We've had a flurry of developments on the upcoming Mann vs Steyn trial of the century in recent days, and a lot of letters to sort through, so I'll save those for a midweek Mailbox Extra, which we haven't done in a while. If, in the meantime, you're minded to chip in to our legal offense fund via the SteynOnline bookstore, feel free to start shopping.
The other controversy to arouse reader ire this week came via what I'd assumed was a bit of unobjectionable shamrock-hued blarney to mark St Patrick's Day. First, my review of the Liam Neeson film Michael Collins. Mark from Florida takes issue with an aside:
Regarding "...whereas secession, under US law, is illegal," are you referring to a supreme court decision? The 10th amendment states:
'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'
The constitution, along with ratified treaties, is the law of the land. All other law in America is subordinate to it - that includes supreme court decisions. Do a full-text search of the constitution for the term "secession" or "secede" and you will get no results. That's because the constitution does not mention the concept. The constitution never delegates to the federal government the power to stop secession and it never prohibits any state from seceding.
Therefore, by the 10th amendment, it is not only perfectly legal for a state to secede, but it is illegal for the federal government to interfere in secession as it lies outside of federal authority.
Please get this squared away.
Mark from Florida
Well, actually, I was referring to a Supreme Court decision - Texas vs White et al (1869). Chief Justice Salmon P Chase wrote:
The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form, and character, and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these the Union was solemnly declared to "be perpetual." And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained "to form a more perfect Union." It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not..?
When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration, or revocation, except through revolution, or through consent of the States.
In other words, what Irish nationalists sought in 1922 and Scottish nationalists are seeking in the current referendum campaign is not possible in Florida and New Hampshire.
Yes, your Tenth Amendment reads just grand, but, if it meant anything, we wouldn't have federal courts striking down state marriage laws and imposing Obamacare, would we? Likewise, the First Amendment sounds peachy, but I'm currently being forced to waste half-a-decade of my life and a seven-figure sum for the privilege of some court telling me years down the line that, yes, it still applies. As I wrote in After America (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from our bookstore and whose profits are currently being thrown down the bottomless latrine of said half-decade legal process), a constitution in which sovereign states licensed very limited power to a central authority has had its plain language tortured across time to mean precisely the opposite:
America is unique in this regard. In Europe, if the establishment wants to invent a new "right" – ie, yet another intrusion by government – it goes ahead and does so. If it happens to conflict with this year's constitution, they rewrite it. But the United States is the only western nation in which the rulers invoke the Constitution for the purpose of overriding it.
It's not so hard to imagine this or that state attempting to do what the Scottish Government is currently doing. One day the "national government" will determine that it is necessary to bail out the too-big-to-fail states like California and the other basket-cases, and those of us in the less profligate corners of the republic will be faced with the choice of united-we-sink vs divided-we-might-stand-a-sporting chance. How likely is it that either the national government or the federal courts would respect that decision the way Westminster will respect Scotland's?
So, yes, the Tenth Amendment reads great. Good luck with it when Florida votes for the express checkout.
From secession from the United States to secession from the United Kingdom. Still on the subject of my Michael Collins review, Mike writes:
If the Irish drive for independence was "pointless", why wasn't the US drive for independence?
The Irish and the colonists were treated as second-class citizens. If they remained part of the crown like Canada and Australia, this would have continued. I wonder how you can say it is just semantics. Seems that maybe you harbor some anti-Ireland in you, in proper accordance with your worship of the Crown.
You know words mean things. And if we chalk up everything to semantics, and therefore meaningless, then we could include the free speech you're going to trial for?
I am not condoning Irish terrorism, but the idea that they should have just shut up and endured the suck is naive at best.
And, in a larger sense, since the Brits still feel a sense of superiority over Americans, Australians, South Africans, Scots, and Irish,etc., your point seems to be that freedom doesn't really matter at all. Just the Crown.
I'm afraid it's necessary to know just a little something about an issue before you swagger in so confidently. I was writing about the Irish treaty talks in London in late 1921, and, if you'd shown up, sat down and said, "Okay, we're not going to endure the suck anymore", Lloyd George and Lord Birkenhead would have said: "So stipulated. Next item."
You ask: "If the Irish drive for independence was 'pointless', why wasn't the US drive for independence?"
First of all, I didn't say the "Irish drive for independence" was pointless. I said the post-independence Irish Civil War was pointless. They're two different things - as, indeed, are the US and Irish "drives for independence".
The American colonists won a military victory against the metropolitan power, threw them out of their territory, and started a new country from scratch. The Irish nationalists did not do that. Instead, they sent a delegation to London to participate in a conference, (in the mutually agreed language of the final pre-talks cables between Lloyd George and de Valera) "with a view to ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish National aspirations".
Not everything has to be the same. You and I can both go bald. I'll get a wig; you might try a hair-weave. Likewise, unlike the Americans in their "drive for independence", the Irish chose to work within the British constitutional order. Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins & Co returned from London with a deal for an Irish Free State with all the (continuously expanding) powers of Canada. It had certain contentious elements - a viceroy, an oath of allegiance, five "treaty ports" for use by the Royal Navy. As Collins distilled it, very astutely, it was not absolute freedom, but instead "the freedom to achieve freedom".
At the time, however, Dev, characteristically slippery and disingenuous (the treaty debates in the Dail are well worth reading), decided to opt for civil war. That's what I characterized by its "sheer bloody pointlessness", and I was right. The Irish Civil War, by some estimates, killed more people than the Irish independence struggle. It was fought, as its name suggests, not between Irish and English, but between two groups of Irishmen, and not, as some careless observers might assume, between Southern Catholic nationalists and Northern Protestant unionists, but between two groups of Southern Catholic Irishmen. The ensuing chaos left Sir James Craig and the Unionists free to consolidate Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom (although, as the "sheer bloody pointlessness" of the Civil War became too obvious to hide, southern Unionists wound up getting their country houses burned down for want of anything more useful to do). The Civil War disfigured Irish politics for two generations: Young men fight wars; old men confine their disagreements to politics. So the soldiers of the 1920s became the Irish political class of the ensuing half-century. The two main Irish political parties of the next nine decades were the direct descendants of the opposing sides of the Civil War.
In the end, the pro-treaty forces won. And Collins' analysis proved correct, although he never lived to see it: All the objectionable elements - the oath, the viceroy, the ports - faded away in nothing flat. Years after Collins' murder, de Valera conceded that his adversary had been right in his assessment. A pity he didn't feel that way at the time.
As for your assertion that I am "anti-Ireland": I don't often write about family matters, but I said at the beginning of that column that my great-uncle had been the lawyer for Arthur Griffith, leader of the Irish delegation at those London talks and President of the Dail in the months after the treaty. My great-uncle defended IRA prisoners at British courts martial after the Easter Rising; he was an advisor to Michael Collins in the Irish Ministry of Finance; and upon his death was given a full military funeral by the IRA's Dublin Brigade. So I don't need lessons in Irish nationalism from you.
The relationship between the English and Irish is more complex than "enduring the suck" suggests. Two years ago, my little girl and I were driving from the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland to Dublin, where I had a business appointment. I told my daughter we were approaching the border and she sat up eagerly, expecting to have to answer questions and show documentation as she does when we drive from Montreal back to New Hampshire. Instead, still powering along at 70mph, I said, "Well, here we are." At a certain point on the road, the blue motorway signs change to green and the speed limits switch from miles to kilometers and the road numbering uses that stupid EU Continent-wide Euro-numbering for the convenience of anyone who happens to be driving from Killarney to Kiev. But there's no border post, no nothing, not even a "Bienvenue" sign to tell you you're now in another country. Great Britain and Ireland remains a common travel area with reciprocal voting rights. The Earl of Gowrie, an Irish citizen, sat in Mrs Thatcher's cabinet for most of the Nineties. It's silly to assume that US independence is the only model available.
My essay on "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" wasn't quite so contentious, but it did raise the question of whether "No Irish Need Apply" signs ever existed in America - or whether, like the fake hate crimes which so enliven the republic today, the hysteria over the phenomenon didn't require any actual manifestation of it. Jay writes:
Apparently the umbrage at "No Irish Need Apply" made it as far west as Minnesota in 1877...
Do click through, and check the far-right column of the front page. A great slab of attitudinal mawkish doggerel about how we're not going to put up with this "No Irish Need Apply" stuff ...but, yet again, no actual evidence of any such ads or signs.
From Dublin's fair city herself:
In your latest St Patrick's Day tribute, you quote Janice Kennedy as saying:
'Imagine a world of books and theatre without the words of Swift, Sheridan, Oscar Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett - oh, and Sean O'Casey, Brendan Behan, Flann O'Brien, Roddy Doyle, Frank McCourt, William Trevor, Joseph O'Connor, Patrick McCabe, Seamus Heaney. And so on. You won't find an "Irish Eyes Are Smiling" among them. Nor a drop of sap or trace of the faux-Irish sentimentality foreigners mistakenly think is part of the national character. You will find, however, plenty of heartstopping lyricism, plenty of devastating criticism, plenty of sharp and excoriating wit.'
Just for the record, shortly after the rescue of those trapped Chilean miners in 2010, Joseph O'Connor (brother of Sinead) mused, in verse, upon what might have happened had they been Irish miners. Plenty of "faux-Irish" stuff to enjoy, as well as "sharp and excoriating wit".
Keep up the good work,
On the BBC's "Loose Ends" many years ago, I once sat next to Joseph O'Connor. We went to the pub afterwards - the ghastly Beeb haunt The George - and I found him rather convivial company. His sister is perhaps not so reliably convivial, but she made one of my favorite albums of standards by rockers, including a terrific arrangement of "Secret Love".
Still on the subject of Oirish songs:
Granted that it was taken from a book, but I'm disappointed that in discussing Irish (and Irish-American) culture and the fact that so many "Irish" songs were written by non-Irish professional songwriters you failed to make any mention of George M. Cohan, who certainly was of Irish descent and wrote quite a large number of very fine songs. They may not have included any "Irish" songs, but they were songs written by an Irish-American.
I've nothing against George M Cohan, whose work has been the subject of two of our earliest Songs of the Week, Number 12 ("You're A Grand Old Flag") and Number 71 ("Harrigan"). But we were discussing the vexed questions of songs about Ireland by Irishmen in Ireland, not any old song by those of us who happen to be of Irish descent. If we were to open it up that much, then without doubt this is the greatest Irish song ever written.
Turning to non-musical matters, I wondered, in the wake of events in Ukraine, why any foreign government would ever again trust America. Rob responds:
Your latest post contains an incorrect assertion, gaining currency in the conservative press, that the US has broken its guarantee of Ukrainian sovereignty. It hasn't, for the simple reason it never gave any security guarantees in the first place. True, the promises sounded fine at the time, but they weren't security guarantees. In treaties the fine print matters, which is one reason they are so closely negotiated. The US has never really treated Ukraine as a sovereign state to be defended with US blood and treasure, because that would be plain silly. This was never the Uncle Sam's fight. Blame Obama for lots of foolishness, but not for staying out of Ukraine. Here is a post I put up on a colleague's blog a couple of weeks ago explaining it.
But you're making my point for me: "The promises sounded fine at the time", but they're meaningless. No, they're not. When serious powers sign unserious agreements, the meaning they're communicating to their adversaries around the world is that they're unserious. As Putin has judged. So how seriously do you think, say, the Iranians will take their agreement with the US?
But don't worry, John Kerry's butching up:
Kerry, yesterday, warned Putin against further incursions into Ukraine:
"This is very questionable activity and I think we have to be very wary of it, but I am not going to go into all the specifics except to say that that would be just an enormous challenge to the global community and it would require a response that is commensurate with the level of that challenge,' Kerry added.
What are the 'challenges' Kerry's referring to here? The grammatical challenges of figuring out pronoun antecedents? Could it be that? Or, is he referring to the challenges of talking to Putin in increasingly amorphous Model UN terms? Putin has about ten Russian translators trying to decipher the above message, which roughly turns out to be:
'We're running out of gibberish, but we're pretending not to.'
A couple of days later, I noted that US foreign policy is now, literally, totally gay:
You write 'No gunboat diplomacy, just gayboat diplomacy.'
From gunboat to gay float, maybe?
Richard K Ball
Maybe we can just send a giant Pride Parade marching into Iran.
Finally, a reminder that the institutions that most noisily claim to "celebrate diversity" are the ones most determined to enforce conformity:
Hello, Mr Steyn:
Since you recently autographed a copy of your book Lights Out for my daughter Joan for her 21st birthday, I thought you might be interested in what happened to her and her sister just a few days after her birthday.
She had no classes on Tuesday, so she took her younger sister and some friends to UC Santa Barbara to do some pro-life outreach. They had a couple of large signs and several hundred pro-life informational brochures. On one side of the signs is the photo of a victim of abortion, to catch the attention of passing students, while the other side has smaller more detailed information about fetal development, abortion, abortion alternatives, etc. They set up in an open area of the campus outside the library.
After they were there about an hour, a woman came out of one of the buildings and began haranguing them, particularly about the graphic nature of the photos and how offensive they were, but also more generally about babies in Africa, the failures of the foster care system, and a lot of other issues which she apparently believed had some bearing on legal abortion. Her MO was to lecture them, and then when they tried to respond, she would turn to the group of students which had gathered in response to the spectacle and make disparaging comments about the pro-lifers and how ignorant they were. She then tired of this game and got the students to start chanting "Tear down the signs" as they stood in a circle around the pro-lifers.
My daughters had given up trying to communicate with her and instead focused on talking to individual students in the area, at which point they learned that the woman was a professor. Apparently piqued at being ignored, the professor then walked up and yanked one of the signs out of the hands of the young woman who was holding it and started walking off with it, accompanied by a couple of her students. My daughters then grabbed a camera and a phone and followed them, videoing and calling the police as they went. They followed her all the way into a faculty building, where the professor and her students got on an elevator.
One of my daughters put her hand in the elevator to stop the door from closing, and the professor then started shoving her to get her away from the elevator, leaving scratch marks on her arm in the process. She pushed her back and told the students to leave with the sign. Meanwhile, my daughter was telling the students, "The police are on the way," trying to get them to see that this was crazy and they should stop listening to this whacked-out professor. But the students left with the sign, and the professor then took another elevator up.
The police finally arrived and interviewed everyone. I am happy to say that they appear to be taking this very seriously. I don't know what the professor told them, but the police told us that the sign was destroyed (adding vandalism to the crimes of robbery and battery). We should be able to get the police report next week. I can't wait to read it. But here's the best part. Take a look at the professor's bio on the UCSB website. For this she was paid $125K by the California taxpayers in 2012.
That professor's name deserves to be better known, Mireille Miller-Young. At the University of California, she teaches such academic disciplines as Feminist and Queer Theory, Black Film, and Sex Work, and her dissertation is entitled "A Taste for Brown Sugar: The History of Black Women in American Pornography". It truly is remarkable that hardworking families saddle themselves with six-figure debt in order to be taught by the likes of Professor Miller-Young. It is, alas, entirely unremarkable that today's American academy has such open contempt for free speech and dissenting opinion that its "professors" are happy to behave like thugs.
~Drop Steyn a line on his lawsuits or anything else at Mark's Mailbox.