On my weekly radio date with Hugh Hewitt, Hugh and I discussed the unraveling of the Middle East and Obama's coziness with Iran. But we started with the news that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had intentionally crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 into a mountain:
Actually the shoe bomber wasn't the first. On 9/11 itself, the only good news of the day was from Flight 93, when brave passengers figured out what was going on and acted - and prevented a fourth plane from hitting the White House or the Capitol. As a general rule, when something happens at 30,000 feet, the government regulators aren't up there with you, and what determines whether anyone survives or not is whether the fellows who are present have the freedom to act - or whether the regulatory regime has put too many obstacles in the way. On the Germanwings flight, the captain might well have saved the plane - but the impenetrable door was too big an obstacle to overcome. (Richard Fernandez points out a similar death-by-doors on September 11th - 200 people died in the elevators of the World Trade Center because it was assumed that the safest thing to do when an elevator stalls is immediately to disable the doors and keep everyone inside until the professionals can get to them.)
The other big story of the day was the Sunni Arabs' decision to intervene in the chaos in Yemen:
But to the President it all makes sense because it's all Israel's fault:
Hugh then asked me about the upcoming Iran "deal" - a treaty for which Obama, characteristically, will not be seeking the constitutionally required approval of the United States Senate. He wondered whether the Iranians understood that that "deal" would be dead the moment a Republican returned to the White House. I wasn't quite so optimistic:
When I was a kid, the captain still honored the tradition of coming down the aisle and asking lucky young 'uns if they'd like to have a look at the cockpit. It's not such a thrill when you're a grown-up, but pre-9/11 on the little 12-seat puddle-jumpers I'd take from New Hampshire down to Boston and New York the pilots would keep the sliding door open for the flight and it was kind of fun to be able to watch the instrument dials and eavesdrop on their conversation. The last flight I took like that was an Air St Pierre six-seater from Miquelon to St Pierre a couple of years back where I sat right behind the pilot - no doors, no nuthin'.
For more or less everywhere other than St Pierre, it all changed after September 11th 2001. Because the terrorists had been able to access the cockpit so easily, the rules were changed, and the pilots were barricaded in behind locked doors. The idea was to keep the bad guys out.
On Germanwings Flight 9525 the mandatory locked doors kept the bad guy in - and the good guys out:
The French prosecutor put it bluntly: The co-pilot wanted "to destroy this plane". His name is Andreas Lubitz - that's him in the photo above, and we will learn more about him in the days ahead. The mass murder of his passengers by a pilot is not unknown, but this is the first time someone has done it to a First World airline.
~In the new Middle East, you can't tell the players even with a score card. But let's try:
In the skies over Iraq, the USAF has swung into action against ISIS in support of "our coalition partners" Iran, as part of a mission to liberate Tikrit led by Teheran's ruthless Quds Force commander General Qassem Suleimani.
To the south, meanwhile, the US military is providing support to our other ally Saudi Arabia and their Gulf allies in their incursion into Yemen to stop the Houthis, the allies of our first allies Iran.
What's the old saying? The ally of my ally is my enemy? The enemy of my ally is my ally? Who knew foreign-policy Mad Libs could be such fun?
~To our Icelandic readers, Happy Free The Nipple Day! Do they have that in Yemen yet?
~We're now in the third day of the great media freakout over the news that anti-ObamaCare candidate Ted Cruz has purchased an ObamaCare plan.
The pundit class assure us that this is "hypocritical" - while less deranged types point out that Ted Cruz believes in abolishing the IRS but will still be paying his taxes on April 15th. I think American speed limits are absurdly low, but I observe them because otherwise they'd take away my driver's license. It is obviously not hypocritical to follow the law while arguing in favor of its abolition.
But I think this overlooks the main point. Ted Cruz was previously covered by his wife's employer's plan. But his missus has quit Goldman Sachs, which in America - uniquely in the developed world - means the family is also forced to find new health care arrangements. The Cruzes are not a poor family, so, pre-ObamaCare, they would have simply chosen the private insurance plan that suited them, and paid for it.
That's how private health insurance still works in most of the rest of the functioning world: There's government health care, but if you want something a little better you can pay for a private plan. Under ObamaCare there isn't really any "private" health plan anymore: An individual is free to choose the ObamaCare plan, with the government subsidy. Or he can choose something that's as crappy as the ObamaCare plan, but without the government subsidy. In my own state, it's called "NH Pathways" - the "path" is the key bit, because it's what you'll be driving down for three hours to get to a medical professional who's part of the "network". But you can no longer say to Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Racket, "Hey, show me your exciting range of plans, and I'll pick one."
So Ted Cruz has less health-care freedom than, say, Ted Scroggins in the United Kingdom. Most European countries have parallel public/private systems: A universal government health regime, plus a genuinely private insurance market. America has in effect abolished the latter without instituting the former.
Fortunately, I'm insured through my modest little company. It's a high-deductible plan. This morning the receptionist took my credit card and said the good news is that this appointment would be the last payment under the high deductible, but the bad news is that my next appointment (Monday) is the last one the insurance company will agree to cover. In Icelandic Free The Nipple Day terms, when you buy two-nipple coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Nipple, the first nipple is your co-pay and the second nipple they won't cover.
Like "university", "insurance" is one of those words that no longer means what it used to.
~I'll be keeping my weekly date with Hugh Hewitt later today - live coast to coast at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific.
I've just made my first appearance on BBC Radio 4 since 1997, when I returned to "Loose Ends" with my old chum Ned Sherrin to plug Broadway Babies Say Goodnight.
Today's once-every-two-decades appearance was for a show hosted by a lady I admire very much, the composer Debbie Wiseman. For Same Tune, Different Song, Debbie wrote a melody and gave it to two different lyricists to put words to. One was our friend Don Black, Oscar-winning writer of "Born Free" plus more Bond lyrics than anybody else - and a guest on "The Mark Steyn Christmas Show" a couple of years back. The other was Gary Osborne, whose English lyric for "Amoureuse" I've always been fond of, as well as his song with dear old Elton, "Blue Eyes".
I pop up while Don and Gary are working on Debbie's tune with some more general observations on the relationship between words and music. You can hear the show here, as well as complete versions of Debbie's original composition and the two finished songs - Don's, sung by the great Mica Paris; and Gary's, sung by Mr and Mrs Osborne. I'm on the road and haven't yet had a chance to listen to the show myself, but, if it works out, I look forward to being back on Radio 4 in another 18 years.
~As I think I said somewhere on the show, words can change a tune - emphasizing and enhancing elements of it. That's one reason why I decided to sing the French lyric to "The Way You Look Tonight" on my own recent CD: the rhymes fall in slightly different places, and give the melody a subtly different character.
~As to why this is my first appearance on BBC radio this century, you can find the explanation toward the end of my book Mark Steyn From Head To Toe.
"Death to America!" It's not just for Americans anymore:
Don't you hate it when you're raining down death-curses on people hither and yon, and then some guy blows you up? In this case, the pro-Houthi Shia victims were killed by a pro-ISIS Sunni terrorist. Some 140 dead, over 350 injured.
This was in Yemen, one of those Obama success stories he was bragging about only six months ago:
This weekend the last US forces in the country hot-tailed it outta there, leaving half-a-billion bucks' worth of state-of-the-art weaponry in the hands of the blood-soaked loons.
Who do you side with in the ISIS/Iran Sunni/Shia split? Back when Michael E Mann, PhD (Doctor of Phraudology) first decided to sue me, I had a conference call with a bigshot DC lawyer auditioning for my business. Not stinting on the braggadocio, he began the conversation with: "So. Do you wanna win fast? Or do you wanna win slow?"
That's the choice Iran and ISIS are offering the west: Do you wanna lose fast? Or do you wanna lose slow? The mullahs are happy to nuke us; the Islamic State reckon it's more fun to behead us one by one.
~So how's that Iranian nuclear deal coming along? First, John Kerry:
Second, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei:
~Speaking of death to America, it's hard to kill a society this determined to commit suicide. Judith Shulevitz, who was my editor at Slate many years ago, gives New York Times readers a poignant glimpse of fin de civilisation varsity life:
The Chicago Maroon writer threw in, for good measure, Ferguson, Mo, before concluding that with Ms El Rhazoui's presence on campus he "had never felt more ashamed" to be a University of Chicago student. Once upon a time it would have been considered the most frightful bad taste to accuse a woman under constant death threats whose friends and colleagues have just been gunned down in a mass bloodbath for failing to make sure some narcissistic dweeb in the audience "felt safe enough" to ask a question. If ever there were a moment to "check your privilege", this would surely be it.
But no: to the sixth-year students in the Department of Navel Gazing, the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo isn't big enough to count as a micro-aggression.
~In related news: The guy who put up "white people only" stickers all over Austin, Texas turns out to be "social justice warrior" Adam Reposa - just "raising awareness" of your racism, you racey-race racist you.
~The Xtreme Ultimate-Queen Bitchfest between competing celebrigays Elton John and David Furnish, on the one hand, and Dolce and Gabbana, on the other, is almost as much fun as the Shia-Sunni civil war - although it looks as if Sir Elton may have the edge, waddling with his D&G bag into this year's spring collections and self-detonating all over their customer base. Another former editor of mine, Charles Moore at The Daily Telegraph, ponders what he calls "gay rights sharia":
Indeed. From Big Gay to the University of Chicago's "safe spaces" to the Islamic scholars of Qom, there is one correct line of thought, and even the most modest dissent must be ruthlessly quashed.
Death to America? Death to the west? At the rate we're doing it to ourselves, those nuclear mullahs will have to move fast.
Happy World Water Day. At SteynOnline we're marking the occasion with gentleman guppy Kevin Costner.
In case you missed it, here's how the last seven days looked to Mark:
~The week began with Steyn reflecting on the first of two idiotic Tweets from the US State Department, "the most lavishly funded and entirely moronic foreign ministry on the planet".
~Tuesday was St Patrick's Day. We celebrated with a song for the season and the newest member of the Irish-America Hall of Fame: Hillary O'Clinton, putting the sham in shamrock. In non-Irish news, Mark also discussed Netanyahu's election victory, the intriguingly appellated Furkan Deryea, and Starbucks' decision to get its staff to talk race with their customers: "Now you'll be able to listen to your barista's views on slavery reparations as you wait twenty minutes for your Trayvonato with an extra shot. No justice, no peace, no foam."
~On Wednesday, Mark joined the great John Oakley at AM640 in Toronto to chew over Bibi and Hillary. In our most-read piece of the week, he also considered how America's friends are faring under the James Taylor Doctrine.
~On Thursday, Mark returned to The Hugh Hewitt Show in a somewhat cranky mood that made quite a bit of news, and also pondered a glimpse of the demographic future: "an Hispanic United States, an Islamized Europe and an African China."
~On Friday, our Sinatra centenary observances continued with a trip "East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)".
At the weekend he previewed today's French elections, offered a Motorcade Watch update, and recalled a famous diplomatic note from Moscow to London.
While we're waiting for the Mann vs Steyn trial of the century to begin, why not kill some time with the paperback edition of Climate Change: The Facts? The new must-read book on the state of the science, the policy and the politics, with contributions from Mark and many eminent scientists, is now available for pre-order from the SteynOnline bookstore - and Steyn will be more than happy to autograph it for the denier in your family! We also thank readers who've continued to support Mark's end of his latest free-speech battles via SteynOnline gift certificates and other Steyn store purchases.
A new week at SteynOnline begins tonight with our Song of the Week.
A few notes on this first weekend of spring:
~France goes to the polls tomorrow. Marine Le Pen was excluded by the French Government from the #JeSuisCharlie rally in favor of less controversial figures like, er, Mahmoud Abbas and President ErdoÄŸan. But, when all the unlikely free-speech opportunists bleating that "the pen is mightier than the sword" have faded away, it may be that the biggest beneficiary of the post-Charlie Hebdo environment will be Mme Le Pen's Front National:
Not everyone is as happy as Patricia, though:
Perhaps "the people who think" ought to think a bit about whether stagnant labor markets, mass Muslim immigration, and high crime as a routine feature of life is really a sustainable model.
~We will keep an eye out on the French vote tomorrow. Meanwhile, whether you're one of the franco-Fascists or the people who think, if you're looking to relax this weekend, don't forget that my own rosier-hued view of the picturesque Picardy countryside is one of the tracks on my new Goldfinger CD, available from the Steyn store, Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and elsewhere.
~The Prince of Wales is currently in the United States, and SteynOnline reader Mike Shull swung by to catch his act in Louisville:
Putting aside the fact that the President's 40-car motorcade is nothing to do with security - as we see everywhere from the Secret Service hookers in Cartagena to the vast entourage required to get Obama to Mandela's funeral only to stand him three feet away from a violent schizophrenic convicted of "necklacking"; and putting aside the ever more absurd impositions on the citizenry, such as maintaining the street's closure for hours after the Presidential procession has passed so that pregnant women and injured persons are not allowed to cross the thoroughfare to get to the hospital on the other side; and putting aside that I strongly dislike the Prince of Wales and regard his Grand Thoughts on "climate change" as witless and inappropriate; putting all that to one side for the moment:
One of the advantages of monarchy in a democratic age is that it comes with a built-in grievance factor: There's always a certain percentage of the people that is chippily resentful of even the most footling expenditure on the Royal Family's so-called pampered parasites - as a casual glance at the papers in Her Majesty's realms will reveal. So a prince or royal duchess can't go around closing streets and draining police manpower because some republican pol on the make will be all over the news whinging about it. That's very healthy, and one consequence of it is the entourage you saw in Louisville this week. HRH The Prince of Wales is the heir to the thrones of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Tuvalu, Belize, Papua New Guinea, etc, etc, but when he travels to Kentucky he takes only what he needs.
By the way, that's also way cooler - as my daughter pointed out when she and I saw the Queen in Glasgow in her Diamond Jubilee year. HM and the Duke upfront, and one car behind. And that handful of guys are on their game. Whereas, with a 40-car motorcade, only the Cartagena hookers are on the game.
But the bigger point is that a 40-car motorcade leads to a 40-car motorcade political culture - with a ruling class on the inside of the perimeter, and the rest of the schlubs on the outside. They don't live where you live. They drive through it, and you glimpse them through the glass darkly as you wait for the royal procession to pass and daily life to resume.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been entouraged to the hilt for almost a quarter-century, is a near parodic example of the entitlement this breeds. What length do you think the motorcade's going to be by the end of her reign?
~Nigel Wallbridge writes from Switzerland re the British press getting its knickers in a twist over Tim Blair enjoying a massive titter at the Islamic community centre spokesperson Ferkan Derya:
Indeed. I referenced that celebrated Turk a few years back, when observing that, even in our diverse age, names do not always travel:
But, as you say, the Turkish diplomat in Moscow is the acme of this genre. So, for those of you who've never seen this letter before, enjoy!
By the way, if any US diplomats sent Mrs Clinton any emails of a similar nature during her four years as Secretary of State, where are they now? "Reggie", the 15th Earl of Pembroke, assumed the above was a public record that he was obliged to preserve. I suspect hdr22 would have chuckled and had her aides hit delete.
As it happens, I once met Lord Pembroke's son David Herbert, whom Ian Fleming dubbed "the Queen of Tangiers". But that's a whole other story...
Yesterday I kept my weekly date on The Hugh Hewitt Show. You can hear the full audio and read the entire transcript here.
Hugh and I discussed Obama's weird determination to punish the Israelis for not voting as he instructed, and the near total contempt in which this president by everyone on every side throughout the Middle East.
However, in a myopic, parochial Washington, nothing ever changes. So at some point Hugh played me a bit of Senator Dick Durbin claiming that the delay in confirming Loretta Lynch was making "the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general ...sit in the back of the bus". And, after falling asleep during Dick Durbin's soundbite, I woke up and got a little bit cranky:
Indeed. You can find the entire interview here.
Following their enthusiastic support for the replacement of Common Law by Sharia, the geniuses at the State Department's "Think Again, Turn Away" social media campaign have now issued another brilliant Tweet:
Beneath it are the usual selfies of persons holding up bits of cardboard, which these days seems to be the only form of resistance fin de civilisation westerners know. I expect we'll all be standing around selfie-sticking our #UnitedAgainstNukes hashtags when the mullahs drop the big one.
But that's just standard-issue witlessness. What takes it to the next level is that, at the same time the US State Department is urging everyone to defy the terrorists and support Tunisian tourism, it's urging State Department employees to steer well clear of Tunisian tourism. Here's State Department honchette Jen Pskai just one hour before the above Tweet:
That would be the tourist area.
Gotcha. The State Department says Tunisian tourist sites are far too dangerous for State Department employees to go anywhere near, but you and your gran'ma should book your tickets today.
This is the most lavishly funded and entirely moronic foreign ministry on the planet.
Apparently the White House switchboard still can't get a line to Israel, but Obama's not the only one with hang-ups on election calls. The media are also taking Netanyahu's re-election badly. Who said this?
And who said this?
The first is the reaction of The Globe And Mail, Canada's newspaper of record. The second is Ghanem Nuseibeh, a Palestinian supporter of the Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog. It comes to something when the Palestinians sound less unhinged about Netanyahu's victory than the western media do.
What's "controversial" about the Israeli election result other than that it's not the one The Globe And Mail wanted?
Isn't there anything a wee bit "controversial" about the Palestinian election? Oh, that's right: They haven't held any for a decade or so - Abbas and his fellow Fatah kleptocrats in the West Bank because they want to continue bulking up their Swiss bank accounts with generous Euro-American subsidies, and Hamas in Gaza because they regard democracy as Erdogan in Turkey put it, merely a train you ride until it gets you to where you want to go. Which it did back in 2006.
~A Steyn I-told-you-so moment: America Alone was published in 2006 - and, as I always say with an eye to my Mann vs Steyn legal bills, personally autographed copies are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore. The reason you should buy it is for things like the following:
Nine years later, the Chinese are beginning to figure it out:
Which would be a profound transformation in a country with no experience of mass immigration. And, unlike the United States, China's demographic woes come with a distinctive wrinkle. From page 30 of America Alone:
Nine years later, the SASAC commissars are catching up with Steyn:
So what's the plan? Those tens of millions of Africans are going to be mostly female?
~If you follow America as the country with "the second-most immigrants in the world", do you then follow America to the next stage? A land with no majority population, only minorities:
This Brookings Institute graph spells it out. Next year - 2016 - for the first time since 1776 a majority of America's under-tens will be non-white. By 2026 (or about the length of time from Bush's re-election to now) a majority of America's under-forty population will be non-white.
It might be "thriving", as William H Frey says. But one could also argue that America's current "diversity" model assumes the continued presence of a guilt-ridden white majority. Once there no longer is such a thing it might all get a bit more complicated...
Either way, the mid-21st century won't want for diversity: an Hispanic United States, an Islamized Europe and an African China.
What was it James Taylor was flown by the State Department to sing to the Parisians a few weeks back? Oh, yeah:
Dr Shakil Afridi could have used a friend like that. Instead, he made friends with the Government of the United States, and a fat lot of good it did him. As I said on the radio a couple of years ago:
Were it not for Dr Afridi, Osama bin Laden would still be alive and whooping it up with his pals in Abbottabad. Instead, President Obama got to do his "Osama is dead and al-Qaeda is on the run" routine right through the 2012 election and all the way until ISIS took Mosul. Meanwhile, Dr Afridi is about to begin the fourth year of his 33-year prison term. And the preening poseurs who run the global superpower have lifted not a finger to help him.
You've got a friend? In the Age of Obama, who would be a friend of America? Indeed, who would be a friend of a friend of America? Yesterday, Dr Afridi's lawyer was shot dead in Peshawar:
Actually, it's not all that difficult to "determine":
All you gotta do is call, and the White House will put you on hold while you listen to James Taylor's Greatest Hits.
The doctor is in jail because he's a friend of America. The lawyer is dead because he's a friend of a friend of America. How come the United States could plan a flawless operation to bust into Osama's compound and put a bullet in him, but it couldn't do a thing for the operation's indispensable human intelligence?
This is usually the point where I quote the great Bernard Lewis' words when we chanced to be on a panel discussion a few years back - that America risked being seen as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend. And so it goes, from Iran to the Islamic State to the morgue of the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar.
~At the other end of the ummah, ideological soulmates of the fellows who killed Mr Samiullah killed 19 people in Tunis - 17 of them tourists from France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Australia and Japan. Which seems likely to do wonders for the future of Tunisian tourism. Tunisia was one of the most "westernized" of Arab countries, which is also why it's produced such a huge number of volunteers for ISIS. The various local franchises of the jihad are getting cockier and more confident. Other than Joe Biden bragging about the size of Obama's cojones, what's the strategy here?
~Back on the Hillary Clinton email-shredding beat: A fan of hdr22, David Kelsey wasn't fooled by my paean to Elizabeth Warren. He can see through all that:
Er, okay. So, if not Elizabeth Warren, what about Gore '16?
~Aside from Hillary mail, we're also getting a lot of comments on our Sinatra centenary songs, which we should probably save for a special Chairmail of the Board. However, Dan Hollombe didn't care for the cut of Song Number 18's jib:
Well, each to his own, but I would doubt either Michael Carr or Jimmy Kennedy had ever knowingly heard a mariachi band at the time they wrote "South Of The Border". I'm minded to modify Jerome Kern's line to Oscar Hammerstein when they were adapting Donn Byrne's life of Marco Polo for Broadway. "Here's a story laid in China about an Italian and told by an Irishman," said Hammerstein. "What kind of music are you going to write?"
"Don't worry," replied Kern. "It'll be good Jewish music."
In this case, here's a song set in Mexico about an amorous American cowboy told by an Ulsterman and a Dublin Yorkshireman. What kind of music did they write? Well, they wrote good Denmark Street, London WC2 music.
As to "that 'White Horses' thing by 'Jacky'", every horsey English schoolgirl of the late Sixties and Seventies would beg to differ. I dunno how many are in the greater Los Angeles area, but watch out for squealing tires as you cross, er, Rodeo Drive. The song has been covered by all kinds of younger hipper types in the years since, including (just to keep it Celtic) Cerys Matthews, Morwenna Banks and - golly - the Trashcan Sinatras. And, according to this BBC news story, it's the all-time greatest theme tune in television history.
Not long afterwards, Jackie Lee had another hit with a children's TV song. A few years back, we had a chap called Rupert working with us, and I drove the ladies in the office nuts singing this all day long, week after week. Enjoy, Dan!
~On Thursday I'll be checking in with Hugh Hewitt live at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific. This week's drinking game is "Rupert the Bear".
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