Thanks as always to everyone who's helped support my pushback against climate mullah Michael E Mann in the last week. My fingers are bleeding stumps from all the books I've been signing, but that's the way I like it. In last week's Mailbox, I promised that in the upcoming trial "Dr Mann will get more sunlight than he's ever had in his life". Keith Levet liked the idea:
Is there any way you can perhaps market this as some kind of anti-rickets program for deranged climate 'scientists'? You might be able to get charitable status and get some big Hollywood celebs to flick some cash in....
Yes, indeed. Climate rickets is America's silent killer. We need to twist Michael Mann's hockey stick into an awareness-raising ribbon. As readers well know, Dr Mann is suing me for calling his stick "fraudulent". I don't know why he's singled me out, since there's no end of folks who've called it a fraud. Pat Aliazzi writes from Cleveland:
At the risk of giving Dr. Mann yet another litigation target, I thought you might like this extract from Rodney Stark's recent book How the West Won. It comes from the chapter called "Climate, Plague, and Social Change":
Of course, a recent scandal concerned the falsification of these data on behalf of the man-made global warming thesis, a fraud that involved minimizing the warmth of the Medieval Warm Period and maximizing the temperatures of the Little Ice Age to create the so-called hockey stick graph of temperatures for the past millennium. Now that this fraud has been detected, there can be no doubt that such warm and cold periods occurred and that they greatly influenced human events.
In any right-thinking society your stalwart defense of the First Amendment should long since have won you the Pulitzer Prize and the Medal of Freedom. Keep fighting.
I'm well past the prizewinning stage of my career. My old comrade in the "human rights" battles against Maclean's, Julian Porter, QC, was in the witness box for Ezra Levant's trial a few weeks back. His examination began with a few biographical questions on how long he'd been practicing law. "Oh, fifty years," he said. He was then asked if in the course of his long and distinguished career he'd received any awards or other professional recognition. "No," he drawled laconically. And then after a perfectly timed comedic pause: "I'm still waiting." Julian would seem to me a shoo-in for the Order of Canada, the Queen's Jubilee Medal and all the rest. But, as for myself, I'm not waiting. Re Rodney Stark's damning summation of the hockey stick: no doubt the usual crowd will object that he's not a credentialed climatologist. On the other hand, he is a professor of the sociology of religion, which seems more relevant to Big Climate alarmism.
There were many other free-speech issues in the news this past week, from Oz to England. My main concern in the Donald Sterling case was not what some sleazy billionaire racist says to a kept woman who goes around with other guys, but the shrinking of the private sphere embodied in an extraordinary punishment for some extemporaneous rant in his own home. Civilization is impossible without privacy. Not all readers agreed:
You are way out to lunch on this one. Sterling's comments has no place either in public or in private on this matter. This person has made millions as a below the belt landlord and he has no place in owning an NBA team.
You are in the same mentality as Ezra Levant. Not interested in your opinions on this matter.
On Monday, I mentioned a new poll finding that 55 per cent of likely US voters believe "the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates' campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decides are making false statements about other candidates". D C Alan writes from America's capital:
The Rasmussen poll that you cited revealed not only a troubling complacency among the citizenry about these losses of our basic freedoms, but also another shortcoming that is corrosive to the free society, the widespread lack of mature and informed critical-thinking skills.
For example: Just who, exactly, is "the government"? What, exactly, constitutes a "review"? How, exactly, do we define "accuracy" or "inaccuracy"?
As soon as the question was asked, every alarm bell should have gone off, regardless of ideological persuasion - just as a simple issue of logical terminology. Of course, the blame for this can be laid at the same doorstep: The educational system that has sledgehammered the population with left-wing horse-hockey since age 4 also failed, concurrently (and deliberately), to teach these critical-thinking skills, as they might be applied to the civic realm.
As a corrective, in After America you brilliantly asserted:
To counter the Bureau of Compliance, we need an Alliance of Non-Compliance to help once free people roll back the regulatory state.
The downside to this recommendation, as a practical personal issue, is that while the feds can not subjugate 300 million people, they can terrify the masses into submission by making an example of just a few - and with the Bureaucracy's diktats enforced increasingly by exponentially trigger-happy SWAT-teams, "making an example" is less likely to consist of "process-is-the-punishment" tortures. "Non-compliance" could turn into a lethal pastime, and while one can choose to assume such risks for himself or herself - the line starts right here - one can not in good conscience ask or demand that others bear these burdens. It will take an enormous "re-awakening of spirit" to motivate what remains of the freedom-loving among us.
Will your legal fights - first against Section 13, now against the "climate mullahs" - help to ignite that re-awakening? In response to Conrad Black's contention that "If the Supreme Court did not believe in 1988 that Larry Flint's parody interview of Jerry Falwell, in which the late evangelist confessed to losing his virginity to his own mother in an outhouse, constituted libel, it is hard to imagine that Mann thinks he can do anything more than intimidate Steyn and Simberg with court filings and legal fees," Kathy Shaidle wrote that "The Supreme Court of today is not the same Supreme Court that ruled on Hustler, for one thing...."; which means one thing: The Supreme Court of today likely would find that such slanders against a politically incorrect evangelical minister do in fact constitute protected speech under the First Amendment, but that Mark Steyn's wholly accurate post about a politically favored climate-science celebrity does not.
If ideologically popular speech, exclusively, becomes the law of the land per the Supremes, we will have an opportunity to see who, and how many, are brave enough to join the Steyn Alliance and pre-empt the "very dark place" where you ominously predict that we are headed.
One more thing: How many people have noticed that Britain, the nation that gave to us 1984 as a cautionary tale, now actually does have Thoughtcrimes?
Indeed. But Graham Watson of Calgary thinks that Thoughtcrimes have quite a wide appeal:
I see a direct link between many citizens indifference to free speech and their ready acceptance of the nanny state.
If you want to be cossetted from cradle to grave by "the system" you don't want it challenged by irritants like Steyn, Levant,etc. Nor do you want your somnolence disturbed by free speech causing you to think!
There's some truth to that. Many people don't want to have to think about race or Islam or homosexuality or climate science, any more than they do about economics or foreign policy. It's all rather complicated and boring. When a society has default positions, it relieves you of the obligation to devote any time to the matter - time one could be spending on more important questions like whether one of the Kardashians is pregnant. The problem is that some of those default positions keep changing. Jed Skillman of Winfield, Illinois:
Terrific column, "The Dishonored Dead". As a companion piece you might read Orwell's piece "Literature and Totalitarianism". His main point: "In medieval Europe the Church dictated what you should believe, but at least it allowed you to retain the same beliefs from birth to death. It did not tell you to believe one thing on Monday and another on Tuesday."
Mr Skillman was writing in reference to my Benghazi column, but it applies more broadly in the Obama era: Six years ago, the left regarded Gitmo as a war crime; now, not so much. The Patriot Act provoked weird obsessions that Bush was tracking what books you borrowed at the library (a quaintly sepia-hued strain of paranoia), but the NSA tracking every single American's every email, every phone call, every credit card transaction is accepted with nary a peep.
But Orwell's point ties in with Mr Watson's above on some of the big questions. A principled position is a pain in the neck. It's easier just to shift with prevailing fashions: once upon a time, traditional Christian teaching commanded public deference, and homosexuality didn't; now it's vice-versa. People who believed one thing on Monday are happy to believe another on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it'll be Islam: gay bars are already vacating certain neighborhoods in European cities, and Germaine Greer is full of cultural respect for guys who chop off their daughters' clitoris.
Free speech is more than just a restraint on government: that's the First Amendment, and that's fine, but it's not the full measure of healthy discourse in society. As I wrote in my recent Speccie column:
As it happens, the biggest 'safe space' on the planet is the Muslim world. For a millennium, Islamic scholars have insisted, as firmly as a climate scientist or an American sophomore, that there's nothing to debate. And what happened? As the United Nations Human Development Programme's famous 2002 report blandly noted, more books are translated in Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years. Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can't bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.
Simon Finch is already feeling the chill. Indeed, he's pre-emptively self-chilling:
Assuming that the NBA constitution provides for a $2.5M fee and forced divestiture, I don't particularly have a problem with Commissioner Silver's reaction to the Donald Sterling situation. Mr. Sterling agreed to be contractually bound by those rules, and so he shall be. It is incumbent upon Commissioner Silver to protect the interests of the owners, and it is his prerogative to take the economic temperature of the room and conclude that the maximum response is warranted.
What disturbs me, however, is that I'm unwilling to share your column with some of my acquaintances (I realize that it was also printed in The National Post). While you make some very interesting observations, certain of them fall outside the bounds of polite discussion. Until I am safely retired and immune from fiscal backlash, I'm afraid that I cannot take the risk of being labeled a racist.
Witness my first direct exposure to the "chill effect".
A "conservative aviator" writes in with a song to chill to:
I'm a classic rock guy, so I have Steppenwolf on my iTunes. The other day, up popped The Ostrich from their debut album. (The title refers to the populace having its head in the sand). In light of current events, the third verse caught my attention:
You're free to speak your mind my friend
As long as you agree with me
Don't criticize the fatherland
Or those who shape your destiny
'Cause if you do
You'll lose your job your mind and all the friends you knew
We'll send out all our boys in blue
They'll find a way to silence you...
Of course back then, the "progressives" considered the Man to be what they considered right wing. Today, as we know the Man is "progressive" elite government...
Speaking of the boys in blue, the Hampshire constabulary sent half-a-dozen of them to arrest Paul Weston for the crime of quoting Winston Churchill:
Wait a minute -- Britain's arresting people who quote Churchill saying something critical of Islam? Didn't they also provide sanctuary for a while to Salman Rushdie who is under a fatwah for insulting the prohpet? Actually knighted by HM in 2007 for his "services to literature".
Maybe Paul Weston should try reading from Satanic Verses next time, after praising the Queen for knighting him and leading the assembled throng (including members of the Constabulary) in "God Save the Queen". Is anyone else confused by this?
Alan S Watt
Well, I'd be interested to see it. I should point out that Salman Rushdie wasn't given "sanctuary" by Britain. He's a British subject and the Government took the view in 1989 that, regardless of what the Ayatollah might feel, Rushdie was entitled to the same rights as any other British subject, including free speech. But that was a long, long quarter-century ago. As I wrote last year:
It's creepy and unnerving how swiftly the West's chattering classes have accepted that the peculiar sensitivities of Islam require a deference extended to no other identity group. I doubt The Satanic Verses would be accepted for publication today, but, if it were, I'm certain no major author would come out swinging on Salman Rushdie's behalf the way his fellow novelist Fay Weldon did: The Koran, she declared, "is food for no-thought. . . . It gives weapons and strength to the thought-police." That was a remarkably prescient observation in the London of 1989...
A quarter-century on, Fay Weldon's "thought police" are everywhere. Notice the general line on [Richard] Dawkins: Please be quiet. Turn him off. You can't say that. What was once the London Left's principal objection to the ayatollah's Rushdie fatwa is now its reflexive response to even the mildest poke at Islam. Their reasoning seems to be that, if you can just insulate this one corner of the multicultural scene from criticism, elsewhere rude, raucous life — with free speech and all the other ancient liberties — will go on. Miss Weldon's craven successors seem intent on making her point: In London, Islam is food for no thought.
Still, the boys in blue are certainly attentive. Hubert Wagner writes from France:
The police took about three minutes to respond to the complaint about Paul Weston.
On the other hand they took 20 minutes to respond to the Lee Rigby incident.
On the matter of America's crack enforcers, the conclusion of this column prompted a note from my fellow Mark in Florida:
On the story about the Border Patrol stop and harassment of Ms. Christiansen: Stories like this should publish the names of the government flunkies involved.
Government thugs should have to own their reputations in front of their extended families, religious congregations (if any), and any non-work friends and acquaintances. These are not private citizens - they are public officials, and as such, their behavior on duty should be known to the public.
Agreed. And my advice to anyone in an unsatisfactory encounter with an agent of state power is to make sure you get the name. The fact that so often they decline to give it to you is usually a sign that they themselves are aware at some level that they're doing something wrong.
Writing about Brunei's adoption of full-blown Sharia, I noted that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London remains the sultanate's final court of appeal, and I wondered what their Lordships would make of all this Islamic jurisprudence (aside from regarding it as a useful head's up on what'll be coming their way from Birmingham and Bradford in a year or three). At any rate, E J Mroz writes:
I think Brunei is totally independent, with no reference to London.
Well, many "totally independent" members of the Commonwealth (especially in the Caribbean) still have the right of appeal to the Privy Council. But in this case you're half-right and I'm half-wrong, or vice-versa. I had forgotten the Brunei Appeals (Amendment) Order of 1998, under which civil cases can be appealed to London, but criminal cases cannot.
I was thrilled to see Steve McIntyre's name come up in our inbox, and hoped it might be yet another devastating evisceration of Mann's false claims to have been exonerated by multiple transatlantic bodies. But, in fact, Steve was writing in with a footnote to my review of The Hurricane:
A trivia question for your friend Conrad Black, an alumnus of Upper Canada College in Toronto. What Upper Canada graduate has been portrayed in an A-list Hollywood movie?
Answer: Terry, one of the three Canadians left with names in The Hurricane, was Terry Swinton, a UCC graduate (Class of 1965) who attended U of Toronto at the same time as me. He played on the U of T squash team with me. He was in Michael Ignatieff's class at UCC. I think that Judge Katherine Swinton in Ontario is his sister.
I knew another member of the cult as well: Gus Sinclair was at Trinity College at U of T, a year ahead of me (and Ignatieff). Bob Rae was also a contemporary. Sinclair flourished at university - was head of year. He was in my fraternity. He played rugby, I think. Neither of them seemed destined for a cult.
Typical. Even in a Canadian hippie commune, it's all about whether you went to the right school. Incidentally, I caught up with Steve in Toronto recently, and I thought it'd be wall-to-wall tree-rings but he was all into the movie trivia that day, too, with a fascinating diversion into The Thomas Crown Affair, and its possible relevance to the Mann case.
Having been critical of Mann's use of the word "exonerated", I was a bit hasty with it myself in my review of The Hurricane, describing the 1988 court decision that freed Rubin Carter:
I think the term "exoneration" does not accurately reflect the final disposition of Carter's case. He successfully petitioned for a retrial from his original conviction. He was subsequently found guilty a second time and re-sentenced to two life terms. He continued appealing his case and found a willing judge in Federal Judge H. Lee Sarokin, a Carter and later Clinton appointee with a reputation for odd decision making.
Sarokin set aside his conviction. The prosecutor decided that a re-trial after 22 years was a waste of resources.
I've never thought of him as exonerated.
Boca Raton, Florida
Does Dylan think of Carter as "exonerated"? Bob Allison wonders:
Did you know that Bob Dylan has not performed "Hurricane" since January 25, 1976? He first played it in October 1975, and between then and January played it 33 times, generally toward the end of the set.
Just for comparison, he first played "All Along the Watchtower" in concert in January 1974, and as of Tuesday night had performed it live 2,205 times.
"Hurricane" is a great song, but why doesn't he play it? One of his few songs co-written (with Jacques Levy); perhaps he came to suspect that Rubin Carter was not "Buddha in a 10-foot cell"; or perhaps the Canadian communards confiscated Dylan's smokes. It is something of a mystery.
What about the boxing? Rubin Carter couldda binna contenduh. Or could he?
Most directors and screenwriters are political southpaws, and thereby enjoy a licence-to-lie. Must be a lot of fun. With "Hurricane", however, many of the people who attended the World Middleweight Championship Fight between Joey Giardello and Rubin Carter are still alive today.
Apparently Normie and his scribblers portrayed the fight's decision as a racist, maybe mob-influenced ( I didn't see the movie) travesty. Strange that there were no complaints after the decision was rendered, neither from the crowd ...nor from Carter's camp. Even Carter acknowledged to Joey G that he had indeed won that fight. The three judges' scorecards were unanimous, almost identical, reflecting a competitive but decisive fight, 72-66, 71-66, 70-67.
Jewison and his pals emerged the real losers in that fiasco. But as bobbing and weaving, sniper-fire dodging Hillary would say, "at this point, what difference does it make?"
Also from this week's movie mailbox, I was cheered by how many people shared my opinion of Bob Hoskins' marvelous performance in The Long Good Friday:
Re the ending of The Long Good Friday, a movie which compares in every way to The Godfather: The scene before that where Hoskins berates the American Mafia men who turn a partnership is just as good as the final scene.
I think what is so good about the final scene is that Hoskins silently begins to accept his fate, as you say, but is perhaps wondering will they simply kill him or will they torture him first.
Some people like the final music by Francis Monkman. It grows on you.
Jim K from Round Rock, Texas adds:
Nice piece on Bob Hoskins, RIP, & the superb ending of The Long Good Friday. But I have always believed there is another realization hitting Mr. Shand in the back of the Jag. The cold clear truth that his "ideology " has been trumped by a stronger one: terrorism supposedly fuelled by patriotism, replacing common gangsterism.
How long before the Western world is in a similar position, dawning on them too late that terrorism fuelled by religious fanaticism tops the lot? At least the West got plenty of warnings, [SPOILER ALERT] not blindsided like Shand over a 24-hour period by the ill-advised actions of one underling. Bad and all as they are (and "They haven't gone away, you know"), the IRA and their ilk still operate within some semblance of propriety: ceasefires, phone warnings when they remember them, "regrets" for detonating the wrong stuff, etc. This from a mick who as a schoolboy lived one block from the Chelsea Barracks during the 1981 attack.
An expression I heard at the time among Kilburn & Cricklewood types: "No one knows you are black until you open your mouth". Total tosh, of course, even after such craven outrages.
By the way, as a child of the seventies, I resent the comment on the majestic music during this scene and the movie as a whole. I am now off to your store to buy "Marshmallow World". Bon chance with Dr. Mann…
Well, if you like Seventies music, you'll love our megamix of "Marshmallow World". It would have been the great Seventies Christmas disco hit, if only we hadn't made it a third of a century too late. Timing is everything.
Before we leave The Long Good Friday, what about the other close-up in that scene?
Am in hallucinating or was that a very young (and very pretty) Pierce Brosnan in the front seat with the gun?
Mary Ann Armstrong
Why, yes, it was. As you say, very pretty - and certainly prettier than, in my experience, most IRA gunmen. He grew up in Navan, County Meath, where I have family, but at this stage he was a jobbing actor around London and just getting serious with the Aussie actress Cassandra Harris. A year or two later, they were married and, when the newlywed Mrs Brosnan was cast as an ill-fated contessa in the 007 film For Your Eyes Only, her husband came to hang around the set one day and she introduced him to Cubby Broccoli...
Our Song of the Week prompted many recollections of cigarette songs from readers. Some were old:
In your article on "Lady Nicotine" you mention that the earliest smoking song you've come across is from the late 1600's. There were definitely madrigals on the subject much earlier. The book English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632 includes this from 1605:
Tobacco, tobacco, sing sweetly for tobacco!
Tobacco is like love, o love it
For you see, I will prove it
Love maketh lean the fat man's tumor
So doth tobacco
Love still dries up the wanton humor
So doth tobacco
Love makes men sail from shore to shore
So doth tobacco
'Tis fond love often makes men poor
So doth tobacco
Love often sets men by the ears
So doth tobacco
Sing sweetly for tobacco
Tobacco is like love, o love it
For you see, I have proved it.
Thomas Weelkes published this in 1600:
I swear that this tobacco
It's perfect Trinidado...
Fill the pipe once more,
My brains dance trenchmore.
It is heady, I am giddy,
Head and brains,
Back and reins, joints and veins:
From all pains
It doth well purge and make clean. ...
I've heard others but don't have the lyrics handy. Love the song columns - please keep them coming!
Joseph D Wilkinson II
Other readers offered some more recent tobacco songs:
In your piece "My Lady Nicotine" you did not mention one of my personal favorite smoking songs: "Harry Rag" by The Kinks.
Bless you, taxman, bless you all
You may take some, but you'll never take it all
But if I give it all, I won't feel sad
As long as I have got enough to buy a harry rag.
And let us not forget:
Somewhat less poignantly, Rolf Harris once recorded (flip side of a 45 "Tie me Kangaroo Down, Sport," which you have previously reviewed) a little ditty called "Nick Teen and Al K. Hall". I was about 11 or 12 and to my parents' horror learned the song by heart. The opening lines, from memory:
I never gargled, I never gambled,
I never smoked at all.
Until I met my two good amigos,
Nick Teen and Al K. Hall.
There's culture for you.
Finally, a couple of satisfied book customers:
Big fan. I've read my signed copy of Broadway Babies twice. I tell people how good these songs are, and one question I hear often is "So why is Frank Sinatra so good?"
I try to answer-- say something about phrasing, breath control, style-- but never I say it well. Wouldn't this be a good idea for a column? Story of the voice rather than the story of the song?
It's an excellent suggestion, Jon, but it may make a little more than a column. I'm currently collecting together some Sinatra material in preparation for next year's centenary, and all I can say is your point will be addressed, I promise. By the way, there's a chapter on Sinatra called "The Voice" in Mark Steyn From Head To Toe.
And for our last word, a tip of the hat to our somewhat overworked shipping department:
Just wanted to say thank you to you and your staff for my autographed books. I can't believe they got here so quickly! Four days coast to coast, and autographed by the great man himself. Good to know there's still Yankee efficiency afoot in New Hampshire.
We do our best, Bob, and I'm afraid any delays are usually my fault. The books ship within 24 hours - except when I'm down in court in DC or giving a speech in Ottawa or there's some other impediment to my speedy inscription. But other than that we try to keep 'em zipping out. So order away!