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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb on the air here, ladies and gentlemen. This is your unflappably genial host John Derbyshire with news from the four corners of the earth, brought to you by our diligent teams of researchers and analysts, and broadcast from our lush state-of-the-art studio here on the 95th floor of Buckley towers in the heart of Manhattan.
Many, many things to talk about this week, so off we go.
02 — U.S. troops for Afghanistan. President Obama announced, rather quietly, that an extra 17,000 troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, to deal with the resurgent Taliban. Then General David McKiernan, our commander in Afghanistan, gave a press conference to tell us he'll be looking for even more troops down the road — another 10,000 later this year, he said.
Plainly the administration thinks it's really important to defeat the Taliban. Why do they think this? Well, because the Taliban hosted Osama bin Laden last time they were in charge of the country, and we all know what Osama did to us.
All right, but since seven years and counting have failed to eliminate the Taliban, might it be time for a re-think? Afghanistan's only importance to us is as a place where a Taliban government might host Islamic terrorists. Is it really the case that endless low-level war is the only way to stop this happening?
Why not let the Taliban run Afghanistan, under a stern warning that should our intelligence indicate that there are jihadist bases there, we'll take whatever action we need to to eliminate them?
McKiernan said that our reinforced army will need to stay in Afghanistan for, quote, "the next three or four years." At what cost in money and casualties? Is this a smart way to tackle terrorism, throwing tens of thousands of troops into this dustbowl of a country in the middle of nowhere?
It's not as if Afghanistan is the only place that ever hosted jihadis: Somalia's crawling with them, so are Lebanon and Syria, so is Pakistan — which, by the way, just cut a deal with the Taliban, to the mutual advantage of both.
Do we actually know what we're doing in Afghanistan? The government in nearby Kyrgyzstan doesn't think so. They just terminated our lease of an airbase outside their capital, which we'd been using to supply our forces in Afghanistan. A government spokesman said the Kyrgyz parliament voted to close the base because they no longer believe a military strategy in Afghanistan could secure peace. Quote:
I think a different approach is necessary, maybe it will be economic or maybe something else, but not a military one because it's not working and has never worked in Afghanistan.
Agreement came from no less than the Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, quote:
We should not be under any illusion there is a military solution.
But our administration does seem to be under exactly that illusion.
Cut a deal with the Taliban and get out of there, Mr President. If the Taliban want Afghanistan and its goat-powered economy, let 'em have it. Just make it plain what will happen to them if any more bin Ladens launch attacks on us from bases there.
03 — German troops in France. Technically, Afghanistan is not a U.S. operation but a NATO operation, with 30,000 non-American troops also in the field there.
Yes, folks, NATO is still around, though it beats me why. They're not just around in Afghanistan, helping us to do whatever it is we think we're doing there, but also in Europe, where 42,000 of our troops are keeping watch under NATO command to make sure the Red Army doesn't come barreling through the Fulda Gap. Aren't you glad of that?
NATO hasn't always been popular with everyone, though. Case in point: the late French President Charles de Gaulle, who thought NATO was a plot by les Anglo-Saxons to dominate Europe. In 1966 he removed French troops from NATO command and expelled non-French troops from France.
Well, times have changed. Current French President Nicolas Sarkozy is keen to improve his country's security ties with the U.S.A. Translated from the French, that means he wants you and me, U.S. taxpayers, to spend even more money defending Europe than we currently do. An announcement that France will fully rejoin NATO is widely expected this spring.
Gaullist sentiment is still strong in France, though, and Sarkozy has to appease it. How can he do that? Well, by playing up Europe's independent defense capability.
I bet you didn't know Europe had one. Yes it does. This is Eurocorps, a six-nation unit created in 1992 by François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl. As part of the playing-up of Eurocorps, Sarkozy has agreed that a battalion of German soldiers will now be based in France, the first since WW2.
Hmm. I wonder: Making their way from Germany to their new garrison in France, will the Boche have to detour round the Maginot Line? I'm just wondering. Was the agreement signed in a railroad carriage? Will the Germans parade along the Champs Elysée? One can only speculate.
[Clip of "Deutschland über alles."]
04 — Book-burners ascendant. This is a tangled tale, so concentrate please.
In 1985 Congress made it unlawful to use lead pigments in the inks, dyes, and paints used for children's books, even though there was no evidence that any child had ever been harmed thereby. Hey, they're Congress, they can do anything they like. Nineteen eighty-five, right?
Fast forward 23 years to last summer, when Congress was all in a dither about lead paint on toys imported from China. They accordingly passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the CPSIA.
Now, books came within the scope of the Act, though the evidence of any harm from books is no better now than it was in 1985. The Act specified fines of up to $250,000 and prison time up to five years for selling or distributing pre-1985 children's books.
When CPSIA duly took effect on February 10 this year, used-book dealers, thrift stores, and libraries nationwide began shipping the entire glorious heritage of early 20th-century children's book illustration to garbage dumps and incinerators. Some used-book dealers have had to go out of business.
That treasured copy of Little Women that belonged to your grandmother, with those lovely colored illustrations, is now contraband. If you were to lend it to your neighbor's child, that would be distribution, and you'd be looking at five years in the pokey, courtesy of our wonderful congresspeople.
Anyone remember Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451? That was about a world of the future where books are forbidden altogether. The government had a corps of "firemen" whose job was to track down books and burn them.
We're getting there. But it's all for the sake of the children, you know.
05 — Neanderthal genome. Radio Derb listeners, along with most of the staff here at Buckley Towers, all belong to the species Homo sapiens.
A very closely related species, with whom our remote ancestors shared territory for many thousands of years, was Homo neanderthalensis, a.k.a. the Neanderthals. It would be fascinating to know more about this cousin species. Alas, the last known member perished some 30,000 years ago. All we have to work from are some piles of bones.
Bones are made from cells, though; and cells generally have nuclei, and in the cell's nucleus is some DNA. Well, researchers in Germany have been toiling away for several years to reconstruct the Neanderthal genome — that's the complete DNA — from fragments of bone. They think they're nearly there, and put out an announcement last week.
That of course got all the world's Jurassic Park fans speculating about the possibility of an actual living Neanderthal being generated. It's certainly possible, say the researchers, though of course that doesn't mean it would be ethical.
And in the America of today, there would be legal and regulatory issues to resolve. Would our resurrected Neanderthal be allowed to vote? Would he be eligible for affirmative action?
Could he run for Congress? If he did, would anybody notice?
06 — Chimp terror. If we decide at last that we're OK with the idea of bringing a Neanderthal to life, where's he going to live?
No problem there. You can be sure there are people willing to share living quarters with a Neanderthal. The reason you can be sure is, we know at least one person who was only too happy to share her living arrangements with a chimp, and chimps are about ten times more distant from us genetically than Neanderthals.
Meet Mrs Sandra Herold of Stamford, Connecticut. Mrs Herold has had a chimp named Travis living in her house for the past 14 years.
Mrs Herold's had a tragic time of it recently. Her daughter was killed in a car crash; then five years ago her husband died. Travis has been her only companion. She and Travis ate their meals together, accompanied with wine which Travis seemed to like, took baths together, and even slept together.
One thing they apparently did not do together was go to the gym: Travis weighed 200 pounds, possibly something to do with his fondness for ice cream and watching TV.
Well, on Monday Travis was a little antsy, so Mrs Herold's friend Charla Nash drove over to help calm him. Travis attacked the visitor, very nearly killing her, and police had to shoot him. Ms Nash is now in intensive care with a mangled face and hand, Mrs Herold is distraught, and Travis has gone to join the Choir Invisible, assuming chimps have one.
Everywhere I look people are making tasteless jokes about this story, but I must say, it all strikes me as very sad. The moral of it, I guess, is that you can take the chimp out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the chimp.
The other moral is, that no matter how sad your life has been and how lonely you are, for non-human companionship, you'd be wise to stick with dogs, cats, and parakeets.
07 — Department of Support for Reckless Borrowers. "We're from the government and we're here to help you." Those are the blessed words falling on the ears of people who bought more house than they could afford at the height of the property bubble.
If you haven't quit paying your mortgage yet, quit right now. Not paying your mortgage is proof positive that you're heading for the homeless shelter unless Uncle Sam comes round with a nice big check.
Me, I'm an even bigger fool than the people still paying their mortgages. I don't even have a mortgage. Paid the darn thing off twelve years ago. What an idiot!
Maybe it's not too late, though. There should be something else out there I can't afford. All I have to do is buy it on credit, default on my payments, and wait for the lady from the federal Department of Support for Reckless Borrowers to come round with my check.
Oh no, wait a minute — I've been too cynical. (Who would believe that?) The President actually said:
The program will not reward folks who bought homes that they knew from the beginning they would never be able to afford.
I guess the administration has a cheat-detector gadget. When you apply for this relief, they'll wave the gadget in front of you. If it beeps and the red light goes on, that means you always knew you were living in a house you couldn't afford. If, on the other hand, the little green light goes on, that means you truly believed you could meet the mortgage payments on your $600,000 house from your wages as a Hooters waitress.
See? — they've thought of everything.
08 — Eric Holder says we're cowards. Attorney General Eric Holder made a speech in honor of Black History Month, telling us we didn't pay enough attention to black history and that we're a nation of cowards scared to talk frankly about race.
To the first point, I can't believe he's serious. I have two kids in public schools, and both of them know far more about Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass than they know about Abraham Lincoln or George Washington.
To the second point, that we're all scared to talk about race — no kidding. Would that be anything to do with the fact that talking frankly about race is a sure way to get yourself in a world of trouble?
Since the Attorney General has invited comments, though, here are a couple.
The Department of Justice, which Holder is in charge of, has a website with lots of statistics on crime and imprisonment. Here, for example, is a DoJ bulletin from last December titled "Prisoners in 2007." Scrolling down to Table 5, "Sentenced prisoners under state or federal jurisdiction," I see that 39 percent of male prisoners are black, 21 percent are Hispanic, and 33 percent are white.
If you scale for the proportions in the general population, that means the average African American male is about seven times more likely to be in the slammer than the average white guy; the average Hispanic male is about four times more likely.
The DoJ doesn't show a figure for Chinese Americans, but the 2000 census data shows an incarceration rate for males aged 18-39 of 0.6 percent for American-born citizens of Chinese ancestry, versus 1.7 percent for non-Hispanic white citizens. So a white American is about three times more likely to be in jail than a Chinese American. A Hispanic guy is about twelve times more likely, and a black guy is about twenty times more likely to be in jail than a Chinese American.
Twenty times — that's some disparity.
OK, here's my question, Mr. Attorney General. What, in your opinion, accounts for these stunning disparities in incarceration rates? Are law enforcement authorities prejudiced in favor of Chinese Americans, and against white, Hispanic, and black Americans? If so, what will your department do about it?
If not, what is the reason for these remarkable differences, recorded in statistics gathered by your own department and the Census Bureau?
09 — Down north of the border. Two stories from the border here.
Story number one concerns Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Joe should be a hero to all conservatives, and his incarceration programs a model for law enforcement everywhere.
To save building and maintenance costs, he houses 2,000 convicts in a tent city. He's instituted chain gangs, providing thousands of dollars of free labor to the county, which by the way is the nation's fourth most populous. Sheriff Arpaio has banned smoking, coffee, movies, and pornographic magazines in all his jails, and put strict limits on TV time. He also has the cheapest prison meals in the nation — average 15 cents per meal, and inmates are fed only twice daily to cut the labor costs of meal delivery.
Well, you can imagine how much a guy like that is hated by the bleeding-heart Left. Sure enough, they're out to get him. Maricopa County is only a few miles from the Mexican border, and Sheriff Arpaio has done great work rounding up illegal immigrants.
Now four Democrats in Congress, none of them from Arizona or anywhere near it, are accusing him of racial profiling. He sends his deputies into largely Hispanic neighborhoods to look for illegal immigrants, they charge. If he were a fair-minded man, he would of course be scouring Anglo neighborhoods.
In related news, a rancher, also in Southern Arizona, has been ordered to pay $78,000 dollars in damages to a gang of illegal immigrants whose lawsuit was assembled and funded by MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The rancher has been patrolling his property for years, rounding up illegal immigrants when he finds them and handing them over to the border patrol.
Bottom line here: The federal government will do squat to defend our borders; and if a landowner or a County Sheriff tries to do it for them, he'll be hunted down, traduced, sued, and persecuted by hate-America outfits like MALDEF, and those congresscritters who jump when the MALDEF types blow their whistles.
10 — Miscellany. Here's our final miscellany of brief items from the rest of the news.
Item: Remember the fuss about corporate execs taking private jets to Washington to beg for government money? President Obama himself had some scathing comments about it.
Well, physician, heal thyself. The government is buying 28 new Presidential helicopters — yes, 28; you know how it is with helicopters, you can't stop at one.
Cost per chopper: $400 million dollars. So far: the whole contract is bogged down in technical and funding problems, after four years of development. A regular 9-seater chopper costs about seven million on the open market, but of course the President's vehicle needs some security add-ons.
Still, 400 million … and we — we the taxpayers, natch — are buying 28 of the suckers, if the contractor ever delivers. That's eleven billion dollars for the President to zoom around the sky telling off auto execs for riding corporate jets.
Item: Here's a follow-up to the chimp story.
The editorial cartoon in Wednesday's New York Post showed a dead chimp and two police officers, one with a smoking gun. One of the cops is saying: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
To a sane person, that's a witty comment on the degree of intelligence that went into thinking up the stimulus bill. To Al Sharpton and his fellow race hustlers, it's Bull Connor setting his dogs on Civil Rights marchers.
But then, so is pretty much everything.
Item: Another civil rights story here. A Korean lady named Lucie Kim is suing 16-year-old Miley Cyrus, whoever she is, for violating her, Ms Kim's, civil rights.
What did Miley Cyrus do, stand in the school house door while Ms Kim was trying to get to her kimchi-preparation class? No, the teen published a photograph of herself and some friends goofing around at a party, making their eyes slitty, apparently in tribute to an Asian guy who was sitting with them.
Making your eyes slitty is a violation of Ms Kim's civil rights, she says. Also of the civil rights of all the other Asians in Los Angeles County — she's looking for billions in settlement. Lots of luck, lady.
Meanwhile, it is not much of a secret that some Asian women in the Far East and America undergo cosmetic surgery to make their eyes rounder. Speaking as a round-eye ghost-head red-bristle foreign devil myself, I take this as a violation of my civil rights. I shall be suing the cosmetic surgeons who do this procedure, looking for compensation to all other round-eyes in my county. No justice, no peace!
[Clip of "We Shall Overcome."]
Item: What does a crumbling, decadent empire do when it has massive military commitments to fulfill, but a citizenry who regard the military arts with distaste? Why, it recruits foreigners.
It worked so well for the Romans, who recruited Germans from the forests; for the Arabs, who recruited Turks from the steppes; and for the Chinese of the Tang dynasty, who recruited Iranians from the mountains. It'll work just as well for us, according to the New York Times. Quote:
The American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.
Wow, that's a pretty good deal. It took me seventeen years to get from temporary visa to citizenship. Six months, eh?
And of course, it would never occur to any foreign power to deliberately plant its people in our armed forces via this scheme. Foreigners are much too stupid to think of a thing like that.
Item: Where's Hillary? Well, she's been over in Asia, visiting China, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia.
There wasn't much real point to the trip, it was just one of those new-administration show-the-flag exercises to reassure the East Asians that we know they're over there and believe they're real important in some way we haven't figured out yet.
Miley Cyrus traveled along with Hillary to provide some light relief, and the talented young lady had them in stitches over in Peking and Tokyo with her imitations of slitty eyes and constant demands for number 38 with snow peas and broccoli.
Item: Every cynic's favorite story of the week was the one about Muzzammil Hassan, the Pakistan-born CEO of Bridges TV.
This was a TV network founded in 2004 to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims. Here's a quote from Mr. Hassan back in 2003, quote:
The level of ignorance regarding Muslims and Islam is very high in the United States and it will take a lot of time for non-Muslim Americans to realize that they and their Muslim neighbors share many of the same values — raising families, pursuing careers and finding peace.
Well, Mr Hassan's estranged wife found peace last Thursday when he hacked her head off. The website for Bridges TV tells us that the station's aim is "to foster a greater understanding among many cultures and diverse populations." I guess you could argue that Mr. Hassan has indeed helped to foster that understanding, though perhaps not in quite the way his station intended.
Item: A group of eight Britons, it says here, Britons, have appeared in a London court charged with conspiracy to murder. These Britons planned to blow up several airliners over the Atlantic, using liquid explosives hidden in soft drinks bottles.
What were their names, these Britons, these sons of the shires and spires of Olde England, these descendants of Alfred the Great and Good Queen Bess, these inheritors of the glories of Shakespeare and Milton, Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Gladstone and Disraeli, Newton and Darwin?
Well, let's see: There was Umar Islam, aged 30, Tanvir Hussain, 27, Arafat Khan, also 27, Ibrahim Savant, 28, Assad Sarwar, he's 28 too, so is Abdullah Ahmed Ali, then there's Waheed Zaman, 24, and finally 22-year-old Donald Douglas Stewart-Whyte.
How did he get in there? He doesn't sound British at all. Perhaps he joined the group to improve his Morris dancing skills, or because they tempted him with shepherd's pie and treacle tart.
Item: Finally, meet Erica Norman of New Brighton, over there in Cheshire, England. Ms Norman has an interesting line of work: she paints baby bumps.
Yes, gals, if you're tottering around in the late stages of pregnancy, head over to Erica's place and she'll paint your bump with a very pretty design, chosen by you from a wide range. The BBC reporter who volunteered for this treatment chose a seascape with leaping dolphins. Lovely.
Ms Norman must be kicking herself for having missed the promotional opportunity of all time: Octomom, whose prenatal bump was easily the grossest thing to appear in the news since Amy Winehouse's last appearance, and which offered enough of a canvas for Ms Norman do have done a full replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
11 — Signoff. That's the news from Radio Derb this week, listeners. Nothing much to stir the passions there; but we're all hunkered down in these February frosts waiting for spring.
I was actually a little touched by that roster of fine old English yeoman names I read out just a minute ago; so for the consolation of Messrs Islam, Hussain, Khan, Savant, Sarwar, Ali, Zaman, and Stewart-Whyte in their cells over there in Blighty, here's Lucie Skeaping with a song I know they'll all love.
[Music clip: Lucie Skeaping, "Roast beef of Old England."]