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Ben Stein's Diary

Cause and Effect, Mr. Kerry

By 7.9.14

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Every morning I get up at about 5 a.m. I go out on my deck and take pictures of the lake and the sky and the Selkirk Mountains. Then I worry about America and Israel and then I watch my wife breathing and then I try to go back to sleep.

The lake and the sky always look fabulous. Not just good, but fabulously calm and enticing and reassuring. It is a different story inside my head. Fear of financial insecurity. The certainty that America is collapsing as a world leader. The endless whipping up of class envy and race baiting by the Obama administration. Stomach upset. The sad spectacle of my once slim and menacing self now overweight and gray haired.

However, I usually go back to sleep until noon, then feed my old self, nowadays mostly with Thomas’s English Muffins. Get dressed and go for a walk. Today’s walk was around the park at City Beach. It was mobbed with happy families, smiling, grilling, laughing, showing off their young bodies or hiding their old bodies. It is cruel to be old.

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Eminentoes

All Shook Up

By 7.9.14

Elvis Presley was first heard on radio 60 years ago on July 8, 1954. Presley sold over one billion record units worldwide — making him the best-selling solo artist in record industry history.

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Campus Scenes

One Fewer Good Ol’ Boy at the University of Texas

By 7.9.14

He fondly loved, for instance, his position as a "persecuted" man and, so to speak, an "exile." There is a sort of traditional glamour about those two little words that fascinated him once for all and, exalting him gradually in his own opinion, raised him in the course of years to a lofty pedestal very gratifying to vanity.

Demons rarely gets the respect accorded Dostoevsky’s other masterpieces, in part because its merciless satire of academic dissidents is so unflattering to many of the people who dispense that respect.

His Stepan Trofimovitch publishes a few obscure journal articles early on, then slips into a comfortable life of no significance tutoring rich kids. He still regards himself a dangerous revolutionary, a persona based on some faded associations from his youth and a dumb “allegory in lyrical-dramatic form” published in a collection of revolutionary verse. When that publication outs him, he writes “a noble letter in self-defence to Petersburg,” but in “his heart he was enormously flattered.”

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Another Perspective

The Other Daniel Allott

By 7.9.14

“Police name suspect Daniel Allott, wanted in connection with fatal stabbing” 

That was the headline that greeted me one morning in April. It dropped into my email inbox in the form of a Google Alert I’d set up to track where and when articles I write are published.

Of course, I knew I wasn’t the Daniel Allott the police were looking for. For one thing, I don’t make a habit of stabbing people. I also learned from the article that the stabbing had taken place in England, the country I was born in and frequently visit but hadn’t set foot in in over a year. Nevertheless, it was a little jarring to see my name associated with murder.

In the subsequent days, I received a series of Google Alert articles whose headlines shed some light on what happened next.

“Wanted man, Daniel Allott, arrested in Burton-on-Trent”

“Stafford man Daniel Allott charged with murder after death of Connan McLeod in Stone”

“Daniel Allott denies murder of Stone man Connan McLeod”

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Special Report

Sotomayor Digs In

By 7.9.14

Many on the Left didn’t want any exemptions to the contraceptive mandate, even for purely sectarian groups. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, among others, considered that narrow exemption “itself a compromise.” The secularist central planners of Obamacare wanted total participation by all employers. They just couldn’t get away with it politically. So, naturally, they treat any objections from the religious to supposedly generous modifications of the mandate with the greatest impatience.

That impatience was on display in Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent from the Supreme Court’s recent granting of a temporary reprieve to Wheaton College as its challenge to mandate-related regulations continues. Sotomayor felt the need to whip up a lengthy opinion to the reprieve, expressing exasperation with the Christian college for failing to appreciate sufficiently the Obama administration’s “accommodation” for religiously-affiliated groups.

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The Obama Watch

Obama Can’t Fix Immigration By Himself

By 7.9.14

On Monday, Major Garrett penned a fascinating piece at the Atlantic about a White House meeting on June 30 between President Barack Obama and a host of leftist pro-amnesty groups including the Center for American Progress, the Service Employees International Union, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Leadership Council on Civil Rights.

According to Garrett, Obama did most of the talking, promising the groups that he would take executive action to slow deportations and grant legal status to millions of undocumented workers. Obama also said he would criticize Congress for its lack of action on immigration reform, ignoring the fact nobody on Capitol Hill trusts the president to carry out any laws they’d pass.

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Letter From Paris

France’s Simmering Intifada

By From the July/August 2014 issue

When gendarmes arrested seven Muslim militants in Strasbourg in a pre-dawn sweep last May, it was the first major move in the government’s stepped-up attempt to stem the flow of French jihadists to Syria to join al Qaeda’s fight against Bashar al-Assad. Not that France has any interest in propping up his regime, au contraire. Rather, French authorities have reason to fear that when they return battle-hardened from Syria, as the seven had, they will put their guerrilla training to deadly use in the restive Arab barrios of Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, and other major cities. 

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Ben Stein's Diary

Sandpoint When It Shimmers

By 7.8.14

Monday, July 7
Another perfect day in Sandpoint. Instead of my usual late sleep, I got up, had a modest breakfast, and went for a walk along City Beach. Hardly anyone was there and the lake was glass. I was sitting at a table looking at the water when a woman with her gray hair tied in a pony tail — always a bad sign — sat down unbidden across from me. Another bad sign.

“You’re Ben,” she said. “Right?”

“Right.”

“I used to see you around and now I never do,” she said. “I used to see you on TV and now I never do.”

“I’m on quite a lot,” I said. “Fox, CNN, CBS. Many places.”

“In fact,” the woman said, “I thought you were dead.”

“Why on earth would you think I was dead?”

“Because I haven’t seen you on TV for such a long time,” she said.

“I just told you I am often on,” I said. “Besides, I suppose there are people who are both not on TV and not dead.”

The woman drew a heavy sigh. “Would you like to have breakfast with me?” she asked.

“No, thank you.”

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Politics

Donor Controversies Hit ‘Mississippi Conservatives’

By 7.8.14

The headline in the New York Times over the weekend was straightforward: “Unease in G.O.P. Over Mississippi Tea Party Anger”:

The stormy aftermath of Mississippi’s Republican Senate runoff has sent Tea Party conservatives around the country to the ramparts, raising the prospect of a prolonged battle that holds the potential to depress conservative turnout in November in Mississippi — and possibly beyond.

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Special Report

The Pied Piper of Permisos

By 7.8.14

It’s beginning to sink in with the intelligentsia: The flood of illegal aliens (yes, I said “illegal”) and particularly the tsunami of children traveling alone — parents risking their youngsters’ lives by sending them from Central America through gang-ravaged Mexico — threatens to turn the immigration debate into a major political liability for Democrats in November.

While immigration is typically low on the list of issues Americans care most about, it was to be a trump card for the left in turning out otherwise apathetic or demoralized Hispanic and liberal voters four months from now. But, as seems to be the result of almost every Obama administration policy, reality is blowing up the best laid plans of the DNC.

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