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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. Et Radio Derb est sur les ondes! Ceci est votre hôte Gallicalement cordial John Derbyshire en vous apportant toutes les semaines de nouvelles. Je suis ici, dans notre dernier cri studio sur le quatre-vingt-quinze étage des Buckley Tours dans le coeur de Manhattan. Bonjour, bienvenue, Radio Derb auditeurs. Nous avons beaucoup pour vous dire, laissez-ainsi nous commencent!
02 — Romney speaks French. Yeah, this was the week Newt Gingrich put out an ad accusing Mitt Romney of speaking French — just like that other guy from Massachusetts, John Kerry!
That's shooting pretty low, if you ask me, especially from the guy who's supposed to be the smart college professor of the GOP candidate field. Isn't it pretty smart to be able to speak a foreign language? I flatter myself I'm a tad smarter than the average bear, yet I've never really mastered any language but my own. That introductory bit of French was cribbed straight from off Google Translator.
And if speaking French is too damn elitist, what does that say about Jon Huntsman, who speaks Mandarin Chinese — pretty darn well, according to Mrs Derbyshire, who is a native Chinese speaker. Of course it's not the same thing. The Chinese are not cheese-eating surrender monkeys. There is indeed a lurking fear in the West that they may become raw-meat-eating militaristic gorillas. And what if Willard had been caught speaking fluent German? German is the bad-ass language, as everyone knows. Mad Magazine once suggested that the U.S.A. could make itself scarier to our enemies by putting an umlaut over the "U."
This is idle speculation, though; and I guess Huntsman is hor de combat, having dropped out of the race this Monday. If Newt wants to swing out at snooty elitist types who can speak foreign languages, he's stuck with Mitt Romney faute de mieux.
03 — Gingrich's wife problems. Later in the week it turned out that Newt has other problems to worry about. His second wife, Marianne, had unkind things to say about him. Apparently Newt dumped her eight months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That's the second wife, mind: not to be confused with the first one, whom Newt dumped while she was recovering from an operation for cancer.
All right, I'll admit I'm not Newt's greatest fan. In the rankings of Newt fandom I am in fact around number 135 million. And yes, I've been chortling and crowing at every sign that the Gingrich blimp was losing altitude. Still, even I don't think this wife stuff has much to do with politics.
The republic survived Warren Harding rogering women in the White House broom closets; we survived JFK having the leg over with gangster molls three at a time; we survived Bill Clinton having interns pleasure him while he was on the phone with the joint chiefs; I'm sure we should survive Newt Gingrich serving up divorce papers on Callista while she's laid up with Lou Gehrig's disease.
Personally I'd vote for a guy who'd trussed his ex-wives up in sacks and thrown them in the Potomac, if I thought he understood and could deal with the fiscal, demographic, and geostrategic problems our country faces. I don't believe Newt does understand those problems, and I don't think he can deal with them; but if he did and could, I'd vote for him whatever his ex-wives said.
And so far as voter appeal goes, I'm not sure Newt loses any, net-net. Marianne's account doesn't add much to what we already knew; and on the basis of what we already knew, plenty of conservative married women have long since sworn they would never vote for Newt anyway. I doubt Marianne's added many to that number.
On the other side, Newt will have wrapped up the BEHSDA vote. That's BEHSDA, B-E-H-S-D-A, stands for "Bitter Ex-Husbands Shafted by Divorce Attorneys." Come on, you know them. Perhaps you are one. Among my own small circle of friends I can count three or four of these guys — guys who turn purple and start to foam at the mouth if you so much as mention your state's divorce laws. It's not a negligible demographic, and after Marianne's show, it's going to be a lock for Newt.
Furthermore, Newt has established himself as the anti-media candidate. If there's one thing conservative Republicans hate more than the prospect of a second Obama term, it's the preening liberal jerks of the mass media. Newt's got the knack of throwing their jerkiness right back in their teeth. When professional black guy Juan Williams asked Gingrich in the Myrtle Bay debate whether he hadn't shown racism [scream] by mentioning black people and food stamps in the same sentence, Newt came back with a fine speech on the virtues of young people doing low-paid jobs, and topped it off with some anti-union whipped cream. When CNN lefty John King opened Thursday's debate by asking Newt about the ex-wife business, Newt let fly at the media with both barrels. In both cases the audience roared their approval.
Nothing will make me believe that Newt is half as smart as he thinks he is, or that a Gingrich presidency would be anything but a chaos of wrong-headed policies, big-government overreach, administrative incompetence, and sleazy scandals. I'll admit, though, that my gleeful former prognostications of the Newt blimp crashing and burning were premature.
04 — Romney's near-death experience. Friends in the policy-wonk business have been telling me for months that Mitt Romney's going to have a near-death experience on the primary trail, from which he'll recover and go on to win the nomination.
It looks like that near-death experience is almost upon poor Willard. Going into the South Carolina primary, Willard is already lying unconscious on the gurney. It's not just Newt's debating prowess, either. Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman have dropped out, further concentrating the not-Romney vote in the persons of Gingrich and Santorum. (I'm assuming that the number of Perry and Huntsman supporters who like Ron Paul is down in the low single digits.)
Then came another crushing blow. Election officials in Iowa, going over their numbers, realized that Rick Santorum had won that race after all. Romney had claimed victory in Iowa by just eight votes, but it turns out that was wrong.
So when in Thursday's debate this week Romney stuttered and stumbled over when he might think about possibly considering maybe releasing his tax returns — the correct answer being, of course, "right after Obama releases his college transcripts" — and the audience started booing, we were suddenly in the Coliseum, with one gladiator on the ground helpless and the other poised over him with sword raised, and the crowd all showing thumbs-down.
If, as is being predicted with increasing confidence, Romney loses South Carolina this weekend, his ECG trace will have flatlined and the doctor will be pounding on Mitt's chest-bone with the heel of his hand and yelling for them to bring the defibrillators.
I have the feeling Romney will survive his near-death experience, just as the wonks have been saying. He's got the money, goodness knows. He's also got working for him the very widespread feeling among Republicans that he's the best bet to win over lots of independent voters. And anyway, it's his turn.
No, it won't be the most stirring or imaginative choice, nor by any means the most conservative one. This is the Republican Party we're talking about here, though — the people who gave us Bob Dole and John McCain. By those standards, Mitt Romney is inspirational.
05 — Chicken of the Sea. There's an old quip that goes something like this: "Heaven is an English policeman, a French cook, a German engineer, an Italian lover and everything organized by the Swiss. Hell is an English cook, a French engineer, a German policeman, a Swiss lover and everything organized by the Italians."
We got an illustration of this truth last Friday when the Italian cruise ship Concordia, Europe's largest cruise liner, hit a rock and keeled over off the Italian coast. There were 4,200 people on board, passengers and crew, and what ensued as the ship began to roll over was very Italian, in the spirit of that old joke. There was a mad disorganized scramble for the lifeboats, there having been no lifeboat drill conducted. It was, as Mitt Romney would say — or at least, as Newt Gingrich would say Mitt Romney would say — a case of sauve qui peut.
What happened to the Concordia was no joke, though. As we go to air, eleven people are confirmed dead and 21 still unaccounted for, including two Americans. The captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, seems to have been seriously negligent, apparently partying in the ship's restaurant with a buxom young Moldovan lady when the calamity happened.
Captain Schettino did not remain on the bridge ready to go down with his ship, as tradition and common decency demand. He headed for the lifeboats. In fact, in a fine display of whatever is the Italian for chutzpah, Captain Schettino claims he tripped and fell into the lifeboat — which, as it happened, was already carrying the ship's first mate and another officer. I guess they'd tripped and fallen in, too. Listen and learn, good people. Next time your wife finds you in bed with a Moldovan floozy, just tell her you tripped and fell while passing through the bedroom on your way to rescue a kitten from a tree.
As with the Titanic disaster, which happened 100 years ago this April, commentators were on metaphor alert. Their favorite metaphor was of course that the Condordia was Europe's economy, holed below the water-line and about to keel over. A writer for one of the left-wing British papers opined that like the banking system, the Concordia was, quote, "dangerously over-engineered to make someone more money." He added that the ship now has, quote, "an acute liquidity crisis." That's a joke — get it?
There was also much chewing of commentarial cud over sidebar sociological issues. When the Titanic sank, this was all about class, with much tut-tutting from what were then called "Progressives" about the survival rate for First Class men being higher than that for Third Class children. In these enlightened times, class has been abolished, and replaced by race as a focus of concern. The lower ranks of Concordia's crew roster — cooks, waiters, cabin stewards, and the like — were staffed largely by Filipinos. Some of the blame for the lifeboat chaos was directed at them.
This was grossly unfair. For one thing, just as in the military, when a unit proves unprepared for battle, the fault is with the officers, who are paid to attend to matters like that, not with the grunts, who are paid to follow orders. For another, passenger reports, fortified by some video evidence, indicate that the minimum-wage Filipino crew members were diligent and often heroic in seeking out passengers who were trapped or lost in the foundering ship. A report from the Italian mainland says that the the passengers and ship's officers were first to reach shore, only followed later by the Filipino crew.
A little slice of life in the modern age, then. I'd just like to assure listeners planning to sign up for the next National Review cruise that our cruise line is way more professional, with full lifeboat drills before we sail, and Moldovan floozies never to be seen anywhere near the Captain's table. In fact, I don't recall seeing a Moldovan floozy on a National Review cruise at all … oh, except one time we had Newt Gingrich on the speakers' roster. [Boo, hiss.]
06 — Microsoft's avoid-the-ghetto app. Those of you who were around in the 1980s will recall Tom Wolfe's novel Bonfire of the Vanities, whose plot hinges on a high-flying Wall Street bond trader, Sherman McCoy, taking a wrong turn off the expressway and finding himself in one of New York City's low-income, high-crime neighborhoods. Disgrace and ruin then ensue.
Well, the Microsoft Corporation has obtained a patent for an app to be used by GPS and smart-phone devices that will help us to avoid the fate of Sherman McCoy. Quote from an NPR news report: "The new feature is meant to help pedestrians avoid unsafe neighborhoods, bad weather and difficult terrain by taking information from maps, weather reports, crime statistics and demographics," end quote. The patent itself says that the app will provide directions that, quote, "take the user through neighborhoods with violent crime statistics below a certain threshold," end quote.
Nothing wrong with that, you might think. Nobody wants to find himself staring down some feral street gang just because he missed an exit ramp on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The professionally indignant segment of the commentariat is up in arms about this app, though. They're calling it "the ghetto app."
Here for example is Sarah Chinn, who lectures at Hunter College, the very institution at which my daughter is currently a freshman. What does she lecture about? Quotes from the Hunter faculty website, quote: "Her work primarily explores questions of race, sexuality, and gender in U.S. literature and culture." Quote: "Professor Chinn is currently Executive Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies … at the CUNY Graduate Center." In short, a raving lefty grievance-monger. What does she have to say about the ghetto app? Quote from NPR: "She says the new application will reinforce assumptions about violent crime that just aren't true. 'In much of dominant American culture, there's an assumption that criminality and being poor and not white go hand in hand,' Chinn says. 'In reality, FBI crime statistics for 2010 show that whites were arrested more often for violent crimes that year than any other race.'" End quote.
OK, let's check the numbers from the FBI Uniform Crime report for 2010. You can find them at www.fbi.gov. I'm just going to contrast whites and blacks here, as I don't imagine anyone is much worried about, say, Japanese-American neighborhoods.
From Table 43a I see that in arrests for murder and non-negligent manslaughter, whites just pipped blacks, with 4,261 to 4,209. For forcible rape there were twice as many whites arrested as blacks, 10,178 against 4,925. For robbery, on the other hand, blacks enjoyed a healthy lead, 48,154 to whites' 37,906. For aggravated assault whites again take the prize, 202,275 to 106,382.
Those are the four reporting categories usually lumped together as "violent crimes." So if we add 'em up, what do the numbers tell us about Ms Chinn's assertion that, quote, "FBI crime statistics for 2010 show that whites were arrested more often for violent crimes that year than any other race"? Well, they show us that she's correct: the totals are 254,620 whites arrested for violent crimes versus 163,670 blacks, a ratio of 1.6 whites per black.
The fly in the ointment there is of course that there are far more whites than blacks. If you include white Hispanics as white and black Hispanics as black, which I think the FBI crime statistics do, the comparison figures from the last census show whites as 72.4 percent of the U.S. population and blacks at 12.6 percent, for an overall white-black ratio of 5.7.
So, bottom line here, 5.7 times more Americans are white than black, yet only 1.6 times as many whites as blacks were arrested for violent crimes in 2010. It follows — or if you think it doesn't follow, please write and tell me why it doesn't — that a heavily black neighborhood is a more dangerous place, by a factor of about 3½ times, than a heavily white one. An app that helps you avoid such neighborhoods would therefore be an app that greatly improves your chances of not being a violent crime victim. Whaddya say to that, Ms Chinn?
Some of the reported reactions to the ghetto app have been even stranger. CBS Dallas reports a visitor to that noble city as saying, quote: "A community may have a high crime problem but have some great cultural, social things you can do there," end quote. Well, yeah, people have all kinds of ways of looking for thrills and excitement, and if strolling through gang-controlled territory at two a.m. is your own personal high, jolly good luck to you.
Personally, with Sherman McCoy in mind, I'll be buying the app when it's available, which it's not yet.
07 — Signoff. I'm afraid I have to break off there, ladies and gents, leaving you with a somewhat truncated edition of Radio Derb this week. A concatenation of circumstances has left me desperately short of time.
Having begun with French, I shall sign off in that fine language. Here is one of my favorites: the great Edith Piaf spitting defiance at fate. "No, nothing at all, / No, I don't regret anything at all: / Neither the good that was given me, / Nor the evil. They're all the same to me." Perhaps Newt Gingrich could take it up as a campaign song. More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Edith Piaf, Non, je ne regrette rien]