Mark Steyn speaks with TheBlaze on his new book, and everything from global warming to Common Core to the First AmendmentPosted: April 23, 2014
We spoke with best-selling author and columnist Mark Steyn in connection with the release of a newly updated version of his entertaining and insightful book of obituaries and appreciations, “Mark Steyn’s Passing Parade.”
[Explore Mark Steyn's book: "Passing Parade: Obituaries & Appreciations" expanded edition at Amazon]
In a wide-ranging interview, Steyn spoke with TheBlaze Books on his newly updated book, the fate of America, and issues ranging from gay marriage to global warming to free speech to education and Common Core. The interview, which we conducted in-person, is transcribed below with edits for clarity and links.
Give us a brief synopsis of your newly updated book, “Passing Parade: Obituaries & Appreciations.“
Steyn: Well my big books in recent years have been on the big geopolitical, socio-economic picture. A lot of statistics, lot of numbers, lot of big picture stuff. “America Alone” is essentially a book about demography – I mean I got a best-selling book about demography which doesn’t happen very often, but it’s about fertility rates, really. “After America” in some ways is about debt – it’s about multi-trillion dollar numbers. And they’re all big picture things, but for me the real pleasure is writing about people, and reminding yourself…that it’s not all fertility rates and debt/GDP ratios, but that at the right moment of history, one individual can make a difference. And the people in this book are people who made a difference. That can be in the sense of winning the Cold War like Ronald Reagan did, or it can be in the sense of William Mitchell, who’s the guy who invented Cool Whip…I like writing obituaries. The only thing I would say is that it’s hard to write about people you…you can’t be entirely negative or hateful about people. There’s gotta be something in there [within the person] that you respond to.
And it’s interesting – even someone like Romano Mussolini, who is the Mussolini’s son – Il Duche – the big-time fascist dictator of Italy…Romano Mussolini was a jazz pianist of all things, and I met him once when he came to play in London. His group was called the “Romano Mussolini All Stars.” And after the war in Italy, his dad had been hung from a lamppost, the bottom had dropped out of the dictating business, but Romano got to be the jazz pianist that he’d always wanted to be. But he thought the Mussolini name wouldn’t go well, so he changed his name to the equivalent of “Romano Smith and His Trio.” And nobody came to see him. And then he discovered that actually, the Romano Mussolini All Stars, that that was actually quite a draw with the jazz crowd. But there’s even in that – as I said, Mussolini wound up hanging from a lamppost when they caught up with him with his mistress, but even…the final anecdote about that is that the last time Romano saw his dad, when his time had almost run out, and everybody was catching up with him, and his dad came in effectively to say “Goodbye…” he didn’t know it would be the last time he saw him and he asked him to play some music fromFranz Lehár, from The Merry Widow. And just that, even in the…just that little vignette is like a very poignant, human moment, in the life of someone who a couple weeks later was hanging from that lamppost.
I think you always have to if you’re writing – even if you’re writing about – whoever it is, there’s gotta be some little way into the story that makes them human.
And you know as bad as things are – when I think back to that time for example, and I think when Neville Chamberlain was forced out of the prime ministership in the spring of 1940, if the Tory party had picked Lord Halifax instead of Winston Churchill, the entire history of the 20th century would have been different. And so the lesson you draw…we’re in New York City…Winston Churchill was almost hit by a car crossing 5th Avenue in 1932 or whatever it was – if that taxicab had actually left the tread marks over Winston Churchill — again the entire history of the second half of the 20th century would have been different. And so the lesson you draw from that is that yes the debt numbers are bad, yes the demographic numbers are bad, yes all the big picture stuff, the trends, the macroeconomic stuff is all bad, but even so, one man, the right man at the right moment can make all the difference…extraordinary people can make all the difference.
One of the obituaries that I thought interesting was Strom Thurmond’s. Give some readers insight into the story in which you were stuck in an elevator between Barbara Boxer and Strom Thurmond.
Steyn: I was covering the impeachment trial of President Clinton, which was the first time I’d been exposed close up to the United States Senate, which is not a lovely site. And one of the few interesting things as that trial wore on was actually Strom Thurmond because he – Clinton had the sort of two sexpot lady lawyers – and Strom Thurmond used to bring candy for them each day, and then press them with his 112-year old lizard-like hands into their fingers. And you could see the women were like, fatally taken aback by this, but at a certain level they understood that this was what it was gonna take to prevent their guy from being removed from office. And in the end, Strom did not vote to remove Clinton from office, in part I do believe because he had the hots for those lawyers. Read the rest of this entry »
Progressives’ vision of government requires it to be the gatekeeper to the good life.
For National Review Online, Jim Geraghty writes: Tuesday the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell examined Americans’ faith in the wisdom of investing in real estate — particularly their own houses — and offered a heretical thought: “If nothing else, the recent financial crisis should have taught us that it’s not in the country’s best interest to enable every aspiring homeowner to buy.”
Rampell’s seemingly commonsense statement offers dramatic ramifications for the role of the federal government. If, because of the huge unintended consequences that attend it, it’s not in the country’s best interest to enable every aspiring American to buy a home . . . how many other areas of modern American life feature the government “enabling” people — read, distributing money — to pursue dreams that are not, in fact, in the country’s best interest?
Is it really in the country’s best interest to enable every aspiring college student to attend college? Right now the federal government is in the business of loaning money to young people to attend college, only to watch significant numbers — 600,000 or so last year — fail to pay the money back. College students are defaulting on federal loans at the highest rate in nearly two decades, with one in ten defaulting on their loans in the first two years. This is not merely one late check; to meet the Department of Education’s definition of default, a borrower’s loan must be delinquent for 270 days — nine months. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Bill O’Reilly to Bundy Supporter: Whats the Difference Between Bundy and Occupy Wall Street?Posted: April 23, 2014
Bill O’Reilly took on a militia leader Tuesday night supporting Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and asked him a very blunt question: what’s the difference between Bundy supporters and Occupy Wall Street? Scott Shaw acknowledged that Bundy broke the law, but said Bundy should stick to his convictions.
O’Reilly suggested the government put a lean on the land for when he dies, which Shaw thought was a reasonable solution. He said he’s not comfortable with the government’s overreaction to the situation in Nevada, telling O’Reilly, “We’re only a nation of laws when it suits our federal overlords.” Read the rest of this entry »
Charles Krauthammer said the US Supreme Court’s 6-2 ruling on Tuesday that a lower court does not have the authority to set aside the law that bans the use of racial criteria in college admissions shows the court wants to preserve citizen’s rights to decide such things democratically.
“We leave the decision of affirmative action up to the people, which is exactly the way you want to do it in a diverse democracy with a troubled history.”
“The court said… ‘we’re not going to have nine rogues decide that this cannot be implemented.’ But what it implied was that it would allow people in a democracy to decide that,” he said.
The U.S. media treat America’s powerful families as untitled nobility
For National Review Online, Charles C. W. Cooke writes: Depressing as it might be for the radicals among us to admit, John Adams’s failed and embarrassing quest to have the nation’s president referred to as “His Majesty” or “His High Mightiness” was the exception rather than the rule — an early win for republicanism before the inevitable losses started stacking up. Time after time during the last century or so, the White House has suggested that it should perhaps accrue a little more power, perhaps spend a little more money on itself, and perhaps place the administration a little closer to the center of public life. In each and every instance, the public has acquiesced. Alas, this is not Calvin Coolidge’s country anymore. Where once the president fretted over the cost of pencils and the expense of state dinners, he now has a fleet of aircraft, a billion-dollar household budget, and a trio of calligraphers. “His Majesty,” indeed.
In the abstract, at least, Americans prefer to think of themselves as being congenitally opposed to aristocracy and the trappings of monarchy. The notion of unceremonious men who rise from the log cabin to the White House has considerable purchase in the national imagination, and, during elections, at least, it still matters considerably. Read the rest of this entry »
— greg varner (@varnergreg) April 21, 2014
The Republican lawmaker, who also runs Haynes Street Pawn and Gun Shop in Talladega, has been parading around the giant firearm at local events to get the word out on his campaign, and signal his strong support for the Second Amendment…
…Thus far, the float has been well received and become a popular subject for photos…
And some sass from Gawker:
Are you from Talladega? Do you like guns? But I repeat myself. The point is: Your conservative state representative likes guns. A lot. He’s a big fan of big guns. With big barbecue smokers inside of them. Now, who are you voting for in November?
“[Media Matters] clearly targeted me at some point. They used to work with me on stories, try to help me, you know, produce my stories,” Attkisson told CNN’s Brian Stelter Sunday. But that changed, she said, because of work she did that bothered the Left. Read the rest of this entry »
Political ass-kicking in India: Spoofs on the internet and TV
Jay Mazoomdaar writes: For a people not known to take themselves lightly, a surprising number of Indians are laughing their way to the general election.
A generous dose of irreverent political humour is now competing with shrill campaign rhetoric, thanks to a new crop of satirists.
The genre is not new in India – there is a rich tradition of cartoons in newspapers – but the appetite for political satire is.
CNN-IBN‘s spoof show - The Week That Wasn’t, starring Cyrus Broacha – was popular long before the last general elections in 2009, and Hindi show Pol Khol (Expose) by Shekhar Suman on Star News became a hit during the 2004 elections. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles Krauthammer said President Obama’s approach to foreign policy shows that his view of human nature is lacking.
“He has trouble understanding that other countries have national interests,” he said. “And they do want to dominate other countries. He said that’s not how people act in this century. It is how people act in this century, and every century back to the Stone Age.”
For Breitbart.com, Mike Flynn writes: In even a neutral political environment, the 2014 midterms were going to be a challenge for Senate Democrats. They are defending 21 seats to the GOP’s 15, with only two of the Republican seats at any kind of risk of flipping to the Democrats. Moreover, Democrats were defending many freshman Senators who first won office in in Republican states in Obama’s wave election in 2008.
This isn’t a neutral political environment, however. Obama’s low approval ratings, the continued fallout over ObamaCare, current Democrat happy-talk notwithstanding, and the sluggish economy have provided Republicans with an enthusiasm and turnout advantage that could match 2010. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama Administration Wants to Require Companies to Give Workers’ Numbers, Addresses to Unions Before Labor ElectionsPosted: April 21, 2014
For The Daily Caller, Patrick Howley reports: The Obama administration is poised to change regulations to allow for union “ambush elections” in which workers have less time to decide whether or not to join a union — and in which workers’ phone numbers and home addresses are provided to unions.
The administration’s National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) proposed rules would allow for union elections — in which workers at a company vote whether or not to unionize — to be held 10 days after a petition is filed. And what, exactly, would be happening to the unions during those 10 days? The new rules require employers to disclose workers’ personal information, including phone numbers, home addresses, and information about when they work their shifts.
Insiders close to the situation believe the new rules will almost certainly go into effect with few or no fundamental changes. Read the rest of this entry »