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Mark Steyn speaks with TheBlaze on his new book, and everything from global warming to Common Core to the First Amendment

For TheBlaze,  writes:  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.

Passing Parade

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.

Romano Mussolini

One of Mussolini’s records. (Image Source: jazzfromitaly.blogspot.com)

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 »

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The American Dream Peddlers

pic_giant_042314_SM_The-American-Dream-Peddlers

Progressives’ vision of government requires it to be the gatekeeper to the good life. 

For National Review OnlineJim 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 »


Paglia: The Drinking Age Is Past Its Prime

The age 21 rule sets the United States apart from all advanced Western nations, and it has pushed kids toward pills and other anti-social behavior.

Neil Davies

Neil Davies

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts, and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age 21 rule sets the United States apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Congress was stampeded into this puritanical law by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who with all good intentions were wrongly intruding into an area of personal choice exactly as did the hymn-singing 19th-century Temperance crusaders, typified by Carrie Nation smashing beer barrels with her hatchet. Temperance fanaticism eventually triumphed and gave us 14 years of Prohibition. That in turn spawned the crime syndicates for booze smuggling, laying the groundwork for today’s global drug trade. Thanks a lot, Carrie!

Now that marijuana regulations have been liberalized in Colorado, it’s time to strike down this dictatorial national law. Government is not our nanny. The decrease in drunk-driving deaths in recent decades is at least partly attributable to more uniform seat-belt use and a strengthening of DWI penalties. Today, furthermore, there are many other causes of traffic accidents, such as the careless use of cell phones or prescription drugs like Ambien – implicated in the recent trial and acquittal of Kerry Kennedy for driving while impaired. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Goldberg: Polls Show Voters Intensity on the Anti-Obamacare Side

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Rep. Steve Hurst’s Badass Campaign Float

 

At The Corner, Adrew Johnson adds:

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…

The Corner

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?

Gawker.com

Read the rest of this entry »


Experts: Civilians Not Ready for EMP-Caused Blackout

The government testing electromagnetic pulses uses a simulator hanging over an airborne command post.

For Watchdog.orgJosh Peterson writes: The catastrophic effects of an electromagnetic pulse-caused blackout could be preventable, but experts warn the civilian world is still not ready.

Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both congressional advisory boards, said the technology to avoid disaster from electromagnetic pulses exists, and upgrading the nation’s electrical grid is financially viable.

Heathkit-HamRadio

“The problem is not the technology,” Pry said. “We know how to protect against it. It’s not the money, it doesn’t cost that much. The problem is the politics. It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way.”

IT’S STOPPABLE: Peter Vincent Pry says technology exists to protect against the damage from electromagnetic pulses.

He said the more officials plan, the lower the estimated cost gets.

“If you do a smart plan — the Congressional EMP Commission estimated that you could protect the whole country for about $2 billion,” Pry told Watchdog.org. “That’s what we give away in foreign aid to Pakistan every year.”

In the first few minutes of an EMP, nearly half a million people would die. That’s the worst-case scenario that author William R. Forstchen estimated in 2011 would be the result of an EMP on the electric grid — whether by an act of God, or a nuclear missile detonating in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

An electromagnetic pulse is a burst of electromagnetic energy strong enough to disable, and even destroy, nearby electronic devices.

The scenario sounds like something in a Hollywood film, but the U.S. military has been preparing its electronic systems for such an event since the Cold War. The protective measures taken to harden facilities against a nuclear attack also help in some cases to protect against EMPs.

The civilian world is another story. Read the rest of this entry »


Vladimir Putin’s Next Move

Vladimir Putin Wikimedia Commons_1

ForWorld Affairs JournalMichael Totten writes: If Vladimir Putin invades Poland, I’ll eat my hat.

It’s not going to happen.

Even so, American ground troops are being deployed there as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. This is the West telling him STOP. He’s not going to invade a European Union or NATO state either way, but we’d end up sending a crazy-weak signal if all we did was collectively shrug.

“Even an unspoken threat of invasion, occupation, and annexation is enough to make Ukraine act with tremendous caution toward Moscow, but if Putin pulls the trigger, Kiev would have nothing left to lose.”

Ukraine still isn’t in NATO, however, and probably never will be, so it’s still vulnerable. Putin can slice it and dice it all over again. The US won’t physically stop him for the same reason he won’t invade Poland. Nobody wants to blow up the world, especially not over this.

So Ukraine’s vulnerable. Pro-Russian militiamen are occupying dozens of government buildings, city halls, and police stations in the eastern part of the country where many ethnic Russians live. It’s hard to say for sure if Putin is egging these people on or if they’re acting on their own, envious of their cousins in Crimea who got to go “home” without moving. Either way, they’re serving Putin’s agenda.

By annexing Crimea, he proved to the world that he’s willing to mutilate Ukraine when it displeases him, which it very much did when it cast off his vassal, Viktor Yanukovych, in February. Read the rest of this entry »


The Closing of the Academic Mind

closing-academic-mind

Oprea-Head-ShotFor The Federalist writes: Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn recently proposed in The Harvard Crimson that academics should be stopped if their research is deemed oppressive. Arguing that “academic justice” should replace “academic freedom,” she writes:

“If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?”

In other words, Korn would have the university cease to be a forum for open debate and free inquiry in the name of justice, as defined by mainstream liberal academia.

“This does not mean that westerners are excluded from writing about the Middle East and Islam .A westerner can do so successfully so long as their research is void of criticism. Write anything else and you will find yourself labeled an orientalist and no graduate course will touch your work with a ten-foot pole.”

Unfortunately, this is already a reality in most universities across America, where academics and university administrators alike are trying, often successfully, to discredit and prohibit certain ideas and ways of thinking. Particularly in the humanities, many ideas are no longer considered legitimate, and debate over them is de facto non-existent. In order to delegitimize researchers who are out of line, academics brand them with one of several terms that have emerged from social science theory.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Tyranny of the Organic Mommy Mafia

JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

She had just come back from the park where two mothers were discussing a recent vacation to a resort in Puerto Rico. One told the other that there, for the first time, her toddler was given Jif peanut butter. He loved it. Prior to that he had only had Whole Foods peanut butter, which (one might guess) pales in comparison for a 3-year-old palate.

When the boy came home and asked for more Jif, his mother told him it wasn’t available — that it was “Puerto Rican peanut butter.”

mommy-mafia

Wrapped up in that phrase is all of the arrogance and class snobbery of the organic-food mafia. If these moms haven’t come to your neighborhood yet, just wait.

Another mom, a class parent at a preschool in Westchester, told me she was being harassed by one of the other mothers to issue a new rule: Only organic snacks would be allowed in the classroom.

A mom in Washington tells me that she was unable to participate in a number of nanny-share agreements she looked into because the other parents were so crazy about not having their children come into contact with anything non-organic. One mother she met was convinced her child’s ADD became worse when he was exposed to non-organic food. A stray Goldfish or Cheerio might set him off.

But sometimes these parents are not even worried about their own child’s well-being.

organicfoodThey’re worried about yours. The organic foodies are not satisfied with controlling their own family’s dietary habits, they want to “evangelize,” says Julie Gunlock, author of “From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back.

The pressure on parents to use only organic food is, she says, an “outgrowth of helicopter parenting. People need to be in control of everything when it comes to their kids — even the way food is grown and treated.”

Order From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back” by Julie Gunlock from Amazon.

“Moms feel guilty,” Gunlock adds. They can allow themselves to think that even if they’re not perfect at something else, at least they feed their kids the best food out there.

The organic-food industry is thrilled by this attitude. But let’s be clear. Organic food does not necessarily mean better. It’s a term that’s been co-opted and manipulated into a billion-dollar industry by some of the biggest food companies in America. Read the rest of this entry »


Fund: Reid Calling Bundy Supporters ‘Domestic Terrorists’ Part of Democrat’s Effort to Rally the Base

See John Fund‘s most recent piece: “The United States of SWAT?

AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

 National Review Online

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[VIDEO] Obama Reluctantly Signs Bill Blocking Iranian U.N. Envoy from Entry, Asserts Authority to Ignore Law if He Feels Like It

obama-dbl

For Hot AirEd Morrissey writes: Yesterday, Ted Cruz had his first authored bill get signed into law, but the freshman Senator from Texas probably didn’t too excited by the victory. Despite unanimous support in both chambers of Congress for the new law, President Barack Obama sounded less than enthusiastic about enforcing the bill he signed yesterday that would block the proposed Iranian envoy to the UN from receiving an entry visa to the US:

Obama-Obamacare-SignatureIt’s the oddest of legislative couples: President Obama and one of his biggest critics, Ted Cruz.

Obama on Friday signed a Cruz-backed bill aimed at blocking Iran’s appointed ambassador to the United Nations because of evidence linking him to the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran.

Technically, the law bars individuals from entering the U.S. as U.N. ambassadors if they are “found to have been engaged in espionage or terrorist activity directed against the United States or its allies.”

In reality, the bill targets a specific Iranian individual: Hamid Aboutalebi, who has been refused a visa by the administration.

A news report from inside the Islamic world

Iran is “outraged” over the decision:

Read the rest of this entry »


Defense Minister: U.S. Ground Troops Going to Poland

For The Washington Post,  FRED HIATT writes: Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine. That was the word from Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, who visited The Post Friday after meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Siemoniak said the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are 04170362working out details. There will also be intensified cooperation in air defense, special forces, cyberdefense and other areas. Poland will play a leading regional role, “under U.S. patronage,” he said.

But the defense minister also said that any immediate NATO response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, while important, matter less than a long-term shift in the defense postures of Europe and America. The United States, having announced a “pivot” to Asia, needs to “re-pivot” to Europe, he said, and European countries that have cut back on defense spending need to reverse the trends. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Hark! I Hear the Cannons Roar! Democrats Hark Back to the Politics of Race

For Yahoo News writes: So now it’s out there. After five years of studied reticence (unless they were talking privately to one another or their supporters), Democratic leaders in Washington finally went public last week with what they really think is motivating Republican opposition to Barack Obama. As Steve Israel, one of the top Democrats in Congress, told CNN’s Candy Crowley, the Republican base, “to a significant extent,” is “animated by racism.”

Just to make himself clear, Israel did allow that not all Republicans were the ideological descendants of Bull Connor. To which I’m sure his colleagues across the aisle responded, “Oh, OK. Cool then.”

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the DCCC, speaks at the National Press Club's Newsmaker series on how Rep. Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., budget will effect the midterm elections. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the DCCC, speaks at the National Press Club’s Newsmaker series on how Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., budget will effect the midterm elections. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

But it’s not the reaction of Republicans that Democrats should probably have some concern about. It’s the way American voters, and a lot of younger voters in particular, may view a return to the polarizing racial debate that existed before Obama was ever elected.

Note: one of ‘s silly sentences:

“…Still, a lot of Americans who voted for Obama probably find the racism argument at least somewhat persuasive.”

A “lot”? Really? Any chance you can be more specific? Then, the deadly trio: “probably”, “at least”, and “somewhat”. Smothered in qualifiers, so weak and blurry, it undermines the author’s point. Imagine a voter thinking, “Wellllll…The Democratic Party’s opportunistic race-baiting and divisive name-calling is probably… at least….sommmeeewhat persuasive….I guess…”

Coming in an election year, and in the wake of sporadic campaigns to solidify support among women and gay voters, the sudden Democratic focus on race felt like an orchestrated talking point. Israel’s comments came just a few days after Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, suggested that racism was keeping Republicans from voting on an immigration bill. And Pelosi was reacting to a speech by the attorney general, Eric Holder, who complained to a civil rights gathering in Washington of “ugly and divisive” attacks against the administration.

“What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?” Holder, who is African-American, pointedly asked. “What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

As far as I can tell, though, this eruption on race actually wasn’t born in the kind of strategy session where consultants lay out which issues will move which voters. What seems to have happened was something rarer: Washington Democrats, unable to suppress their frustration for a minute longer, simply blurted out what they have always believed to be true but had been reluctant to say. One catharsis emboldened the next. Read the rest of this entry »


White House: Fox in the Henhouse? Michelle’s Garden’s Unwelcome Visitor

fox-in-garden-white-house

For The Daily CallerVince Coglianese writes: The White House is going to war with another fox — and this time, it’s personal.

WHgardenx-large

The Wall Street Journal reports that a red fox has been causing chaos around the White House, tripping security alarms, digging up Michelle’s garden and distracting the president from his duties.

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The Secret Service won’t give any details about how often the fox trips the White House’s obviously sophisticated security alarms, but rest assured, officials say, they’re watching.

President Obama was apparently “stunned” to see the fox roaming freely down the oft-photographed White House colonnade, home to the world’s shortest, but most dramatic, outdoor strolls.

Read the rest of this entry »


Military-Style Units From Government Agencies are Wreaking Havoc on Non-Violent Citizens

SWAT-color

The United States of SWAT?

John Fund writes: Regardless of how people feel about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management over his cattle’s grazing rights, a lot of Americans were surprised to see TV images of an armed-to-the-teeth paramilitary wing of the BLM deployed around Bundy’s ranch.

“Since 9/11, the feds have issued a plethora of homeland-security grants that encourage local police departments to buy surplus military hardware and form their own SWAT units.”

They shouldn’t have been. Dozens of federal agencies now have Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams to further an expanding definition of their missions. It’s not controversial that the Secret Service and the Bureau of Prisons have them. But what about the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? All of these have their own SWAT units and are part of a worrying trend towards the militarization of federal agencies — not to mention local police forces.

“By 2005, at least 80 percent of towns with a population between 25,000 and 50,000 people had their own SWAT team.”

Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier,” journalist Radley Balko writes in his 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop. “The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop — armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”

Read the rest of this entry »


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