’em—and snapped ’em up quick, at top dollar. Today—almost 40 years later—these second gen birds of rare plumage are highly collectible.

But that’s just the problem—well, HPP’s problem.

I guess it’s my problem, too.

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Special Report

Pope Reinstates Communist Priest

By 8.7.14

Pope Francis’ restoration of former Nicaraguan Sandinista Foreign Minister Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann to his priestly powers after a 29-year suspension summons many memories from Liberation Theology’s Marxist heyday in the 1980s.

An iconic moment of that decade was Pope John Paul II’s publicly chastising the then priestly foreign minister during his 1983 papal trip to Nicaragua. D’Escoto was relieved of priestly duties in 1985 for defying canon law against clergy holding public office.

Now age 81, d’Escoto had asked for reinstatement “before dying.” But apparently he’s still robust and an advisor to the Sandinistas and their infamous president, Daniel Ortega, who’s back in power, although now defanged of 1980s-style Soviet ensnarement. And as recently as 2009, d’Escoto was president of the United Nations General Assembly. He’s seemingly expressed no regret about a career devoted to Marxist liberation nor about his defiance of his church. 

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Book Chat

Is Rick Perlstein the New Doris Kearns Goodwin?

By 8.7.14

Rick Perlstein is not the only well-known writer of history at Simon & Schuster to stand accused of plagiarism. And no, contrary to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, there is no “Sliming Rick Perlstein” going on inside the world of conservatism.

Stunningly, Krugman wrote this of the charges surrounding the $25 million lawsuit coming from Reagan biographer Craig Shirley:

OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.

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Ben Stein's Diary

A Power Outage Is Like Obama

By 8.6.14

Saturday
Dies irae. Alex and I got into Sandpoint late last night. Our connection in Seattle was quite delayed. That meant a cruel wait at the Horizon gates. Those are the slum, public housing gates of the airport. Tiny little chairs crammed together so that we paying passengers are galley slaves in the SEA-TAC galley.

Luckily for me, I found a charging station for my phone and at it was a charming woman in her mid-thirties. She told me about her life. The main point I got from it was that she had made a terrible mistake by not going to college. Instead she had worked at a clothing store and skied. Now, about to enter middle age, she is divorced and her career options limited to retail store management in Spokane.

Why anyone would turn down the chance for an education beyond high school, especially when it’s so heavily subsidized, is totally beyond me. There are just no negatives to acquiring education at the taxpayers’ expense.

Better pay, more interesting work, more chance at self-expression… why not do it, especially since college and graduate school are so much easier than working?

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Car Guy

Roasting Kids

By 8.6.14

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you already know all about it. And you know what’s coming on account of it. Homer’s car — you know — the one designed by Homer Simpson, with every Rube Goldberg-esque gewgaw imaginable by the mind of a cartoon TV show idiot — is becoming a reality, courtesy of unfortunately all-too-real-idiots who get to dictate car design such that it assuages their overwrought emotions.

At other people’s expense, of course.

The latest affectation aborning is a mechanism to prevent children inadvertently left in the backseat by their negligent parents from being roasted to death. It is the latest cause célèbre. You’d think — if you watched the news — that kids roasting to death in cars was a national epidemic. Like kids being crushed underneath the tires of backing up cars (which prompted mandatory in-car back-up cameras, whether you’ve got a kid or not).

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A Further Perspective

Bullies for Social Justice

By 8.6.14

Social justice, as it is popularly used, is probably the worst threat to freedom of religion in America today. Under the guise of helping the oppressed and uplifting victims of society, progressives, using the rhetoric of social justice as a battering ram, are attacking freedom of religion in America. Social justice is not a coherent concept so much as it is yet another form of social engineering in disguise. (See Michael Novak here and here.)

Instead of addressing the real moral problems of society or working to find solutions to situations involving fundamental injustice, social justice focuses on the popular causes of special interest groups. Often, those who disagree with the social justice agenda are accused of injustice, and their right to freedom of religion is trampled over by social justice advocates demanding the rights of special interest groups.

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Dictator Watch

Argentina: Where a Default Is Not a Default

By 8.6.14

In Plato’s famous model, the three elements of the well-ordered state correspond to the three aspects of the soul, with the rational aspect governing the will and the appetites.

But nobody ever called Argentina a well-ordered state, and the souls of its people are scarcely healthier: Buenos Aires has eight times as many psychologists per capita as New York City. So substitute Freud’s psyche for Plato’s psuche. Argentina, then, should be understood as a nation driven by the passions of its id, without the constraints of superego that govern other societies. Where our politics conform to a history of constitutional democracy, Argentina has the fraudulent altruism of Juan Domingo Peron. Peronism isn’t simply demagoguery; it’s a form of nihilism. It is the Seinfeld of government, a politics of nothing. Where we have checks and balances, they have nothing to oppose the dark whims of elected dictators.

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Another Perspective

Crimes, Misdemeanors, Magic and Moonlight

By 8.6.14

Woody Allen’s films, for many, are an acquired taste, imperfectly digested, especially for those not of a certain age. Some are crude, often base, and border on the ridiculous. Yet, the very best of the director’s films are not just funny, but profound, revealing a lifelong struggle with his perpetual predicament regarding life’s meaning, or, as Allen believes, meaninglessness.

Allen’s predicament is this: he simply cannot abide the consequences of his complete rejection of transcendent meaning in the universe. Whether he is fretting about the evil of an Adolf Hitler or lampooning the pompous and cruel, he is obviously using a kind of vaguely objective yardstick in making judgments. Yet, consistently, despite a valiant struggle to discern something like order amidst chaos, he falls back into existential despair mitigated by his sense of irony, humor and sex.

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Political Hay

Memo to Republicans: Start Winning Now for November

By 8.6.14

The November elections could be watershed. The Republicans have a very good chance of taking the Senate, which would be a complete rejection of the Obama years and set the stage for winning back the Presidency in 2016. Then we could get back to the America we all know and love — the one that Dinesh D’Souza portrays in his brilliant movie (and for which he’ll probably end up going to prison). American politics tends to move back and forth in cycles and this particular one seems to be coming to an end. If Republicans can win back control of the government in 2016, we can revive private enterprise and private initiative, the economy will explode, and the long eight-year nightmare of government growth under Obama will be over.

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