Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

Check Under the Hood of the VW ‘Crisis’

By 9.25.15

 “Law and Economics” is a school of legal study that says that the economics, namely costs and benefits, should be factored into decisions about legal matters. An easy example would be if there were a factory that emitted a lot of pollutants that stained furniture near the plant. One idea would be that the factory should install expensive scrubbers over its works. Law and economics would say that simply giving the neighbors powerful air conditioners with great filters might be cheaper and better for everyone.

Some have suggested that similar reasoning should be applied to other dollars and cents issues in society, especially extending into the world of investing.

The crisis at Volkswagen might be an example of where this kind of thought would be worthwhile.

As we all know, VW cheated on its tests about how much of various kinds of pollutants its engines emitted at various levels of speed. These phony test results were meant to show that VW in fact had much more economical diesel cars, with less pollution, than it did.

The revelations have been devastating to the U.S. stock market and in fact to stock markets all over the world.

Ben Stein's Diary

It Is Just Great Here

By 9.16.15

This has been a quiet day. I have been feeling poorly and have been mostly lying in bed thinking.

First, I keep thinking that it’s a miracle that I live in America and live now, right now, when we have peace and air conditioning. I keep wondering what my ancestors in some pitiful shtetl in Russia would have thought about my life. They could not have even remotely understood it or imagined it.

I have indoor plumbing, an immense swimming pool, two beautiful dogs, and basically can eat whatever I feel like eating.


Long ago, I said to my father (this was probably in about 1990), “We Jews in America get to live the best lives that Jews have ever lived anywhere at any time.”

My father, far smarter than I, said, “Benjy, that’s what America means. Everyone lives better than his ancestors could have dreamed of: the blacks, the Hispanics, the Irish, the Poles, the Italians, the Germans. Everyone. That’s what America means.”

Ben Stein's Diary

Nearer, My Goddess, To Thee

By 9.13.15

Saturday Morning 
You would not believe this if you were a Californian. But it’s September 12, 2015. It is incredibly hot and humid outside. And — get this — it’s raining. Not a hard rain, but it’s definitely raining what is called a “monsoonal shower.” I just cannot believe it.

Two days ago, I got back from a speech in Dallas to a group of extremely successful entrepreneurs, male and female. They had amazingly large businesses that they had founded more or less out of nowhere. They were as impressive as can be.

Plus, I stayed at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, a fabulous hotel where they take extremely good care of me. They were right there with room service and the room service was great. I think I need room service at home.

The flight home was eye opening. Usually big wifey goes with me but she was not feeling at all well, so there was an empty seat next to me. There sat a neurosurgeon, a real one, not like some I could mention. He told me about a science called “epigenetics.” This involves noting that the environment of humans can affect their RNA-DNA strands.

Ben Stein's Diary

Up in Smoke

By 8.25.15

Crash Monday
Oh, yuck. Another terrible day on the stock markets. Down 588 points. This is ruining my summer. It was bad enough that the summer in Sandpoint was wrecked by massive super forest fires in Washington state and Idaho, filling the air with a wretched brown haze, wreaking havoc in my lungs, destroying our spectacular view. It was bad enough that my wife, the goddess of goddesses, has been sick for the last month and barely leaves her bed.

But now, The Crash. It has cost us Steins too much money — at least in the short run. In the long run, it will be fine because Mr. Buffett will snatch up stock and companies at bargain prices and make us Berkshire Hathaway holders a bit of money. Also in the long run we will be dead. So, in the afterlife, money won’t matter. (Or maybe it will!)

Anyway, the media is filled with the most hilarious reasons for the Crash. The main one floating about like that brown haze in Idaho is that weakness in China is going to kill the U.S. economy, and in particular that devaluing the yuan will hurt the U.S. economy.

Ben Stein's Diary

Where There’s Smoke

By 8.20.15

Smoke and fire all over the state of Idaho and large parts of Washington. The smoke is painful and unhealthful. But we are still having a good time here. Last night, my friend Ken and I drove up to Hill’s Resort on Luby Bay in Priest Lake. My wife did not care to make the drive so she stayed home and rested.

The drive along the Pendoreille River was glorious, as always, but the smoke cut down on the ability to see colors. The gas station/grille/grocery store called Mama Mac’s was filled with its usual cheery customers.

Hill’s was jammed with wholesome, prosperous, happy-looking families. The waitresses and hostesses greeted us energetically. Come to think of it, everyone greeted us cheerfully everywhere we went. There are so many beautiful college girls working as servers at Hill’s, it is almost unbelievable. The ribs are spectacular. The view is breathtaking and out on the dock, everyone also greets me as if I were an old pal. I guess I am.

A large party near us was celebrating the birthday of a sweet-looking 13-year old. I sang, “Happy Birthday” to her and her 14-person family.

Ben Stein's Diary

A Tough Act to Swallow

By 8.14.15

In the course of the super lie-a-thon that was the Senate testimony of Wendy Sherman, the cry baby former community organizer who was the lead negotiator with the Iranians over nuclear arms, and that of her junior partner, Adam Szubin, the mysterious Orthodox Jew turned advocate for Iran, several super lies came out, as they had to.

One of the worst was about how long it would take Iran to get back to its nuclear arms production schedule if the U.S. bombed Iran’s facilities. “A few months,” was the basic answer. After all, said these two witnesses, the knowledge was already in the heads of the Iranians. “You can’t bomb that away,” said the testificants, or words to that effect.

But how can that be true? Doesn’t that depend on the scope and scale of the bombing? If we used bunker busters or even atom bombs against the facilities, and if we kept on using them until the Iranians didn’t have a day without bombing of their facilities, wouldn’t that delay the production of the weapons by more or less forever?

Ben Stein's Diary

I Told You He Was a Bad Guy

By 8.9.15

Oooh. This is exciting. Last night I was out at our home in Malibu, the working man’s part of Malibu, not the billionaires’ part of Malibu. My only companion was my lover dog, Julie. I was enjoying the day immensely. The sky was cloudless. There was on onshore breeze blowing, carrying slightly moist, clean air. The air in my part of Malibu is literally cleaner than the air in Sandpoint. It is pristine air.

A gardener came to visit to be shown what needed to be done for ‘brush clearance” to conform to fire department regulations. It is a lot of work since I have a home that is basically in the midst of a forest. Then a handyman came to be told about repairing some cracks in the driveway. He was a smart fellow who used to work at the Shoreham Towers and now partly works for my wife and me.

He was wildly impressed with our home, or so he said. I suspect it was politics because our home, while pleasant, is a shack by Malibu standards.

But how amazingly smart of him to be so complimentary. He made me like him and want him to do more work on our home. He even noticed and praised our antique claw bathtub. That’s a smart handyman.

Ben Stein's Diary

Wendy Sherman in the Tank

By 8.7.15

My mother, God rest her soul, went with my father to Red China in the mid 1970s, before the capitalist Revolution there. Mom and Pop were taken around the country by Communist Party cadres who lectured them about how great Communism was. Of course, this was after Mao had murdered about 80 million Chinese civilians.

My mother, an extremely astute observer politically, and a fervent anti-communist, wrote to me a letter noting that the look on the faces of the Chinese Red women cadres was extremely similar to the looks on the faces of the leftist women at Columbia in the 1930s and in Silver Spring in the 1940s and 1950s.

Since then, I have noticed that I can always, and I mean ALWAYS, tell a woman’s political orientation by her facial features, expression, hair, jewelry (always silver), and clothing.

Ben Stein's Diary

Mr. Obama and His Klimate Kontrol Kommisars

By 8.5.15

Tuesday, Beverly Hills
Now for a few words about current events....

American Airlines needs some work. They consistently mistreat us passengers on the flight from DCA to LAX. Why? I guess we are just considered dog food. But Saturday’s flight was a disaster. Almost three hours late leaving DCA. No apology. AC barely working. Dinner was literal dog food. When we got to LAX, very late at night, the terminal was a scene from hell. Mobs of immigrants and citizens, none speaking English, jostling each other, pushing, shoving, shouting, riding on skateboards through crowds of old people. It was the street scenes from Blade Runner. Neither more nor less. Yes, get Blade Runner and watch it. That’s LAX right now.

Why do we have the worst airport in the world? Why doesn’t anyone there speak English? In Spokane, everyone speaks English. What happened?

Anyway, Mr. Obama’s “clean energy” plan:

Ben Stein's Diary

My Thoughts on Iran and Trump

By 7.28.15

Now for a few thoughts on Iran and Trump and this will be really short.

Iran: the deal is so bad that it could not be an accident, even for a President as inexperienced and foolish as Mr. Obama or a Secretary of State so filled with anger as Mr. Kerry. There is no meaningful verification. The sanctions are already basically gone. The President is paying Iran over $100 billion to go forward with making a nuclear bomb and having the rockets to deliver it.