• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another edition of Radio Derb. This is your effervescently genial host John Derbyshire with our regular survey of the passing charivari.
We had a spot of excitement here at NRO World Headquarters in New York City this week. I was chatting with Jonah up on the 112th floor here at Buckley Towers when we got buzzed by Air Force One.
I'll admit to having been somewhat disconcerted when the Presidential jumbo jet buzzed right by the huge panoramic picture window that stretches across two sides of Jonah's sumptuous corner office up there on the penthouse level.
Jonah himself was hiding under the desk, along with the troupe of dancing girls from Bora Bora that he'd ordered in for his morning's coffee break entertainment — yeah, it's a real big desk. Not that I'm envious — no way!
Anyway, this humongous great plane came roaring past, rattling all the bottles and glasses in Jonah's extremely well-stocked bar and frightening the peacocks he keeps in a caged enclosure over by the copy machine.
I thought I caught a glimpse through one of the plane's windows of a silver-haired guy with shiny big white capped teeth, the image of Joe Biden, with one middle finger stuck up in the air as he passed us, but it might just have been my imagination.
When we coaxed Jonah out from under the desk at last, he said he'd just been looking for a dropped contact lens, but the Bora Bora girls were too spooked to dance for us any more, so we had to call the agency to come and collect them.
Altogether, a thoroughly spoiled morning here at NRO World Headquarters. Thanks a lot, Mister President. For this we pay taxes?
02 — Specter crosses the aisle. Senator Arlen Specter defected to the Democrats this week.
Up for re-election next year, Specter faces a primary challenge from Pat Toomey, just as he did six years ago. Toomey's a small-government, pro-business candidate with good conservative credentials on social issues. Specter's a big-government, high-spending, high-taxing liberal who likes open borders and affirmative action and every social-welfare program and liberal agenda item you ever heard of, and then some — except, to be grudgingly fair, gun control, where he's pretty sound.
The 2004 primary was settled at last by George W. Bush, who naturally favored Specter and endorsed him. Toomey's age is 47, Specter's is, I don't know, looks like about 120.
Pennsylvania Republicans seem to have had enough of Specter. At any rate, Specter's pollster was telling him that he looked like a goner for next year's primary. That was too much for the Senator's pride.
Quote: "I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," said snarlin' Arlen. Translation: "Those filthy electorates! What right do they have to decide who sits in the United States Senate? Don't those fool voters know who I am?"
Democracy's a bitch, isn't it, Arlen?
Well, let's hope Senate Democrats enjoy Specter's company as much as Senate Republicans have.
03 — All Obama-ed out. Have you had enough of Obama already? Me too.
Wednesday night he had a big press conference to celebrate the first hundred days of Year Zero. I found out at 7 pm when I turned on my TV to see what Lou Dobbs was doing.
Lou wasn't doing anything. CNN had given over the entire evening to Obama: his first 100 days, a pregame discussion of the news conference, the news conference, a post-news-conference analysis; a post-analysis analysis of the analysis; more on the first 100 days … Enough already! How many people actually care this much?
I'm professionally interested in politics because I write about it; but even I couldn't take that much coverage. I got about ten minutes into the news conference, listening to some gassy stuff about "remaking America," "laying new foundations," "strengthening our prosperity," … then my eyelids got heavy. I stretched out on the sofa. My dog came over to lie with me, and we dozed off there together. When I woke up, my wife had come in and switched the TV to a sitcom. Mrs Derb has good sense.
The root cause of this Obama fatigue is of course the mainstream media, who just can't stop drooling over the guy. The drooling has actually been quantified by a think-tank called the Center for Media and Public Affairs. They found that nightly newscasts devoted nearly 28 hours to Obama in his first 50 days on the job. The corresponding figure for George W. Bush was 8 hours.
The media people just can't get enough of Saint Barack. Well, I can, and I have. He's the President of the United States, so I hope he doesn't screw things up too badly; but TV-wise, I'm gonna be watching a lot more sitcoms in future.
04 — Susan Boyle fades. Susan Boyle, the singing Scottish spinster, is nearing the end of her brief spell in the limelight. If she were a stock, sensible folk would be shorting her about now.
She got herself a literary agent, but he's having trouble placing her life story, since nothing actually happened to her until three weeks ago. Susan's life story, like most of our life stories, comes under the heading of "the short and simple annals of the poor."
Susan still has her public, though. The New York Post's Maureen Callahan wrote a dismissive column about Ms Boyle, suggesting that she was just a product of Simon Cowell's hype machine, and for days afterwards the Post's letters columns were seething with the outrage of Boyle fans, people who'd loved her performance and been uplifted by it.
At the risk of igniting some similar outburst of wrath, I'll admit I'm on Maureen Callahan's side here. Let's face it: Reality TV is in the same relation to reality as televised wrestling is to the actual sport of wrestling.
The real talent on display here is not Susan Boyle's talent for singing — there are twelve people in your town who can sing better than her — it is Simon Cowell's talent for promoting nonentities, which is truly impressive.
Hail and farewell, Susan.
05 — Swine flu. Oh, the swine flu. How'd I get this far without mentioning swine flu?
Apparently those touchy Muslims are all upset about us calling it swine flu, because they think pigs are unclean. I'm not getting that. If the animals are unclean, then aren't they just the kind of animals you would want held responsible for a horrid disease? I suppose they'd be fine with it if we called it Jew flu.
Anyway, the thing everyone wants to know is: How dangerous is this outbreak to the U.S. population? Thirty-six thousand Americans die from flu complications every year. Will this year be worse?
I don't know any better than you do — or any better than the experts, to judge from the experts I've heard so far. Having read George R. Stewart's great novel Earth Abides at an impressionable age, though — the novel is about a plague that wipes out 99.9 percent of the human race — I'm inclined to take the gloomy view.
Since the main outbreak so far is in Mexico, a sensible precaution would be to close the border with Mexico. [Klaxon.]
Oops, sorry, set off the political correctness alarm there. Closing the border with Mexico is something only a knuckle-dragging snaggle-toothed cross-burning racist would suggest. If we close the border with Mexico, all our national ideals go swirling down the toilet, we are no better than North Korea, the earth crashes into the sun, and we all die.
Sorry, forgot about that. Sorry, sorry, sorry, …
06 — More on torture. The torture debate dragged on some more. I don't have any more to say than I've already said.
I'm against torture as I've always understood the word — electrodes, bamboo splinters, and the rest — because I think they're unworthy of a civilized nation. If you want to get someone to tell you something, though, I think sleep deprivation, psychological pressure, harassment, a boot on the rear end to help a difficult guy back into his cell, and other kinds of third degree treatment are just fine.
A revolution is not a dinner-party, said Mao Tse-tung, and neither is the business of tracking down terrorists and getting information out of them. There are guys who do this work. You might not want these guys at your next dinner party, but they're patriots working in conditions of great danger.
They'll work by the rules, if you set sensible rules. If you give them the impression that they could end up in jail for denying a prisoner his choice of ice cream, though, they'll quit. Then your counter-terrorism effort ends up being run by the Trial Lawyers Association, like pretty much everything else in the U.S.A. Lots of luck with that.
If you're willing to maim or kill a guy in combat, I don't know that yelling at him in captivity, or squirting water up his nose, or kicking him in the backside, is very outrageous.
It's interesting the way the debate has split our various factions, though. Liberals are against any kind of coercion, of course, which makes you want to be for it instinctively. But then, the good folk at American Conservative magazine, and I think paleocons in general, are also against these mild techniques, which makes those of us who are paleo-inclined stop and think. Pat Buchanan did a curiously ambiguous column about it the other day.
My own readers, to judge from the email bag, are pretty evenly divided, with angry factions on both sides: one crowd angry with me for being such a wuss towards crazy America-hating murderers, the other crowd angry that I'd endorse a departure from strict civilized standards.
This is not an easy call. I'm where I was: against torture, but not convinced that every kind of third degree is really torture.
07 — Bernie Madoff's birthday. Just a quick "Happy Birthday!" to Bernie Madoff, 71 years old on Wednesday.
They seem to be somewhat strict down there at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. "We do not celebrate inmates' birthdays in any way," said a spokesman.
What, not even a cake? I suppose they were afraid there might be a rasp file hidden in it.
Yeah, yeah, I know, he conned people out of 65 billion, impoverished widows and orphans, put worthy charities out of business. Now he's facing 150 years in jail, which is a lot more birthdays than he can expect to have, actuarially.
I hope the law will take its course. I hope he'll be punished. I hope he'll repent his crimes. In the meantime, he's still a human being, and it's still his birthday.
08 — Ireland's blasphemy law. You may remember that last month a young Afghan journalist, Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Kabul for blasphemy. He'd circulated an article questioning the subjection of women in Islam.
This happens a lot in Muslim countries. Back in 2007 an Egyptian blogger named Kareem Amer was sent to jail for a similar offense.
Well, the virus is spreading — the virus, I mean, of intolerance towards freedom of speech in matters religious. Latest to jump on the blasphemy bandwagon is Ireland. At any rate, the government of the Republic of Ireland is seriously contemplating such a law. Dermot Ahern, Ireland's Minister for Justice, is pushing for the introduction of a law against "blasphemous libel."
If the law gets passed, offenders will face fines of up to 100,000 Euros and could have their homes raided by police in order to seize any offending material they might have.
If you think this is a move to protect the Catholic Church in Ireland from insults, you couldn't be more wrong. Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants can insult each other to their hearts' content, as they have been doing for the past 400 years. This proposed new law is meant to prevent anyone from hurting the tender feelings of Muslims — yet another illustration of the great European cringe in the face of Islamic agitation.
The 2006 census came up with over 32 thousand Muslims in the Republic, the number increasing fast, and the Irish government doesn't want any ugly incidents like the Danish cartoon disturbances. Irish people will henceforth be nice to Muslims, or else.
09 — Guyana comes to America. My favorite bit of quantitative journalism this week came out of the Pew Hispanic Center: A table showing the proportion of a country's population resident in the U.S.A.
Top of the table: Guyana, with nearly 32 percent of its population here.
I'd better just clarify the arithmetic here. The ratio being reported is the number of Guyanese natives living in the U.S.A. divided by the number living in Guyana, and similarly for other countries. Since I guess there are other Guyanese natives living in countries other than the U.S.A., the percentages are slightly exaggerated.
Two more countries, Trinidad and Jamaica, have over twenty percent of their people living here, then two more, El Salvador and Mexico, have over ten percent. Mexico has nearly eleven percent of its people here, which is pretty impressive, as unlike those others it is a really big country — population 111 million, ten times as many as all the other countries I just mentioned, combined.
For my own nation of birth the number is just over one percent, so at least we're successfully keeping out those snooty arrogant Brits, with their bad teeth and warm beer.
10 — Repatriation. If your nation's enduring severe economic recession, with swelling unemployment, and if you have a large number of foreign workers holding down jobs your own citizens could just as well do, then you should politely ask the foreign workers to leave.
That seems pretty uncontroversial to me — just common sense, really.
What if they don't want to leave, though? If the recession is world-wide, as this one is, they can rightly fear that they will be unemployed back in their own countries; so naturally they'll be reluctant to go.
Well, one solution is to bribe them to leave. Several countries are now doing this. France, Spain, and the Czech Republic are all offering cash to foreigners to go home.
Japan, too, though the Japanese case is a special one. Determined to maintain their national identity, the Japanese are averse to mass immigration, and allow very little settlement by foreigners. Over the past 20 years, though, they've made an exception in the case of South Americans of Japanese ancestry.
These are the descendants of Japanese people who emigrated to Latin America back in the 19th century. They've been allowed back into Japan in recent years, but not given citizenship. Now, with the recession biting deep in Japan, they're being told to go home, and given cash to help them do so — $3,000 for air fare, and another $2,000 per dependent.
Sounds pretty reasonable to me. But that's because I'm a cruel, heartless nativist with absolutely no concern for human rights or justice. Perhaps I was Japanese in a previous life.
Meanwhile the Center for Immigration Studies reports that immigrant unemployment in the U.S.A. is 9.7 percent and rising. I guess that 9.7 percent figure it's better to be unemployed in America than in their own countries.
I can see their point, but we have our own people to take care of. We're not under any moral obligation to take care of foreigners. They have countries of their own to take care of them.
That's how I see it: but then, as I said, I'm a heartless nativist.
11 — Tancredo dissed again. A couple of weeks ago Radio Derb reported on the ragging that Tom Tancredo got at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Well, Rhode Island's Providence College wasn't taking any chance of the same thing happening there, so they just banned Tom from their premises.
The Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin, is on Providence College's Board of Trustees, and Bishop Tobin cleaves to the strictest standard of political correctness when it comes to matters of immigration. Says the college, quote:
Bishop Tobin supports a robust debate of the immigration issue, but hopes that the debate will be productive and respectful, while avoiding inflammatory rhetoric that unfairly stereotypes groups of people and further divides our nation.
In other words, if you want our immigration laws enforced, and trespassers sent home, you're not welcome on the Providence College campus.
It's all a bit odd since the college, apparently with Bishop Tobin's blessing, allowed Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Shelden Whitehouse of Rhode Island to speak, though both Senators are strongly pro-abortion. I guess there is some theological justification here that's just too profound for a shallow unbeliever like me to understand.
Anyway, Tom Tancredo, to his credit, showed up and gave his speech outside the college gates. And once again, if you want to support the political action committee set up by Tom together with Bay Buchanan, promoting citizenship, secure borders, and orderly immigration, go to their website at www.teamamericapac.org. They'll be glad to take your donation.
12 — Paterson on gay marriage. Dave Paterson, governor of my state — New York, that is — thinks that opposition to gay marriage is driven by religious guilt. Quote:
Where were these leaders of faith when college students of gay and lesbian orientation were beaten and often brutalized for expressing their feelings for each other?
Hmm, that's funny. I was at college 45 years ago, and I don't remember any of that. We had gay and lesbian students, and they were just fine. If anyone had beaten them up, the offender would have been charged with assault and battery, according to the good old common law.
Still, Dave's the Governor of a State, so of course he wouldn't lie about a thing like that. But Dave, here's one irreligious guy whose occasional feelings of guilt have nothing to do with gayness or marriage, but who just doesn't want to see a major social institution overhauled to please a tiny but noisy minority of the public.
Heck, if Barack Obama can be against gay marriage — and he said he was in the election campaign, and being a person of spotless moral purity it's not possible that he was telling an untruth, is it? — if Barack Obama can be against it, then so can Radio Derb. You wouldn't want us to be out to the left of President Obama, would you? I thought not.
Dave, do something about the stupendous levels of taxation in the state you are chief executive of, and the corruption in your state's government, one house of whose legislature is controlled by a firm of trial lawyers, and the flight of businesses and individuals out of your state.
When you've got all that under control, we can talk about changing the definition of marriage. Okay?
13 — Miscellany. What else?
14 — Signoff. That's the news for this week, ladies and gents. More from Radio Derb next week, if Western Civ is still standing.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go feed the pigs. Picked up some fine Mexican porkers on eBay for next to nothing, they'll fatten up very nicely for the summertime barbecues. SOOO-EEEE …
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]