[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your resurgently genial host John Derbyshire with all the news of the hour.
I do apologize for the absence of a broadcast last week, listeners. We had some technical problems here on the island. One of Nikki's goats got free, found his way over to the studio somehow, and chewed through our router cables. It took a while to get replacements from the mainland. We are now back in operation, thanks to heroic efforts by our engineers; and the goat roasted up very nicely with some onions, pasta, olives, and feta cheese.
Just when things were back to normal, however, this morning my research assistant Mandy suffered an unfortunate, but thankfully minor, accident: she fell downstairs. That's an unusual occurrence here on the island, where all the buildings are single-storey. I do, though, keep a modest wine cellar here in my own quarters, with some wooden steps going down there, and that's where Mandy had her mishap. She's OK, shaken up a little and a few bruises, but it added to the general air of disruption. Let's hope things level out and stay normal from here on out.
OK, on with the motley!
02 — GOP convention, zzzzzz. This was of course the week of the Republican Party Convention in Tampa, Florida.
I'd better admit up front that I'm not a fan of political conventions. Historically, I know, the party conventions have sometimes been tremendously important. I've just been reading about the 1860 Democratic Convention: now that was important!
An uncontested convention, though, is really just a celebratory party for the guy who's already been selected. The most you can expect in the way of excitement is a good rousing slightly-off-the-reservation address by some party maverick, like Pat Buchanan's great "culture war" speech at the 1992 Republican bash. Nowadays even that modest degree of controversy is upsetting to the party managers, so pretty much all we get is hot air and uplift, with as little reference to actual policy positions as the players think they can get away with.
Before you dismiss my lack of interest as deplorably un-citizenly, let me refer you to a survey of likely voters — of likely voters, mind — by Rasmussen Reports, published this Wednesday. The pollsters asked voters the following question, precise quote: "Are national political conventions a waste of time and money?" End quote. A plurality, 44 percent, said yes. Only 35 percent said no, with 21 percent unsure. So I am far from alone, gentle listener: I'm in there with the 44 percent plurality.
The only bit of spice in this GOP convention was injected by the news media. The media reporters are of course strongly biased to the left. That's no news, and has been confirmed by every survey of the profession. I can't find anything on the 2008 election, but a survey of 300 journalists by the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy following the 2004 election found that 52 percent of news reporters voted for John Kerry, vs. 21 percent who voted for George W. Bush. Political contributions by journalists lean even more dramatically left: 87 percent Democrat, 13 percent Republican, though in fairness I should note that only a small proportion of journalists make contributions. Some news organizations don't allow it.
The irresistible handle for the leftist media people in this election is the fact of President Obama being black. You can quibble about him being only half black if you like; but he checked the box for "black" on his census form, and I'll go with that.
Hence the temptation for the media people to present the GOP convention as the race-baiting convention of bigoted racists racistly determined to bring down our first black president because they're racist racist racist, and, you know, racist.
That's been their approach. Let's see how it's worked in detail.
03 — Racist, shmacist. Just on a side note here, to get it out of the way: Why is it supposed to be the worst thing in the world for a non-Hispanic white person to be racist, when it's no big deal for anyone else to be? Our leading Hispanic lobbying organization actually calls itself "National Council of The Race," and nobody shuns them. To the contrary, bigfoot political folk like Karl Rove go and grovel at their conventions.
Black racism is a multi-million-dollar business, and as respectable as it could be. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright — sample quote: "White folks' greed runs a world in need" — got wealthy from it, thanks to large contributions from, among many others, Barack and Michelle Obama. He now lives in a large mansion next to a golf course in a tony — and of course heavily white — neighborhood of Chicago.
Louis Farrakhan lives in another large mansion, also in Chicago, and has gotten very rich by preaching that the white race was created by a mad scientist, that it will be destroyed by flying saucers, and that miscegenation is sinful. Al Sharpton, who referred to a building owner in Harlem as a, quote, "white interloper," and who calls whites "crackers," is likewise worth millions, and has his own TV show on MSNBC.
Meanwhile, any non-Hispanic white who commits the most microscopic breach of racial etiquette is chased out of town by a howling mob. It's all very peculiar.
OK, that's a sidebar note. Let's get back to the convention in Tampa.
04 — Tampa, FL, PC The Republicans at the Tampa convention know all that stuff of course, and are exerting themselves mightily to appear as un-racist as it's possible to be.
A casual observer might wonder why they bother, since their candidate, Mitt Romney, is currently polling at zero percent among blacks, and nobody — certainly no savvy political strategist — thinks that anything Romney might do, short of dumping his wife and marrying Serena Williams, is going to get that poll number up into the sunlit uplands above one or two percent. Blacks vote race, everyone knows that; though everyone also knows, of course, that there is absolutely, positively, and indisputably nothing the least bit racist about their doing so. How could there possibly be?
No, the target of all the racial righteousness on show in Tampa is not blacks. Appealing for black votes would be a waste of time, as everyone present understands. The target is the great good-natured white American middle class, some large proportion of whom, regardless of party affiliation, are entirely on board with the notion that a non-Hispanic white racist is only a tick or two away morally from an ax murderer.
The GOP convention is thus a festival of political correctness. Black delegates have been given prominent seating positions, strategically distributed around the hall. A twofer, black female Mia Love, who is mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and like Romney a Mormon — which actually makes her a threefer if you count Mormons as a historically oppressed demographic, which of course nobody does — Mia Love got to give an address to the convention Tuesday afternoon.
The left-wing Huffington Post observed snidely, but so far as I can tell accurately, that if you were a white male Republican Congressman, your chance of being given a speaking slot at Tampa was less than three percent. If you are a black male Republican Congressman, your chance is at least fifty percent, since Tim Scott has already spoken. I'm not clear if Allen West has spoken or is going to: if he has or does, that'll raise the odds to a hundred percent.
It's all in vain, of course. If the Republicans won't commit any breaches of racial etiquette, the media people will just make stuff up …
05 — Media Gnostics. The media lefties all have this phrase "dog whistle" stuck in their silly heads.
An actual dog whistle is a whistle that emits a note so high-pitched human beings can't hear it, but dogs can. This gives the lefties a very handy metaphor. A Republican or a conservative — and that's an ex-clusive "or," for all you logicians, a Latin aut — a Republican or a conservative can say anything at all — "Looks like rain today," or "I really like asparagus," or "Nice tie!" — and your media commentator can jump on it and explain that it's a dog whistle, see? The real meaning is: "Let's go burn a cross on someone's lawn! Who's got the hoods?"
I think if I hear some media talking head say the phrase "dog whistle" one more time, I shall emit some high-pitched sounds myself.
Anyway, that's been the media game all week. As MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell explained on Wednesday, quote: "These people [he's referring to Republican speechwriters] reach for every single possible racial double entendre they can find in every one of these speeches," end quote.
It's all code, you see. We are in the world of the Gnostics here, where every text has a hidden meaning. Or in the world of Islamic scholarship, one of whose sages once said that every verse in the Koran has either seven, or seventy, or seven hundred hidden meanings, depending on how wise you are.
The media lefties are the wisest of the wise. They can hear the dog whistle; they can decode the texts; they can dig out the hidden meanings.
Thus that same Lawrence O'Donnell, carrying out exegesis on a remark by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Here is Senator McConnell's actual remark, quote:
For four years, Barack Obama has been running from the nation's problems, he hasn't been working to earn re-election. He has been working to earn a spot on the PGA Tour.
OK Lawrence, what's the hidden meaning there? Actual quote from Lawrence O'Donnell, quote, no kidding, quote: "Well, we know exactly what he's trying to do there. He is trying to align to Tiger Woods and surely, the — lifestyle of Tiger Woods with Barack Obama." End quote. In other words, the senior Senator from Kentucky is dog whistling that Obama likes to romp with hookers. You didn't hear that? That's because you're not as smart as Lawrence O'Donnell.
O'Donnell wasn't even the worst of the media Gnostics. That title surely belongs to Chris Matthews, who, also on Wednesday, told us that it's racist to mention Chicago when talking about the President. Talking to some Professional Black Guy on MSNBC, Matthews said, quote: "They keep saying Chicago, by the way, you noticed?" The PBG of course had noticed. You don't get to be a Professional Black Guy unless you can hear those dog whistles. "Well," he replied, "there's a lot of black people in Chicago." So there are, Sir, so there are. Also a lot of white people — 45 percent of the population, against only 33 percent blacks. But let's not allow mere facts to spoil our fun.
Mention that Obama plays golf? That's racist, according to Lawrence O'Donnell. Mention that Obama lived in Chicago? That's racist, according to Chris Matthews. Racist, racist, racist. Maybe the Republican Party should just own the insult. Maybe they should rename themselves "National Council of The Race." No, wait a minute, that one's taken…
06 — Rand Paul roots for the Arctic Alliance. OK, enough of the media follies, what about the actual speeches at the convention?
We're going to tape just a little bit too early for Mitt Romney's speech, of which I have no great hopes anyway, but here are some observations on the others.
The only one that had me nodding along much was Rand Paul's. I expected no less of the junior Senator from Kentucky. Radio Derb listeners will recall that Rand was my pick for Vice Presidential candidate. I wish he'd been Mitt Romney's pick; but I guess that was too much to ask.
I especially liked Senator Paul's repeated shout-outs to his Asian constituents. I am, as the whole world knows, the first and most zealous promoter of the Arctic Alliance, in which we peoples with historical origins above latitude 30 degrees north — peoples with mean IQs around 100 and current Total Fertility Rates below replacement — we Arctic peoples, who created the world's two greatest civilizations, those of Europe and East Asia, we pool our resources to defend our territories against the tropical peoples from further south, who have very nice territories of their own, in which, with absolutely no ill will at all, we'd prefer them to stay.
I'm confident that I can get the Arctic Alliance up and running, and look forward to the day when they will build statues to me in Arctopolis, the ultimate capital, somewhere in the Urals, probably. However, the first step is to get all the Arctics in the United States voting together. Why not? If the blacks and Hispanics vote overwhelmingly Democrat, the whites and Asians — the Arctics — should vote overwhelmingly Republican.
Problem is, we don't. Asian-Americans in fact vote Democrat, though not as heavily as the blacks and Hispanics. We need to work on this: get the Asian-Americans voting Republican. Since America's future is plainly tribal, let's make sure the Asian-Americans know which tribe is best for them.
Rand Paul did excellent work there, reminding Asian-Americans that they are entrepreneurial, socially conservative, and independent-minded — natural Republicans.
07 — Ryan, Christie, Mrs. Romney, Ms. Rice, and Pal. Of the other speeches, Paul Ryan's was the one I liked best. Ryan's a serious guy whom I'm willing to respect. He's also much better looking than I thought, which is not nothing in a candidate. He spoke well, and did some good Vice Presidential tossing and goring of Obama's record. He also gave us some good Whiggish stuff about small business, rising up by one's own efforts, and so on. Rail-splitter Paul, I guess you might call him.
I have issues with libertarianism, which to my mind soils the best of conservatism with the worst of liberalism, like the proverbial tub of ice cream with a spoonful of dog poop added; but as a Vice-Presidential candidate, I'll say of Ryan what my sister said to me after her daughter had first brought home the guy she intended to marry: He'll do.
Chris Christie has his charms, but I can never see him without the phrase "open borders gun control neocon" crossing my mind, and that spoils it for me.
Ann Romney, to be perfectly frank, offended me. Quote:
Sometimes I think that, late at night, if we were all silent for just a few moments and listened carefully, we could hear a collective sigh from the moms and dads across America who made it through another day … And if you listen carefully, you'll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It's how it is, isn't it? It's the moms who have always had to work a little harder to make everything right. It's the moms of this nation, single, married, widowed, who really hold the country together … You know it's true, don't you?
No, actually, Mrs. Romney, I don't know it's true. I'm pretty sure, in fact, that it's a crock. That women are a little bit smarter than men, a little bit tougher, a little bit more hard-working, trespasses closer to feminism than I want to hear from a Republican platform.
In the words of the blogger who calls herself The Thinking Housewife, quote: "The out-sized ego of the American woman, which is like a bobbing inflatable on the political landscape, received major injections of hot air last night." End quote. It sure did. And who cares what the candidate's wife thinks, anyway?
And then Condoleezza Rice. I've never met Ms. Rice, but I've always thought she seems like a really nice person: smart, confident without being cocky, some wit and some charm. Whether her abilities really qualify her for high office, who knows? Affirmative Action has cast a pall of doubt on all black achievement. That's the second big argument against it, the first being of course just the matter of fairness.
Ms. Rice's speech was awful — a stew of Wilsonian neocon save-the-world flapdoodle. Quote: "the desire for liberty and freedom is, indeed, universal." No it isn't. Huge numbers of Muslims, for example, obviously prefer Islamic despotism — enough in Egypt for Islamists to have taken power.
Ms. Rice wants us to, quote, "intervene on behalf of the most desperate." Who exactly are we talking about here? Quote: "The AIDS orphans in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia."
Now, of course, anyone who wants to help these unfortunate people via private charity should certainly do so. That's not what Ms. Rice means, though. Quote: "This assistance together with the compassionate work of private charities … has shown the soul of our country."
So money raised from Americans through taxation — extracted forcibly from us by the federal government — is to be spent on drugs to counter venereal disease in Uganda, and housing refugees from failed states, which were not failing until our own politicians forced majority rule on them, and sending Bangkok prostitutes back to their poverty-stricken home villages, which they became prostitutes precisely to escape from.
To paraphrase Lord Palmerston, a nation doesn't have a soul, only interests. That the ailments of Ugandans, the private tribulations of Zimbabweans, and the sex lives of Cambodians have any connection to the interests of the U.S.A. has never been demonstrated to my satisfaction. If Ms. Rice wants to send a check to help relieve those things, I would not dream of stopping her; but keep the U.S. taxpayer out of it.
08 — A hero and a gentleman, R.i.P. Much sadness at the weekend to hear of the passing of astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human being to step on the surface of another planet. Armstrong's name will be remembered long, long after mine, yours, and Barack Obama's have been forgotten, if there is any justice in history.
As well as being a heroic figure, Armstrong was a real American gentleman — the kind of man who, by his example, made this nation loved and admired by millions around the world. He wasn't a gentleman by being born into any high station, or by any special training. Raised in a small midwestern town by parents of modest means, Armstrong was a natural gentleman, a gentleman by instinct, an inspiration to any man who wants to live the right way.
And he was a hero before he went to the moon: 78 combat missions as a Navy flier in the Korean War, followed by years as a test pilot, one of the most dangerous but necessary jobs in the world.
The true gentlemanliness came out in his modesty of demeanor after he returned from the Moon landing. He was quiet and reserved — so very different from the vapid "celebrities" whose antics fill our tabloid newspapers today. Armstrong always knew the right way to behave: a gentleman by instinct, as I said. He stopped signing autographs at once when he learned that people were selling them for money.
In one of his last public appearances twelve years ago, Armstrong said, quote: "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer," end quote. You were a great deal more than that, Sir; but that's no small thing in itself. America's wealth and strength was built in large part by nerdy engineers with pocket-protectors and slide rules. I'm a kindred spirit. Matter of fact I still have a slide rule, right here on my desk. I don't get to use it much any more; but I'm going to leave it here in plain sight, and pick it up now and then, and think of you stepping down the ladder onto that strange, mysterious landscape.
Just one footnote here. When Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, he said: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." As he later told Arthur C. Clarke: "That's what I intended to say; I thought that's what I did say." The indefinite article got lost in transmission, though, making the statement nonsensical, in fact self-contradicting. "Man" without an article and "mankind" are synonyms, so without that article, the small step and the giant leap are being assigned to the same object. The nonsensical form still gets quoted though, by people who apparently are too stupid to notice the contradiction. By the New York Post, for example — twice! — in its obituary.
Please, honor this fine American hero and gentleman. Honor the words he meant to say, and thought he did say. We pocket-protector nerdy types are never much good at public relations, and should be forgiven our slips.
Good-night, sweet prince; / And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Missouri Republican Senatorial candidate Todd Akin stumbled badly last week when he defended his no-exceptions anti-abortion position by saying that in cases of, quote, "legitimate rape," a woman's body knows not to proceed to pregnancy.
As a matter of cold science, that's not complete nonsense, but it's most of the way there. Taking human history in its entirety, if a woman couldn't get pregnant from rape, there'd be a lot less people on earth than there currently are. Recall the founding of ancient Rome, just for starters. Still, the thing Todd Akin believes is no sillier than some of the things liberals believe — that schooling can make dumb kids smart, for example. And a no-exceptions ban on abortion is extremely unlikely ever to make it to national legislation. We have much more important things to discuss.
It was that word "legitimate" in front of "rape" that got people excited, of course. For goodness' sake: anyone can mis-speak. I do it all the time. Who thinks that Congressman Akin regards any rapes as legitimate?
Akin has lost some votes from his gaffe, but he might still pull off a win. The latest poll shows him in a statistical dead heat with likely Missouri voters, 44 percent vs. 45 percent for his rival. I hope Todd Akin does win his Senate seat, just to confound all the squealing lefties who've been faking outrage over what they know perfectly well was a harmless slip of the tongue.
Item: Britain's Prince Harry found himself on a sticky wicket coming up to his 28th birthday, following a vacation in Las Vegas. Some photographs of the prince naked in a hotel room with a young woman leaked out to the press.
This is all good tabloid fun, but I can't see anything to get upset about. The Ottomans used to lock up all cadet members of their royal family in special palaces till some one of them inherited the throne, at which point all the others were garrotted. That's one way to deal with the problem of junior royals. The other way is to let them run free, in which case, if they're healthy young males, stuff like this will happen.
Harry is no idle playboy. He's served in the British military with honor, and one of his few known temper tantrums came about when the royal bureaucrats tried to keep him out of combat. He seems personable enough — no intellectual, to be sure, but the Windsors have never been known for that. He'll make an excellent back-up when his brother ascends to the throne, assuming Britain isn't part of the world-wide caliphate by that time.
And as British royals historically go, Harry's misbehavior barely registers. Check out Jane Ridley's new biography of Edward VII, Queen Victoria's son and successor. Bertie, as he was known in the family, never read a book, and occupied his long wait for the throne — he was 59 when he succeeded his mother — with heroic eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, racing, shooting, and sex.
The last one there was his particular favorite. Bertie would roger anything in a skirt. When he became obese from overeating, he had a special chair made and installed in a Paris brothel so that he could continue to indulge his erotic pleasures. "Edward the Caresser," Henry James called him. If there'd been iPhones with cameras around in those days, we'd have had a lot more to chuckle over than Harry's given us.
Item: You remember that rather strange guy you knew at college who dropped out and went off to Nepal or some place to "find himself"? Well, here's a news story about a woman who actually did find herself, though it took an all-night search.
We don't know the lady's name, only that she was Asian. She was a tourist, one of a bus party touring the Eldgjá volcanic region in southern Iceland. At one of the rest stops she freshened up and changed her clothes. When she got back on the bus her fellow-tourists didn't recognize her. They reported that a member of the party had gone missing.
The tour party became a search party, and Ms. Anonymous joined in. Quote from the wire service report, quote: "After a night-long operation involving around 50 people, the 'missing woman' eventually realized she was the source of the search and informed police."
End quote. OK, I guess all's well that ends well, and at least the lady found herself. That strange college classmate of yours? He never did find himself. Instead he came back stateside, got a job trading financial futures for Goldman Sachs, and is now worth several hundred million dollars. This is life. You can't make it up.
Item: Finally, a medical item … [Scream, bumping sounds] … What the heck was that? … Sorry? … Candy fell down the basement stairs? What's going on here? First Mandy, now Candy. Is she OK? … She is? Well, thank goodness for that. Maybe I should lock the door to the basement.
OK, where was I? Oh, yes: this final item from New Jersey, the Garden State. As I said, it's a medical item, concerning a lady named Kim Ramsey of Montclair, New Jersey. By coincidence, Ms. Ramsey is a nurse, but she's also an invalid, suffering from an unusual and distressing condition. The name of the condition is "persistent genital arousal disorder." She has, we are told, hundreds of orgasms a day — in cars, doing laundry, buying food in a supermarket, riding the New Jersey Transit trains, which I recall can get a bit bumpy.
(You get some strange people on those trains too. Last time I was riding New Jersey Transit, I could hear some woman in the next carriage screaming: "I've never come this way before!" I guess she'd got on the wrong train.)
Anyway, here's poor Ms. Ramsey, living with persistent genital arousal disorder — or as we doctors call it, PGAD. As a shy and unworldly scholar, I naturally know very little about these things, so some of the side commentary here has left me baffled. A lot of people in the comment threads on the story, for example, are advising Ms. Ramsey to get married. That'll cure it, they say … I really don't know why.
Doctors believe that Ms. Ramsey may have come down with the condition when she developed spinal cysts after falling down a flight of stairs. Gosh, I really must lock that basement door. I shouldn't want any of the girls to suffer as poor Ms. Ramsey is suffering. Those of us who enjoy robust good health, let's pause to spare a thought for the ill and afflicted among us.
10 — Signoff. There you have it for this week, ladies and gents. Now my work here is done, I'm off to the beach for a little relaxation. I'm told that Mandy and Candy are somewhat bruised and shaken up after their unfortunate mishaps, so it'll be just me and Brandy for the beach.
So, Brandy: are you coming? [Scream, bumping sounds] Brandy? Oh no …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]