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Ben Stein's Diary

Robin Williams, R.I.P.

By 8.12.14

I never worked with Robin Williams. Once in a great while I would see him at a Hollywood watering hole, but that was a long time ago. And he always made me extremely uneasy when I saw him on the screen, large or small. He had a frantic, wildly manic quality to him, like a toy soldier that had been overwound and would walk into walls and fall down and just keep walking. Hyper beyond sanity.

He was — from what I heard — a deeply thoughtful and sad man. His thoughts made him sadder, so he turned to alcohol and drugs. His appetite for both was the stuff of legend. Like almost all alcoholics and drug addicts and many, many, many comedians, he had powerful feelings of self-hatred and self-loathing and suicide. I see it in my colleagues here. I have seen it work its evil way into killing three of my best friends.

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The War on Terror Spectator

So Begins World War IV?

By 8.12.14

Is World War IV on the verge of beginning? With President Obama in the role of the reluctant leader whose actions have invited global catastrophe?

As the 100th anniversary of what is known to modern history as World War I is marked, it is perhaps time to recall that once upon a time the “Great War” as it was called in its day was known in the aftermath as “the war to end all wars.” The phrase was associated with President Wilson, who also said the U.S. needed to join the fight in Europe to “make the world safe for democracy.” 

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The Nation's Pulse

Can Millennials Have a Happy Marriage?

By 8.12.14

When my husband and I were first married, one of my sisters remarked — to my great surprise given how “sickeningly” in love Gil and I were as newlyweds — that she didn’t think our marriage would last because we “argued too much.” As it turns out, given our 50-plus years of happy marriage, her love barometer was just a little off. These days, people frequently express surprise that a marriage can last that long today (let alone continue to be happy) and ask what we did to have a happy marriage. Ironically, a new Redbook article, “8 Things Happily Married Couples Do,” lays out some surprising things that contribute to a happy marriage. One of the 8 keys to successful marriage is, “They bicker.” The author explains that, according to the American Psychologist journal, little arguments are beneficial because acknowledging differences helps a marriage in the long-term.

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Main Street U.S.A.

So Now We’re in Iraq Again… What?

By 8.12.14

Is anybody overjoyed, rapturous, bowled over with delight at seeing the United States again involved in Iraq?

No? We can move on then. The United States is involved in Iraq. Concerning which involvement we have two choices: 1) Mess it up, getting lots more people killed than have been killed already; or 2) help the locals to engineer something like a standoff between Iraqis able to pass for reasonable people and those who, on present evidence, might have earned censure from Genghis Khan for excessive devotion to human slaughter.

It may be a while before President Obama figures out what he has gotten himself into — first on account of prematurely pulling all American troops out of Iraq, second by sending back the Air Force to protect the Iraqi minority known as the Yazidis, along with such Americans as can still be found among our endangered friends, the Kurds.

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Political Hay

Charlie Exposed

By 8.12.14

In a fine piece of long journalism, Tampa Bay Times reporters Adam Smith and Michael Kruse provide Floridians with everything they need to know about Charlie Crist in a bit more than 10,000 well-chosen words. It’s not a pretty picture. But then regular TAS readers already know this, as do Floridians paying the slightest attention.

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The Public Policy

Attacking Achievement

By 8.12.14

New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, like so many others who call themselves “progressive,” is gung-ho to solve social problems. In fact, he is currently on a crusade to solve an educational problem that doesn’t exist, even though there are plenty of other educational problems that definitely do exist.

The non-existent problem is the use of tests to determine who gets admitted to the city’s three most outstanding public high schools — Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. These admissions tests have been used for generations, and the students in these schools have had spectacular achievements for generations.

These achievements include many Westinghouse Science awards, Intel Science awards, and — in later life — Pulitzer Prizes and multiple Nobel Prizes. Graduates of Bronx Science alone have gone on to win five Nobel Prizes in physics alone. There are Nobel Prize winners from Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech as well.

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The Right Prescription

Tavenner: Transparency for Thee But Not for Me

By 8.11.14

It has been widely reported that the latest Obama administration official to delete emails requested by congressional investigators is Marilyn Tavenner, who runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Far less coverage, however, has been devoted to the ironic fact that Tavenner’s agency administers the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. The “Sunshine Act,” as it is generally known, is a provision of Obamacare meant to ensure that physicians conduct business transactions with complete transparency. In other words, the very bureaucrat whose emails have conveniently gone missing oversees the agency tasked with keeping your doctor and his business associates honest.

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Campus Scenes

Notre Dame at a Crossroads

By 8.11.14

From the title, you may think I am referring to Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to receive an honorary degree and deliver the commencement address to the graduating class of 2009. At the time, Obama had only his election to his credit while, to his discredit, were his pronounced pro-abortion views. The invitation led to intense and widespread criticism, including criticism from some 80 American Catholic bishops. It also led to the arrest on graduation day of the “Notre Dame 88” for trespass. Unthinkable was the arrest — at the behest of Notre Dame Security supervised by a Catholic priest who serves as president of the university — of an elderly priest for kneeling on a sidewalk on campus while praying a rosary.

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Another Perspective

Does Anybody Really Know What Genocide Is?

By 8.11.14

There are some words in the English language that are misused. In the course of such misuse words lose their meaning.

In the misuse of the word genocide its meaning is not only lost, but is being butchered.

The country that is most frequently accused of committing genocide is Israel. Consider what has been said in the weeks following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

An online petition signed by 525 Italians, mostly academics, accuses Israel of committing a “slow genocide” demanding not only Israel’s government and military be put on trial, but the entire Jewish populace as well.

Feminist author Naomi Wolf declared on her Facebook page, “I mourn genocide in Gaza because I am the granddaughter of a family half wiped out in a holocaust and I know genocide when I see it.” She went further. “I stand with the people of Gaza exactly because things might have turned out differently if more people had stood with the Jews in Germany. I stand with the people of Gaza because no one stood with us,” cried Wolf.

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A Further Perspective

Mugged by Reality, President Puts Up His Dukes

By 8.11.14

With a clairvoyance not unlike that of Mr. Jimmy Carter in November 1979 (memo to the recent history challenged: revolution in Iran, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, lousy U.S. economy), President Obama woke up one morning a few days ago and noticed that the war he had declared over in Iraq was raging.

Future biographers of the 44th president of the United States may find that he asked his top national security advisers, who happen to be women named Susan Rice and Samantha Powers, why he had been led to believe there was a problem of personnel and political inclusiveness (contemporary term for bipartisanship, including sharing pork and spoils) in Baghdad, but not tens of thousands of displaced persons, ravaged towns, women pressed into sex slavery, mass murder, extermination or subjugation of Christians, and, strategically most ominous, the arrival of the Islamic horde on the marshes of Kurdistan, threatening the one verifiable success of ten years of American sacrifice in Mesopotamia.

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