Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

Anti-Semitic Outrage at UC Davis

By 2.7.15

A few days ago, at the campus of the University of California at Davis, a campus northeast of San Francisco with about 35,000 students, the student association of the campus voted to advise the UC system to “divest itself” of stocks in companies that, in their words, “aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and (quoting here) illegal settlements in Palestinian territories.…”

This was bad enough, because Israel is the only law-abiding democracy in the Middle East, and so far as can be determined, Arabs, who make up about a fifth of its population, make no effort to leave to go to “Arab lands.”

But it’s come to be standard at college campuses, many of which are now hotbeds of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic venom. But what came after is really a stunner. Some scummy little rats spray-painted swastikas on the exterior walls of the Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Ben Stein's Diary

Burying Uncle Bob in Arkansas

By 2.4.15

There is a great line from a song about Medgar Evers by my hero, Bob Dylan. It talks about his funeral, at Arlington National Cemetery (he was a Korean War hero). The line goes something like this, “they lowered him down as a king...” The line endlessly goes on a loop inside my brain as I think about Uncle Bon Denman, whom we are burying today in Little Rock.

Wifey and I flew in to LIT last night and rushed right over to the Capital Hotel, where our son was already ensconced. He had insisted on coming over from Greenville, South Carolina, and we thought he should. How many hero great uncles will he have? We had a huge suite, costing far more than I can afford, but that’s my travel agent, who never stints with my money. Our son was down the hall. We ordered room service, although I don’t remember what, and then we went to sleep.

Ben Stein's Diary

Uncle Bob Denman, R.I.P.

By 1.28.15

In Isaiah, the prophet comes to see the Lord God Jehovah with his own eyes. And after cleansing Isaiah of sin, the Lord announces he plans to send a message of warning to sinning mankind. But who will send the message?

Isaiah answers, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

I have the melancholy duty today of telling you that the younger of the heroic Denman brothers of Prescott, Arkansas, Major Robert G. Denman, died in Little Rock yesterday at about noon at about age 88. Uncle Bob died with his entire family around him, unconscious and at peace.

My wife, Alexandra Denman, and I loved Uncle Bob with a burning hot love. He was as close to perfect as a man can be: kind, loving, heroic beyond belief, a devoted father, grandfather, and great grandfather, a total gentleman, a loving uncle, a superb golfer, and above all, a completely loyal and loving husband.

Ben Stein's Diary

Why Can’t He Tell the Truth?

By 1.26.15

Obamadate/January 25, 2015
Captain’s Log:

I have been observing President Obama for a few days and a number of questions have occurred to me:

1. In the President’s State of the Union address, he bragged about how U.S. oil production has surged thanks to shale drilling. Question for Mr. Obama: Does he not recall that he and his followers have been fighting and harassing the oil companies that are finding and producing all of that oil? Does he believe he deserves any credit at all for acts and successes done by people against whom he has waged war since he was a child?

2. In his SOTU, Mr. Obama bragged that the USA now has the highest high school graduation rate in its history. Roughly 80 percent of entering high school freshmen now graduate.

Ben Stein's Diary

Obama’s Tax the Rich Theatrics

By 1.22.15

A Perfect day here in Rancho Mirage, and I am ruining it by thinking about Mr. Barack Obama… and in particular one big fact of life: You do not make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.

Our President, Mr. Obama, wants to raise taxes on the rich, or what he calls the rich, supposedly to raise money to help the lower and middle classes. His proposals are complex, but largely they call for an increase in the capital gains rate, changes in the way inheritance is taxed, and a limit on IRAs for high net worth people. The middle class would get a boost in the Earned Income Tax Credit, really a subsidy to lower middle class people, and massive forgiveness of student loan obligations, and a few other bells and whistles.

May I offer a few respectful points?

Ben Stein's Diary

Endless Gifts From Uncle Obama

By 1.21.15

This has been a busy time. A few days ago, I flew up to Calgary, Alberta to appear on a panel to talk about the price of oil. The audience was about 1300 Chartered Financial Analysts. My flight up was uneventful except that the food on Air Canada Rouge was literally inedible. The first class was strange, too. It was just coach with the middle seat roped off. But the seats were still coach-sized.

My seatmate was an incredibly pleasant young athlete, just as kind as he could be. A genuine delight of a young man. I was met at the gate after a blissfully short flight by a rain thin black African man. He was from Congo. He had also lived in Burundi and now he lives in Calgary.

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.

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.”

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.