Ben Stein's Diary

From Ruby Ridge to Cambridge

This has got to be killing Al Sharpton.

By 7.23.13

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Monday--Sandpoint
What a strange day this has been. I was up far too late, as usual, last night. But the sun pouring into my room wakes me up early so I close my shades and go back to sleep until noon. I change tenses a lot. I got up, had a bagel -- incredible that the Safeway here has bagels at least as good as any bagels in Beverly Hills -- got dressed, hand wrote many letters, mounted my fab Cannondale red bike, and rode around the City Beach.

Oddly enough, there were few young people and many of us old people. I think that Sandpoint has become a destination for tours by us old people. They stop me for advice on the stock market. I always say the same thing: buy the indexes, set it, and forget it.

I came back home to an incredibly upsetting phone call from my accountant. He says the IRS wants a ton of data from me for 2011, all kinds of strange artifacts they have never asked me for before. They want documentation at a level of detail I have never even heard of.

Is this harassment because I am not a big fan of Mr. Obama? Is it because I am in Hollywood (in a very very small way)? Maybe it’s my fault for not submitting something I am not even aware of. It’s not that I am accused of cheating. It has to do with detailing where my income came from. But I am a lowly writer, economist, speaker, and actor. Why would they waste their time on me? Earlier this year, the IRS sent me a letter saying I had failed to report roughly $166 million in income. That is so much more income than I have ever seen that it might as well have been $166 trillion. They came off that quickly, but now they want to see detail on income I have already declared. They basically want me to prove I actually did earn as much as I said I did. This seems wildly perverse.

But, as my pal, the super genius money manager Phil DeMuth, the one guy to go with your meaningful portfolio, says, “The IRS has the perfect business model: they take it from you at the point of a gun.”

Anyway, as I was digesting this burdensome and confusing news, my wife came in with some unbearably distressing medical news about a close relative. I really thought I was going to start screaming. Instead, I held my wifey’s hand and prayed.

I cannot, simply cannot, handle life all by myself. I need my God and my wifey. With God, all things are possible. Without God, a knotted shoelace is cause for suicide. Or, as we say, “It’s either the 12 steps or the 12 gauge.”

I felt better after prayer, so wifey, our dear pal Tim Farmin, boatman extraordinaire, and I headed across a narrow courtesy bay and had lunch at Bottle Bay resort. Dee-lish and the weather was perfect. We ate slowly. I am desperately trying to get my wife to eat more, so I didn’t rush her as she had her huckleberry sundae dessert. Every ounce she gains is treasure from heaven.

Then, a trip back across a windy lake to the dock. On the way back, Alex asked if she were ever going to get to see Ruby Ridge. She’s been asking about it for roughly a year, since we both read a simply brilliant book about the federal killings at Ruby Ridge. The story was about religious zealots and white supremacists and the family of Randy Weaver forced into a confrontation with the government. In the course of the horror show, Weaver’s wife, Vicky, was shot to death by U.S. marshals as she cowered unarmed behind a door and her 14-year-old son Sammy was shot in the back and killed by federal marshals as he was running away. A federal marksman was also killed by a friend and boarder at the Weaver home. This was in 1992.

The place where all this happened is in rough country called Ruby Ridge above the Ruby Creek about 40 minutes north of Sandpoint, near Bonners Ferry. Peter Feierabend, a dear, departed friend, took me to see it in about 1995, just before he died. Alex has wanted the same tour for a year, as noted.

So, we piled into my rented Chrysler, a fine car, and headed up there through dense highway construction traffic. We drove deep into narrow valleys and hollows and could not see daylight for a while. We didn’t any markers telling us where Randy Weaver’s home was, but we did see memorial flowers, like the ones put up at fatal crash sites, on a sign for Ruby Creek Road. I took a photo of Alex there, and then we headed up to Bonners Ferry.

The roads around Ruby Ridge are eerie and filled with menace. The only interesting construction is a 1912 Burlington Northern railway tunnel that Tim knew about. The whole area near Ruby Ridge just exudes the unfathomable nature of human corruption.

Strangely enough, though, once you head north from Ruby Ridge, you enter an area of lush farms, ranches, estates, and even a beautiful golf course. In minutes, you go from a region of witchcraft to rich man’s territory.

In Bonners, as we call it, we ate snacks at a little café in which nothing had been changed since (I would guess) about 1962. The people were extremely friendly, but it was as if the entire town were covered by a dome that kept out time. There was simply nothing happening there.

Yet I know that there are about 3,000 people there and I know there are a junior high school and a high school, and local bands and a bar. But the streets were empty, like in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Well, never mind. A ranching family at the restaurant told me they were huge Fox News fans so that was fine and the waitresses wanted pictures with me. “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I asked one of them.

“I don’t plan to grow up,” she said sincerely.

O-kay....

Meanwhile, guess what? There is no more Trayvon Martin controversy. White racism is no longer a problem (as I have been saying for a while now). No, there is only one important piece of news on this earth, which we heard about endlessly on the BBC on XM in our car: There is a royal baby. Kate and William have a baby boy, the Prince of Cambridge. He is some day, perhaps, going to be King of England if the Muslims who will then rule the UK allow it. (I doubt if they will.) That’s far in the future. For today, the only joyous news is that Queen Elizabeth is a great grandmother. Why we care so much about this is a mystery to me. She’s not our queen. We had a Revolution. We are a Republic. The single largest ethnic groups in America are Germans, Irish, Hispanics, and Blacks. She’s not part of their ethnicity. So, what’s all the shouting about?

I don’t know but I do know that one day we’re all hysterical about Trayvon and the next day we’re all ecstatic about the Duchess of Cambridge. This has got to be killing Al Sharpton.

“Your public, sir, is a beast.” I think The Iron Duke said that. A fickle beast, sir.

When we got home, I tried to read an article in the New York Times about how being stuck in poverty is caused by long commuting distances. This is shown by greater poverty in Atlanta than in Seattle. Greater poverty in Baltimore than in Salt Lake City. This stupid, deeply foolish theory is like the theory that Japanese automakers killed Detroit. They are both efforts to avoid the truth that poverty, violence, and misery in America are very largely, predominantly correlated with blackness. It’s terribly sad and it’s a crime against decent people, but it’s true. The academics and media will go to any lengths to avoid it, but it’s true, and avoiding the truth will not make it go away. When Americans are in trouble, we should help them, not ignore them.

Alex and I spent the evening reading and watching the moon on the lake. Just a peaceful evening in the gathering shadows of our lives. Every so often we would perk up like watchdogs to glory in the powerful rumble and roar of Mister Buffett’s trains. Talk about a monarch. One man owns 51 per cent of that railroad and it’s just one little piece of an empire built with a brain that has no equal in history.

Meanwhile, I have to carefully plan what to feed Alex tomorrow so she gains weight.

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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.