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Ben Stein's Diary

Big Brother as N.Y. Attorney General

By 11.9.15

Sunday Night
Oooh. It is cold and rainy here in Greenville, South Carolina. We are here visiting our son, Tommy, his incredibly beautiful wife, The Kitten, and their daughter, the beguiling 4-year-old Coco. This has been an exhausting trip.

First, we flew to DC about a week ago. The flight was fine but my head ached from the cabin being first too warm, then too cold. Small, first world problems, to be sure.

Another Perspective

Radical Republicanism

By 11.9.15

Readers of this column are aware that several months ago we recommended Republicans find a way to draft James Webb as their candidate for the presidency next year, due to the fact that the contenders appeared to consist largely of bright, willing, eager midgets, technocratic midgets to be exact, but midgets still, at a time we need giants. 

The one exception of course is the Man from Queens*. For the time being allow me to defer to certain colleagues on this page to discuss the pros and cons of Donald Trump's emergence on the political scene, except to note that, of course, he is no technocrat; he is a salesman and a real estate developer, linked trades which, notwithstanding what American novelists, playwrights, editorialists, satirists, and statist bureaucrats have said, written, and done to them over the course of our nation’s history, are a key to our success as a Republic and a nation. 

Free Market Accountability Project

Lifting the (Oil) Ban on Economic Prosperity

By and 11.9.15

Lifting the crude oil export ban would enable American producers to take advantage of huge opportunities for significant world-market share. Domestic petroleum companies would prosper even at current oil prices. In turn, this would power substantial economic growth—including a manufacturing renaissance—and help reestablish U.S. geopolitical influence. Thousands and eventually millions of jobs would be created throughout the economy.

Oddly (or some would say, predictably) President Barack Obama opposes lifting the export ban for U.S. companies yet supports lifting the same ban on Iran, which is part of the nuclear deal. Bipartisan support for banning the ban, however, might put legislation on the president’s desk before the new year. Is there an overriding reason to keep the ban in place?

In the 1970s, the U.S. imposed a crude oil export ban in reaction to several factors, including the Arab oil embargo in retaliation for our support of Israel, rising energy prices, and peaking domestic production. For the last 40 years, the ban has stayed in place ostensibly to achieve energy independence.

Special Report and Interview

It’s Touch NGO in the Mideast

By 11.9.15

The American Spectator is a great admirer of the Gatestone Institute, founded and ably presided over by Nina Rosenwald. This is the premier “thinking man’s think tank,” where American principles are applied to world problems. There is no greater friend to pro-democracy movements and religious minorities around the globe. In October, TAS was in attendance when Dr. Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO-Monitor, was the featured speaker at a Gatestone event. His organization, based in Israel, monitors the work of NGOs, “non-governmental organizations.”

Dr. Steinberg was kind enough to sit down for an interview, so our readers could have a window into his valuable work.

TAS: Do you think the public assumes NGOs to be altruistic, giving them a natural advantage over government and business?

Special Report

Politico’s Friday Fabrications

By 11.9.15

What a Friday that was: Ben Carson showed emotion when pushing back against a desperately dirt-digging media — dirt-digging against Republicans, that is; George Will remained equanimous in the face of a verbal assault from Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly; Barack Obama gave the coup de grâce to the Keystone XL pipeline; and I had the chance to talk to Fox News’ James Rosen about his fascinating new book on former Vice President Dick Cheney.

(The several links to the Ben Carson story in Politico are different from each other, each representing a new phase in Politico’s incompetent and unethical writing and editing.)

The Nation's Pulse

Get Big Government Out of High School Locker Rooms

By 11.9.15

This story starts with a transgender high school student who was born male but identifies as female. As a public high school student, she wants the school to recognize her as a girl, to call her by her new legal name, to allow her to use the girls’ bathroom and to accept her in girls’ athletic programs.

Her high school in Palatine, Illinois, has pretty much complied. Teachers call the girl by her female name. She uses the girls’ bathroom. She plays on a girls’ sports team. Except, she does hit one wall: The school doesn’t provide unfettered access to girls’ locker rooms where students shower or change clothes. Administrators have experimented with different arrangements — such as a separate room. The New York Times reported the district said it would allow Student A (her name in this legal case) to change in the girls’ locker room, “but only behind a curtain.” Student A, for her part, “said she would probably use that curtain to change. But she and the federal government have insisted that she be allowed to make that decision voluntarily, and not because of requirements by the district.”

Buy the Book

Three Cheers for the Surveyor

By 11.6.15

Very few books can be summarized as “social science by a prayerful engineer wearing a hauberk,” but John Gravino’s The Immoral Landscape (of the New Atheism) stands tall as a paperback fitting that description.

Gravino used the CreateSpace platform to publish a defense of “biblical moral psychology” aimed at professional atheists and the far larger crowd of people who listen to their arguments if only because scandals in the church seem to be caused in part by her encouragement of self-control.

The best-known atheists attack Christianity in a predictably Freudian way, starting with the big dog on the block: Sexual repression is part of the Catholic DNA, critics say, and despite the obvious ironies involved in claiming that striving for the good makes you bad, critics assert that unbending allegiance to virtues like celibacy for priests in the Roman rite and chastity for everybody fosters perversion and hypocrisy among the devoutly religious.

Car Guy

The C02 Trump Card

By 11.6.15

It had to happen — and now it has.

VW — and soon, everyone else, inevitably — is under the gun over “emissions” that aren’t even pollutants.

Carbon dioxide.

This inert gas (look it up if you missed it in high school chemistry) doesn’t contribute to smog, cause acid rain, deplete the the ozone layer, irritate the lungs, or harm babies. Plants breathe it and by breathing it, produce the oxygen we need to breathe. If C02 is a “pollutant” then according to the same logic, so is water vapor (oy, don’t give them ideas).

But carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas” that contributes to “climate change,” the new (and pope-approved!) catch-all phrase that encompasses warmer and colder weather, neatly pathologizing both of them.

Cows produce it; we produce it and cars produce it.

VW is in the crosshairs because of this.

The Nation's Pulse

None Dare Call Them Dudes

By 11.6.15

Like that creepy crossdresser seeking admission into your bathroom stall, no never means no for the Left.

Grounded denizens of Space City rejected the spaced-out Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) on Tuesday by a 61-39 percentage margin. Immediately talk commenced among the rule-or-ruin losers of stripping the Super Bowl from NRG Stadium and shopping for a judge to issue a better verdict than the one handed down by the voters.

The trouncing, sloganeering, and subsequent boycott proposals surrounding the “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” campaign recalls Anita Bryant’s 1977 “Save Our Children” triumph in Dade County and the ensuing treatment of Florida orange juice as Everglades swamp water. “Hitler danced a jig when his troops marched into Poland,” Harvey Milk claimed in pushing the OJ prohibition. “Bryant danced the same jig when she won.”

Special Report

Why Common Core Is Cracking Up

By 11.6.15

After a decade in the making, the Common Core State Standards are on track to replace uneven state standards in English, mathematics, and other basic academic subjects. But as a rising number of parents and elected officials question this emerging national catechism, the program is meeting new resistance.

First proposed by a coalition of governors and state school superintendents, Common Core codifies what elementary and high school students should study and know after completing each grade.

Strictly speaking, the standards are not a curriculum. Nominally, how subjects are taught and the materials used are decisions left to individual states and school districts. Supporters insist they will raise academic proficiency and ensure uniformly high standards across the nation.