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Serve and Volley

Australians Out of Finals at Melbourne

By 1.28.16

It has been a nice fortnight at the Australian Open, with pleasant weather most days and good behavior (at least by their standards) from the two young guns of Australian tennis, Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. The latter had a long argument with the ump during a third round match against Tomas Berdych, both of which he lost, and the former made a dumb comment on Roger Federer, and proceeded to lose, also in the third round, against Andy Murray. The Last Great Aussie, Lleyton Hewitt, lost in the second round of his tennis swansong, fought on with countryman Sam Groth to the fourth in the doubles, and got a fond farewell from fans, with Federer contributing a class comment during the show.

Hewitt is the last Australian man to win a Grand Slam tournament in singles (U.S. Open, 2001, Wimbledon, 2002); he helped Australia win its last Davis Cup in 2003. Far be it from me — especially when watching all this stuff on TV — to indulge in the game of cross-era comparisons, but for what it may be worth, back in the day the Aussies played a different ball game.

The Environmental Spectator

Hardball at Yosemite National Park

By 1.28.16

On Jan. 14, the National Park Service announced that Yosemite’s iconic Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel on March 1. A news release explained that because of a trademark dispute with outgoing concessionaire Delaware North of Buffalo, N.Y., the Wawona Hotel will become Big Trees Lodge and Curry Village will become Half Dome Village. People readily saw a case of corporate greed. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum posted a blog with a photo of company executives and the heading: “Meet the corporate suits who claim to own the trademark to ‘Yosemite National Park.’”

The next day, Drum conceded his initial take was “probably wrong.” The story is less of an outrage than “a fairly pedestrian contract dispute.” It turns out Delaware North does have rights to its concession’s intellectual property — including names — because the company had to buy those intangible assets from the previous operator. The National Park Service acknowledges this fact and values these assets at $3.5 million. Delaware North wants $51 million. The matter will be settled in federal court.

Ben Stein's Diary

I Love Wall Street

By 1.28.16

So, now I see that both the GOP and the Democrats are bent on demonizing Wall Street. Even my dear friend, and I worship the man, Karl Rove, is using anti-Wall Street ads against HRC in Iowa. Of course he’s right. Hillary is a scandalous fraud protesting against Wall Street while raking in Goldman Sachs cash. (By the way, I am a small stockholder of GS and it’s been a disaster. If they have all of that money, let’s have a decent dividend!)

I am assuming that when politicians do polling, and focus groups, of course, they find that Americans hate Wall Street.

But why? Why do Americans hate Wall Street? Is it possibly because Americans do not know what Wall Street does?

Wall Street is not the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra. It is not a secret cabal. It is not alien invaders. It is not men and women who are fundamentally different from you and me.

Entrepreneurs and Elites

By 1.28.16

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.…
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
— T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

As you walk through a fine arts museum, as Prufrock did, you might be struck by how classical painters conveyed the idea of wealth and abundance through paintings of food and drink. Tables are laden with sumptuous platters of ripe fruit, exotic spices, and goblets of wine. The cornucopia conveys a sense of luxurious overabundance that symbolizes a flourishing prosperity.

In more bucolic settings, the earth willingly yields its bounty. Trees are heavy with fruit. The young lover need only reach up to grasp an apple for his mistress. But he must reach languidly. There must be no straining, no work.

Special Report

How the National Teachers Union Usurped a Local Election

By 1.28.16

In November of 2013, the people of Jefferson County, Colorado elected me to represent their interests on the Board of Education. My goal was ambitious, but straightforward: help turn our 83,000 student school district, where I attended elementary through high school, into the nation’s leader in public education.

Ben Stein's Diary

My World

By 1.27.16

I am scared by the presidential election. As I see it, we have three of the oddest persons on this planet as the leading candidates.

Donald Trump is outspoken and takes positions that cut right through political correctness to where the ordinary Americans live. He’s somewhat of a racist, but so are a lot of other people. He connects with them in a tiny bit of the way that Governor George Wallace of Alabama did in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Wallace totally turned American politics on its head, gave the GOP the “Southern Strategy,” and paved the way for Republicans to win some immense victories.

The problem is that Mr. Trump seems to me to slightly daft. He had made insanely insulting comments about a true war hero, John McCain, disgustingly insulted Megyn Kelly of Fox News, painted Mexicans, some of the hardest-working people on the earth, in vile colors.

He has zero, literally zero, experience in government. None in the military either. He is not even remotely prepared for peacetime governance and the thought of his finger on the nuclear button is breathtaking. So, that’s Mr. Trump.

Live From New York

The Big Apple’s Closeted Trump Supporters

By 1.27.16

Last week I wrote about the positive reactions to my “Make America Great Again” hat as I walked the Big Apple’s streets. Since then, wearing the hat has produced even more pleased responses, many from Democrats one might call closeted Trump supporters.

“Hillary has a body count, man,” said a black bellhop at the City Club Hotel on New York City’s historic and charming 44th Street after seeing the red hat in my hand. “She is dishonest and Trump is straightforward,” he explained after I inquired about his reason for supporting Trump. Are you, I asked, a Democrat? “Yes,” he said.

The Current Crisis

A Manifesto of My Own

By 1.27.16

In reading Paul Johnson’s masterful Art: A New History I came across a startling number of art masters who did bodies sublimely, hands and even landscapes brilliantly, but who could not plausibly paint a human face. Some of the artists recognized this and had their subjects look over their shoulder or off to the horizon, or were painted behind a floppy hat. Nonetheless the artists are esteemed as great, though limited.

That thought ran through my mind when I first encountered National Review’s manifesto on Donald Trump. Some of these accomplished writers have a knack for political ideology, for political culture, for journalism. But few have any talent for politics. Several have supported John McCain’s and Mitt Romney’s candidacies. Several have denounced Newt Gingrich’s presidential ambitions along with me. But not many have served as political advisors, which might be a mark in their favor. Still, that does not give them a credential in politics.

Political Hay

Better to Be Governed by an Honest Socialist Than a Dishonest Conservative?

By 1.27.16

It’s the season of the political pander. It seems worst on the right. Just vote for me for president, and I will make your dreams come true. Lots of benefits, low taxes, large military, many services, little government. It’s magic!

It probably comes as no surprise that a Democrat like Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to talk about how she’s going to pay for all the goodies she says she wants Americans to have. After all, she claims to be a friend of the middle class, and her Wall Street friends probably wouldn’t like new levies on their earnings.

Yet the Republicans are no more courageous. Donald Trump says he represents the disenfranchised masses. So he has defended programs like Social Security without explaining how he would sustain the underfunded system. His more mainstream opponents laud smaller government and criticize high taxes, while advocating ever higher military outlays without detailing what domestic spending programs they would cut. No wonder America faces some $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Another Perspective

Tax Cuts to Cut Carbon, an Idea Whose Time Has Yet to Come

By 1.27.16

Some on the political right are floating a new “supply-side” idea for reducing carbon dioxide emissions without creating more market distortions: clean tax cuts. Proponents of the cuts want to reduce or end all taxes on investments in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In theory, tax cuts on so-called “clean” technologies should dramatically increase investments in these industries, because investors would not have to pay taxes on the profits. Because taxes would still be paid by companies using fossil fuels to produce electricity or churn out popular products not as energy-efficient as alternative models in their class, stock prices would fall and investment in them would wane. Proponents have described it as “an all carrot, no-stick” approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.