[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your incommensurately genial host John Derbyshire with all the week's news.
A big stack of news this week, listeners, so let's get right to it without further ado.
02 — The GOP commits slow suicide. I'm going to take it as a given that our great-grandchildren will dig our buried corpses up out of the cemeteries and hang them in chains, as the Royalists did with the body of Oliver Cromwell, screaming insults and hurling rotten fruit at our bones as we twist slowly in the wind. The only interesting question is, who will they dig up first?
My best guess would be, the leaders and presidents of the Republican Party.
This came to mind as I was reading a news story in the Washington Times this Wednesday. Headline: Obama says Latino vote is key to victory, vows immigration reform in 2013. In the body of the story we read that Obama was on a phone call with a different newspaper, the Des Moines Register, pitching for that newspaper's endorsement. The Register is Iowa's leading newspaper, and Iowa is a toss-up state that could swing the election, so the Register's endorsement is worth having.
Obama's telephone remarks were supposed to be off the record, at his request, but they leaked out anyway. Here's the key thing he said, quote.
Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.
End quote. There are three assumptions in there. One, that the Hispanic vote is critical. Two, that Hispanics are approaching the election with an open mind, trying to figure out which candidate suits them better. Three, that Mitt Romney and his party have alienated Hispanics with policies hostile to Hispanics.
For the size and criticality of the Hispanic vote, I refer you to an excellent, very detailed analysis put out a few weeks ago by the Center for Immigration Studies. You can find it on their website, title "Projecting the 2012 Hispanic Vote." Executive summary:
So Obama's first point, that the Hispanic vote is critical, needs a lot of qualifying.
His second point, that Hispanics are approaching the election with an open mind, is dubious. Most Hispanics are recent immigrants, and recent immigrants for the past 150 years have been corraled by the Democrats. Most Hispanics are not well off, and want stuff from the government; the Democrats are the party of government giving you stuff. (Cubans are exceptions on both counts, but they are a localized minority among Hispanics.)
It was Obama's third point that got me thinking about our great-grandchildren's exhumation activities. Mitt Romney and his party, said the President, have alienated Hispanics with policies hostile to Hispanics.
Far-left columnist Frank Rich, writing in New York magazine last week, was more explicit. Here's what he said, quote:
Romney's embrace of the most extreme immigration arsenal, from vowing to veto the DREAM Act to endorsing a Mexican border fence, has assured that Obama will win the Latino vote by a landslide.
I just pause here to note the phenomenon I call "hate creep," in which milder and milder opinions or policies come to be thought of as "hateful." Twenty years ago, "racism" meant burning a cross on someone's front lawn; nowadays it means mentioning that Obama plays golf. Twenty years ago, an extreme immigration policy would have been rounding up illegals and sending them to labor camps in the Aleutian islands; now it's extreme to want a border fence — a thing that a majority of Senate Democrats actually voted for in 2006!
That third point of Obama's, though, about Republicans alienating Hispanics with their policies, is a sound one, though the immigration issue is only a small part of it. Hispanics are liberals. The share of Hispanics who think homosexuality should be accepted is six points higher than the white number. On taxes and government spending, the bedrock of Republicanism, Hispanics are actually more liberal than blacks!
Thus the Republican leaders of the past two generations, who have yielded so cravenly to Chamber of Commerce demands for cheap labor via mass immigration, both legal and illegal, have killed their party's reason for existence, and ensured a Latin-American-style future for the U.S.A.
The ensuing demographic transformation won't matter this election cycle as much as Obama thinks it will; but it will matter more in the next one, and more in the one after that. By the time our great-grandchildren are reaching for their shovels, it will have turned us into a bankrupt, rancorous slum of feuding minorities. The old strong, confident U.S.A. of the WASP ascendancy will be a fading, reviled memory. So will the Republican Party.
03 — Telescopic diplomacy. Monday's third and final debate between the presidential candidates, devoted to foreign policy, left us very little wiser.
The thing about foreign policy is, it's not very important except in wartime. That includes the Cold War: Having a powerful ideological enemy with several thousand ICBMs aimed at your territory is serious stuff.
The peacetime U.S.A. is a long way from anywhere, though, and under no threat of military invasion and occupation. The great grand-masters of international statecraft were people like Prince Metternich of Austria. You can see why: The Austria of Metternich's time shared borders with Prussia, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, and was within a couple of days' marching distance of France. Austria needed someone with a mastery of diplomacy.
Today's U.S.A. frankly doesn't. We could retreat into our shell of being an entirely commercial nation, a big Switzerland, as we were before Pearl Harbor, and let the world go hang. With modern surveillance systems another Pearl Harbor is not possible, and we have enough ICBMs to deter other kinds of direct agression. Terrorism's a nuisance, and there's a nonzero probability that we'll lose a city or two to smuggled rogue nukes sooner or later; but meddling in foreign parts makes that more likely, if anything.
Sure, we need stuff from the rest of the world; but that's what commerce is for. In important areas, we need less than we used to. Oil, for example. We're having a boom in domestic oil production: a seven percent increase this year, and this is the fourth straight year of increases. Analysts tell us that in a few years we'll overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world's top producer.
There used to be some foreign-policy votes around the margin to be harvested from ethnic constituencies like the Irish, Poles, and Italians. Those have pretty much faded, though, with the Irish settlement and the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The Jews are still with us as a foreign-policy-related voting bloc, enough so to need a Radio Derb segment of their own, the one following this one. That aside, no-one much gives a fig about foreign policy, and no-one should.
There is anyway a curious asymmetry in the way our politicians talk about foreign policy. Remote places of doubtful importance to Americans get talked about a lot; nearby places of great importance go unmentioned.
The debate illustrated this. Syria, a trashcan of a country of no importance whatever to us, got 28 mentions in the debate. Libya, ditto ditto, got 13. China got 32. Mali got five. Mali! Who even knows where Mali is? Who cares?
How about Canada and Mexico, whose affairs ought to be more interesting to us by a factor of thousands? Zero mentions in ninety minutes of debate — zero for Canada, zero for Mexico.
In Charles Dickens' novel Bleak House there's a character named Mrs Jellyby, who spends so much time doing charity work on behalf of the natives of West Africa, she neglects her own children. Dickens calls this "telescopic philanthropy." American foreign policy, as agreed on by both candidates Monday night — there was very little daylight between them — could be called "telescopic diplomacy."
Should Mitt Romney win the coming election, I have a suggestion for Foreign Secretary in his administration: Herman Cain. [Clip: Cain on U-beki-beki-stan-stan.]
04 — Israel, Iran, and the bomb. Most-mentioned nations in Monday's debate were Iran, with 47 mentions, and Israel with 34.
Iran is important to these candidates because Israel's important to them, and Iran is a major threat to Israel.
Why is Israel important to them? Well, in the first place there's the Jewish vote. Just pause a moment to recall that Monday's debate took place in Florida, one of the battleground states, and a state with lots of Jewish voters.
The Jewish vote is heavily Democratic — 70 percent to 25 percent, according to Gallup last month. Still, it's not as much of a lock for the Democrats as it was twenty years ago when Poppy Bush's Secretary of State famously remarked, slightly bowdlerized quote, "Screw the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway." It's not as intensely pro-Israeli, either: Benjamin Netanyahu is not a big favorite with American Jews, who are still overwhelmingly liberal.
So the Jewish vote is worth a pitch from Romney, especially as American evangelical Christians, a strongly Republican demographic, are pro-Israel for their own Biblically-based reasons. And Obama of course needs to shore up that 70 percent.
Still, nationwide Jews are only around four percent of the population. It's not just the vote, even in Florida. It's also a matter of big Jewish donors giving boxcar-loads of money to both political campaigns. Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson has given millions to Romney's campaign; the list of major Democratic donors starts off with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Amy Goldman, and James Simons, all Jewish.
Whatever you think of all that, you can't blame politicians for talking it up. I suspect that talk is all it is, though. Israel's survival just isn't as big an issue as it used to be. The hopelessly shambolic nature of Israel's enemies is much more plain to everyone now than it was fifty years ago, when countries like Egypt and Iraq were taken seriously.
Fears of Israel's annihilation are correspondingly less, and are concentrated on Iran. Hence Iran's status as most-mentioned nation in Monday's debate. Obama swore that Iran would not get a nuke on his watch. George W. Bush swore the same thing in the 2004 campaign. That was eight years ago, for the arithmetically-challenged out there. Mitt Romney said that, quote: "With regards to Iran and the threat of Iran, there's no question but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran, is unacceptable to America," end quote.
This is just as foolish talk now as it was eight years ago. Every serious military analyst I've asked about this, and I've asked a few, said the same thing: That no imaginable conventional military action will stop Iran getting a bomb if they really want one, which they apparently do. I can't believe the presidential candidates have heard anything different from their advisers.
That leaves the U.S.A. with two options: Make a nuclear strike against Iran, or persuade them to change their minds. The first option is just not going to happen; so we're stuck with persuasion, mainly via sanctions. If that doesn't work, we'll have to live with a nuclear Iran, and so will Israel.
Given the demented talk out of Iran, that is not, as our President would say, optimal; but we'll probably come out alive. Talk is likely all it is; and nobody thinks Israel's nuclear development has been standing still while Iran's has advanced. The consequences for Iran of an Iranian strike on Israel would be extremely unpleasant, and presumably that's been made clear to them.
We've lived with a nuclear Pakistan for fifteen years, and Pakistan doesn't win any prizes as a rational actor. We'll live with a nuclear Iran. The world will be a somewhat more dangerous place; but it's been a mighty dangerous place since the first mushroom cloud went up over New Mexico 68 years ago. If we wanted to be in the business of stopping crazy nations from getting nukes, the time to get into that business was forty years ago. Too late now.
05 — The weird logic of racial reporting. Speaking of dementia, here's a lady down in Louisiana, name of Sharmeka Moffitt, 20 years old, black. Ms. Moffitt called 911 from a park trail in Winnsboro, down there in the Bayou State. When police showed up, they found her badly burned.
Ms Moffitt said she'd been attacked and set on fire by three men wearing white hoods. The same three men, she said, were responsible for marking up her car with the letters KKK and the n-word, using toothpaste.
When I read this story on Monday, I had my doubts. These hate crimes against blacks almost invariably turn out to be hoaxes. Michelle Malkin's been reporting on this for years. Laird Wilcox wrote a book about the phenomenon back in, believe it or not, 1992, title Crying Wolf: Hate Crime Hoaxes in America, inspired by the most famous of the hate crime hoaxes, the Tawana Brawley case of 1987. Wilcox's book listed more than 300 cases. That was 20 years ago; imagine how many more bogus hate crimes there have been since then.
The sheer lack of imagination in these hoaxes is a giveaway. Nooses; "KKK"; the n-word; there's not much of a creative range here. Still, as childishly transparent as most of this stuff is, the media take it all very seriously, to keep up the fiction, so dear to the liberal mind, that black Americans are in constant danger from whites seeking to harm them.
Even given that track record, though, I thought that this Louisiana case might be genuine. Ms Moffitt was very badly burned, and remains in critical condition in a Shreveport hospital as I speak. Would someone really do such injury to themselves just to keep alive the myth of black victimization?
Yes, apparently they would. Tuesday the local sheriff's office announced that Moffitt's DNA and fingerprints were found on the can of charcoal lighter fluid used to set her afire. Her fingerprints were also on the lighter. There was also other unspecified evidence indicating that Moffitt was responsible. Local Police Chief Lester Martin said that both Moffitt and her family deserve the community's prayers. Quote from him: "This is a tragic situation."
I guess it depends on your definition of tragedy. Here's an incident somewhat closer to my definition of that word. A 12-year-old white girl, Autumn Pasquale of Clayton, New Jersey, told the world on her Facebook page how much she loved her BMX bike. Two brothers, Justin and Dante Robinson, 15 and 17 years old respectively, both black, lured Autumn to their home in order to steal her bike. They did so; then they strangled the 12-year-old girl and stuffed her body into a recycling bin on a vacant property near their home. Detectives who searched the brothers' home found Autumn's bike and other of her belongings. Justin and Dante have been charged with murder.
It's trite to say so, but I'll say it anyway: If two white teenagers had lured a black preteen girl to their home and murdered her for her bike, we'd never hear the last of it. Such white-on-black crimes are so rare that to keep the myth of victimhood alive, misguided souls like Sharmeka Moffitt down in Louisiana have to fake them. Double standard? You bet.
And even in a beastly crime like this, if the victim is white, it somehow has to be the victim's fault. Alonzo Robinson, the father of Justin and Dante, told the Newark Star-Ledger that, quote, "I think someone wanted the girl's bicycle. Maybe she wanted her bike and resisted." End quote.
See? It was the girl's fault for resisting. She wanted her own bike — how dare she! If she'd just let them take the bike — as they were surely entitled to do, after 400 years of oppression — then everything would have been fine.
This is the logic within which racial incidents are discussed in America today. Lewis Carroll, thou shouldst be living at this hour.
06 — George McGovern passeth away. We lost George McGovern this week, at age 90.
McGovern was a key figure in modern American politics, the Democratic equivalent of Barry Goldwater. Like Goldwater, he lost his presidential bid by a landslide; but also like Goldwater, his campaign ignited a new style of activism in his party — younger, more ideological, more confrontational than the old white-ethnic bloc leaders, cigar-chomping union warhorses, and Southern good ol' boys who had dominated the Democratic Party up to his time.
McGovern grew up in the twenties and thirties amidst real poverty in the agricultural Midwest, and tasted some of it himself. Combined with the earnest Methodism of his family — his Dad was a preacher — it made him an altruist and a warrior for social justice in the Progressive style of the time, via redistributionist government action.
He was a real warrior too, though, a war hero in fact, joining the Air Force after Pearl Harbor and eventually flying 35 bomber missions over enemy territory, in conditions of great danger. If you want some insight into what was involved there, I recommend the 1990 movie Memphis Belle.
Nothing will make me like liberals or liberalism. I have to say, though, that I dislike the earnest old-fashioned liberalism of McGovern a lot less than I dislike the snarling self-righteous narcissism of liberals today. It's one of the unpleasant paradoxes of history that the one thing led to the other: that without the reforming and organizing efforts of old-style gentlemanly patriots like McGovern, we would not have the frivolity, cruelty, whining, and spite of Chris Matthews, salon.com, and The View.
"One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh." I suppose there are times in history when the generation that cometh is an obvious improvement on the one that passeth away. This sure isn't one of those times, not on the political left. R.i.P. George McGovern.
07 — Nostalgia Corner: The Cuban missile crisis. Fifty years ago this week, at my parents' home in Northampton, England, I sat up late to see President Kennedy address the world on the Cuban missile crisis. My interest was as much technological as political: We were able to see the Kennedy broadcast live thanks to a communications satellite, Telstar, that had been launched earlier in the year. It was exciting stuff.
That was the Monday. The following week was pretty tense. On Fridays we senior boys had a lesson with the headmaster. Our headmaster was known to be slightly mad — he committed suicide not long afterwards — and he often gave over the Friday lesson to rambling monologues about history and philosophy that always had an interestingly crazy twist to them. I recall him once telling us that several European nations were named after features of the human condition supposed to prevail in them: Hungary after hunger, and Bulgaria after buggery. Perhaps he was a bit more than slightly mad.
Anyway, that Friday's lesson was all about the crisis. The head told us we should prepare ourselves psychologically for World War Three, ending quite possibly with the nuclear annihilation of the human race. His reputation for looniness notwithstanding, we took him seriously. That was how people thought back in the Cold War.
Here we still are fifty years later. Kennedy's long gone, and Khrushchov too, and my poor headmaster, and even some of my classmates. Anniversaries are melancholy things.
Having come through that crisis unscathed, though, and remembering how seriously we all took it back then, I can't repress a regrettable twinge of optimism about the issues of our own time. Perhaps, after all, humanity will make it through the next fifty years. For my kids' sake, I hope so.
08 — Pussification, a vent. Here's a familiar face in my Saturday newspaper: white turban, direct gaze, vast greying beard.
Yep, it's Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whose Homeric epithet is "mastermind" — mastermind, that is, of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Why is this guy still around eleven years later? Well, because we just got around to pre-trial hearings before putting him on actual trial, sometime next year. This is in the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the hearings are before a military commission.
KSM, as everyone calls him, was captured nine years ago in Pakistan. He was transferred to CIA custody shortly thereafter and interrogated. In 2006 he was moved to Guantánamo Bay, and preparations began for his trial. There was a formal arraignment in 2008. After much lawyering and politicking, including a bid by the Obama administration to have KSM and others tried in federal court in New York, that bid being foiled by Congress, these pre-trial hearings at last got under way before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay six months ago.
The latest news story, the one that caught my eye on Saturday, concerns KSM complaining to the tribunal that the court schedule isn't allowing him enough sleep. They've been getting him up at 5 a.m. and the court sessions have been going on to 5 p.m. KSM demanded he be allowed to sleep later, and for court to end earlier.
Both demands were granted. In fact, presiding judge Colonel James Pohl has ruled that the accused and his co-defendants need not show up in court at all if they'd rather just stay in their cells. Col. Pohl has also allowed KSM to wear a camouflage vest in the courtroom when he eventually comes to trial. The logic there was that KSM had belonged to the mujahedeen militias in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan during the 1980s. Those militias were in part financed by the U.S.A. That, his defense attorney argued, entitled him to wear our uniform. KSM was pretty obviously poking a finger in our eye there, but the judge allowed it anyway.
So here we are with KSM, nine years after we captured him, surely not much less than that since we squeezed the last bit of useful information out of him, and we're dickering about dealing with frivolous, mocking requests from him. Relatives of the 9/11 victims are disgusted, and so am I.
That's what we're like nowadays, though: So obsessive about so-called "human rights" we end up paralyzed, incapable of administering justice in any way that inspires fear in malefactors or awe in law-abiding spectators.
In another illustration of this dismal truth, this week also saw a stay of execution in the case of John Errol Ferguson. Ferguson has been on Death Row in Florida for 34 years. In 1977 he shot eight bound and blindfolded people execution-style; six of them died. A few months later he came across a couple of 17-year-olds, Brian Glenfeldt and Belinda Worley, in a lovers' lane. They had just left a church event and were on their way to get some ice cream. Ferguson robbed them, raped the girl, and left them both shot dead. In 1978 he was sentenced to death. Thirty-four years ago.
The essence of Ferguson's case is that he may or may not be insane. Why, after 34 years, this has still not been determined to the satisfaction of the courts, I cannot understand. Ferguson's 34 years on Death Row isn't even a record: One Florida inmate has been there since 1967 — 45 years.
Can it be that our entire so-called justice system is just a massive jobs program for law-school graduates? Perish the thought!
I have vented on these issues before. Permit me to recycle an old vent. This is from my National Review Online monthly diary for November, 2008. The issue I was commenting on was the mealy-mouthed way we were dealing with pirates off the coast of East Africa. Long quote:
Blogger Randall Parker wonders why we are such pussies about these Somali pirates. Well, why wouldn't we be? We're pussies about everything else.
End long quote. That pretty much sums it up. It also explains why John Errol Ferguson, and very likely Khalid Sheik Mohammed, too, will eventually die of old age while lawyers bicker over neutrino-sized points of law.
Forget that spasm of optimism I closed the previous segment with. Forget it, forget it. We are doomed, doomed.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: You can't accuse the North Koreans of being pussies. We learned this week that Kim Chol, a vice minister of the North Korean army, was executed for drinking alcohol during the 100-day mourning period for Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il that followed the Dear Leader's death last December. All ordinary pleasures, including drinking, were supposed to be suspended during that period.
The unfortunate Mr Kim was not merely executed; he was executed by mortar. Not the kind of mortar that holds bricks together: this was a military mortar, what in my days as an army cadet was still called a "trench mortar" — a sort of portable artillery piece. The mortar execution was apparently ordered by North Korea's cool young new leader Kim Jong-Un, who demanded Kim Chol be, quote, "obliterated," with, quote, "no trace of him behind, down to his hair."
I'll take correction from military listeners on this, but my recollection of mortars is that they were not accurate enough to accomplish the task as specified. If it was entrusted to me to dispatch Mr Kim, I'd want to take a few ranging shots first; and with all the luck in the world, there would definitely have been some of his hair left. Possibly mortars have improved this last 50 years, though.
Item: News from the amazing world of science: A firm named Air Fuel Synthesis, of Stockton-on-Tees in England, has produced eleven gallons of gasoline — or, as the British news source says, "petrol" — from carbon dioxide and water vapour. Since carbon dioxide and water vapour are both abundant constituents of air — in the case of carbon dioxide, too abundant, according to the global-warming crowd — this means gasoline is being made from air.
The researchers allow that their process is somewhat inefficient — it uses masses of electricity from the public supply — but hope to become commercially viable in a few years. I share their hope. Anything that puts the Arabs out of business looks good to me.
Item: How many of us are homosexual? If you judged from movies and TV shows, you'd have to think it was around one in three. The correct answer is more like one in thirty — 3.4 per cent of adults consider themselves a member of the LGBT community, according to the most comprehensive survey yet, by Gallup.
There are some interesting differentials in there, too. Women are a bit gayer than men, 3.6 percent to 3.3. More surprising, to me at any rate: Blacks are gayer than whites. Four point six percent of blacks were LGBT, along with four per cent of Hispanics, 4.3 per cent of Asians and a mere 3.2 per cent of non-Hispanic whites.
The question now hangs in the air: Why do we have to reorder all our time-tested social arrangements, including even marriage, to accommodate the whims of a 3.4 percent minority? So long as we're not actively persecuting them, which of course we are not, why should not they accommodate themselves to us?
Item: On a theme not related in any way, shape or form whatsoever to the foregoing, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said she was not sure if President Barack Obama would have nominated her to the Supreme Court if she had not been a woman. This was during a talk to law students last Friday at the University of Tennessee Law School.
Nobody ventured to ask the justice whether she thinks she would have been nominated if she were a married white baptist woman with four kids. I guess there wouldn't be much point. We already know the answer to that, don't we? It wouldn't have been diverse enough.
10 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Way over time this week, so I'll make a speedy departure.
To see us out, here's a blast from the past. Recording that segment about 1962, I got to wondering what I was listening to at the time. What was top of the British pops in October 1962? Believe it or not, it was "Telstar" — not the satellite, but a pop instrumental of the same name. It's not very distinguished, but for old time's sake, here's a snippet.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: The Tornadoes: "Telstar"]