Conrad Black on Mark Steyn and the American justice system

Read this, from the American Spectator. Conrad Black rides to the defence of Mark Steyn.

The context is the law suit between Mark Steyn and Michael Mann, author of the infamous “hockey stick” graph, whose algorithm turns all data into a hockey stick shape, thus confirming what catastrophists  wants to prove, that the earth is suddenly warming. Steyn called Mann some bad names and a lawsuit ensued.

This is Conrad Black on the US justice system.


In fact, as is becoming notorious, American justice is in a shocking condition. Too many judges in the U.S. are elected; too many are ex-prosecutors; the battle over capital punishment has taken all the air out of the room in which the infamous severity of American sentences and the unspeakable lopsidedness of prosecutorial success should be debated. This is a country that inspired the world with a vision of freedom and democracy (though Great Britain, Switzerland, much of the Netherlands, and Scandinavia were just as democratic at the time of the American Revolution). Yet the entire legal apparatus has sat like a gigantic suet pudding and the Supreme Court, in between its four-month vacations, has drunk the Kool-Aid of its own bathwater. The Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment guaranties of due process, just compensation for seizure of property, grand jury deliberations as assurance against capricious prosecution, prompt justice, access to counsel (of choice), impartial jury, and reasonable bail have been put to the shredder. The United States has six to twelve times the number of incarcerated people per capita as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom, the nearest comparable countries. Even after removing from the totals all those with unstigmatizing records irrelevant to their hireability today (DUI or disorderly conduct decades ago, for example), about 15 percent of adult males are felons.

and further:

The law may be tattered, degraded, compromised by the avarice of the American lawyer; the detached exaltedness and frequent bigotry and philistinism of the American bench; and the preening, reckless, megalomania of Richard Posners and Leo Strines (judges of the Seventh Circuit and Delaware Supreme Court). But the judiciary cannot ultimately sustain Mann’s absurd claim. It may choose to hear and try the case, but victory for Mann would, as Robert Tracinski wrote at Real Clear Politics, immunize from unfavorable comment anyone who could lay claim to high “intellect and reasoning.” If the United States ever enthrones such a totalitarian principle (Tracinski compared Mann to Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s crackpot geneticist whose theories were entrenched as Soviet dogma), then it will no longer enjoy freedom of expression. It will not be America and will have sailed into a world undreamt of in the most vivid nightmares of Orwell, Kafka, and Koestler. Only an imbecile could look with satisfaction on the contemporary state of public life in America, but it remains a democratic country that cherishes the freedom it has fought for centuries to enjoy and protect, and has sacrificed greatly to extend to other parts of the world. Such a sacred and fundamental canon of American civilization will not be thrown in the gutter to protect a mediocre academic opportunist, especially one who cannot face courts that will take a fine-toothed comb to his research (this has happened in British Columbia), one who is simply trying to use the labyrinthine, jejune American legal system to defer criticism of his infamous piece of athletic equipment.