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Ben Stein's Diary

The Scary View From Sunset Boulevard

By 5.27.15

Monday–Memorial Day
Hmmm. Cloudy day today here in West Hollywood. I am sitting at a sushi restaurant on Sunset Strip with my dear pal, Phil DeMuth, world’s most reliable human. The food is fine and Phil’s conversation is brilliant, as always. He is a super-smart analyst of family life and intergenerational dynamics. He and I often talk of our fears for the generations now in school or recently out of school, and how little they seem to know. They especially know little end of their feelings of entitlement.

We often talk about that woman at Columbia who carried a mattress around with her for a long time to mark what she called a rape. That was her senior thesis. Yes. At Columbia, my college alma mater.

Yes, the NYPD found no evidence of rape. The school found no cause to believe there had been a rape. But some worthy faculty member had told her she could get academic credit for carrying around a mattress and repeatedly demanding that the man she said had raped her be punished.

Special Report

White Flags in the Culture War

By 5.27.15

The battles of the culture war look increasingly one-sided. Some of the supposed generals on the conservative side are more like defectors. Take Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, who recently urged the organization to succumb to the demands of its critics. He essentially told the Boy Scouts that their Christian principles, not his counsel of capitulation, threaten the group’s future.

He urged the group to bow to the “social, political, and judicial changes taking place in our country” and declared that the “the status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”

In the past, the Boy Scouts served God and country by upholding the organization’s principles. Now, according to Gates’s perverse spin on the code, service to God and country means abandoning those principles: “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing, and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels. And, as a movement, we find ourselves with a policy more than a few of our church sponsors reject, thus placing Scouting between a boy and his church.”

Among the Intellectualoids

The Raccoon Problem on Campus

By 5.27.15

Prof. Raccoon, the chair of the Critical Studies Department, is scowling in the boxwood hedge.

It’s Commencement Day, but he ignores the Tiepolo blue skies and smiling faces, the folding chairs in a row and proud families in the quadrangle. His 2015 commencement season is fraught with anxiety. He is looking for a safe space.

White privilege, LGBT injustices, wars against women, trigger warnings, and assorted micro-aggressions cloud the horizon. The injustices at Amerika University are uncountable, and Prof. Raccoon’s opportunities for purification are unending.

Prof. Raccoon has made a tidy career celebrating diversity with new perspectives. He patrols vigilantly to make sure colleagues, graduate students, department policies, and his university press all conform to his virtue.

Yet he meets increasing skepticism and indifference from students, parents, alumni, trustees, and now, administrators. He is dismayed. Dismayed is one of Prof. Raccoon’s favorite words.

The Environmental Spectator

The Death Star Is in Seattle

By 5.27.15

When Shell Oil’s massive arctic drill rig, the Polar Pioneer, floated toward the Port of Seattle’s Terminal Five on May 16, Seattle’s former mayor, Mike McGinn tweeted, “It’s like the deathstar landed in Seattle.” Based on the reactions of his fellow army of “kayaktivists,” he was not alone in that feeling.

Kayaktivists is name given to the protesters who created a flotilla of personal kayaks in an effort to interfere with the docking of the Polar Pioneer. In their multi-colored plastic, petroleum-based products, they created a spectacular visual and the best protest Seattle has seen in some time. After all, when the peaceful portion of your protest ends on the water, those who want to break windows or start fires have nothing to do.

Campaign Crawlers

Jeb Bush, Policy Wonk, But Hardly an Electoral Titan

By 5.27.15

Republicans in 1994 had their best election cycle in decades. The GOP swept to joint majorities in Congress for the first time in 40 years. And the party picked up a net 10 governorships, giving them 30 of 50 overall.

But Jeb Bush wasn’t among them.

The Bush family scion came up short that year in his run against Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. Even as Jeb’s older brother George W. Bush toppled a Democratic governor in Texas, setting him on the road to the White House six years later.

Jeb Bush, a South Florida businessman, did go on to claim the Sunshine State governorship in 1998, and was re-elected easily in 2002. But those were against middling-at-best opponents, with the latter win in a strong Republican year.

The Current Crisis

A Modest Proposal for Education Reform

By 5.27.15


Before he passed away recently John M. Templeton, the distinguished physician and philanthropist, questioned: “Should we tolerate a public educational system with its entrenched self-interest which virtually every inner-city parent knows is destroying any hope or possibility of their children achieving meaningful opportunity in a 21st Century economy?”  A growing number of parents say no. Now critics of the public school system are coming forward with alternatives to it and many of them are parents, often parents of disadvantaged students, usually parents that fear for the fate of their children in schools in the inner city.

The Nation's Pulse

Crosby, Stills & Nash: Still Harmonizing in Their Seventies

By 5.27.15

One of the rock ’n’ roll’s first supergroups was Crosby, Stills & Nash. David Crosby attained stardom with the Byrds, Stephen Stills found fame with Buffalo Springfield, while Graham Nash was part of the British Invasion with the Hollies. Whether they played hard rock or soft ballads the common denominator was their three-part harmony which helped define popular music in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Now in their seventies, when Crosby, Stills & Nash get together their harmonies are as powerful as ever as was demonstrated when they performed before a sold out audience at Boston’s Wang Theatre last week.

The Right Prescription

Ready For Another Obamacare Price Hike?

By 5.26.15

In July of 2009, as the Obamacare debate was heating up, Gallup published a survey indicating that 83 percent of Americans wanted health care reform to make their health insurance more affordable. Now, more than five years after the President’s “signature domestic achievement” was passed, health insurance premiums are higher than ever. And it’s obvious that Obamacare is a major driver of the increase. The Wall Street Journal reports that insurers are proposing rate increases ranging from 25 to 51 percent for 2016. Why? “All of them cite high medical costs incurred by people newly enrolled under the Affordable Care Act.”

Political Hay

LBJ and Obama: Champions of Abject Poverty

By 5.26.15

Lyndon Johnson was adamant. The Great Society would cure poverty. In a 1964 campaign stop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania he said this: 

So here’s the Great Society. It’s the time — and it’s going to be soon — when nobody in this country is poor. It’s the time — and there’s no point in in waiting — when every boy or girl can have all the education that boy or girl can put to good use. It’s the time when there is a job for everybody who wants to work. It’s the time when every slum is gone from every city in America, and America is beautiful. It’s the time when man gains full domination under God over his own destiny. It’s the time of peace on earth and goodwill among men. 

Then there was this from Barack Obama when accepting his presidential nomination in 2008:

Campus Scenes

Graduation Gifts

By 5.26.15

This is the season of college graduations, and many people may be wondering what kinds of gifts would be most appropriate for young people leaving the world of academia and heading out to face the challenges and opportunities of adulthood in the real world.

Given the narrow range of left to far left views of the world on most college campuses, and the vast ignorance of other views, even among graduates of elite academic institutions, one valuable gift might be a book giving a different perspective on the world.

The recent publication of American Contempt for Liberty, a hefty, 417-page collection of columns by economist Walter E. Williams, would be an excellent choice. For many college graduates, this book would be virtually an education in itself, covering many issues and presenting many perspectives they have never encountered before, in this era of academic lockstep thinking on social issues.