Its time to bid a not-so-fond adieu to the New York Times columns of Ben Stein.

No, he is not leaving the paper. Rather, we’ve reached the point where Stein’s commentary has become detached from reality, so ridiculously fabricated, that it can no longer be read. Indeed, its become so absurd that not only have I decided to skip reading him, I am immediately making the public commitment to stop commenting on his Tom Foolery.

Quite a bit of electrons and pixels have been spilled needlessly over the past few days in response to his most recent exercise in inane rhetoric, illogic, and fallacious reasoning. (No, I am not referring to this WSJ article). Across the blogosphere, smart insightful people have wasted far too much time and effort dispelling the absurdities that take residence in Stein’s columns.

Its time to put a stop to this.

I frequently mention that I loathe ad hominem attacks. They are a lazy way to avoid responding to a challenging argument. However, there comes a certain point in a pundit’s career arc where their credibility, intellectual honesty, and quite bluntly, their entire world view comes into question. Mr. Stein is at that point; he has jumped the shark, and its time for the rest of us to move on.

Stein, a former Nixon speechwriter, has made his opposition to Darwinian Evolution public. He is idealogically committed to creationism and intelligent design, and is the star of the upcoming documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Once a commentator eschews logic and reason, once they deny science, then their readers are forced to question their entire analytical approach to ANYTHING — be it economics, markets, stocks, whatever. Ideology trumps facts, theory trumps data. For better or worse, this is the turf Stein has staked out as his own.

But its more than mere creationism. Stein’s entire view is a denial of reality. He seems to be committed to throwing up smoke screens, obscuring what is really going on. This is unforgivable.

We see this ideological absurdity carried to an extreme in his recent Sub-prime real estate and finance  columns.

I first noticed this inanity in the August 12 2007, column, Chicken Little’s Brethren, on the Trading Floor. Stein made the foolish argument that because sub-prime was so tiny relative to the US Economy, it was meaningless. Imagine an oncologist saying to a patient:  "Well, Mr. Jones, relative to your body mass, its only a 15 gram tumor, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it."

If Stein actually believed this gross oversimplification, I would dismiss him as just another clueless bobblehead. However, I believe he is marginally more intelligent than that. That makes me wonder if this column is purposefully misstating facts. Remember, Stein does not manage assets for a living, and was a political speech writer for Nixon. Everything he writes has a subtle political connotation — even if it ends up costing people a lot of money. Thus, the better explanation of his errors is that he is not merely clueless, but willfully misstating the US Economic situation for political purposes.

Perfect example: On October 21, Stein top-ticked the market with this pollyannish column: The Gloomsayers Should Look Up. Then came a dishonest criticism of Goldman Sach’s Economist, Jan Hatzius — who may I point out was correct in raising red flags that sub-prime was an increasing economic problem. Stein criticized Hatzius, writing:

"That worthy scholar recently wrote a detailed paper about how he thought the subprime mess would get worse and worse. It would get so bad, he hypothesized, that it would affect aggregate lending extremely adversely and slow down growth . . . Is it possible that Dr. Hatzius’s paper was a device to help along the goal of success at bearish trades in this sector and in the market generally? His firm says his paper, like all of its economists’ work, was not written to support any larger short-trading strategy. But economists, like accountants, are artists. They have a tendency to paint what their patrons, who pay them, want to see."

Of course, we actually found out later that Goldman had made their bets many, many months before, and that Hatzius, if anything, understated the degree of the problem.

The final straw, as far as I am concerned, came this past weekend.

Rather than admit his error, Stein went a completely different way: He blamed the sell off on traders. (Can Their Wish Be the Market’s Command?) It was the last bit of idiocy from him anyone should tolerate. Forget the fact that Stein missed the importance of the sub-prime debacle, that the economy has continued to decelerate, that the job market continues to soften, that the situation had become dire enough that it forced the Fed to make the biggest single one day emergency cut in its history. Stein chose to ignore all of that — and blames the sell off on traders.

Compare Stein’s work with that of another NYT business columnist, Mark Hulbert: Its always data driven, thought provoking intelligent analysis. Hulbert seems to have no political agenda, no bull or bear bias — he merely takes a run of interesting data, and reaches supportable conclusions. He is the Anti-Stein.

Other about the blogosphere have similarly identified  Stein’s foibles:

Dealbreaker called "bullshit on this uncheckable story Stein uses to illustrate an unsupportable theory."

Doug Kass has repeatedly taken apart the dissemblings, poor reasoning, and unsubstantiated theories.

Paul Kedrosky asks "Why does the NY Times continue to run this drivel?"

Roger Ehrenberg says that “Lying with Statistics” is Ben Stein’s Modus Operandi   

Henry Blodget says "Ben Stein Is An Idiot"

Science Blogs agrees, noting: "Ben Stein must be on a campaign to make himself look stupid."

Yves Smith: Ben Stein Tells Us It’s All the Traders’ Fault   

•  Marek Fuchs finally exclaims Ben Stein Must Be Stopped!

This is quite a waste of intellectual firepower.

I’m finished with his misleading political hackery, his absurd wingnuttery. To be blunt, its time for intelligent people to stop wasting time arguing with him, and apply their energies more productively than on his economic Tom Foolery.

There’s an idea: I propose the phrase "Ben Steinery" be substituted where ever you would have used the phrase "Tom Foolery" in an economic context.

But read his absurdities, or respond to his inane commentary? I’m done.

Category: Financial Press, Politics, Real Estate

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

125 Responses to “Farewell To Ben Stein”

  1. Bob A says:

    Since giving idiots their own tv shows seems to be the norm these days, I suppose we should expect to see him on CNBC soon. Perhaps right before or after Kudlow.

  2. Uncle Jeffy says:

    Now I need to send a copy of this to the producers of CBS’ otherwise-excellent show Sunday Morning, which periodically allows the twit out of the Loony Bin (Loony Ben?) to rant about whatever the tinfoil hat picks up and transmits to his brain. The faster CBS dumps him, the better. Barry, would you be interested in his position? Please? Pretty please?

  3. Mike Nomad says:

    BRAVO!

  4. Ross says:

    We need a new blog called “The Cucking Stool.”

    Ben could be the first Charter Member. But why stop with Ben?

    I have never really minded a person talking his book as long as he opens his book. But Stein, Kneale, Kudlow, et al do the investing public a serious dis-service. Kudos my boy.

  5. cathompson says:

    Ben’s prose style is reminiscent of Alan Abelson. Similar pretensions as well.

  6. Jmay says:

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    I’ve also stopped reading –

    David Brooks
    Maureen Dowd

    and I never plan on reading Bill Kristol. I’m a liberal, but I rarely find anything of value in Frank Rich either.

    Krugman is really the only op-ed columnist worth reading. He’s great.

  7. scorpio says:

    there are far too many right-wing market flaks in operation today, across all media. they’re going to get a lot of people hurt

  8. Trainwreck says:

    Let us not forget that Ben Stein thinks that Nixon could have won the Vietnam War, and defeated the Kamar Rouge, but not for the dastardly deeds of Woodward, Bernstein and Mark Felt aka “Deepthroat”.

  9. Rob says:

    Ben is entertaining but his integrity is a suspect.I was really upset when he brought up Ivy league shtick and law school credentials and basically – an entire war-chest of self-promotional tools.Now wait, we all know who the biggest self-promotors are in thie business: Me, Cramer, and the American Hedge Fund dude with ego bigger then Everest. Ben shows up and things he could join our league with Writing 101 attempt? However, excuse me but his last article must have been fabricated after consuming a large dose of Canadian grass. So far off. “He knew traders.” O yes.
    Rob,

  10. I’ve never read Ben Stein but I must say that I am impressed, although not surprised, that you appear to be returning to a “philosophy before finance” position.

    Barry, you are a philosopher. Logic and reason are unfortunately a rare quality in the financial world (or any other part of the world, for that matter).

    Thanks for the post…

  11. bstein says:

    I know you are, but what am I?

  12. XXXXXXXX says:

    I thought I’d share a funny anecdote about Ben Stein. Around 1990-1995, XXXXXXXX was a bartender at The Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles. This Hard Rock was just a step above TGI Friday’s. It was NOT a celeb hangout-strictly touristas.

    But Ben Stein used to come in all the time-a regular. He would sit with a friend at the bar (no alcohol though) and order lunch. Let me also say that the food was probably at the same level as Denny’s or TGI Fridays. Funnily enough, I heard from some other waiter friends that he also used to hang out at the TGI Fridays in the Marina also.

    XXXXXXXX moved to Barney Greengrass (yes there’s one in Bev Hills also) and that was strictly A-Listers-Arnold, Bruce (big tipper) Sharon Stone etc…

  13. JM says:

    Awesome Barry, welcome to club!

  14. Ace Armstrong says:

    Mr. Stein is certainly a combination huckster, stern disciplinarian and faux intellectual. My first encounter with him was when he hosted that wacky quiz show on cable. The perfect progeny of a mass media celebrity culture, he attempted to substitute charm and wit for knowledge and facts. The true indicator of a fop. Just another facet of the charming velvet glove fascism that has insinuated itself into the heart of the culture through mass exploitation of the electronic and printed media. Talking heads spouting endless cliches in a dribble of mindless chatter.

  15. Frank Rizzo says:

    Nice post Barry. His connections to ID are new to me. What a tool.

    An editing comment: the correct author for the “Science Blogs” article you link to is Pharyngula; scienceblogs.org is just a domain for a lot of science-related blogs.

  16. alex norman says:

    BUELLER…BUELLER…BUELLER…

  17. KirkH says:

    Best “Don’t Feed The Troll” speech I’ve read in a long time. He is smart enough that he can’t simply be missing these things.

    Kudlow eats it up but I think he actually believes Stein’s arguments. Stein doesn’t even believe his own arguments. Bob Pisani was on the other day arguing that “Capitalism is a religion” that runs on hope and positive thinking. Sounds like he’s not the only one. Stein is sort of like a priest giving false hope to the masses while asking for tithings (“invest in financials”).

    I’m not a religious guy but you probably pissed off a lot of your readers by stating that faith is detrimental to sound investing. Not saying you’re wrong just don’t run for office!

  18. muckdog says:

    I don’t read the NYT and am not familar with Ben’s written word. Ben is a regular on Cavuto’s saturday morning business show. Here’s my summary from watching: I believe he has insisted that higher taxes are needed. He was wrong about the housing bubble; he didn’t see one coming. He’s generally long-term bullish on the US economy and doesn’t seem to worried about day-to-day fluctuations. For stock picks, he seems to recommend diversified funds and ETFs over individual stocks.

    I still believe it’s okay in this country to have religious beliefs. Evolution isn’t quite the scientific slam dunk as many make it out to be; but it certainly represents the best guess of the scientific community at this point. We should never be against what science is telling us, but we should expect that science itself evolves over time as more information and research is available.

    So if Ben is out there saying that we shouldn’t teach evolution, then I think he’s out of line. We should teach whatever we believe to be the correct science at the time. If it changes, the education curriculum will change.

  19. ZackAttack says:

    I’m trying to find his column from March, when we were seeing the first hints of these credit issues, where he first proposed that evil traders were trying to take Main Street’s money.

    His recommendation, as I recall, was to go long IYR into the downdraft.

  20. Peter Davis says:

    I completely agree. I’ve also stopped arguing with other traders whose arguments I believe to believe completely specious and unsupported by any evidence other than their own opinions.

    What I find most frustrating about much of the current commentary about the market and the economy is that so many people assume that either the market is efficient or that there is some kind of objective fundamental reality that governs the market. What none of these people seem to realize is that the market is neither rational nor objective because the people who participate in it or both subjective and irrational. Chalk it up to the human condition.

    I’m not a value guy, so I really can’t comment on whether the markets, in the longer term, move based on some sort of statistical valuation or fundamental criteria. I’m a technician, which means that I believe that markets move on human emotion, on patterns which have repeated themselves for hundreds of years, and which will continue to repeat themselves long after I’m in the ground. As Richard Dennis once said: “Market change. People don’t.”

    I’ve found that friends and colleagues who are fundamentalists, for the most part, don’t seem to realize that markets routinely overshoot. Additionally, there seems to be a decisively bullish bias amongst this group. This is especially true in the media, although I wouldn’t exactly label CNBC (ex-Santelli) as “credible”.

    Many of the value guys’ arguments that we can’t possibly be in a long-term bear market center around the idea that values would have to dip so low that such a fall would be inconceivable. Yet, during the bubbles, I’ve not heard many of these same people argue that values are, in any way, too high. The pendulum swings both ways.

    This is not meant to be a criticism of fundamentalists; certainly, many have done extremely well. Nor is this meant to be an advocacy of technical analysis. Rather, I believe that anyone participating in the markets should understand that it is perception that moves markets and this perception is almost always over-stretched. Thus, we have both bubbles and busts.

    If markets do, in fact, move in conjunction with some sort of statistical valuation over the longer term, I would posit that they do so because, over this longer period of time, the perception of the market aligns with this valuation. Yet, historically, this perception has also almost always overshot, at which point both bulls and bears come up with a myriad of reasons as to why the market will either never go down or crash and burn in hell.

    It is at these turning points where I believe most market participants – both traders/investors and pundits – find new and wonderful ways to talk themselves into hardline positions. Whatever your methodology, it is important to recognize that history has shown again and again, that markets stretch themselves past what most would consider “reasonable”. Yet because this is the very personification of the human condition, I would consider any such view to be, quite simply, unreasonable.

  21. dukeb says:

    Never read BS, but that he’s a regular on Cavuto’s show is not surprising. Cavuto is a complete boob.

    And as previous posters have mentioned, Barry, your blog is much more interesting with lots of opinion–that’s what makes it *your* blog. So this was a good post. Seeking Alpha can take care of the links.

  22. VJ says:

    Stein ‘jumped the shark’ YEARS ago starting with his adamant support of this administration’s failed, disastrous, tax cuts for the Rich & Corporate, and he’s been jumping and jumping and jumping ever since.
    .

  23. Street Creds says:

    Here in Chicago,I got the NYT (on Sundays only) for 20 years but stopped in 1994 when they couldn’t admit the Republican landside. Yeah sure, their subscription base is dropping because of the internet. So I know Ben Stein from his old TV show, his Visine eye commercials, and his appearances on Kudlow. Of the three, I think his Visine commercials were viable, as they had some scienific basis.

  24. Karen says:

    Let’s talk about commercial property loan defaults! Centro Properties defaulting on $1.1 billion, or the default to Deutsche Bank by the developers of Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas. Oh, and the other big one I’m aware of, Macklowe in NYC. Is he selling the GM building?

    Anyone know of a website keeping track of all this?

  25. D.H. says:

    Nice, Barry. A good ole’ fashion boycott.

    Stein et al have become such a joke that a few weeks ago I had to expose the monster for what it is:

    KugSiegStein: The Bagholder Bulls.

    I think this crowd will enjoy one last laugh:

    http://smartguystocks.com/?p=208

  26. donna says:

    Let’s be done with all the wingnuts — our country would be far better off.

    I had a run-in yesterday with fools convinced and distraught that “Osama” would be president. When I corrected them with “His name is Obama, thank you”, they went into their rant about how his is a Muslim, which he is not, he’s a Christian, thank you, and how he was educated in extreme Islamic schools for 20 years, which he was not.

    I am so, so sick of the ignorance, the arrogance, the pure idiocy of the right wing in this country. And their spokespeople being paid on our major airwaves and in our major papers.

    You can rant against Krugman and others all you want, but they back up what they say with facts, not fiction.

    Enough already. Let us move on from the lies and deceit, and get this country back on track to being productive and socially responsible for the actions of the government, the welfare of ALL the people, not just the rich, and finally, finally producing something of value again. Let’s get off the oil teat, out of the sprawlconomy, and figure out where we are going, not look in remorse at where we have been and proclaim how great we are.

    Enough, indeed of the Ben Steinery.

  27. scorpio says:

    let’s talk about CNBC’s Dennis Kneale! per yday’s conversation: is he half full or half empty? if > half full, full of what?

  28. Andrew Grace says:

    Barry love your column, I read it everyday, I was surprised however to read about Ben Stein’s rejection of Darwinism, so I did a little research and what I found, although I must admit my research wasn’t exhaustive, is that Ben seems to be saying that science is about the search for truth and all avenues deserve exploration. If that’s the case then your attention to this issue as a flaw of Ben’s seems misguided and Ad Hominem. I whole heartedly believe in Darwinism but who knows perhaps the selection pressures that produced the black swan were “put” into motion by an outside influence, I mean really who knows. My point here isn’t to address ID or Evolution but to remind that you’ve found a place here for your clear thinking and wide eyed discourse and not to stray.
    I really have no idea if Ben’s column was completely wrong or not, but if not completely correct he surely isn’t 100% wrong. Aren’t these the sort of things we discuss, that we need to discuss! I know I do and I at least value your help.

    Take Care,

    Andrew Grace
    Lincoln Ma

    read some Arthur C. Clarke 2001 and Contact are great!!

  29. red95king says:

    I remember Ben Stein on FOX several years ago saying gold would never reach $500.

  30. L'Emmerdeur says:

    Ban me if you want, Barry, but I blame you and others like you – smart folks who should have known better many years ago – for providing such a food court jester with any semblance of credibility.

    When this cretin migrated from showering nerds with Comedy Central cash in “Win Ben Stein’s Money” (and, may I add, FFS) into political and economic punditry, I first wondered if he was trying to become a humor editorialist.

    Perhaps I haven’t completely given up hope that the NYT, in another Jayson Blair Savant Moment, mistook him for a humorist with a very subtle British dark humor streak its suave, sophisticated readers would appreciate as they took care of business in a JFK bathroom stall, and then completely forgot about him. Easy to imagine, as it seems that NYT management doesn’t know half of what its prime publication prints these days – golf is hard work!

    Six months of the benefit of the doubt is unemployment insurance. A decade of said benefit is welfare.

  31. ottnott says:

    Shorter Barry Rithotlz:

    Ben Stein is a hack. Any media outlet that features him degrades itself.

  32. ECONOMISTA NON GRATA says:

    Is Ben Stein that portly fellow who had some stupid show on TV….?

    Econolicious

  33. Dumpster says:

    “he has made his opposition to Darwinian Evolution public. He is idealogically committed to creationism and intelligent design, and is the star of the upcoming documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

    ….and, he’s a DOUCHE-BAG!!!!

  34. Perhaps he should stick with Hollywood.

  35. BR, how about the cheerleading in the WSJ the past two days.

    Brian Westbury on Monday that covers the entire page of A15 with the headline “The economy is fine (really)”

    Steven Rattner on Tuesday 4 columns of A17 with “Let’s get real about the economy”

  36. Vermont Trader.. says:

    But he’s so useful as a contrarian indicator… Sort of like this guy.. I am buying tech today…

    http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/01/29/cramer-on-bloggingstocks-why-you-need-to-dump-tech/

  37. B.B. says:

    Ben always seems a likable fellow, and I had once even defended him. However, I need to agree with Barry now. Ben’s description of the subprime market in Oct, confused me. And it has only gotten worse. Goddbye Ben Stein, Hello “Ben Steinery”!

  38. JIMB says:

    Barry, the assumption is “all that can be known that affects historic scientific questions, can be known through science” remains a completely unsupported philosophical assumption. Science cannot self-verify, so it rests on philosophy outside of science proper — there ** is ** no “scientific thinking” … there is science which follows from philosophy.

    The pretense (and absence) of actual verifiable, measurable, replicable knowledge is what disturbs me most about any so-called analysis of human origins. And pick up a copy of “Scientific American” and tell me it doesn’t read like a wild escape into fantasy. It’s not knowledge or science, it’s speculation.

  39. wunsacon says:

    Donna, don’t mince words. Tell us what you really think. ;-)

  40. Eric Davis says:

    Next your going to tell me my H.S. Economics teacher Mr. Hubbard was wrong too…..

    Say it ain’t so Joe, Say it ain’t so!.

  41. Norman says:

    So, you ask from Kedrosky, “Why does the NY Times continue to run this drivel?”

    My answer: “Because they love drivelers such as Krugman, Dowd, Rich (an entertainment critic for god’s sakes), etc.” The NYT is a drivel machine.

  42. lutton says:

    How about “Tom Buellery?”

  43. jds says:

    Why would anyone read him in the first place, much less take him seriously??? He had that gong show a few years back, and it was obvious that he loved to hear himself talk. Content, optional.

    He is just another has been hack with good credentials that the NYT has deemed should fill their pages, and is one of the reasons why my respect for the NYT has fallen over the years.

    When I compare him with another of the Nixon era folks, like John Dean, the comparison is laughable.

    Some one please get him another gong show, as he needs an outlet for his inane utterings.

  44. softwareNerd says:

    Ironic that Stein was accusing Jan Hatzius of Ben Steinery!

    FWIW, his politics have got worse recently too.

  45. NYT says:

    The NY Times has been running Nutcases such as Dowd and Stein and Rich for years …. why the uproar now ??

  46. On August 8, 2007, Ben Stein stated, “The sub-prime problem is a problem, but it’s a tiny problem….it’s a buying opportunity, especially for the financials; maybe that I’ve never seen before in my entire life.” Reference: Financial Sector ETF (XLF at 34.50). Since this ridiculous comment XLF has traded as low as $24.11 and currently stands at $28.39 after the desparation rate cuts by the Fed.

  47. scorpio says:

    i think the guys holding up the signs “Iron my shirt!” were Hillary plants. nobody’s heard from them since. no one ever interviewed them. they disappeared. her campaign manager Penn, ceo of biggest PR firm Burston Marsteller, is used to dirty tricks after years managing the fortunes of tobacco, oil, weapons contractors

  48. Justin says:

    Oh no! we’re being Ben’d again.

    Second thought: why all the excutives coming on CNBC, and they telling everybody that things are fine, we are not going to have a recession…dah! If there ever was a contrarian indicator. I remember the same thing happening back in the dot-com bubble. Kiss your asses goodbye folks, this isn’t going to be pretty.

  49. Shnaps Parlor says:

    Thus, the better explanation of his errors is that he is not merely clueless, but willfully misstating the US Economic situation for political purposes.

    I have to believe this is the case. He simply CANNOT be as clueless as his recent statements would indicate. The real question is, who exactly has enlisted him?

    Thanks Barry, for laying such an eloquent, enlightened and well-timed bitch-slapping upon Mr.Stein.

  50. Bravo! This is an excellent takedown of Ben Stein. However, since his wingnuttery and his Ben Steinery is reaching a crescendo, my guess is that next we’ll hear Ben has been offered a TV show on Fox, CNN or MSNBC. Or perhaps all three.

  51. RosevilleBill says:

    Who’s Ben Stein?

  52. RosevilleBill says:

    Who’s Ben Stein?

  53. amry says:

    he is a very rich man! i surmise because he is so smart

  54. Big E says:

    > I have to believe this is the case. He simply CANNOT be as clueless as his recent statements would indicate. The real question is, who exactly has enlisted him? <

    If you’re right, the REAL question should be, why him? He’s the only one dumb enough to pretend to be this stupid?

    I will admit – I read this article on Sunday, immediately got up from reading the paper, and fired off an email to Barry wondering what he thought of it. Is that infatuation or just plain puppy love?

  55. The Dirty Mac says:

    “I’m a freakin’ libertarian and I see the need for national healthcare…You can rant against Krugman and others all you want, but they back up what they say with facts, not fiction.”

    One of these statements is not like the others.

    Regarding Stein, like most prople involved with the news he is an entertainer first. He is an economic forecaster like Mike and the Mad Dog are sabermetricians.

  56. Advsy says:

    Ben Stein is smart enough to understand how bad things may just get. Probably not ready to handle it. Denial and obfuscation are parts of the process humans use in order to finally come around to acceptance. In the mean time, I will make money going short where appropriate and long where appropriate.

    Speaking of which, how about that Dennis Neal guy that CNBC has hired????
    Todays rant was a classic. The negative press is the problem!!!

    No need to go into how wrong this is. It has been covered so many times.

  57. terrence Patton says:

    …and dump the NYT for heaven’s sake with their ‘courageous’ drumbeating of the Iraq war. Kristol, Steiny, Cheney, Bush are the biggest pansies one could imagine. All cut from the same cloth. Bring back the guillotine!

  58. toddZ says:

    every Sunday I ask myself the same question… “how did this guy ever get a column?” I enjoy reading viewpoints different from mine, but they at least need to make some kind of intellectual sense.

  59. Stuart says:

    BR, “Stein made the foolish argument that because sub-prime was so tiny relative to the US Economy, it was meaningless. “, isn’t this the same argument being made by Brian Wesbury?

  60. LFC says:

    Barry, when are you going to reach the same conclusion about Kudlow? Larry is a cherry picker of data extraordinaire and a cheerleader, not somebody serious.

    There used to be an interesting conversation going on in his comments board (much more interesting than his actual posts), but as the economy he unflaggingly touted as “Goldilocks” started to go shaky and people starting quoting his prior prognostications, he shut off all comments. That’s the bitch about the Internet. You’re words don’t necessarily disappear.

  61. Write-Offs: 01.29.08

    $$$ This is by far our favorite thing of the day: YouWalkAway.com. $$$ Barry Ritholtz says farewell to Ben Stein. $$$ Mentors and Strategies [MM] $$$ The question is, why wasn’t Charlie Gasparino quoted in, or at least consulted for,…

  62. marketseer says:

    Why the vehement hatred toward Stein by all the commentary? How many idiotic plain wrong things has Cramer said? Even more so how many really wrong and idiotic things has Kudlow said?

    I am no Ben Stein fan but the hatred that seems to be dripping from the post and the comments seems absurd to me.

    Most people missed the housing bubble and the financial ramifications. At least Ben Stein didn’t contribute anything to the billions of dollars of losses (maybe a trillion if you listen to Jeremy Grantham) in the financial system. Chuck Prince is arguabbly a much bigger villian than someone who writes his opinion like Stein.

    I can’t stand Kudlow but I listen to him all the time to challenge what I think (because we are always on the opposite end). Whether it be with Stein’s horrible calls on the market or the fact you disagree with him on his new documentary you should embrace his thoughts if you disagree that strongly just to keep yourself intellectually honest. As Charlie Munger says, every year you shuld try to destroy one of your best loved ideas.

  63. AGG says:

    Speaking of absurdities, check out the intraday chart for homebuilder NVR. They just said sales were down, profits down and the outlook limited. Everytime the stock wants to tank, a big spender jumps in. I suspect this guy has a vested interest in keeping this inflated stock (it was less than $20 in 1991 when housing was about like it is now) juiced. However, I wwouldn’t bet on this stock going anywhere but down.

  64. The Guy Laura Bush Killed says:

    Shorter article: Ben Stein is a Republican.

    Giving Ben a run for his money, Kudlow on Bush and SOTU:

    ” You have offered important ideas on free-market solutions for health, education, and Social Security. And you have made it clear that faith is a key part of our national life and our daily personal lives.

    While all is never perfect, you have delivered on the most fundamental hopes for the nation: peace and prosperity.”

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NjEzYjJmOTZhZjdlOTA1NmFiNzZkMDc4MDlkNWU1OGM=

  65. Pat Gorup says:

    I believe Art Laffer is in Stein’s category too. Last night on Kudlow (yes, I had it on while I was surfing the net), he said that he is now bullish. What was that, bearish for 48 hrs?

  66. Troy says:

    Reason Magazine’s connection of neocons and Creationism from 1997.

    Interesting connection between the University of Chicago mafia, economics, Republicanism, and creationism/ID/anti-darwinistic supernatural magical thinking.

  67. kk says:

    Barry, How about calling Cramer to task for his BS which as you know has been harmful to the wallets of the masses?

    ~~~

    BR: KK,

    Use the google box (top right) and search for Cramer. There’s dozens of comments and posts — including the video of the Santelli takedown of Cramer.

  68. catfixer says:

    Barry

    I enjoy your website tremendously and am a big fan of Doug Kass also.

    Still, it is inaccurate to equate faith with creationism. I don’t know where Ben Stein stands.

    Faith and reason are compatible.

  69. Bob A says:

    kk.. you didn’t see this? here?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGkrNJ19DSU

  70. Bob A says:

    Faith and reason? oxymoron

  71. Mark D says:

    I agree his NYT articles, aren’t in touch with reality, the shame of it is his personal finance books are excellent!! of course his co author Phil DeMuth did all the heavy lifting.

  72. Winston Munn says:

    Barry’s personal “Network” moment.

    Give ‘em hell, Barry.

  73. Mal says:

    Gosh, what a maroon! I mean, everyone knows that subprime is a huge problem, and when everyone knows something, it’s always true! Anyway, I put much more faith in that Blodget fellow – now there’s a straight shooter.

    Mal

  74. kk says:

    Faith and reason? I give you
    Sir John Templeton

    Bob A, I loved when Santelli outed Cramer. I’m waiting for Barry (and not holding my breath) to give Cramer equal time with Ben Stein.

    ~~~

    BR: KK,

    Use the google box (top right) and search for Cramer. There’s dozens of comments and posts — including the video of the Santelli takedown of Cramer.

  75. Eugene R. says:

    Firm but fair. As usual, Mr. Ritholtz, your balance, tolerance and self-restraint is exemplary. Thank you!

  76. mdr says:

    Well done! But it’s important to remember that Stein is not alone. He’s more of a symptom than a cause.

    If you reject him (as you should), there’s a long line of idiots standing behind him, beginning with the Wall Street Journal editorial board, with David Brooks and the American Enterprise Institute in the middle, and ending with the tip top dunce, George “tax cuts and terror” Bush himself.

    I think it’s important to start calling an idiot an idiot. Let’s get started!

  77. Dave says:

    1/ First of all it was Clear Eyes not Visene.

    2/ For someone who no one should be talking about, people her seem to do a lot of talking.

    3/ Why would people who claim to worry about losing money on the stock market vote for people who will lose them money on the tax market (Democrats).

  78. rickrude says:

    i don’t know much about how dumb Ben stein is… but no one can be dumber than that Kudlow… and he gets away with it on CNBC.

  79. vega says:

    I definitely realize that the point of your post is to fillet Ben Stein’s take on the economy. I agree: Ben Stein is a fool for saying the things he says about the economy and what’s going on these days. He’s a fool just like Mark Perry, Kudlow, and Cramer are.

    However, I also think it’s a little presumptious to call someone out for believing in ID. What’s the big deal? Why is the outcry against ID so shrill?

    My point isn’t that ID is right or wrong. My point is that there is a lot of very interesting stuff going on in physics and biology now that certainly introduces the idea that physical reality is much more than what traditional science says it is. If that’s the case, being open to the notion that life might not evolve linearly is a very interesting concept to consider. And whether or not you choose to consider that possibility is not predicated on your being a religious fanatic. I’ll admit that in many cases it seems like that’s unfortunately the case. But it doesn’t really have to be.

    Anyway, sorry to veer a little off-topic. But I think it’s fair to bring this up.

  80. Robert says:

    You start your criticism of Stein’s financial advice with the revelation that “gasp, he doesn’t believe in evolution”? Stein just went up in my eyes.

  81. will says:

    Make a bet, suckers.

  82. keyote says:

    Hey–you try to deal with reality when you’ve had your soul gland removed!

  83. halbhh says:

    This all actually made me read my 2nd Ben Stein piece ever. The “Can Their Wish Be the Market’s Command?”

    It was certainly entertaining. I describe it as the scatershot method of writing: make a lot of guesses about what you don’t know for sure, and perhaps some of them will hit home (be true).

    Like a shotgun round, the idea is there are so many pellets flying in such a large pattern that some of them might hit a target somewhere.

    Judging by the vehemence, it appears some did!

    This is just psychology. If it provokes so much reaction, it’s because it gets to you.

    That made me ask why.

    Finally, thanks to the reactions, I bet Stein has become more read than ever.

    Now what is it exactly that he said that got to traders???

    hmmmm……

  84. ~mikey says:

    Why is no one bringing up (flinging up) Ben’s RealMoney columns from wayback? He was the biggest perma-bear on the site for what little time he was writing there. Funny he should go 180 degrees when Washington DC taps him for a job on pension cheerleading. The man practically screamed ‘run for your lives’ in every RealMoolah column up until that point. Then he was all over the place extolling stocks and bonds. Sheesh. People have short memories. ~m

  85. Jay says:

    Barry… you slam Stein for writing on the financial world — a topic that he clearly does not fully grasp. I get that. What I don’t get is why you use his belief in ID as proof of his idiocy when clearly, based on your rant, you don’t understand the topic yourself.

    I admire your site, but this just seems hypocritical to me. Wth all due respect, I say stick to those things you understand… the economy, finance, and technology. You’re treading on dangerous ground and setting yourself up for a lot of unncessary heat by opening the religious can of worms — especially when you aren’t well-versed in the topic.

  86. Jay says:

    now… carry on with the stein-bashing.

  87. Todd says:

    I really enjoyed Ben Stein when he hosted “Win Ben Stein’s Money”. I don’t read his columns but I’ve seen him tons of times on Cavuto’s Saturday morning show which is always enough to make me nauseous unless Jim Rogers or Greg Heimowitz is on. What happened to Greg, did he decide he couldn’t morally accept a paycheck from Fox Noise?

    I just always assume they are there to cheerlead the market to try to pump up the crazy Republican cause. Maybe Ben just writes this stuff to be consistent.

    Still, Ben Stein annoys me about 1/10,000th as much as Dennis Kneale. Can someone PLEASE invent an automatic mute button for whenever Kneale appearson CNBC (which is ALOT and slowly killing me)?!!!!!!! Whenever he is on, it just annihilates my concentration on trading. How do you trade when you want to throw a brick at your television?

    Really sucks !!!

  88. Troy says:

    Why is the outcry against ID so shrill?

    again, read the Reason Magazine expose of the common axis of Creationism, Neocon Straussianism, Chicago School economics, and the underlying Republican Party matrix in which all this crap is planted.

    It’s not controversial to argue that ID is simply dusted-off Creationism bullshit being sent into battle against “naturalist atheism” and “secular humanism”:

    From the Reason article:

    Gross believes that the conservative attack on Darwin may be a case of tactical politics. Some conservative intellectuals think religious fundamentalists are “essential to the political program of the right,” says Gross. As a gesture of solidarity, he says, these intellectuals are publicly embracing arguments that appear to “keep God in the picture.”

    and:

    Kristol adds that “Strauss was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some [emphasis Kristol's] minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences.”

    ID is simply the camel’s nose to keep God in the classroom and the Republican party within spitting distance of power by maintaining the supply of idiot moralizing self-righteous fundamentalists.

    I may have to hold my nose to vote Democrat usually, but the anti-science bias of the present Republican Party and conservatism in general in pandering to this population is just sickening.

    /s/ A member of the “Reality-based community”

  89. Gobwell Dunn says:

    Holy crap, I came for some market analysis but stayed for the Democrat Underground!

    Did someone already post about how Intelligent Design is eeevil becuase it’s really just one of Dick Cheney’s ploys to steal the Social Security contributions of welfare recipients and give them to Halliburton executives in the form of no-bid contracts? That one always cracks me up!

  90. amry says:

    Ben might have been thinking the same thing about those pundits that were calling the top in 04, 05 , 06, 07. remember?

  91. gadfly says:

    so keeping an open mind about how darwin’s *theory* of evolution (and its undeniability as a current selection *process*) intersects with the *origination* of life is sufficient cause for an ad hominem attack? somewhere in here i got confused between the pot and kettle and which one was blacker.

  92. kk says:

    Barry,

    I stand corrected on you looking the other way on Cramer. Sorry for the dig.

  93. Fernando says:

    Why a mere post about Ben Stein has brought all the liberals from the woodwork to the comment section?

    Even though being a Rep, Ben Stein has contributed to the Democratic party, being a Lieberman type (that is, not the entirely anti-American sold-to-Soros liberal like the Reid and Pelosi types).

    And what the heck has ID to do with his POV about the market? That *is* ad hominem. This is a low point for The Big Picture.

  94. strunk & white says:

    While I agree with your points about Ben — you are using the possessive “its” when you mean to use “it’s” for “it is.” This small mistake really reduces your credibility in any argument, especially as you begin it with “Its time.” Whose time? My time? Your time?

  95. strunk & white says:

    While I agree with your points about Ben — you are using the possessive “its” when you mean to use “it’s” for “it is.” This small mistake really reduces your credibility in any argument, especially as you begin it with “Its time.” Whose time? My time? Your time?

  96. strunk & white says:

    While I agree with your points about Ben — you are using the possessive “its” when you mean to use “it’s” for “it is.” This small mistake really reduces your credibility in any argument, especially as you begin it with “Its time.” Whose time? My time? Your time?

  97. strunk & white says:

    While I agree with your points about Ben — you are using the possessive “its” when you mean to use “it’s” for “it is.” This small mistake really reduces your credibility in any argument, especially as you begin it with “Its time.” Whose time? My time? Your time?

  98. strunk & white says:

    While I agree with your points about Ben — you are using the possessive “its” when you mean to use “it’s” for “it is.” This small mistake really reduces your credibility in any argument, especially as you begin it with “Its time.” Whose time? My time? Your time?

  99. amry says:

    how come you never challenge barrons or wsj, nyt or any of those other publications for the overly bullish articles the last few years???? Are they the ones that seem to quot…oh never mind, whats the point.