Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

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.

Ben Stein's Diary

Is This the Presidential Leadership We Deserve?

By 10.6.14

Sunday
Hot, hot, hot, once again. Thank you, dear God, for air conditioning. Thank you also for my Julie, next to whom I awakened. She was fast asleep. Occasionally she ran in her sleep and hit me in the face with her brown and white paws, each one of which is immense.

I got up and walked down the hall to my wife’s sick room. She has bad bronchitis and coughs and cannot stay asleep. She sleeps in an ice cold room with her dog, also a GSP named JoJo. Alex — that’s wifey — was fast asleep with an angelic look on her heavenly face.

Alex has literally perfect features. Perfect eyes, perfect nose, perfect eyebrows, perfect lips, perfect cheekbones. Just immaculate. And she sleeps in her pearls with Jojo’s hind paws in her face.

I let her sleep. I took out Julie and went through my e-mails and the news.

Ben Stein's Diary

Dereliction of Duty on a Grand Scale

By 10.2.14

Wednesday
Two days ago, I came upon the front page of the New York Times for Tuesday. Now, the NYT. That’s a big paper. Prestige paper. I hate it, but it’s the big dog in the newspaper world.

And what is the lead story on page one? Armed intruder scaled a fence in front of the White House — and believe me, I worked at that White House a lot. I know that fence and it’s damned high. Then he ran across the North Lawn, supposedly one of the most heavily patrolled stretches of earth on the planet. Then he walked into the front door of the White House, which was unlocked with no guard at it. Then he ran down the main hall, and into the East Room, the most august room in the White House — and he was carrying a long knife. Finally he was tackled by a White House policeman after he was in an even more intimate room, the Green Room, used for very high powered receptions.

Again, he was carrying a knife. Mr. Obama was not there, but that’s not the story. The story is about high-level government incompetence.

Ben Stein's Diary

I LOVE CARS — The Greatest Invention of Mankind

By 10.1.14

Tuesday
So… It is a beautiful, spectacular day here in Los Angeles. I am sitting at my desk and looking out at the swimming pool and I am thinking a DEEP THOUGHT:

I LOVE CARS.

I don’t just like cars. I don’t just think it’s good to have a car. I LOVE CARS. And I include trucks there, too, of course. I LOVE CARS!!!!

The car is the greatest invention of mankind. The car is what makes all of the difference in life.

Before the car, man was pretty much just an insect. He burrowed and crept along the ground. He moved very slowly. He was subject to the cold and the heat and the rain and the snow and the sleet. He was pitiful. Even once he had the horse, he was still outside. He was still going to get pneumonia and die if he rode around in the winter. He was going to get soaked if he rode in the rain.

Even if he or she were an Emperor or an Empress like Napoleon or the Tsar or Queen Victoria, he was going to have a miserable bumpy ride in a carriage, lurching back and forth, getting miserable and nauseated and still sweltering in the heat and freezing in the cold.

Ben Stein's Diary

What Does He Know About Climate?

By 9.26.14

Friday
It is 7.30 AM, very very early for me. I cannot sleep. Even with Julie next to me breathing innocently. It is because of some bad corned beef I got recently. When my intestines are in an uproar, I get crazy.

I awakened and read FDR and the Jews, a terrifying tale of the racism that was a commonplace in this glorious America even a couple of generations ago. My grandparents were avid Prohibitionists and Republicans and my mother just hated the WPA and the lefties — there is a book in her life — and of course my Pop was a Stiglerian, Frank Knightian free marketer. But when I learned that Reagan adored FDR, I started liking him, too. Wow, he was handsome.

But let’s move on to other subjects

The whole civilized world, however much is left of it, was staggered recently by the beheadings of two Americans named Foley and Sotloff and a Brit named Haines. Perfectly normal names, but they died in a horrible way, heads slowly cut off by a lone Islamic State butcher in the desert and then images sent to the world by the morally blind Internet.

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