The IPCC's latest report landed this week to a very muted response. Outraged by the lack of urgency, Bill McKibben, "the nation's leading environmentalist", decided it was time for climate scientists to go on strike - a move that prompted many readers to write, once they'd stopped laughing. Paul Stieg:
I loved your takedown of McKibben's devoutly-to-be-wished climate scientist strike. I'm likely not the only one, but it put me immediately in mind of the late, great Douglas Adams' satire of unionized philosophers threatening a strike if a computer was allowed to work on the question of the meaning of life:
Philosopher 1: We are quite definitely here as representatives of the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries, and other professional thinking persons....By law the quest for the ultimate truth is quite clearly the unalienable prerogative of your working thinkers....We'll go on strike!
Philosopher 2: That's right. You'll have a national philosophers' strike on your hands.
Computer: Who will that inconvenience?
Philosopher 1: Never you mind who it'll inconvenience... It'll hurt, buster! It'll hurt!
Very true. I would be surprised if McKibben had read Douglas Adams, but I did briefly wonder if he'd seen Blazing Saddles and was channeling Cleavon Little taking himself hostage and threatening to shoot himself. However, Ian Campbell found himself irked by a more prosaic aside from the would-be striker:
Tiring of the claim from Bill McKibben et al:
'They've done their job. (And they've done it for free â€“ working on these endless IPCC reports is a volunteer job).'
These guys are tenured academics on release from, and still being paid by, their institutions. That's not volunteering. It's scrambling to reach the top of the IPCC pile!
Wednesday's SteynPosts - on the Kermit Gosnell movie and the Mozilla CEO - brought an avalanche of mail, much of it too embarrassingly flattering for me to quote. But I'll air a couple of the less fulsome ones:
Today's (4/2/14) column was nothing short of inspiring. There are tragically too few Steyns in our suffocating, politically correct, dying culture.
Here's to Mr. Steyn's undaunted courage. I think I'll go shopping at the Steyn Store.
Well, that last part cheers me up no end. My pushback against serial litigant Michael E Mann is being funded by sales of personally autographed books, my disco CD, Steyn vs the Stick soon-to-be-collector's-item memorabilia, and SteynOnline gift certificates. So, if you've a yen to do as Bruce did and swing by the retail end of SteynOnline, I'd be chuffed. From that same SteynPosts, Timothy liked the sign-off:
'Oh, yes, I can. Screw off.'
It seems I am down to one hero - and you're it. We probably won't win in the long run, but thank you for fighting.
Okay, enough of this "hero" stuff. There's nothing heroic about this. I simply don't wish to live in the world Michael Mann and the Mozilla chairwoman and the rest of the thought-enforcers are building for us. It becomes an ever more openly totalitarian project every day - and that totalitarian character isn't mitigated by the fact that they're doing it to save the planet or the gays or anything else: Across the 20th century, every major-league bad guy thought he had a good cause.
A law student writes with an intriguing aside from the creators of SLAPP:
First of all I want to tell you how much I admire you and enjoy your work. I first learned about you after I heard you fill in for Rush a few years ago, and I've since read as much of your work as possible. I especially enjoy your insights re. the Conrad Black trial specifically and the American justice system generally, including the judges who are given such unqualified deference.It was a professor of sociology (yikes) and a law professor (yikes) at Univ. of Denver who came up with the term SLAPP to create a new category of litigation (Pring and Canan, SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out (1996).). They did this in the late 80's - early 90's, and it seems clear that they thought they were doing the good liberal college professor thing by protecting dissent back when it was cool:
"SLAPPs have become a widespread tactic since 1970. They appear to be a counteraction to the upsurge in public political activity in the 1960's."
The interesting thing for your case that I found was in an old ALI-ABA Course of Study on SLAPPs in 1994. In that course, Pring and Canan gave an overview of SLAPPs, and they addressed who the targets of SLAPPs usually are:
"A minority of targets of SLAPPs were not do gooders, but out for self-gain, revenge, and other questionable motives."
Yes, they're talking about you. Here's the good part:
"It is not uncommon to find one's sympathies lying not with the SLAPP targets but with the filers (teachers suing their critics especially appeals to us!). Does this mean one should sympathize with the SLAPP as well? Our constitutional system says not."
The point is the very creators and promoters of anti-SLAPP legislation were professors who specifically addressed Michael Mann's (a professor) situation. For a moment try to bracket their admission that professors--ostensibly the most intellectually honest people in the room, open to debate, not agreeing with what you say, but defending your right to say it, etc.--are so excited about the prospect of "suing their critics!", and notice that even they admit that the "constitutional system" does not support that type of SLAPP. And yet, your case continues...
Please keep fighting the good fight for all of us. To revise FDR, you may be full-bore crazy but you're our full-bore crazy.
PS: Thank you for signing a book for my Grandfather last year. My birthday is coming up, so I'm asking for anything off of your website.
Last weekend's big story - the third Bush to run for president - prompted this letter from one of Jeb's Florida electors:
I fear that there is too much talk about dynasties and far too little talk about what a terrible president that Jeb Bush would make.
I am a Floridian and I voted for Jeb. He was a very good governor and I'm sure he is a thoroughly decent person. He is also a "compassionate" conservative. Forget the "no more Bushes" meme, No More "compassionate" conservatives! President Bush talked about the soft bigotry of low expectations. I say, "Beware of the soft bigotry of "compassionate" conservatism".
Like their progressive brothers, "compassionate" conservatives are convinced that they know what is good for you and me and they are determined to see that we get it. Good and hard. For our own good. Period.
Jeb's immigration policy is based solely on his personal vision of doing the right thing. He is completely obivious to the consequences of his niceness. Down here in the swampland south of Tampa, illegals aren't our poolboys, gardeners or maids. They are our kidnappers, rapists and murderers. But hey, let's bring more in.
The only thing that nominating Jeb will accomplish is ensuring at least another four years under a Democrat and I'm not even sure that that is a worse case scenario.
As to the dynastic question, my assertion that it is better in Her Majesty's Dominions prompted Nigel Wallbridge to write:
You suggested in 'The Tyranny of Name Recognition', Mar 31, that Americans would be surprised that David Cameron is not the previous Prime Minister's brother or wife. While strictly true this ignores that both Cameron and his wife come from high society backgrounds.
Michael Young predicted that meritocracy, a concept he invented, would decay into a hereditary system and so it has proved in Britain. On the day you published your article it was announced that Stephen Kinnock, the son of Eurocrats, has been parachuted into a remote safe Labour 'rotten borough' for the next election.
He is not the only one. Tony Benn, recently deceased, was revered by the left as 'anti-establishment' although it is hard to understand what this means when he, his father and his son were all cabinet ministers.
Britain has at least the same problem with hereditary power as America.
I talk a bit about Michael Young and meritocracy in After America (personally autographed copies of which are available here, he pleads pitifully):
In such a world, the Conformicrats think of themselves as a meritocracy, a term coined by the sociologist Michael Young in 1958 for a satirical fantasy contemplating the state of Britain in the year 2032. And, as with "brains trust", a droll jest got taken up by humorless lefties for real. By the time Tony Blair started bandying the word ad nauseam, as a description of the bright new talents running the United Kingdom in the 21st century, Lord Young felt obliged to object. Six decades earlier, he had written the party manifesto that swept the Labour Party to power in 1945, and he reminded the Blairite generation of two of the most powerful members of that government: Ernie Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, and Herbert Morrison, Lord President of the Council (and deputy prime minister). Morrison had left school at 14 and become an errand boy, Bevin at 11 to work as a farmhand. Against considerable odds, they rose to become two of the most powerful men in the land. There were no such figures in Tony Blair's "meritocratic" cabinet - nor in Barack Obama's. But there used to be, even in the Oval Office.
Not anymore. Social mobility is decaying in both America and Britain. But I'd still argue the situation in the US is worse. I've no use for either the Kinnocks or the Benns, but, while a cabinet post here and there is within their reach, I've no fear of either family running the country. By contrast, if Jeb's backers have their way, in a land of 300 million, one family will have supplied three presidential candidates in a quarter-century. To put it in British terms, imagine if, after Mrs Thatcher's premiership ended in 1990, Carol Thatcher had become Prime Minister in 2000, and the smart money was on Mark Thatcher for Tory leader in 2015. That's ridiculous and demeaning to the generality of the population, but it is the state of the GOP re the Bushes.
While we're on the subject, a week earlier I'd contrasted Tony Abbott's restoration of knighthoods to the Order of Australia with the prevailing practice in the United States:
I blow hot and cold on this stuff, and at a small private dinner at Buckingham Palace a while back I rather enjoyed being the only mister at a tableful of princes, dukes, earls, viscounts, barons, and knights. But on balance I think I prefer a straightforward upfront knighthood to the American practice of turning temporary office into lifelong title. It creeps me out a little when you've got, say, a Republican primary debate between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich and it's all "Governor Romney", "Senator Santorum" and "Mr Speaker", even though none of 'em has been a governor, senator, speaker or anything else since the turn of the century. Furthermore, titles such as "Governor" and "Senator" are in the gift of the people, who confer them only for a limited time. It's an unseemly act of usurpation to appropriate them as personal prenominals. There's no point forbidding, as the US Constitution does, titles of nobility if you turn a two-year congressional term from the mid-Seventies into a lifelong aristocratic rank.
Richard Anderson of Dearborn, Michigan responds:
As usual, brilliantly said, although I differ slightly with your assessment of "I blow hot and cold on this stuff ..." and "It creeps me out a little when ..." because I refuse to participate in the convention of letting these former public servants retaining their "titles".
The US Constitution is explicit on this point and as far as I'm concerned when people leave public office, they go back to Miss, Ms., Mrs, Mr., or Dr. - if they've earned it - and I refuse to continue the honor of "titles".
Keep up your great work! (Especially that part about how you're a better American than almost all the rest of us.)
A fortnight ago, a discussion of Liam Neeson's Michael Collins biopic erupted in Mark's Mailbox into a dispute about the "pointlessness" of the Irish Civil War. Tom Rasmussen ties history and Hollywood together:
Before emigrating to America, my father fought in the Irish Free State Army, under the command of Michael Collins.
Years later, I took him to see the movie. When it was over, I asked him what he thought of it. He just shrugged and said "I was hoping they would give some explanation of why we fought that stupid war. It was all so pointless."
Mike Lyons writes, and attempts to leverage his gift certificate into a full-blown column:
I completely agree that you have found your mojo. Your site is now the most interesting news/opinion spot on the web and you're so interesting with all your piss and vinegar fully restored. Keep it up.
I bought a modest gift certificate. I'll eventually pick my items, but I'd exchange it for a column on my favorite singer, Mr. Dino Martin (as Harry Mills refers to him in clip #2 that I'm linking). He might have had the best comic timing of any popular singer.
Clip #1 is my top Dean performance, Paper Doll with the Mills Brothers on his show with the great Les Brown and his Band of Renown backing them up. The sheer joy in these performers' faces as they bring home the finish is a rare and wonderful sight. The banter ends 1:32 in if you want to start there.
Clip #2 I just recently discovered but this is great friends doing great entertainment. The same group with a comedic intro to You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You.
Hey, if no column, you can't help but enjoy the clips.
That is a great moment with Dean and the Mills Brothers - as you say, pure joy. The Mills Bros are, for my money, the only fellows who could carry off "Paper Doll". Anybody else singing "And then those flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes will have to flirt with dollies that are real" prompts the reaction: Yeah, right. That'll show 'em. But somehow when the boys are doing those harmonies and riding that rhythm then, just for a moment, the premise makes sense. Wish they were still around.
It was Doris Day day on Thursday at SteynOnline, marking her 90th birthday. David Slauenwhite adds a postscript:
Ever to treasure: any mention of Doris Day on the late Lee Rodgers' KSFO morning program. She was a listener...
Jed Babbin was a periodic guest. In one interview he once lamented America's practuce of a "Doris Day foreign policy."
Lee immediately corrected him as to her actual position on such issues. J
ed said, "Well, she's just too much of a G-damned goody two-shoes for me."
Post-interview, Lee's comment to Officer Vic (Tom Benner) was that Doris "would kick Jed's a$$ up between his shoulders." Downloaded MP3 available on request if you need a good laugh.
I was very sad to hear of Lee Rodgers' death just over a month ago. He was a marvelous morning man, and I always enjoyed being on his show. He had a very droll, confident wit. Doris, as David slyly hints, leans somewhat right. I would have loved it had she been America's first female president, although her penchant for spaying would leave me a little nervous. On the subject of both Miss Day and presidents, a reader in Moscow comments:
Dear Freedom Fighters at Mark Steyn HQ,
In addition to wishing Mark the best of luck in his battle to uphold the First Amendment, and to thank him for highlighting the "not optimal" performance of the justice system, I'd just like to add two bits of trivia to Mark Steyn's sublime essays on Obama's trip to Europe and Que Sera Sera.
Regarding the head of a government which is currently 17.5trn in debt needing a "900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three cargo planes," I have it on very good authority here in Moscow that Vladimir Putin, the president of a country which is half-a-trillion dollars in the black, somehow manages to get around town with a maximum of six vehicles.
As for 'Que Sera Sera', it was with more than a hint of admiration that some Chelsea fans, having sampled the delights of an away match at Leeds, said they had been serenaded with the following version of Doris Day's classic:
When I was just a little boy,
I asked my mother, "What will I be?
Will I be Chelsea? Will I be Leeds?
Here's what she said to me:
"Wash your mouth out, son!
And go get your father's gun,
And shoot all the Chelsea scum,"
Said my Ma, my Ma.
There are many similarly imaginative versions of classic songs floating around English football stadia, but very few of them are printable.
Thank you all for all you're doing,
Richard de Lacy
Meanwhile, Cory Franklin wants to do to me what Leeds wanted to do to those Chelsea scum:
That sound you hear is my palm smacking my forehead.
Look, Que Sera, Sera is a great song. My mother used to sing it to me. You may like it better than any other. But it was not Doris Day's biggest seller, not even close. Come on Mark, she sang one of the iconic songs of the 1940's with Les Brown, by far her biggest hit (and in my opinion her best) Sentimental Journey.
A little symmetry - in Sunset Boulevard, Jay Livingstone and Ray Evans do a cameo, doing a parody of Buttons and Bows.
Jay's brother was Alan Livingston, the honcho at Capitol repsonsible for Bozo the Clown, the iconic building in LA and responsible for getting The Beatles on the label. One afternoon he brought home a recording of I Wanna Hold Your Hand and played it for his wife at the time who said it would never go anywhere. He didn't listen.
His wife was Nancy Olson (also Alan Jay Lerner's wife). She played William Holden's (and Jack Webb's) girlfriend and Gloria Swanson's foil in Sunset Boulevard.
Well, now it's my turn to pick on you. Everyone knows Alan Livingston's finest hour was when he wrote "I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat" (with Billy May) for Tweety and Sylvester. Bonus trivia: For some reason, this was the sheet music Tony Blair had on his piano during the Iraq War.
One final note on "Que Sera":
I'm sure you'll find Mary Hopkin's version of the tune entertaining. It was produced by Paul McCartney, who is also playing every instrument. Notice that he adds a bridge (which you may or may not find appealing) and that unexpected minor chord on the phrase, "What Will Be Will Be." For me, it's the three-part block harmony in the final verse that leaves a lasting impression.
~Drop Steyn a line on his lawsuits or anything else at Mark's Mailbox.