Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

Beverly Hills Poetry

By 6.8.15

There is a brilliant line in an early Bruce Springsteen song that goes something like this: “The poets down here don’t write nothin’ at all. They just stand back and let it all be…” Is it from “Jungleland”? I think so.

I think of this as I go through my little life in Beverly Hills. A few days ago, I was at a four-way stop two blocks from my house. On my right was a white Porsche. Right in front of me was a black Bentley convertible, the required vehicle to be cool as of summer 2015. To my left was a black Rolls Royce sedan. I was in an 8-year-old Caddy with two dogs sleeping in the back. Except for me, not one driver was over 30.

On each street corner was a gardeners’ truck loaded with rakes and blowers and lawnmowers, and leaning against them, exhausted brown-skinned men, sweating, straining, loading branches and leaves and trim into immense sacks.

Ben Stein's Diary

The Truth

By 6.4.15

So. Another breathtakingly hot day here in Rancho Mirage. It just sucks the life right out of you. I swam twice and paid a visit to some friends, and then I came home to read the newspapers.

Usually, I read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Sometimes I also read he Desert Sun. Tonight, I was jolted by a long, raving review in the Times — well written as their reviews always are — of a play about the horrors of apartheid in what was then called the Union of South Africa. Apparently, it’s mostly a series of scenes of an insightful, articulate black psychologist and journalist channeling Hannah Arendt and interviewing a former torturer and killer/bureaucrat for the white supremacist apartheid regime. He’s in prison for at least two life sentences plus a century or two. He doesn’t have enough remorse.

Apartheid was a horrible story. Just something thoroughly wicked. I am not sure how completely different it was than conditions in 1948 Alabama or Louisiana, but it was very bad. I am happy that there is a fine stage play about it and I want to see it.

Ben Stein's Diary

Marijuana Is a Cancer

By 6.2.15

Sunday–Last Day of May
Rancho Mirage. It is so unbelievably hot here it’s well, it’s unbelievable. That’s how hot it is. 106 degrees with no breeze at all.

I am not at all sure why we are even here, but the son of a close relative is visiting and he had expressed an interest in playing golf. We have a super course here at the Club at Morningside and we might have played a few holes but it’s far too hot now. It is heat stroke, sunstroke weather. Cruel.

As I drove our guest to dinner, on my disk of Civil War songs, what should we hear but the stirring strains of “Dixie.” Our guest, age 27, a family man who had gone to college in the deep, rural south, and who now lives in the deep, semi-rural south, had no idea of what the song was or what it represented. None at all.

Ben Stein's Diary

The Scary View From Sunset Boulevard

By 5.27.15

Monday–Memorial Day
Hmmm. Cloudy day today here in West Hollywood. I am sitting at a sushi restaurant on Sunset Strip with my dear pal, Phil DeMuth, world’s most reliable human. The food is fine and Phil’s conversation is brilliant, as always. He is a super-smart analyst of family life and intergenerational dynamics. He and I often talk of our fears for the generations now in school or recently out of school, and how little they seem to know. They especially know little end of their feelings of entitlement.

We often talk about that woman at Columbia who carried a mattress around with her for a long time to mark what she called a rape. That was her senior thesis. Yes. At Columbia, my college alma mater.

Yes, the NYPD found no evidence of rape. The school found no cause to believe there had been a rape. But some worthy faculty member had told her she could get academic credit for carrying around a mattress and repeatedly demanding that the man she said had raped her be punished.

Ben Stein's Diary

An Oxford Education

By 5.22.15

So… It is Thursday night and I am in Greenville. I just had an incredibly good meal at the Commerce Club in downtown Greenville. Tommy and his wife, the spectacular Kitten, were there, and my angelic granddaughter, Coco, almost 4. And my perfect wifey, and my pal Bob, and Tommy’s pal, Matt. We were on the 17th floor overlooking the upstate of South Carolina. The sky turned pink and gray and the fried chicken was outstanding. So was the service. Coco was in a rare mood. The Kitten told us a story. A few days ago, Coco came to her with a sheet of paper with some writing on it, not really saying anything.

“This is a letter to my school from my mother saying I don’t have to go to school tomorrow,” said Coco.

“But, I’m your mother, and I don’t remember writing that,” said The Kitten.

“I know,” said almost 4-year-old Coco. “That’s why you have to sign it.”

A born lawyer.

I had just come from a street fair on Main Street. Happy, happy, happy men and women. Music. Diet Pepsi. Really happy, cheerful, smiling, healthy-looking. This is a happy place. Don’t miss out on it. Happy place in a sad world.

Ben Stein's Diary

Partnering With Warren Buffett

By 5.11.15

A few years ago, as my wife and I flew from Spokane to Seattle, I found myself seated next to a dentist. He told me his story. He had started as a dental student buying — along with his father — small rental apartments and using his youth and skill and strength to renovate them.

Then he rented them out. He soon had a number of them. Yes, they took a lot of time, and for a period of time he was awakened by irate tenants whose toilets were blocked.

But, eventually, he had enough apartments so that he did not need to attend to these matters personally. He had managers and repairmen who dealt with all but the biggest problems.

The net of it was that now, in his fifties, he had a large number of apartments. He had given some to each of his children, and they now had rental empires of their own.

I was extremely struck by his story. It was a perfect story, or so it seemed, of how to establish oneself as a rich person.

But lately, many competing thoughts have entered my mind.

Ben Stein's Diary

Lead Is a Lousy Excuse

By 5.4.15

Herewith a few more respectful thoughts about Baltimore.

First, I am happy to see that now that all decent habits of law enforcement and prosecution have been tossed out by Marilyn Robespierre Mosby, Esq., a sort of calm has returned to one of the most violent cities in America, Baltimore. The sacrifice of the most basic precepts of law have allowed blacks and whites to sing “Kumbaya” together over the dead letters of the Constitution.

But look at something that might scare you even more. Observe how incredibly little it took for that poor confused, weak state’s attorney to fold on basic principles of law. The night roughly one week ago when the riots and looting exploded in some neighborhoods of Baltimore, there were over a thousand marchers. But at most, at the absolute most, a few hundred thugs set fires and looted liquor stores and burned other stores. No one was killed and as far as I know, no one was critically injured. The violence was over by the next evening.

Ben Stein's Diary

Raider Mosby

By 5.3.15

A few notes on what we have learned about law, race, order and the media after Baltimore, the largest city in my home state of Maryland, whose gleaming white stoops once stood for a city’s pride in its law and order and self-discipline.

First, Marilyn Mosby should not be allowed to be a law clerk, let alone a state’s attorney/prosecutor. To prosecute police officers EXPLICITLY to please a mob (“I have heard your cries about ‘no justice, no peace’…”) is exactly the opposite of what a prosecutor should do. That is, to prosecute only when the facts and law demand it. To press charges because a gang of thugs loots liquor stores and promises to loot more liquor stores if charges are not pressed is exactly lynch mob justice. It has nothing to do with the sacred rule of “innocent until proven guilty.”

Usually prosecutors will show at least hint of impartiality in an important case. Ms. Mosby went straight for the jugular and basically said, “The thugs are my bosses and I answer to them and not to the Constitution.” This is a dangerous woman. She bears watching.

Ben Stein's Diary

Baltimore Breaks Down

By 4.28.15

There is not much good that can be said about the riots and looting in Baltimore. There was a complete breakdown of law and order in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. Innocent people’s homes and places of business were destroyed. The police were attacked and sometimes badly injured. The political leadership of the city of Baltimore completely ran and hid for a good twenty-four hours. The vacuum in political leadership in turn castrated the police and made the whole idea of law into a bad joke.

Let’s be clear: The people who were looting the liquor stores were not political protesters. They were thugs and gangsters. They have no legitimacy as political actors whatsoever except as villains and persons motivating a much stronger law enforcement response the next time.

Yes, of course it’s a disgrace for a man who was physically fit — or seemed to be — to go into police custody for a nonviolent crime and wind up dead. Of course there has to be scrutiny of police actions whenever a suspect dies or is injured in police custody. The guilty must be held to account.

Ben Stein's Diary

Obama’s Jet Lag Diplomacy

By 4.20.15

Now, here’s a continuing problem. Once again, someone has created false, fake Facebook “posts” ostensibly but not really from me. This has been going on for years. I don’t even have a Facebook page. I never made one. I don’t know how to make one.

But some evil person made one years ago that has a photo of my wife, falsely says that’s me, and says I live in a “domestic partnership,” while in fact I have been married since 1968.

Some wicked liar made up a post of me saying I was gay about two years ago. This led to a barrage of e-mail saying how great it was that I was gay!!! But it wasn’t true.

Then there have been other fake “posts.” Today’s are about yours truly supposedly saying that there are such things as “chemtrails” of chemicals sprayed into the air by some mysterious entity to make us stupid. I never said any such thing and I don’t believe it.

There’s also some fake “post” of me supposedly saying Chelsea Clinton should be the next ambassador to Libya. I have seen this one floating around the Internet, but I never said it or sent it.