Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

There Is No Weather Here

By 9.1.14

Here we are back in L.A. In Beverly Hills, to be specific. The weather is glorious. Maybe a bit too hot but the air conditioning takes care of that. Both wifey and I have had some respiratory thing. It has laid her low and it makes me a bit tired. I bring her take out Mexican food and frozen yogurt from little places in gay West Hollywood. That’s how she stays alive.

I have been working on my bills and taxes. Boring, maddening work. How anyone who spends as much as I do has avoided bankruptcy is a miracle.

Today, I worked like a myrmidon on a speech for some super-smart engineers, then went to a little café on Sunset Plaza all by my little self to have some calf’s liver. It was heavenly, although contemplating the idea of eating a calf’s liver right now makes me feel sick to my stomach. How did I do it? Crazy.

As I sat out on the sidewalk and watched people go by, people of all races, speaking many different languages, looking menacing in many different ways, I felt a super-powerful wave of missing Sandpoint. I have been back from Idaho for one week now and I am ready to go back for good.

Ben Stein's Diary

Decline and Fall of Obama’s America

By 8.23.14

One of the great privileges that any literate man or woman or transgender can have is to read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I had that privilege — at least to read it in an abridged form — about thirty-five years ago when I was confined to bed in Aspen, Colorado. The book, as witty and sarcastic as it is learned, makes the point — among many others — that Rome was doomed when its Emperors became steadily more stupid, cowardly, self-obsessed, short sighted, lazy, and grandiose.

Starting roughly 150 years A.D., the emperors were so bad that when each emperor died — often by murder — the citizens would rejoice. They thought that the old emperor was so bad that the new one would have to be better. Within a few months, they would be longing to have the old emperor back.

This is exactly what we are now seeing in Barack Obama’s America. We are seeing a President so bad that he makes even the worst prior ones look good (except for Jimmy Carter, who is beyond redemption). I would like to humbly offer a few examples.

Ben Stein's Diary

Popping the Asset Bubble

By 8.18.14

My brain is racing. I have too much on my mind. Money, money, money. No, not my own money, which I spend so fast it’s like a fast breeder reactor. Except that those reactors somehow make more fuel and I don’t. Well, that metaphor won’t work. Let’s try another. No, not my money, which is my usual shame because my mother would die if she saw how fast I spent it, like a drunken sailor coming off a nuclear submarine. (There is that nuclear analogy.) But the nation’s money. That’s what I am worried about.

The Fed Chair, Dr. Yellen, has advised that she plans to see the short term Fed borrowing rate rise from .25 percent to 2.5 percent within about two years. This would mark the end of a fantastically long period of the Fed keeping interest rates at essentially zero.

My mind goes back to the great economist, Edward F. Denison, of the Committee for Economic Development. Dr. Denison wisely told my Pop that if an interest rate goes from one percent to two percent, that’s not a rise of one percent. That’s a rise of 100%.

Ben Stein's Diary

Moral Decency in Disintegration

By 8.16.14

A trip up to the charming town of Sandpoint. It went well except that our flight from SEA to Spokane was postponed for an hour. We took an earlier flight but then my wife’s luggage was not in Spokane. We had to wait two hours for that. We passed the time at a fine local Spokane restaurant called the Rusty Moose. Good food, good service.

We sat at the bar and next to us were two soldiers. One of them was quiet. The other was talkative. He wanted to know if I thought there was much of a future for civilization.

“We Americans come from the Enlightenment,” he said. “But how many other countries have the values of respect for law, respect for human dignity, respect for the individual that we have?”

“Maybe Israel and the UK,” I said.

“Right,” said the soldier. “That was my count, too.”

This is a conversation I have been having often. People just come up to me and ask me if I think civilization has a future, if I think human decency has a future.

Ben Stein's Diary

Robin Williams, R.I.P.

By 8.12.14

I never worked with Robin Williams. Once in a great while I would see him at a Hollywood watering hole, but that was a long time ago. And he always made me extremely uneasy when I saw him on the screen, large or small. He had a frantic, wildly manic quality to him, like a toy soldier that had been overwound and would walk into walls and fall down and just keep walking. Hyper beyond sanity.

He was — from what I heard — a deeply thoughtful and sad man. His thoughts made him sadder, so he turned to alcohol and drugs. His appetite for both was the stuff of legend. Like almost all alcoholics and drug addicts and many, many, many comedians, he had powerful feelings of self-hatred and self-loathing and suicide. I see it in my colleagues here. I have seen it work its evil way into killing three of my best friends.

Ben Stein's Diary

A Peacemaker Who Never Had It Easy

By 8.9.14

So, now it’s forty years since Richard Nixon resigned. The Peacemaker. Humiliated. Spat on by people not worthy to empty his bedpan. Disgraced for rumors of rumors of rumors. Even now, forty years on, a genuine genius, a man of character, George Will, an American icon of intelligence, gets roped into repeating the hoary chestnut that Nixon purposely prolonged the war in Vietnam before he was elected in 1968 to deprive Hubert Humphrey of the prize. There’s no story there except that even so brilliant a prize as Will repeats pool hall gossip about Nixon that has been disproved a million times, most recently in Pat Buchanan’s superb new book on the 1968 campaign, The Greatest Comeback.

The seductiveness of urinating on the grave of a historic figure of peace is apparently overpowering.

Ben Stein's Diary

The World Thoroughly Off Kilter

By 8.7.14

I was driving through Sandpoint today listening to the BBC. The weather was perfect, warm cloudless skies, light breeze, no humidity. As I listened to one of the BBC’s typical in-your-face Kim Philby impersonators, I had a vision of the truly evil conspiracy against Israel and the Jews that is being hatched at the UN, at the BBC, and in the White House and its latrine, The Department of State.

The “world” community is asserting, with the connivance of Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry, that Israel is purposely killing civilians in Gaza. The White House is calling recent deaths in Gaza “appalling” and “inexcusable” to attempt to get across the idea that when civilians die as a result of Israeli action, that action was intended to kill civilians.

Ben Stein's Diary

A Power Outage Is Like Obama

By 8.6.14

Dies irae. Alex and I got into Sandpoint late last night. Our connection in Seattle was quite delayed. That meant a cruel wait at the Horizon gates. Those are the slum, public housing gates of the airport. Tiny little chairs crammed together so that we paying passengers are galley slaves in the SEA-TAC galley.

Luckily for me, I found a charging station for my phone and at it was a charming woman in her mid-thirties. She told me about her life. The main point I got from it was that she had made a terrible mistake by not going to college. Instead she had worked at a clothing store and skied. Now, about to enter middle age, she is divorced and her career options limited to retail store management in Spokane.

Why anyone would turn down the chance for an education beyond high school, especially when it’s so heavily subsidized, is totally beyond me. There are just no negatives to acquiring education at the taxpayers’ expense.

Better pay, more interesting work, more chance at self-expression… why not do it, especially since college and graduate school are so much easier than working?

Ben Stein's Diary

More Than We Bargained For

By From the July/August 2014 issue

MondayHere I am in New York City. The weather is perfect. Last night I had a fine flight up on a tiny little U.S. Air regional jet. Its air conditioning was broken and it was an oven, but I slept most of the time anyway.I checked into my usual room at the Marriott Essex House on Central Park South. For decades it was a Marriott, and then an Arab hotel firm bought it, spruced it up, and ran it for about ten years. Now it’s a Marriott again and it’s just great. The doormen, bellhops, and desk people are all kind and remember me from stays over many years. It feels like home.I met up with the college-age daughter of a close friend from Los Angeles. She’s a student at the Jewish Theological Seminary at Columbia University and also takes many courses at the School of General Studies at Columbia. She was right on time and we went out for a walk in the balmy evening of New York in spring. The girl and I discussed President Obama’s concerns about rape on campus. She was extremely concerned about the situation, too.

Ben Stein's Diary

We’re Going in the Wrong Direction

By 7.30.14

Tuesday–July 29, 2014
It is all happening again. Wild anti-Jewish mobs shouting, “Death to the Jews” in Berlin, threats against Jews wearing yarmulkes all across Europe, homes of prominent Jews attacked. “Celebrities” in Spain denouncing Israeli “fascism” for Israel defending itself.

Europe. And now that Europe is fast becoming a Muslim and Arab continent, there will be no turning back. The illness of Islamist hatred and fundamentalism is loosed upon once mighty Europe from within and the organism has no defense mechanism. Europe as a home of liberal ideas about the dignity of the individual will be only a memory by the time my 26-year-old son is middle aged. It is a catastrophe of historic, world-ending dimensions.