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Mark Steyn

Living the Lies

I was honored to be back behind the Golden EIB Microphone today, while Rush is undergoing surgery in California. Here's a sampling of what we chewed over in the course of three hours, including a new poll showing that 81% of Americans believe that Obama is a liar, the blizzard of lies from the IRS, DOJ, DHSS and Census, the vast empire of the Bureau of Land Management, and, of course, the Virginia Supreme Court ruling on Michael Mann's emails.

It was a fun show to do, but Rush is the indispensable man on America's airwaves, and I hope all went well today and he's back on the air as soon as possible next week.

~I'll be back on the radio in an hour or two with Hugh Hewitt, live coast to coast at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific.

April 17, 2014 at 3:59 pm  |  Permalink

Don't Start Deleting Those Emails Just Yet, Mikey!

What was it I was saying only a few hours ago?

Today, a decision is expected from the Virginia Supreme Court re "hockey stick" climate alarmist Michael E Mann's continued attempts to obstruct access to his data. A bunch of big media - NPR, The Washington Post et al - have filed briefs opposing Mann and the University of Virginia because they understand that a victory for him would be a massive defeat for freedom of information that would more or less gut the law in that state.

Notwithstanding that, the Supreme Court of Virginia chose today to side with Dr Mann. The effect is to read the University of Virginia out of the Freedom of Information statute. Why would they do that? Well, you can read their reasoning, such as it is, here. A less charitable thought is that the jurists decided they didn't want the heat from the higher-education crowd. The I-don't-need-this-in-my-life-right-now school of jurisprudence.

One thing the order does is give the green light to the University of Virginia to crank up the incinerator for the biggest destruction of research material in a critical area of public policy - not to mention what my old colleague at the Telegraph in London, Christopher Booker, called the other day "the worst scientific scandal of our generation". Before they grab the matches and gasoline, however, please note that my lawyers have requested a lot of the same material for Mann's defamation suit against me. I'll have more to say about this later today.

In the meantime, please note: I've got nothing to hide. I've already responded to Mann's discovery requests - on February 12th, over two months ago. As usual, as in Virginia, as in British Columbia, he's obstructing and delaying. So what's he got to hide?

~It's a radio day for me today. In an hour or so, I'll be behind the Golden EIB Microphone guest-hosting for El Rushbo at America's Number One radio show. It starts live coast to coast at 12 noon Eastern. Rush is out on in California for surgery today, and we wish him all the best.

~Later this afternoon, I'll keep my weekly date with The Hugh Hewitt Show across the country at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific.

April 17, 2014 at 10:56 am  |  Permalink

Nigels in the News

Notes around the Anglosphere:

~For American readers: Rush is having surgery tomorrow and it's my privilege to return to the Golden EIB Microphone to host America's Number One radio show. Three hours of substitute-host-level Excellence in Broadcasting starts live coast to coast at 12 noon Eastern/9am Pacific.

~For Aussie readers: My cover story on freedom of expression in this week's Speccie can be read here. I'm increasingly struck by how little the cause of free speech resonates these days even on the less insane university campuses: The "safe space" is the cultural equivalent of one of those Belgian euthanasia clinics. Still, the comic Patton Oswalt (who to my kids will always be Remy in Ratatouille) rather liked this line:

This is the aging of the dawn of Aquarius: new blasphemy laws for progressive pieties.

No sooner had he reTweeted it than the leftie enforcers took the tire-iron to him for wandering off the showbiz reservation. As Mr Oswalt put it:

RT'd an essay on PC censorship by @MarkSteynOnline. Now getting accused of agreeing w/Steyn on EVERYTHING, which proves Steyn's point.

Indeed. What strikes me about the round-up at Twitchy - Steyn is a "f**king shitty" "filth bag" "trashman" ("Plus transphobia") - is how bloody boring these guys are. I'm going to have great difficulty staying awake for the New Totalitarianism.

~For Canadian readers: "We're only making plans for Nigel," sang the new-wave band XTC in a song I may cover on my next Christmas album ("We're only making plans for Noel"). "Nigel's whole future is as good as sealed."

Or so thought Nigelphobes on both sides of the Atlantic. Our first Nigel in the News is Nigel Wright, latterly Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When he learned that neophyte senator Mike Duffy had taken to the time-honored public-service tradition of ravenous expense-claiming somewhat too enthusiastically, Mr Wright wrote Duffy a personal cheque to help him reimburse Canadian taxpayers. This was "the story that rocked the country's political world," according to the CBC's Peter Mansbridge.

If you say so. In consequence thereof, Nigel either resigned or was fired, according to which version Mr Harper is telling on what day. Yesterday, the RCMP announced:

"Upon completion of the investigation, we have concluded that the evidence gathered does not support criminal charges against Mr. Wright."

Which should have been perfectly obvious from the beginning. Yet Nigel Wright spent a year under criminal investigation for something that, whether naive or ill-advised or ethically dubious, was plainly not a breach of any law. That CBC panel seemed to agree that Mr Wright has not been proclaimed innocent but that the Mounties have decided he's more useful as a friendly Crown witness. So if it's so terrible for Nigel Wright to (allegedly) pressure Duffy to buy his silence, why is it such a good thing for the RCMP to spend a year pressuring Wright to buy his cooperativeness?

~For United Kingdom readers: Our second Nigel in the News is Nigel Evans, formerly Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons at Westminster. Like almost everyone in the Cameronized Conservative Party, Mr Evans is gay. Around the time the Canadian Nigel's career was heading south, the Welsh Nigel's career was plummeting in the same direction in the express elevator. A fellow Tory MP alerted the Speaker to a conversation she'd had with a young man regarding a supposedly unwanted sexual encounter with Mr Evans. Shortly thereafter, Nigel was arrested and charged with rape and sexual assault, his career collapsed, and he wound up on trial.

Here's how that went:

What happened next is a matter of public record. Nigel Evans was acquitted of all charges. Not a few of the charges. Not most of the charges. All of the charges. It took the jury just four and half hours to throw out all ten counts.

And there was a reason they threw them out. Nigel Evans was totally and utterly innocent. Three of the alleged victims testified in court that they didn't understand why the charges had been brought, and they themselves didn't believe they had been the victim of any crime. The main complainant, who had alleged that he'd been raped, was proved in court to be a liar. He had twice told police Evans pushed him into his bedroom and onto the bed, forcibly tried to undress him, and promised him a job if he agreed to have sex with him. But on the witness box he was forced to admit there was no pushing, he'd taken his own clothes off and there had been no promise of a job.

Nigel Evans didn't get off on a technicality. He didn't do it... A wholly innocent man had his reputation destroyed and his career ruined, and now faces crippling debts to cover the cost of his legal fees.

So Mr Evans is innocent but a quarter-million dollars poorer. And, unlike his false but anonymous accusers, only Evans' name will forever be indelibly linked to the words "assault" and "rape". For both Nigel in Ottawa and Nigel at Westminster, guilt and innocence are irrelevant: as I like to say of my own legal travails, the process is the punishment.

For Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, minor public figures are particularly attractive prey, and especially when sex is involved. The Sexfinders-General of the British constabulary are anxious to expand their lucrative "Bonking With The Stars" franchise. In fairness to them, at least in Mr Evans' case the false accusations date from the current millennium, rather than stretching back to the Nineties, Eighties, Seventies and beyond. Even if one assumes that Dave Lee Travis, once British radio's Number One morning man, surely availed himself of the perks that attend such a gig, the truth about any such encounters is hard to litigate after a third of a century. Nevertheless, the Crown dragged him into court, where the jury acquitted him on 12 out of 14 counts dating back to the mid-Seventies, and couldn't reach a verdict on the remaining two. Undeterred, the CPS immediately announced a new trial on the two outstanding counts, and for good measure through in a new one: a charge of indecent assault in January 1995.

The Sexfinders-General's gusto seems a rather obvious attempt to over-compensate for the police's collusion with paedo-celebs like Sir Jimmy Savile and Sir Cyril Smith back when they were actually diddling the kiddies. If it weren't such a terrible play, I'd recommend some enterprising producer dust off The Crucible as an allegory for the Celebrity Unit of the British police.

April 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm  |  Permalink

The "Safe Space" is Where Cultures Go to Die

I'm back in The Spectator this week in both Australia and the United Kingdom. Down Under, as you can see, I'm the cover story; in the Mother Country, I take second billing to God and Richard Dawkins (not sure who gets top billing between them). It's an overview of recent free-speech issues, from California to Canberra:

What all the above stories have in common, whether nominally about Israel, gay marriage, climate change, Islam, or even freedom of the press, is that one side has cheerfully swapped that apocryphal Voltaire quote about disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it for the pithier Ring Lardner line: '"Shut up," he explained.'

A generation ago, progressive opinion at least felt obliged to pay lip service to the Voltaire shtick. These days, nobody's asking you to defend anyone to the death: a mildly supportive retweet would do. But even that's further than most of those in the academy, the arts, the media are prepared to go. As Erin Ching, a student at 60-grand-a-year Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, put it in her college newspaper the other day: 'What really bothered me is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.' Yeah, who needs that? There speaks the voice of a generation: celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity.

You can read the whole thing here - or pick the Speccie up on the newsstand in London on Thursday, and throughout Oz and the British Isles on Friday.

And, just for a change, I do talk about climate change, but without mentioning my own fatwa from climate mullah Michael Mann.

~Don't forget my book on free speech, Lights Out. Personally autographed copies of the hardback edition are exclusively available from the Steyn store. But, if you prefer to read it via Kindle, Kobo or Nook, I can't autograph except with a chisel but you can pick it up instantly at Amazon sites worldwide, Barnes & Noble, Indigo-Chapters in Canada and other fine online retailers. More details on digital locations here.

April 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm  |  Permalink

The Plains of Bureaustan

I wrote yesterday about the weekend's developments in Cliven Bundy's stand-off with the Bureau of Land Management. John Hinderaker returns to the subject:

To begin with, his family has been ranching on the acres at issue since the late 19th century. They and other settlers were induced to come to Nevada in part by the federal government's promise that they would be able to graze their cattle on adjacent government-owned land. For many years they did so, with no limitations or fees. The Bundy family was ranching in southern Nevada long before the BLM came into existence.

Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one.

The land and its "public" ownership is the issue here. The federal government owns over 80 per cent of Nevada.

Why?

That's about 90,000 square miles - or the entire land mass of the United Kingdom, or, if you prefer, the size of Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic combined, which is to say a big chunk of the Habsburg Empire.

Again: why?

The United Kingdom is a pretty big country the way things are trending these days. A lot of Scots think it's too big and are minded to vote to go it alone in this year's referendum. If they do, the new independent nation of Scotland will be about one-third of the real estate owned by Washington in Nevada. The US Government owns most of the west.

Why?

So the blandly named "Bureau of Land Management" is managing an area the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal combined. Just in Nevada.

In total, the Bureau of Land Management rules over one-eighth of the land mass of the United States. That's about the size of South Africa - or about three-sevenths of the G7: France, Germany and Italy combined.

You know the way governors like to say, "If California were a country..." or "if Texas were a country..." it would be the twelfth biggest economy in the world or whatever it is? If the Bureau of Land Management were a country, it would be the 26th biggest country in the world - out of 200 or so. Maybe that's why the BLM needs such a lavishly equipped army (see picture above). Maybe it should join Nato and send a division or two to protect the Baltic states.

If BLM were Microsoft or Standard Oil, there'd be an anti-trust investigation. Instead, the BLMpire is the biggest collective farm in history, beyond the wildest dreams of Soviet commissars. Except that, as the Bundys have discovered, no one's allowed to farm it. It's serfdom without the perks.

The incoming Emir of the United BLM-irates is apparently some buddy of Harry Reid. Where do you go to vote him out? In the one-eighth of the United States he reigns over, there is not a single polling station. And in the seven-eighths where there are, he's not on the ballot.

Poor old Cliven Bundy is probably doomed to end his days in jail or destitution or both. But he will have done his nation a great service if his sacrifice brings to an end this affront to accountable government.

~Speaking of serfdom, this spring marks the 70th anniversary of Friedrich Hayek's The Road To... It's an important work, and as timely as ever. I quoted him in After America (personally autographed copies of which make a delightful and thoughtful gift):

"There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought," he wrote with an immigrant's eye on the Britain of 1944. "It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel. The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one's neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority."

And as I then commented:

Within little more than half-a-century, almost every item on the list had been abandoned, from "independence and self-reliance" (40 per cent of Britons receive state handouts) to "a healthy suspicion of power and authority" — the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government "do something", the cost to individual liberty be damned. The United Kingdom today is a land that reviles "custom and tradition", requires criminal background checks for once routine "voluntary activity" (school field trips), and in which "noninterference" and "tolerance of the different" have been replaced by intolerance of and unending interference with those who decline to get with the beat: Dale McAlpine, a practicing (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the town of Wokington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a "public order" charge by Police Officer Sam Adams (no relation), a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community outreach officer. Mr McAlpine had said homosexuality is a sin. "I'm gay," said Officer Adams. Well, it's still a sin, said Mr McAlpine. So Officer Adams arrested him for causing distress to Officer Adams.

In Britain, everything is policed except crime.

Big Government can transform the character of a people, and very quickly.

~I have the misfortune to be flying US Airways in a couple of days. If it comes down where this flight did, no one's ever gonna hear the black box.

April 15, 2014 at 11:47 am  |  Permalink

The Pasture is Prologue

Some unfinished business from last week to start a new week:

~I wrote on Wednesday about the "First Amendment Area" in Nevada to which twerp enforcers from something called the Bureau of Land Management have attempted to confine protesters in a dispute about grazing rights. The photo at right is from the showdown between the Bundy family and the BLM, which is to Nevada as the Red Army is to Eastern Ukraine. In the picture, hundreds of Bundy supporters, many on horseback, have in effect headed off the BLM at the (over)pass and have them surrounded. John Hinderaker's round-up makes some important points:

The Bureau of Land Management has announced that in view of the risk of violence, it is withdrawing its forces, which include snipers, from the area. (How many federal agencies employ snipers, anyway? Too many, it is safe to say.) The county sheriff negotiated the terms of the federal government's surrender with Cliven Bundy.

Look at the picture John puts underneath that paragraph, or at ABC's video. These are low-level bureaucrats from a minor branch of the vast bottomless alphabet soup of federal agencies, and they're running around pretending to be elite commandos. The county sheriff is supposed to be "the law". But he had to broker a deal to get the BLM out of there because in America every jumped-up pen-pusher from the Bureau of Compliance has his own branch of "the law", a personal SWAT team to act as judge, jury, executioner and, if necessary, as in Nevada, as army of occupation. In most parts of the developed world, there is "the police", and that's it. If a bureaucrat from the Ministry of Paperwork wants to have you seized, he has to persuade a judge to issue a warrant and then let the local coppers handle it as they see fit. There is an obvious conflict of interest when every tinpot regulatory agency has its own enforcement arm, and it imputes to even legitimate cases the whiff of something malodorous and, indeed, despotic.

John also notes:

The root of the problem is the fact that the federal government owns most of the Western states, including more than 80% of the State of Nevada. That strikes me as completely irrational, and I don't understand why there isn't a stronger movement to turn most of that land over to local management.

It reminds me of 19th century Ireland, when most of the big estates belonged to absentee landlords in England. It's an even less attractive arrangement when the absentee landlord is a distant national government. There is no need for the vast land holdings of the United States Government, especially given their ever more unpleasant and bullying attitude to public access to the land. As I've said, a 21st century America has fewer rights on "the people's land" than a 13th century English peasant had in the King's forest. If I ever do run for Senate in New Hampshire, my platform will include a pledge to return the White Mountain "National Forest" to the people of the state.

Jay Currie thinks the Nevada showdown reflects a shifting balance of power between the citizen and the state-media complex. He may be right. In the pre-smartphone era, I think the BLM snipers would have had few qualms about offing members of the Bundy family, anymore than their fellow bureaucratic enforcers at Ruby Ridge did about shooting Vicki Weaver in the head as she was cradling her baby and running for cover. Waco might have gone differently in the age of cellphone video.

~I wrote on Thursday, re the BLM "euthanizing cattle":

I'm all for government agents improving their skills at euthanizing bovine herds. It means they'll be really good at it by the time they move on to us.

So many things begin by being tested on animals. I noted a week or so back the new ObamaCow bovine flatulence regime, and I see Senate Republicans have now got the scent in their nostrils:

South Dakota Sen. John Thune and fellow GOP senators sent a letter to Obama administration officials urging them not to regulate livestock emissions as part of the president's crusade against global warming.

In the House of Lords, however, they've already moved on, from regulating bovine emissions to regulating yours:

A hereditary peer has asked the government if it takes into account flatulence caused by baked beans in its climate-change calculations.

Labour peer Viscount Simon, 73, raised concerns about the "smelly emissions" resulting from the UK's unusually high consumption of baked beans...

His comments came as energy minister Baroness Verma answered questions in the House of Lords on how the government was tackling climate change.

Lord Simon said: "In a programme some months ago on the BBC it was stated that this country has the largest production of baked beans and the largest consumption of baked beans in the world."

To laughter from peers, he added: "Could the noble baroness say whether this affects the calculation of global warming by the government as a result of the smelly emission resulting there from?"

Appearing flummoxed, the minister replied: "The noble lord's question is so... different."

But she added: "The noble lord of course does actually raise a very important point, which is we do need to moderate our behaviour."

The Bureau of Flatulence Management is not far away.

~On the weekend, I commented on the Government's appalling treatment of the victims of Fort Hood. The 2009 mass shooting, that is. Mariah Blake has a follow-up report at Mother Jones after the President's appearance at the memorial service for victims of the 2014 mass shooting. As usual, he had some smooth lines - "This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago" - but he refused to meet with any of those bearing the wounds from five years ago.

Many of the so-called low-information voters think Obama's cool. In fact, he's cold. Very cold.

~Speaking of cool, I owe Kathy Shaidle my thanks for drawing attention to TCM's first ever screening of Sammy Davis Jr's 1966 labor of love A Man Called Adam. I hadn't seen it in years and I didn't realize quite how rare it is on this side of the Atlantic. Lots of great things in this picture, starting with the cast (Cicily Tyson, Louis Armstrong in an unusually serious role) and a marvelous score by Benny Carter. But I do love the three-minute cameo by Mel Tormé below, doing Carter's "All That Jazz". I've had the privilege over the years of discussing how to film a musical number with the likes of Stanley Donen and Bob Fosse and even Blake Edwards, whose après-ski "Meglior Stasera" is my favorite moment in The Pink Panther. But I have to say this is pretty great. The director is Sean Penn's dad Leo, and I believe he directed only one other feature film:



~Speaking of Kathy Shaidle, she comments on our Song of the Week this morning, and posits, as an alternative to nine-year-old Peter Ford playing the 78 in his parents' living room, that it was "Jimmy DeKnight" (Jim Myers), as technical advisor on the film, who got "Rock Around The Clock" into Blackboard Jungle. Even by the standards of the music business, Myers was a pathological liar. There's no evidence that he ever had anything to do with Blackboard Jungle, and no reason for Pandro Berman or Richard Brooks to hire the guy. My general line on Myers is to start from the position that whatever he said isn't what happened and work backwards from there.

~Speaking of movie stars, I was telling my kids about my new lawyer in the upcoming Mann vs Steyn trial of the century, Dan Kornstein. They're old enough to understand that daddy's being sued for a sum in the high seven figures and their dreams of doing Tolerance and Clitoridectomy Studies at Brandeis are going up in smoke, so they were interested to hear who this Kornstein guy was. And I said his other clients included Bill Clinton and King Michael of Romania, and they asked if he'd represented any showbiz types, and I said yes, Harvey Keitel, and Vanessa Redgrave. And my daughter said, "Who's she?"

And I was trying to think of what movies of Miss Redgrave's they might have seen, when the perfect answer came to me. "Well," I said, "she's Liam Neeson's mother-in-law."

My sons were stunned. "You have the same lawyer as Liam Neeson's mother-in-law?" said my daughter. "Wow."

Mann is toast.

(But any support you might care to offer is most appreciated.)

April 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm  |  Permalink

A Se'nnight of Steyn: April 7-13

In case you missed it, here's the last seven days as seen by Mark:

~He started the week with a musical footnote to our Marlon Brando movie night, "Luck Be A Lady". That very day another Hollywood star, the long-lived Mickey Rooney, took his leave.

~On Monday Mark was north of the border for a tumultuous election day in Quebec. He swung by the Sun News TV studios for some live election-night pontificating, and joined John Oakley on the radio on the morning after.

~On Tuesday Steyn was interviewed by Janet Albrechtsen in Australia's national newspaper on the battle to restore freedom of speech. It's not going as well as it might Down Under, something Mark intends to reverse on his tour of Oz later this year. In other free-speech news, he endeavored to explain to the US Bureau of Land Management that "the First Amendment is not an area".

~On Wednesday Brandeis University announced that it was withdrawing its award of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Mark addressed the contemptible cowardice of the American academy in "Degrees of Separation" (our most-read column of the week), and also on the radio with Jamie Weinstein and Michael Graham.

~On Thursday Mark considered the sad fate of British telly celebrity Peaches Geldof, and the strange twists of a family tree from its roots on the Canadian prairie a century ago.

~On Friday Mark returned to a recurring theme in these pages - the decadent excess of the sultanesque presidency - following the revelation that it cost US taxpayers eight million bucks to send Michelle, Sasha and Malia to Dublin for three days.

~On the upcoming Mann vs Steyn trial-of-the-century front, it was a mixed week. On Monday climate hysteric Michael E Mann spent the day getting hysterical about being called "hysterical". On Friday the judge at the DC Superior Court stayed all discovery. Notwithstanding, we're moving ahead with preparation for trial and a forensic investigation of Dr Mann's "hockey stick". If you haven't yet picked up some of our soon-to-be-collectors'-item Steyn vs the Stick merchandise, do swing by the Steyn store and check it out.

~Mark's weekend column pondered the national disgrace of Fort Hood, and his Saturday movie date was a tenth-anniversary Kill Bill double-bill.

A new week at SteynOnline begins tonight with our Song of the Week.

April 13, 2014 at 8:57 am  |  Permalink

Steyn Talks to Michael Graham

Earlier today Mark joined Boston radio colossus Michael Graham to talk about Ayaan Hirsi Ali's canceled honorary degree from Brandeis University and related matters of identity politics, university groupthink, and freedom of speech. To listen, go to Michael's podcast page and click today's show (Aprill 11th). Mark turns up approximately 59 minutes in.

April 11, 2014 at 6:40 pm  |  Permalink

Dublin on Two-and-a-Half Million Dollars a Day

A couple of weeks back, I remarked on the cost of President Obama's day-trip to Brussels, accompanied by 900 flunkeys and a 45-car motorcade. In fairness to Obama, the President is a public official of the Government of the United States: I do believe he's even mentioned in the Constitution. You will search that document in vain for any mention of the office of "First Lady" or "First Offspring". Nevertheless:

The documents reveal that taxpayers spent a total of at least $7,921,638.66 on the first lady's trip. She departed for the Dublin tour on Air Force Two after accompanying the president on a meeting with Northern Ireland youth.

So "Air Force Two" has to be on hand to get Mrs Obama, Sasha and Malia the one hundred miles from Belfast to Dublin. For the purposes of comparison, flying the entire Royal Family around for a year costs taxpayers £3,101,771 (that's the Queen, princes, dukes, the lot). Three million quid plus change works out to about $5,194,347.37. In other words, for the cost of two days in Dublin with three members of the Obama family you can keep the entire House of Windsor in the air for a year.

Ah, you say, but the Queen is Head of State, not a working Head of Government. Not to be too pedantic about it, but neither Michelle, Sasha or Malia is America's Head of Government. Still, how does one of Her Majesty's Prime Ministers get about when he's in the mood for a well-deserved vacation break?

Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, has won praise for his frugality after travelling economy class on a long-haul flight to France.

Mr Abbott and his family travelled economy on a flight from Sydney to Paris, which normally takes a gruelling 24 hours in total. His office did not apparently publicise his decision, but his presence at the back of the plane emerged after a fellow passenger broadcast the news on social media.

In similar fashion, Australia's foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has insisted on flying business class rather than first class, and last year rejected her department's plans to book her in to a £1,000-a-night hotel suite in New York. She has been branded "the iron lady" after choosing to do her own ironing while travelling.

I had the honor of being introduced by Julie Bishop on stage in Perth a year or two back, and she looked fabulous, and way less crumpled than me. On my forthcoming Aussie tour, I must remember to ask her if she wouldn't mind ironing my shirt while she's at it.

Ah, but, you say, Tony Abbott was only flying coach for his vacation. What about when he's on government buisness? What's the length of the motorcade then? Well, the photograph above was emailed to me by Niels Jensen of Queensland. It shows the Aussie PM arriving to meet with drought-stricken farmers. As you can see, the 45-car motorcade stretches back all the way to the horizon. I don't know whether that rusty pick-up is officially designated Ground Force One, but Wally the driver is doing the work of 900 Secret Service agents.

The decadence and excess that attends the citizen-executive of a supposed republic of of limited government is beyond parody. Forty-five car motorcades are for banana republics, and Americans are the chumps of the planet for putting up with it.

~The fish rots from the head down. In After America, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the Steyn store and help support my pushback against climate mullah Michael Mann, I mention en passant:

In Bell, California, an impoverished dump on the edge of Los Angeles whose citizens have a per capita annual income of $24,800, the city manager was paid $787,637. With benefits, Robert Rizzo's compensation came to $1.5 million per annum. I use the phrase "per annum" loosely, since among the other gratifying aspects of his "job" was 28 weeks off for vacation and sick leave. So in practical terms it worked out to $1.5 million per five-and-a-half months.

Yesterday, Mr Rizzo's assistant city manager was sentenced to 11 years and eight months in jail. Rizzo himself is looking at a similar sentence.

But really, if it's acceptable for the President's wife to blow through eight million bucks on three days in Dublin, why wouldn't a city manager think himself entitled to a million and a half for 24 weeks' work a year?

~The purpose of the entourage and the motorcade is to keep the political class in and you the people out. Today, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the President-in-Waiting of the United States, addressed a health-care conference in San Diego by video link. She was originally supposed to speak live and in person but canceled the visit when she learned the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, would be there as part of a protest.

"What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Well, it's the difference between a 50-man entourage and a 900-man entourage. President Rodham won't have to put up with this kind of lèse-majesté come January 2017.

April 11, 2014 at 4:07 pm  |  Permalink

The Wretched Jelly-Spined Nothing Eunuchs of Brandeis

Hugh Hewitt was away promoting his book The Happiest Life yesterday, so for our weekly radio chat Jamie Weinstein of The Daily Caller did the honors. Jamie and I discussed Jeb Bush and his illegal-immigrant "act of love", the New Hampshire Senate race, the likelihood of me pulling a Jumpin' Jim Jeffords, and Brandeis University's decision to withdraw its honorary degree from Ayaan Hirsi Ali after pressure from Islamic imperialists and their enablers. Jamie began by asking me to explain who Ayaan is:

MARK STEYN: Well, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali woman, a black, feminist Somali who was raised in a brutal, extreme Islamic upbringing where she underwent female genital mutilation, and she was put in an arranged marriage and all the rest of it. And she managed to escape to the Netherlands and get elected to the Dutch Parliament, and she made a film about the state of Muslim women, about the life of women in the Muslim world called Submission. She wrote the film. The guy who directed it is Theo Van Gogh. The film so outraged Muslims in Amsterdam that one of them murdered him, all but decapitated him in the street. His last words were, "Can't we just talk about it?", and the guy didn't want to talk about it. He all but decapitated him, and his final act was to pin a letter and use a knife to stab it through what was left of Theo Van Gogh's chest, pledging among other things to do the same to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Now she could have done what a lot of people would do. She could have moved to New Zealand, gone into hiding... changed her name, had a quiet life. And instead, she has lived with that death threat and many others, and had the courage to speak out against it. Most of us are never called upon to be that brave. Most of us will never have to actually weigh those odds the way Ayaan did. And no one's asking these ghastly squishes at Brandeis to show that kind of courage. All this pathetic president - I want to get his name right, I've got it written down here... Frederick Lawrence. All this wretched nothing eunuch man, Frederick Lawrence, had to do - he didn't have to show courage on that scale - all he had to do was not cave in to pressure group bullies and allow this woman to speak and receive the worthless honorary degree from his worthless institution. These guys won't defend western civilization, and so western civilization will die, because it depends on the defense of losers like this guy.

JAMIE WEINSTEIN: And people when they get honorary degrees, it's not like they only go to non-political people. Universities have awarded them in the recent past to people that want Israel to be wiped off the map and destroyed. Is that not right?

MS: Yeah, that's true. And that was Brandeis, a guy called Tony Kushner... I stand back and occasionally roll my eyes at the dreary left-wing hacks invited to give commencement speeches, garlanded with state honors, things that if you trend to the right side of the spectrum, you know you're going to be labeled 'controversial conservative', and you'll never get anywhere near. But this woman is a black, feminist atheist from Somalia. And so what we're learning here, which is fascinating, in the hierarchy of progressive-politics identity-group victimhood, Islam trumps everything. Islam trumps gender. The fact that she's a woman doesn't matter. It trumps race. The fact that she's black doesn't matter. It trumps secularism. The fact that she's an atheist doesn't matter. They wouldn't do this if it was a Christian group complaining about her, if it was a Jewish group complaining about her. But when the Islamic lobby group says oh, no, we're not putting up with this, as I said, these jelly-spined nothings at Brandeis just roll over for them.

JW: Powerful words from Mark Steyn.

You can read the entire transcript here - and my initial thoughts on the Brandeis rejection of Miss Hirsi Ali here.

~I'll be on air later today with the Massachusetts maestro Michael Graham live at 1pm Eastern.

April 11, 2014 at 9:08 am  |  Permalink

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