Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

All It Takes Is a Few

By 1.10.15

Here I am in Atlanta. I am here to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the sales awards event for a gigantically successful auto and truck sales entity called “Auto Trader.” The hotel, downtown Ritz Carlton, is lovely. My friend Bob and I had dinner at a great restaurant called New York Prime. We sat next to a party of very drunk and amorous women with much older men. It was almost embarrassing.

I felt great about the event the next afternoon until I turned on the TV and saw about the murders and general anti-freedom and anti-Semitic carnage in Paris.

“Your basic human is not such a hot item.” So says my sister, a real genius. But most of the human beings I run into are friendly, cheerful men and women. They are just trying to do their work and feed their families. But all it takes is a few, like the Islamists in Paris, to make the whole decent world feel sick. Just a tiny percentage of the population of a great nation like France, just a handful with guns, can take down the mood of the entire civilized world. And now they’ve done it again.

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Ben Stein's Diary

My Magical Aunt Pearl

By 1.5.15

When I was a child, my Aunt Pearl, Pearl Weiss, was a glamorous figure. She was my father’s younger sister, about four years younger than Pop. She had shared his hard times during the Great Depression and before and had folded newspapers for his delivery route. But when I knew her, in the last 1940s and 1950s, she was rich. Her husband, Davey Weiss, co-owned a meat packing company in Schenectady. He made real money, sixty thousand a year or more in the 1940s, when that was a fortune.

She lived in a colonial style house on a simply beautiful street called Central Parkway in Schenectady. Pearl always was dressed dashingly, had live in help, and had a cool car. I remember in particular that she had what I recall as a sky blue Buick Skylark the first year they came out in the mid 1950s. It had leather upholstery and power window and seats… a far cry from our modest Chevrolet with its crank windows and cloth seats.

Once, and once only, in 1950, our family drove down to Miami Beach for a winter vacation. We stayed in a modest hotel called “The Billows.”

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Happy New Year, Al Sharpton

By 1.1.15

Call it “Obama’s Paradox.” A young hopped-up black man in Ferguson robs a store and then tries to kill a policeman. The policeman defends himself and the young man dies. The media go crazy. Black agitators like the most loathsome being on the planet (just IMHO), Al Sharpton, appear on TV insulting the police and the entire white population of America (just IMHO). Black criminals riot. The President seemingly takes their side against the police.

Ooops. Major mistake, but inevitable. Obama had to play to his most basic base, angry, disaffected, alienated black youths. That’s who he is, at heart, except when he’s a billionaire in training, golf-playing fool. So, Mr. Obama and his arch henchman, Eric Holder, take up with Al Sharpton and the rioters and looters and against the police and the white community. As I say, he had to do it. That’s what he’s all about at heart.

But you cannot win siding with Al Sharpton and looting gangsters against the police. So, the GOP wins a huge win in Congress and Hillary does not look inevitable anymore.

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The Makings of a Great Life

By 12.27.14

Friday–Boxing Day
More on 2014. This was the year when I learned once again that I was married to a saint. Some bad things happened to my good name for a few days. My wife never wavered in her identity with me. Blows that might have sunk a man with a less worthy wife were painful but faded away in the sunshine of my wifey’s love. 

I do not know why the Lord God, Lord of Hosts and of the High Places, gave me the best wife in the history of mankind, but He did. I am a pauper by the standards of my pal Mr. Buffett, an illiterate compared with really great essayists like Dr. Johnson, and altogether spend most of my life wasting time. But I am married to a genuinely superhuman saint, and this is borne in upon me moment by moment. I often think, “Well, my pal Warren has $50 billion, or whatever he has, but I have Alex, and I think I came out ahead.”

My travails this year made our marriage stronger than ever and happier than ever. A wife who will stand by me even though I did not buy anywhere near the right investments, even though I am wildly overweight, even though I talk about Nixon incessantly—that’s a great wife and makes for a great life.

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A Terrifying Year — Yet There’s Hope

By 12.26.14

Christmas 2014
This has been a terrifying year. Unspeakable brutality by Islamist terrorists in the Middle East and in Africa. A level of barbarity towards the innocent that would have made Eichmann envious. A world that in large measure kowtows to the most violent and bloodthirsty and turns on the most innocent and law-abiding (think Hamas vs. Israel). In this year, no one demonstrated in the streets of Europe’s capitals against Islamists who murdered children by the thousands but did protest screamingly against the major guardians of law and decency in the world, the USA and Israel.

In this year, man’s essential mean-spiritedness ran riot, with fanatics of various stripes and Islamists brutalizing universities either physically or by the essential evil of their tortured so-called “thoughts.” This was at prestige universities in the United States.

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Terror on Campus

By 12.18.14

This nation’s campuses are truly losing their minds. The whole world is losing its mind. Maybe it always was mad. I guess humans are just plain mad. For people like me, 70 years old, living in a quiet neighborhood with an old wife and an old dog, life is still darned good. When I walk along the brick sidewalks of Oxford, Maryland, hearing the church bells playing Christmas classics, when I have supper at the Robert Morris Inn, my favorite restaurant in the world, most of all when I am at home with my Julie, my wife, the best woman on the planet, when I feel the peace that comes of knowing that God is in my life, I feel ecstatic. My wife is not mad and I do not feel mad when I am with my wife.

But the warning signs are all over and the hairs on the back of my neck are starting to stand up.

At Wellesley College, home to one of the most beautiful campuses in America, last word in New England prestige, alma mater of Hillary Clinton and my sister, Jewish students are routinely shouted down and threatened when they try to speak up for Israel. Their meeting places are under warning at danger. The administration says it’s concerned but does nothing.

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I See America Working and It’s a Beautiful Sight

By 12.13.14

People ask me all of the time, “Ben, now that you’re not doing a quiz show, what do you do?” The answer is that for my fun and livelihood, I travel the country from end to end and up and down talking with business people about the economy. And it’s a fascinating, eye-opening journey.

In a word, it reminds me of the immortal Walt Whitman poem, “I Hear America Singing.” I hear and I see America, and the free market capitalist system working. And working beautifully.

Remember those evil oil companies who were using their muscle to oppress the American family by keeping oil and gas prices high? Well, despite being fought tooth and nail by the government and the environmentalists, the oil companies discovered a way to get immense amounts of oil and gas out of shale.

The result, as every American now knows, is a giant drop in energy prices that translates into a bonanza for almost all American families. The oil companies did that, not the Energy Department. The oil companies might now regret that they did it since oil has fallen so much… but in the end, the consumer made out great as the free market would have predicted.

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A Very Scary Situation

By 12.10.14

A disturbing conversation with one of my smartest, most astute friends who is from a border state but has been observing race relations for a long time now. He is white. He is definitely idiosyncratic. This, in paraphrase, is what he said: 

“I keep reading in the newspapers and seeing in the mainstream media how angry blacks are at whites over the Trayvon Martin case, the Ferguson case and the Staten Island case. And what the media is missing is that as angry as the blacks are at the whites, that’s how angry many — not all — whites are at the blacks. Blacks ask for reparations for slavery and Jim Crow, as if paying today’s twenty-year-old crack addict had anything to do with his ten times removed grandfather being a slave or could make any difference at all to the soul of that slave.

“What I wonder is when white people are going to start asking black people for reparations for wrecking the public schools, for destroying urban life in many cities, for the insanely disproportionate share of armed robberies, homicides, and rapes they commit? When are black people going to pay reparations for putting the whole nation in fear?”

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Some Gratitude, Anyone? Anyone?

By 12.9.14

Hi. I make a habit of reading the Op-Ed pages of the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal day by day. I love those pages. I got started in journalism by writing for them, pieces in defense of Richard Nixon, whom I still love, by the way. I learn a lot from them on some days.

But, what I notice about the op-eds is that they are almost always complaining about something: race relations, economics, sexual oppression in the Times and lack of a free market and excess taxes and regulation in the Wall Street Journal. To me, this totally misses the whole point of life in America and I can summarize it in a moment.

Many years ago, I said to my Dad, “Pop, it occurs to me that we Jews live better in America than Jews ever have anywhere and at any time in history.”

My Pop, a genuinely wise man, said, “Benjy, that’s the whole point of America. Jews, Irish, Blacks, Polish, Italians, Asians… we all live better here than anywhere else in the history of mankind. That’s the story of America.”

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Something Sick Is Happening

By 12.5.14

A few humble thoughts about the recent anger and disturbances in New York and elsewhere about alleged police brutality.

1. The crowds in Gotham were tiny. Hundreds at most. Maybe a few thousand for a while. But the MSM is going crazy as if it were a major event.

Your ancient correspondent remembers walking in anti-war demonstrations in Fun City, where I now am, where there were millions. These demonstrations are peanuts.

2. But they are mostly peaceful and that is a triumph. A genuine victory for America and decency.

3. You get a good idea of what’s going on if I tell you that I was at the Harvard Club for most of the evening and it was totally silent, with the usual collection of eccentrics. Then I went to the Yale Club, where the University of Virginia was having a wild, loud party in the lounge, with many UVA co-eds or alums in super-high bad-girl heels.

Both clubs are near supposed major loci of demonstrations, but you could not tell it from what I saw — which was nothing.

This tells you nothing about police behavior but a lot about how much the beautiful people care about it.

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