Ben Stein's Diary

Showing the Flag

You never know who you'll run into on the road to Philadelphia.

By 1.29.13

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Monday
Here I am in Philadelphia at the business center of the Loews Hotel, using an unbelievably expensive Internet connection. Why? Because some evil soul hacked my computer while I was in Greenville, S.C. a few days ago. It was almost funny. I turned on the computer and a big black screen appeared with white writing saying, "United States Department of Justice." A message said I had illegally downloaded software and thus my computer had been disabled.

But, if I sent a money order to a certain address, the U.S. government would unblock my computer.

Based on long experience, I do not believe that is how the government acts. Plus, I have no idea of how to download or upload anything. So, I will get it fixed soon, when I get back to LA. Or else buy a new one. But why would anyone do something so mean? What's the point? Just malice.

So… I asked my capable son, Tommy, what to do. He showed me how to run the machine in "safe mode," which I did. But it's hard to compose that way. An annoyance but hardly life-threatening.

I flew up to DC on Saturday afternoon from the great, friendly Greenville-Spartanburg airport. It was not quite as great this time. A large drunk man bumped into me and did not even apologize. A large woman next to me in the security line was wild with anxiety and fidgeting madly. She kept saying she had just gotten a new job "orchestrating telephony," whatever that means. She was literally jumping up and down with anxiety.

Yes! Of course! She sat next to me on the flight, singing to herself, clapping hallelujah, crying out "lawd hab mercy" or something similar, waving her arms in the air, as much as she could considering that she was crammed up against me. She kept saying she had to get home, that she had worked hard that week and needed to be in bed.

I was overwhelmed with joy to get off the plane and say good-bye to her.

Naturally, she wanted her picture taken with me.

Still, I love Greenville. The main thing that's great about it, two main things, are good sushi and friendly people. Well, also lots of very pretty women but I don't look at them because I have my Julie waiting for me at home.

I found a house for my son and daughter in law and granddaughter, so if all's well, they'll be in the Palmetto State soon. South Carolina is a fabulous place. People do not have a bad attitude and they talk cheerily to strangers, and Tommy has a lot of friends there, so let's hope he's happy.

In DC, I mostly paid bills. I always have an immense pile of bills to pay. Lord, help me from myself. By far my worst enemy is my extravagance. BY FAR. I am not sure where I got it from, but it's killing me. I guess I have said this before.

I also spent a lot of time watching a video of how my Canadian pals, the Vissers, paterfamilias, Mike, a videographer, view my life in LA. As I watched it, I realized that it seems like a fairy tale life -- but someone has to pay for it. That someone is a fat old man named Ben Stein. But still, it is a glamorous life. It reminds me of a movie I once saw about a man who was told he would die in two weeks and went out and lived a fantastically lavish life for two weeks -- only to find he had been given the wrong diagnosis and he would live a long time.

The problem is that I do not recall at all how he paid those bills! And yes, I easily can pay my bills, but I FEEL broke all of the time. Why is that, doctor?

Bob and I drove up to Philadelphia from the Watergate. We stopped at an IHOP. The man in the next booth was a brave Marine who fought in many wars and now is a firefighter. "I took classes at a community college," he said, "after three tours in the Marines in Central America and Kuwait. A girl in the class said it was fine to burn the flag. I said, 'You wouldn't say that if you knew that the flag is sacred from the blood of the men who died fighting under it. You wouldn't say it if you saw how they died for that flag and for you. And if you're going to burn a flag, try burning this one,'" and then he pulled down his T-shirt and showed us an Old Glory tattoo right over his heart. Right at IHOP. I was deeply, deeply touched and hugged him for a long time. This America is an amazing place. This man, L/CPL Gordon, is my hero. God bless him.

In my hotel cafe here in Philly, I had wings and watched Rachel Maddow interview Paul Krugman. Dr. Krugman has gotten steadily nuttier as his predictions turn out to be more and more mistaken. Oh, well. He got the Nobel for hating Bush. Mr. Obama got the Nobel for not being Bush.

The Nobel is really a silly joke now.

And whatever happened to all the hosannas about Arab Spring? The whole area is falling apart. Deadly riots in Egypt. Poison gas loose in Syria. I thought Anderson Cooper said it would all be fine. Does anyone really have any idea of how dangerous it turned out to be to kick out our pal Mubarak? How could our State Department have been that naive? Very scary. I wish I were in Idaho with my guns and my God.

Photo: UPI 

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.