Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

In the Time We Have Left

By From the Sept/Oct 2014 issue

Tuesday
This cannot be happening. Just can’t be. I am in my condo at the Shoreham Towers getting my toenails cut by my manicurist, Mickey, a beautiful but not young woman. I am too old and my eyesight is too poor to really see my toenails well enough to clip them.

I switched on my TV, to Fox News. There are two people talking about the most gruesome genocidal massacres I have ever heard of or at least in a long, long time.

ISIS, the wildly insanely cruel, fanatical radical Islamist group that has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, is apparently killing as many Assyrian Christians and Chaldean Christians as it can get its hands on. It is killing young boys by cutting their heads off slowly with a pen knife. It is raping young women, then selling them into slavery.

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Ben Stein's Diary

70 Years Young

By 11.22.14

This is really hard to believe but it’s true. I am writing this just before midnight on Friday night. If I live, in roughly 72 hours, I will be 70 years old. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT AT ALL!!!!

It seems like just yesterday I was a small child walking along Sligo Creek, playing army with David Scull, listening to Carl Bernstein playing Buddy Holly on the guitar. It was just days ago, surely, that I went to those glorious, Gatsbyesque parties at the Alpha Delta Phi House on W. 114th Street with Mary Just, and then down to the Tower Suite or the Stork Club for cocktails.

And wasn’t it just moments ago that I was a student radical at Yale Law School, harassing the professors and making the girls swoon?

Weren’t my wife and I the glamorous student rebels on Lynwood Place in New Haven? Didn’t we hurl contempt at the pig power structure as we entertained Fritz Lang in the Sterling Law Buildings?

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Ben Stein's Diary

Terror in Jerusalem

By 11.19.14

Tuesday
A day of horror. In Jerusalem, two Palestinian terrorists took up meat cleavers, knives, and a pistol. They attacked a small shul. In a quick rampage, they killed four rabbis who were unarmed, praying, hacking them to pieces. They also killed an Israeli policeman and wounded three more before they were killed by Israeli police.

On the same day, several older women claimed that they had been raped by the brilliant comedian, Bill Cosby. One by one these older women claimed that Cosby had drugged them, then raped them — then drugged and raped them over and over again as they traveled around the country with him. They knew they had been raped, but they kept traveling around the country with him, getting drugged, getting raped over a course of years. Was this rape? Could it possibly be rape under any normal definition of rape? How can it be rape if the women kept coming back for more? Maybe I am misunderstanding this story, but it sure looks as if we have some major publicity seekers on the move. Surely I must have it wrong.

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Ben Stein's Diary

Who Is Obama to Insult a Genuine War Hero?

By 11.4.14

In the annals of political dirt, nothing since the Civil War touches President Barack Obama’s vilifying of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent days.

The alert reader will recall that some unnamed White House staff members spoke in an interview with a famous magazine about PM Netanyahu and called him “a chicken s--t coward.” The White House did not apologize for these scurrilous smears, did not promise to find out who had said them, and did not promise to dismiss whoever said them. This means that for all intents and purposes, they were said by Mr. Obama himself.

Now, first of all, to call the head of government of the only legitimate state in the Middle East, the only real democracy in the region, in some ways the only government of laws east of Italy, a “chickens--t coward...” is indecent and disgusting. To apply this language to the head of the only state in the world actually willing to fight against terrorism for human dignity is revolting on a scale beyond what I can say.

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The Story on the Elections

By 11.1.14

Saturday
So, let’s plunge right into it. What is the story on the elections?

First, to the extent that the elections are about the state of the economy, the Democrats should do surprisingly well. Here is why. The economy has revived very considerably from the Crash of 2008. That Crash was unequivocally caused by the policy failures of the Bush administration. The policies that saved us from a Great Depression were also created by the Bush administration, but who remembers those? And besides, the GOP is running from its own most successful economic gambits, the bank bailouts, a vital necessity when they happened. TARP and the saving of the big financial houses should be worn with pride by the GOP, but they are not.

The Obama administration’s immense deficits probably did help to stabilize the demand side of the economy. The piper — those damned deficits — will have to be paid, but that’s far in the future. The Democrats are happy to claim credit for stabilizing the economy when really most of it goes to Bush 43. If the GOP refuses to take credit even for what it did right, it has problems.

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Lunch With Dr. Kissinger at the Nixon Library

By 10.23.14

Wednesday
A few days ago, Fred Malek, a super-successful investor whom we used to refer to in the Nixon days as “Haldeman’s Haldeman” for a time until he went on to bigger and better things in the OMB, called me to invite me to an event.

Secretary Henry A. Kissinger, the foremost expert in foreign policy currently alive, maybe the foremost one since Metternich, has just published a book World Order and he’s coming to the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace to promote it and to speak. Now, I have so much respect for Dr. Kissinger that I would pay to fly to anywhere to hear him. But he’s right here in Sunny Cal, so I told Fred I would be there with bells on.

And, sure enough, after a nice drive from Beverly Hills with me sleeping in the back seat, our pal Robert driving, and my other pal Phil listening to some horror story about electromagnetic pulses on his headphones, we arrived at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace.

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The Death of Ben Bradlee

By 10.22.14

Tuesday
Wow. The death of Ben Bradlee. We are all mortal.

Naturally, I disliked him very much for his harm to the ultimate peacemaker, Richard M. Nixon. But when I looked up Mr. Bradlee in Wikipedia (sometimes reliable, sometimes not), I was staggered by something that had long been lurking in my old brain and now becomes crystal clear. Two things, in fact.

First of all, I had always thought that the Beautiful People in the Northeast, Hollywood, and D.C. loathed Nixon because they thought he was way below their social station. After all, his first major target was a New England Blue Blood Communist spy, Alger Hiss of Harvard. When Nixon drew blood with that attack, the gauntlet was thrown down to avenge Mr. Hiss.

So, now I see that Ben Bradlee has about the fanciest pedigree that anyone I have ever seen on Wikipedia has had. Descended from European Royalty in about ten different ways. Heir to substantial wealth in New York and Boston. Boarded at St. Mark’s School, a super waspy redoubt. Harvard, naturally.

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About the Stock Market’s Correction

By 10.17.14

A few humble thoughts about the stock market’s recent correction:

We all knew the market was too high. You would be hard pressed to find any observer who did not think that the market was poised for a fall. So, now we have our correction.

There is no sign at this point of a drastic fall in corporate profits, the main driver of stock prices. Except in the oil sector, profits are superb. This can and will change but it has not changed yet.

There is rarely a huge correction that lingers without either a liquidity crisis — i.e., a drastic fall in available credit or else a generalized depreciation of the dollar — i.e., inflation — or a generalized depreciation in asset values, i.e., deflation. Despite much talk to the contrary, there is at this point no sign at all of general deflation in any large industrial area, and very little inflation. There is no sign of a major bank failure or a shortage of capital. Indeed, capital is cheap and plentiful worldwide.

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It’s Gray in L.A.

By 10.15.14

Tuesday
A frustrating and even gruesome day.

I awakened to see that rarest of sights here in L.A. — gray skies. We need rain desperately, but I am still upset when I don’t see the sun on the cedars, palms, and jacarandas around my swimming pool.

Plus, far worse than that, I awakened to terror that I would soon run out of money because of the far, far too lavish life I lead. How did I ever get onto this treadmill within barbed wire that is my lifestyle? Just mad compulsion to live it up while I was still alive. And it’s worked well for some considerable time. My parents did just the opposite: saved and saved and who benefitted? The IRS. I did not want that to happen. But now I feel the mainspring of the clockwork running down. Less celebrity. Less acting. Many employers gone to kingdom come.

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The Down Side of Life in Beverly Hills

By 10.13.14

Sunday

If you were to drive by our home in Beverly Hills, you would think that the people who live there have it made. The lawn is green. The trees are tall and leafy. The flowers are vibrant and the paint is clean and white.

But in fact, my wife and I are under more or less constant attack.

Someone hacked my Citibank MasterCard starting a few months ago. He started charging things on my card while I was in North Idaho. He charged over $30,000 worth at local stores in Southern California while — at the same hours — I was charging groceries and gasoline in Sandpoint, Idaho. Somehow, this never triggered any suspicion by Citi. It took me weeks and days on the phone with Citibank to get this cleared up. I am not at all certain it’s cleared up yet.

Last summer, my wife got an AT&T “smart phone.” The services she signed up for were supposed to cost about $100 a month. Instead, her bills were $1,500 a month. When we inquired about this, we were told it was because of all of my wife’s business downloads, videogames, sports apps, and international calls.

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