[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. Our broadcast will be briefer than usual this week, listeners, and somewhat subdued, as I have just said goodbye to a very dear old friend who passed away a few days ago — we just had the memorial service for him.
It was, I should say, a very nice service. Special thanks to Peter, the choirmaster. Still, it was naturally one of those events that leaves one feeling glum, doubly so because there were in attendance many mutual acquaintances I hadn't seen for twenty years or more — an unsettling experience all by itself.
Time's wingéd chariot seems to be gaining on me right now, its great wheels rumbling over the cobblestones; and I am uneasily conscious of having done many things I ought not to have done, and failed to do things I ought. Still time for improvement, I hope.
Well, well, enough of these gloomy ruminations. Dum vivimus, vivamus, while we live, let's live — and, in my case, try to find some nuggets of hope, or at least amusement, in the dunghill of a week's news.
02 — Ukraine; I kraine; he, she, or it kraines. The week's biggest headlines concerned the ructions in the Ukraine — or, as we're now apparently permitted to say, Ukraine. I don't know when or why we dropped the "the." It was one of those little onomastic changes that somehow we all agree to yield to from time to time for no discernible reason, like when they changed "Bombay" to "Mumbai," or "Pei-p'ing" to "Peking." Why didn't we change "Bangkok" to "Kroongthep," and "Cairo" to "El Kahira"? Nobody can tell you.
A lot of places used to have a "the." Lebanon used to be the Lebanon; Sudan used to be the Sudan; Argentina used to be the Argentine. Ah, where are the snows of yesteryear? Well, most of them seem to have fallen on the United States this past few days, but that's another topic.
OK, the Ukraine … or "Ukraine." I shall most likely be totally inconsistent in my usage here.
The Ukraine is one of those places a commentator comments on at his peril. Anything you say will be offensive to some large group of people. My closest connections to that part of the world are with White Russians — the descendants of people who fled from Russia after Lenin's revolution — my friend who just passed away was one such. They feel about the Ukraine the way patriotic young Chinese people feel about Taiwan. They tell you angrily that the Ukraine is part of Russia — "Little Russia," Gogol called it.
A lot of Ukrainians have a different take. The key word here is "Holodomor." That final syllable, the "-mor," is the old Indo-European root syllable you see in the English words "morgue," "mortality," "moribund," et cetera. We're talking about death, a lot of death. In the early 1930s, when the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, Stalin's policies caused millions of Ukrainians to starve to death. That was the Death by Hunger, the Holodomor. Ukrainians haven't forgotten, or forgiven.
Over and above that there is the schizophrenic feature you find in any large issue concerning Russia. Is Russia an Asiatic despotism under imperial rule, or a European state with a parliament, a constitution, and a free press? The nation is pulled both ways, and always has been. A hundred years ago, when Lenin was trying to get his revolutionary forces organized, he was wont to worry aloud that the proletarian state he wished to establish would degenerate into an Asiatshchina, an Asian-style bureaucratic empire. As things turned out, his worries were well-founded, not that Lenin did much to stop the development once he was in power.
On the other hand, Russia's magnificent achievements in literature, music, art, mathematics, and science are those of a great civilized European people. That's the force pulling in the other direction. The fine American political scientist Bob Wesson wrote a good book about this back in the 1970s: The Russian Dilemma.
Ukrainian political psychology doesn't cut exactly like that, but it's hard not to notice that the eastern part is more amenable to authoritarianism, including even Russian authoritarianism, while the western part looks more to Europe in culture and religion. There, I've already made somebody mad by saying that.
The Ukrainian language is in fact mainly spoken in the western part of the country. In the eastern part, people prefer to speak Russian, and many of them identify as Russian.
The capital, Kiev, is smack in the middle between east and west, and it's Kiev that's seen the terrible rioting of these past few days.
Kiev is a great name in European history, by the way, though our kids don't learn much about it in our schools.
It was the main city of a great state, Kievan Rus, back in the middle Middle Ages. It was Vladimir, a Prince of Kiev, who adopted eastern Christianity for his people, a thousand years ago. The Slavs up to that point had been pagans. The story is, Vladimir checked out Islam, Judaism, and Roman Christianity, but rejected them all. Islam prohibits the drinking of alcohol, which would never work for Russians. Judaism seemed not to have God's favor, since He had allowed the Jews to lose their country. I forget Vladimir's objection to Roman Christianity, but anyway he settled for the Eastern style, and the Russians became Christians with an Eastern Orthodox rite …
I'm sorry — more than you wanted to know, I'm sure. My old friend, the one we've just seen off to the next world, was named Vladimir, so I kind of have that name on the brain right now.
OK, that's all backstory. What's been happening this week in the Ukraine, and what, if anything, should we do? Next segment.
03 — Barry Goldwater's dream. One other thing you need to know about the Ukraine: It's corrupt. Way corrupt. On the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013, put together by the respectable German think tank Transparency International, the Ukraine is tied at 144th out of 175: tied, that is, with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Iran, Nigeria, and Papua New Guinea. Russia ranks 127 on that index: the U.S.A. is a shiny clean 19.
The president of Ukraine — see? I told you I was going to be inconsistent — is a Russian from the eastern part who admits he can't speak the Ukrainian language well. This chap's name is Viktor Yanukovych. He's a son of the soil, from humble origins — very much like Nikita Khrushchov, who was born 200 miles away — right next door on the Russian scale. Also like Khrushchov, Yanukovych has a colorful way of expressing himself that has generated much humor. He's particularly fond of comparing his political opponents to farm animals — unfavorably.
The spark that ignited the country's present troubles was the suspension, last November, of a deal between the Ukraine and the EU, the European Union. The Ukraine badly needed the deal. The country is basically flat broke, officially from being especially hard hit by the crash of five years ago, but actually of course in the main due to those Nigerian levels of corruption, without Nigerian levels of oil to pay for it.
There were two problems with the deal, a national one and a personal one. The national one was, that the idea of Ukraine drifting westwards towards the EU, instead of eastwards towards Mother Russia, made Vladimir Putin furious. The personal one was that the EU insisted on Yanukovych releasing Yulia Tymoshenko and letting her leave the country. That's the lady with the interesting plaited hairstyle, Yanukovych's one-time Prime Minister but bitter rival. She's currently three years into a seven-year jail sentence for corruption. Getting nailed for corruption in the Ukraine is a bit like being arrested for smoking pot at a Bob Marley concert, but there you are.
So this deal with the EU was abruptly suspended last November. Putin had basically bought off the government, although that wasn't immediately apparent. He offered them billions in cheap loans and cheap natural gas.
Ukrainian patriots and Western-oriented students and commercial people were mad at the suspension, so there were protests. The police over-reacted; there were worse protests, followed by worse over-reaction. That's how we got here.
There's a little paradox in the case: All over Europe there's been increasing support for nationalists, who are hostile to the EU and its arrogant trans-national bureaucracy — most especially to its open-borders policies. Nationalists in the Ukraine, on the other hand, look to the EU to help them against Putin and Yanukovych. Nationalists looking to trans-nationalists for support! But where else can they look?
Well, there's Uncle Sam. Our State Department did seem to be trying to get involved earlier this month, with one of John Kerry's people trying to herd cats there, the cats in this case being Ukraine's innumerable opposition political parties, all of which can, as George Orwell said of their pre-WW2 French equivalents, be bought over the counter like so many pounds of cheese. The idea was to get a coalition together strong enough to thwart Yanukovych and Putin. We know all about this because the meetings were bugged and transcripts were posted on the Internet, probably by Putin's people.
It didn't work, and probably couldn't have. I feel for the Ukrainian protestors. I wish just as fervently as they do that they could be a normal European country instead of a Russian satrapy competing with Nigeria and Iran in the corruption rankings. It's Putin's turf, though. He has all the options, not to mention all the oil and gas. Our choices are very limited. We can make angry faces in the U.N., that's about all. The EU is of course a paper tiger, as Kerry's point person said rather coarsely on the bugged conversations.
Listeners old enough to remember the 1964 presidential election may recall Barry Goldwater's proposal to, quote, "liberate the Ukraine." With all due respect to Senator Goldwater, it wasn't a very realistic U.S. policy goal then, and it still isn't.
04 — Poop floats, gold sinks. Two weeks ago on Radio Derb I introduced you to Marcella Sills, principal of Public School 106 in Far Rockaway, New York City. P.S. 106 is 69 percent black, 22 percent Hispanic, and nine percent other. Ms. Sills is herself black.
The story was, Ms. Sills had been neglecting her duties big-time. The kids had no books, no gym or art or music classes, and Ms. Sills wasn't around much. Some days she showed up when school was letting out; other days she didn't show up at all.
All this had been going on for years. The city education department did nothing. Then the New York Post did an exposé, and the schools bureaucracy slouched reluctantly into action. Now Ms. Sills is about to be fired. At least, the city Department of Education has said it will fire her.
Don't be shedding any tears for Ms. Sills, though. She is of course a member of the state teachers' lobby, which dishonestly calls itself a "union." As I keep telling you, these public-sector employee organizations are not unions seeking a fair share of someone's profits; they are lobbies, seeking money from the public fisc.
The New York State teachers' lobby is very powerful, and has won extravagant benefits for its members. Ms. Sills has at least 100 sick days accumulated, which she'll get paid for. And the disciplinary procedures necessary to get her off the city's payroll take an average 520 days, during which Ms. Sills will be on full salary. Her snout won't be out of the trough for at least two years.
Compare and contrast the treatment of a white teacher, Frank Borzellieri. I wrote up Frank's case for Taki's Magazine in May last year. He too was principal of a New York school, although a Catholic school under the local archdiocese. He'd acquired the necessary Master's degrees — two of them! — at his own expense. He had a spotless record and was a hard worker, liked by staff and students.
Before taking up his career as an educator, Frank had written some articles for American Renaissance, a race-realist magazine. They were politically incorrect, but not objectionable in any other way — not abusive or inciting to lawlessness. His writings were in fact brought to the attention of the archdiocese, who reviewed them and declared them free of doctrinal error.
Then a vindictive reporter at a local tabloid — a lady who lives in Bronxville, a tony and of course lily-white suburb of the city — wrote a piece calling Frank a white supremacist. The archdiocese promptly fired him.
Frank legally changed his name and got a job in a different archdiocese. The Thought Police hunted him down, told the archdiocese who he was, and Frank got fired again. No hundred days sick pay, no 520 days in disciplinary proceedings.
Moral of the story: If you're black, and a member of one of the public employees' lobbies, you can do pretty much as you please. You might end up fired, but only after years of inquiries, during which you'll be on full pay and not expected to work.
If, on the other hand, you're white and not a public employee, you can be hounded out of job after job by Marxist hooligans for saying things like, typical quote from Frank, "diversity's a weakness," even if no-one has ever found fault with your work.
This is the pitiful, degraded state we have sunk to under the influence of public-sector lobbies and Cultural Marxist bullying. Poop floats, gold sinks.
05 — Federal judge hasn't read the Constitution. Here's another affirmative action twofer — black, female — elevated, like Ms. Sills, way past her level of competence.
That's no idle insult: we have evidence this lady shouldn't be where she is, evidence from her own pen.
The lady is named Arenda L. Wright Allen, and she's a judge on the U.S. District Court down in Norfolk, Virginia. In 2006 the voters of Virginia placed an amendment in the state constitution banning homosexual marriage. The issue before Judge Wright Allen was whether this amendment was constitutional.
On Thursday, February 13th she issued her ruling. No, she said, the ban is not constitutional. Quote from her ruling:
Our Constitution declares that 'all men' are created equal. Surely this means all of us.
It is of course not the Constitution that declares that, but the Declaration of Independence. That a federal district court judge does not know this is staggering. Further, the second sentence is redundant. Of course "all men" means "all of us."
Further yet, it is not clear how the thing declared in the Declaration applies to the state licensing of marriages. Why should not states define marriage in any way their citizens wish for the purpose of licensing? If Jefferson's words contain the implication that men have an inalienable right to marry men, and women women, how come nobody noticed this these past 237 years? And why do I not have an inalienable right to marry my sister, or my uncle, or my bowling team? We're consenting adults, aren't we?
The New York Times, by the way, reported Judge Wright Allen's ignorant words without comment, apparently not noticing the high school-level blunder; or perhaps feeling that since she's black, it would be unkind to point out her error.
The Times went on to gush about the judge's, quote, "lofty language," giving the following as an example of that lofty language, quote:
We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.
To be fair to the judge, that isn't as illiterate as it sounds. In the actual ruling, the phrase "We the People" is in italics, so we can assume it's the phrase, a singular thing, that's the subject of "is," not We, which would need a plural. The Times, however, printed it without italics, and so is being illiterate.
The sentence is still not so much lofty as vainglorious. "Look at me!" it shrieks. "I'm making history!" It's not your business to make history, Ma'am, it's your business to leave that to the people in their collective wisdom, restraining them only when they have voted something plainly foolish or wicked.
Judge Wright Allen is of course an Obama appointee. These are the people set over us, to insult and bully us, and rip up our collective decisions. These, these ignorant clowns puffed up with vanity, these are our masters. Heaven help us!
06 — Norks and Nazis. North Korea continues to be creepily fascinating. I just recently read a novel about the place, title The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, published a year and a half ago. The author spent three years researching the country, and what he couldn't find out he imagined very convincingly. I commend it to your attention.
Well, Monday this week the United Nations brought out a report on human rights violations in North Korea, and it's just as grisly as Adam Johnson's novel, and as everything else you read about the place. Quote:
These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation … The gravity, scale and nature of the violations in the totalitarian state over several decades do not have any parallel in the contemporary world.
End quote. I did wince a bit at this, in the Los Angeles Times report. They write that the chairman of the U.N. panel, an Australian judge, quote:
said the findings reminded him of the extensive horrors committed by Nazi Germany and other Axis powers and fully revealed only at the end of World War II.
End quote. I certainly don't doubt that Nazi Germany, Japan, and to a much lesser extent Italy did indeed do horrible things. Why do communist nations get off the hook, though? Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot all committed terrible acts of mass murder. Even minor communist dictators like Ho Chi Minh, Enver Hoxha, and Fidel Castro each murdered many more innocent people than Mussolini did. Couldn't the U.N. at least give these communists a mention? — especially since it's a communist country we're talking about here!
There isn't much we can do about the Norks, given that the regime is under the protection of communist China. They are a threat to us only at a low and manageable level — they produce counterfeit currency, for example, and have nuclear weapons they might sell to terrorists for cold cash. We need to keep a sharp eye on them. That aside, all we can do is take them as an object lesson that even in a world awash with wealth and modernity, man can still be wolf to man.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Over in the United Arab Emirates, on the Persian Gulf, a committee of clerics calling itself the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment has issued a fatwa against going to live on Mars. There's an organization called Mars One that hopes to establish a human colony on Mars in 2025. Na-uh, say the clerics: the place is so inhospitable to life, going there amounts to suicide, which Islam doesn't allow.
In scriptural support of the fatwa, the committee quoted the following verse from the Koran, quote: "Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful." End quote.
In related news, fundamentalist Muslims in Syria stoned a young woman to death for having a Facebook account.
Item: Speaking of Facebook, they just acquired a startup called WhatsApp for $19 billion. That's "billion" with a "b."
What does this startup make? Well, they make an app called WhatsApp Messenger, described here as, quote, "a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones. Users can send each other images, video, and audio media messages." End quote.
I've got to admit, I'm so far behind with this stuff, I'm never going to catch up. I just don't get it. Who has so much to say to other people? Isn't 99 percent of what's transmitted by these apps just empty babble? I have a Facebook account; a friend said I should have, and set it up for me. I've never used it, though, and now I've lost the password.
I suppose it's all harmless enough. It brings to mind Dr. Johnson's many remarks about the vacuity of life. Quote: "Life must be filled up, and the man who is not capable of intellectual pleasures must content himself with such as his senses can afford," end quote. Tweet away, everyone! Life must be filled up.
Item: Finally, my absolutely last word on the global warming business. I've had a big email bag on this, forty or fifty emails, three-quarters of it contrarian, the others warmist.
I have diligently read through them all — I read all non-abusive email, though I don't get time to answer much of it. In spite of the fact that the majority of emails are anti-warmist, the net cumulative effect has been to shift me a tad further over to the warmist side.
Other things apart — and I've mentioned the other things in previous broadcasts — there's a matter of tone. Contrarianism, when you read through it in bulk — and certainly there are individual exceptions — leaves you with a strong whiff of crankiness, conspiracy nuttiness, and monomania. Warmists on balance are calmer and more reasonable, and so are the sites they link to. There's some nuttiness on both sides, warmists who want contrarians boiled in oil and vice versa, but I'm speaking of the overall cumulative effect.
And I may have done Mark Steyn an injustice, assuming, from his remarks about his lawsuit, that he's a contrarian. A correspondent who asked Mark tells me his position is the same as mine: yes on warming, yes on some part being caused by human activity, no on trillion-dollar schemes to fix it. Good to know.
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. To play us out, here's my friend Vladimir's favorite singer, Anna Netrebko, singing one of my favorite songs, Casta diva from Bellini's Norma.
More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: Netrebko, Casta diva]