Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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?”

Ben Stein's Diary

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.”

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

Rainy Day Rage

By 12.3.14

What a dreadful day. The rain, for which we had all prayed, has made traffic a nightmare. Plus, it is just strange to wake up and have the sky dark. That has not happened in a long time. There are the palm trees and the jacarandas, but no blue skies. No candy. Just gray clouds down to the deck and an incessant rain. I have to fight to remind myself to be grateful. That’s how stupid I am. I have everything but I am still too stupid and selfish to be grateful when something I desperately need comes along.

I did errands for most of the day. Then I went to buy some iced tea for my wife at the Pavilions. I was waiting for a parking space when a man in a truck started to back up rapidly towards me. I honked at him and he stopped. He glared at me, then pulled into a space near me. He walked towards me.

As I got out of my car, I said to him, “I’m sorry for beeping at you, but you were backing up towards me. I beg your pardon.”

Ben Stein's Diary

It Can’t Rain Hard Enough

By 12.2.14

This will be short and sweet. We got back Saturday night to LAX. The passengers milling around the baggage carousels looked desperate, terrified, unhinged. Why? I can well recall when I flew to LAX in the 1970s. The terminals were open air. The passengers looked happy and relaxed. Now they look as if they are fleeing Islamic State.

Maybe they are. Maybe that’s why they look so scared. We have so many immigrants in LA now. Many from the Middle East, fleeing bad situations, fleeing for their lives. Some of them live near me in Beverly Hills. No matter how rich they are — and they are often rich — they look fearful.

Their grandchildren may look happier. Maybe. Meanwhile, in my mind’s eye, I go back to Greenville, where the passengers and their families look happy. I miss Greenville. I miss Jean playing the piano at the Poinsett Club. I miss the waffles at the Waffle House.

I want to look and feel relaxed. Hard to do if you are me and have so many people asking you for money.

Ben Stein's Diary

Flying Into Integration

By 12.1.14

So, a roundup of the week. On Monday, wifey and I flew to Atlanta. The people at LAX looked as usual — frantic, worried, frightened, angry. They took their seats and kept on looking tense. I fell asleep for most of the flight.

Except — I awakened and looked at the fine Delta in Flight Entertainment choices. To my delight, there was a film called Nixon on Nixon. It was highly edited, wildly biased, not at all representatives of what Nixon supposedly thought and believed, based on the tapes.

The excerpts themselves were a total scream. I liked especially the parts where the authors of the film tried to make Nixon look like an anti-Semite. Yes, indeed, they had a ton of Nixon quotes calling Jews familiar derogatory names.

But they also completely forgot to mention that most of Nixon’s top policy choices were Jewish — including Arthur F. Burns at the Federal Reserve and Henry Kissinger as National Security Adviser. They also forgot my dear old Pop as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Ben Stein's Diary

My Wife

By 11.30.14

I have many good things going on. By far the best is my wife, the world’s finest human being — the most patient, most tolerant, most forgiving, most generous. She is a saint. Beyond a saint.

How did she come into my life? It is a story of God’s kindness to me:

Thanks to a wonderful college fraternity experience at the Alpha Delta Phi, I met a lovely girl at the beginning of my senior year at Columbia in 1965. She was a super girl named Mary.

But she was controlling. Great person but controlling.

The summer after that senior year, I worked at the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency within the State Department. My father got me the job.

On July 4, 1966, the State Department hosted the Junior Foreign Service Officers’ Ball. Black tie. Rooftop of the State Department. Unsurpassed view of the fireworks over the Washington Monument. I was thin and cool. I was self-confident.