"Reluctant public figure" and shrinking Nobel violet Michael Mann writes more newspaper columns than I do these days, but his latest in The Guardian has one delightful moment of self-sabotaging omniscience, in which he does to the early typewriters what he did to the Medieval Warm Period. That's a good example of why he's careful never to expose himself to genuine debate, and why his cross-examination on the witness stand will be such a hoot. Seating limited. Book now.
Meanwhile, just to get the vulgar revenue-generating stuff out of the way, Tom Culhane writes:
Is there a fund that I can contribute to for Steyn's legal defense? I don't need a coffee mug, just freedom of speech.
As I've said, in previous battles I've never asked for money, and always responded simply by asking supporters to buy a book or a subscription to Maclean's or whatever. But the scale of things is different down here: Michael Mann has Big Tobacco lawyer John Williams (before the hockey stick, his previous fictional client was Joe Camel) and at least three other named attorneys working on his case. So, for the moment, we're asking those who "don't need a coffee mug" to consider buying one of our new SteynOnline gift certificates either for a friend or for yourself, to be redeemed down the line in the event that we improve our mug designs. I've been heartened to see they're being bought in places where I was barely aware I had readers, including the remoter Indonesian provinces, a couple of Central Asian stans, and dear old Vanuatu (for fellow old-school imperialists, that was pre-1980 the Anglo-French condominium of the New Hebrides). They never expire, so you can put it to one side and redeem it when my new book comes out later this year.
Speaking of coffee mugs, Paul writes:
Have you considered introducing a range of merchandise specifically dedicated to the Mann trial? That way, purchasers could have something tangible to show they supported you in this affair.
Then I could say to my offspring sometime in the distant future: "Whaddaya mean I'm a beer-guzzling 73-year-old TV addict?" (Hauls cracked, stained, "Team Steyn 2014" coffee mug off the shelf...) "See? I did my bit for freedom."
Seriously though, just win it please. There are a lot of people out here who really hope you know what you're doing.
Or, if not a mug, how about..?
As part of your fundraising efforts for legal costs might I suggest a wall mountable, framed "trophy" for those of us that would like to contribute? I'm thinking a broken framed hockey stick with appropriate plaque on frame: "2014: Helped Mark Steyn Break the Hockey Stick".
Can just be the business end of the stick (a little above the heal, small piece of shaft, mainly the curved portion). You can figure out what it costs to produce them and charge 2X or 3X (figure out your profit margin) and I'm sure they'll sell like hot cakes.
I already have reserved a place on my wall: make my "Molson wishes and Poutine dreams" come true.
These are splendid suggestions which I'll pass along to the Executive Vice-President, Marketing & Promotion - and we will be acting on them imminently. However, in the week ahead, I wonder if readers minded to chip in their two-bits might turn their attention to a more pressing matter. We're entering the discovery phase of the case, in which the parties ask each other to cough up various documents and so forth relevant to the forthcoming trial. If you've any suggestions, feel free to send them along - particularly if you're a statistician or tree-ringer.
I'll come back to Mann vs Steyn in a moment, but by way of a palate cleanser:
Heard you on Hugh Hewitt's show bemoaning the bland fare that makes up the menu of songs the Academy has to choose from in this day and age. As you point out, competition was much stiffer way back when. At the 1979 Oscars show, Sammy Davis Jr. and Steve Lawrence performed a 10-minute medley of great songs that were "Not Even Nominated." With words by Fred Ebb and music by Larry Grossman, it's a delightful romp through three dozen songs that didn't make the Academy's cut but went on to become standards in the Great American Songbook.
The story goes that many in the Academy tried to strip the number from the show. And when you consider that hits such as "Singin' in the Rain," "A Fine Romance," "Pick Yourself Up," and "New York, New York" were misses with the Academy, you can hardly blame them for not wanting to be reminded. But as the song says, "Oscar's only human after all." Definitely worth the watch, you can find a clip of the performance here: here.
Thanks for that. I'd ather spend ten minutes with Steve and Sammy than with tree-rings and ice-cores. Fred Ebb obviously made a lot more money from Cabaret and Chicago, but he loved writing special material and he did it very well (see the "We Can't Do That Anymore" number he wrote for Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly on TV). I like his sly inclusion of his own un-nominated song "New York, New York", and the way the whole thing wraps up with a wacky bit of two-handed advice from "Stayin' Alive" (from Saturday Night Fever) and "Pick Yourself Up" (our own most recent Song of the Week). Puts that lumpy dance routine with the Harry Potter kid from last year's Oscars to shame.
Re my musings on America's Cupcake Commissars, Susan writes from California:
Re state interference with community, my church became involved with some idiocy out here in California. Union Station is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides help to homeless people in Pasadena California. For the last 38 years they have had a Thanksgiving in the park for homeless people and fed them a good Thanksgiving meal. Volunteers cook the food and bring it to the park. In 38 years no one has ever become ill.
Some nitwit at the Pasadena Health Department , two days before Thaksgiving , last year threatened to pull the permit to use the park if they served home cooked food. (Here is a story from the Pasadena Star News.) What I found particularly disturbing was that the stupid official that did that was shocked that ordinary people would cook an extra turkey in their home oven and take it the park for homeless people to share on Thanksgiving and, as many of those families said, it had become a part of their Thanksgiving tradition. A concrete gesture of thanks to our Lord for all the good things they had in their lives.
Not wanting all that food, much of it already prepared to go to waste, my church , Church of Our Saviour San Gabriel, stepped in and offered to accept the donations for our Thanksgiving meal at Our Saviour Center where many people who are poor but perhaps not homeless or people who are just alone on Thanksgiving, come to share a meal. Apparently California laws exempt churches from the food regulatons.
For the moment. Your Pasadena gauleiter is enforcing the core philosophy of Big Government, that everything - including charity, and "small random acts of kindness" (as those preening bumper stickers say) - comes from the state, and can only be legitimized by the state. And, as I say in After America (personally autographed copies of which are available here, he begs pitifully), a land of micro-regulation is not the same as a land of law.
Which brings us right back to court. A Kentucky judge writes:
I totally get that "fawning and groveling before judges" is completely against Mark's nature. I have been a fan for a long time, and have three of Mark's books: America Alone, After America and The Passing Parade. I am on my way to the Gift Certificate site to support the cause. But while we're talking about free speech, I think a hundred bucks ought to entitle me to at least a few lines of speech myself.
I'm the first of my family to finish a post-graduate degree. My Baptist preacher grandfather was educated for his time, with two years of college. My coal-miner/farmer grandfather went to third grade in "blab" school in the mountains of Virginia. My Dad finished his GED and a year of mechanical drawing in tech school after he healed up after Iwo Jima. He mostly owned and operated various small business and designed and built the machines to run them. I tried business and hated it and went to law school. I liked it. I was a part-time assistant prosecutor for six years and did all kinds of small town general practice for a total of twelve years, but never did any criminal defense. In 1992 I became a judge in District Court. In Kentucky that's the court where traffic offenses and misdemeanors are tried, and small claims and juvenile delinquency and child welfare matters are handled. It is the lowest level of the state court system. I was there for twelve years.
I will spare you the anecdotes and hard luck tales, but brother, I've got a million of them. Then in 2004 I was elected to the state Court of Appeals, an intermediate appellate court. I was there two years, got beat in my re-election attempt and then took "senior status" for another four years, serving as a judge without staff support and drawing only my retirement pay. I then retired and about a year later went back to work as a staff attorney for the state Supreme Court doing legal research and writing memos.
I'm not an apologist for either the legal profession in general or the judiciary in particular. I had no exposure to it before I went to law school, and much of what I have learned about it since sickens me. There is a great deal wrong, and a great deal of reform is needed. Reform won't be accomplished by crooks and thieves and self-congratulatory egotistical exploiters, but by good people who believe in the rule of law and are willing to sacrifice and work for it, just as Mark is doing for free speech. That is why I didn't really discourage my son from studying law even though there is so much to criticize. He is, and will be, one of the good ones. And there are some good ones, thank God. There always have been and there always will be a few.
I am a great admirer of Mark Steyn's courage. I do not think I would be able to do what he is doing, but the importance of what he is doing, and what he did in Canada cannot be overstated. That's why I am going to support him as I can. Having spent so much time on the bench I had to at least write to say that not all judges are self-important thin-skinned high-handed dilettantes. I know Mark is far too intelligent not to realize that, and I am probably not the hundredth judge to write since these columns appeared to say so. There is nothing in my background that ever made me feel a sense of entitlement or privilege on the bench, and humility is one of the virtues I prize most highly. I never demanded or expected "fawning and groveling" or any other form of obsequiousness from either litigants or lawyers. I wore a .38 under my robe much of the time because frequently "court security" meant an 80-year-old bailiff, working part-time, snoozing in a chair in front of the bench. I didn't tolerate being cursed or verbally abused in open court, fist-fights, screaming matches or any other disturbance of that kind. I had all these things happen at one time or another but such infractions were punished. There is no other way to keep some kind of order. State court, where I spent my entire judicial life, is a great deal different from federal court. And my court was the lowest level of Kentucky's four-level court system. The bulk of what I had to deal with was petty criminal conduct. The grist for my court was not sharp-dressed lawyers citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, but a packed courtroom of people waiting to explain why they still weren't able to pay their fine for public drunkenness after a six months grace period. State judges like me are elected, not appointed for life. Running for office every four years—trying to get votes from the very people you have before your bench—does wonders for a judge's humility.
No pity due here, I had a good life and career. As I said above, nobody had to "grovel" in front of my bench. All I expected was respect for the proceedings and some minimal level of decorum. That I demanded and enforced. I will say this to Mark. I am sure he already knows it. Others have cautioned him about gratuitously pissing off judges. Most lawyers are extremely careful about that because first, Mark is right, many of them particularly on the federal level are insufferable egotists and prima donnas with unmerited notions of their importance and very thin skins; and second, when you (as a lawyer) are trying to do everything you can to tip the scales in your favor why poke the monkey with a stick when you know he will crap in his hand and throw it on you? I fully understand that Mark must bend his knee to no man, he is a sovereign being upon the land, master of all he surveys, yada yada. If he wants to poke the monkey poke away. Don't say you weren't warned there might be consequences. Nobody is saying it's right, it just is. My own experience of many exhausting hours of dealing with people in court in various stages of sobriety and every imaginable mental and emotional challenge, humble soul though I am, is that even though I am a judge I am only human. There comes a point in a ten-hour day of dealing exclusively with people who are aggressively ignorant and proud of it, and surly and impudent in the bargain, when patience wanes. Judges are only human, even the humble ones.
I absolutely love Mark's writing. He cracks me up. I think he is a genius. The sharp sarcasm of his wit is irresistible. But I say that as a fawning, groveling fan. As a judge I would say something else. The sarcasm and wit plays great with the rubes. But you can leave that crap at the courtroom door. The judge isn't up on that bench for yuks.
And in his courtroom, no judge likes a smart ass.
Yours most respectfully,