• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb is on the air! This is your empathetically genial host John Derbyshire — an immigrant, let it be noted, with a compelling life story — bringing you a summary of the week's news.
Word of the week: "Latina." This one threw me for a loop, I must admit. I have already introduced you to my new hire, Pepe, a mixed-race, transgendered, undocumented immigrant with a slight disability — strabismus, if you must know — which makes Pepe a four-fer, enabling us to comply with the complete set of federal diversity regs all in one hire.
Well, I've been introducing Pepe around the office as "Latino." I thought that was the correct terminology. Then yesterday I was relaxing in the grotto with Jonah and the girls, and Jonah said I should check with Pepe to make sure he wouldn't prefer "Latin-a."
It was a thing that hadn't occurred to me before, I must admit. Jonah's so much better at this people stuff — the guy has such empathy.
I'm going to tackle Pepe on this touchy topic as soon as I can figure out the right form of words. Meantime I shall just imply his ethnicity with a passing mention of his place of birth, which is of course Puerrrrrto Rrrrrrico.
Well, I'd like to linger here with these idle fragments of office gossip — perhaps even tell you something about my compelling life story … but we have a radio show to broadcast here, so let's get into it.
02 — Sonia Sotomayor hearings. Radio Derb did a nice little vituperative, and gratifyingly mean-spirited number on Judge Sotomayor back on May 8, when she first showed up on the radar screen here at Buckley Towers.
Being a wise Anglo, I shall exercise my wellnigh supernatural powers of empathy and defer further comment until the confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I look forward to. I mean, the sight of PC-whipped Republican senators crawling on hands and knees across the floor of the hearing chamber to kiss the hem of Judge Sotomayor's garment, while their Democratic colleagues look on smiling benignly, is instructive in its own way.
Let me see if I can anticipate a few of the questions the committee will pose to the nominee.
Chuck Schumer: "As a proud New Yorker like yourself, honorable and wise Judge, I wonder if you would think it presumptuous of me to propose that New York City Council landmark the humble public housing project where you grew up, and name it a National Historic Monument?"
Lindsey Graham: "Gifted as you are with special insights into the struggles of our Hispanic brothers and sisters, noble Madam, documented or otherwise, will you help me and my dear friends John McCain and Ted Kennedy to bring them out of the shadows?"
Orrin Hatch: "Sainted Mother of the Nation, would you regard it as an unacceptable imposition if I were to crawl over and kiss the hem of your garment one more time?"
Oh yes, there'll be some fearless, probing questions at those confirmation hearings.
03 — Tribal politics. The thing we're hearing all around is, that if Republicans dare to oppose Judge Sotomayor's elevation, on any grounds whatsoever, they will weaken their position among Hispanics.
But why would that be? If Judge Sotomayor's a bad choice, why would Hispanics be less able to see that than anyone else? The implied answer is: Because they are blinded by tribal loyalty. That seems to be the assumption. There are two things to be said about it.
One, it's incredibly patronizing and insulting to Hispanics, coming as it does from people who claim out of the other side of their mouths that Hispanics are fully assimilated Americans with no regard for tribal loyalties, only the broad welfare of the Republic.
Two, it's probably true. Probably American Hispanics, most of them, would prefer a second-rate candidate of their own ethnicity, to a first-rate one of someone else's; just as 96 percent of African Americans voted for the African American candidate in last November's presidential election.
We are a tribalized country; at any rate, our minority citizens are pretty thoroughly tribalized. The only part of the U.S. population that does not think and vote tribally is the dwindling number of non-Hispanic whites.
The questions I ask myself a lot are, was this inevitable? and, where will it end?
The first question really asks whether human beings are incorrigibly, irredeemably tribal; or whether, if we had held on fast to the principle of equality under the law, we might have got rid of racial injustice in the U.S.A. without erecting a system of racial favoritism and ethnic self-consciousness.
The answer to the second question — where will it end? — depends on the answer to the first. If human beings are incurably tribal, then sooner or later non-Hispanic white Americans will tribalize too. They will stop voting for nonwhite or Hispanic candidates. White politicians will concentrate on maximizing their white vote, and forget about pandering to minorities who will never vote for them anyway.
Could this conceivably happen in the U.S.A.? I'm sorry to say I believe it could, and probably will. John McCain's deference to Barack Obama in last year's campaign — his refusal even to mention Jeremiah Wright, for example — won him four percent of the black vote, and less than that among white liberals. His relentless pandering to Hispanics did him no good at all with the Hispanic vote, which went overwhelmingly to Obama.
All the deference and pandering was a complete waste of time. In fact the result of it all was likely negative, alienating a lot of white voters. Perhaps that campaign was the last gasp of the old, decent, cross-racial politics, the pretense that we are all citizens together, with common interests that could equally well be served by a politician of any background.
Why would anyone repeat McCain's campaign strategy? Why would any non-Hispanic white politician in future defer and pander? It doesn't win you anything.
White Americans have stood aloof from the tribalizing of America up to now. Will they continue to do so? Why would they, as they sink down to minority status themselves?
04 — Nork nukes. Kim Jong Il's been kicking over the traces again. He popped off a nuke, and launched two more missiles over Japan. The Japanese said if he did it again they'd be angry.
Our Secretary of State said she is already angry, and showed how angry she was by pursing her lips. She said she is so angry she's going to have the U.N. write an angry letter.
The South Koreans said it's really important to try to understand Kim, and not do anything to make him more upset. The Russians said they were taking precautions because the whole thing could get out of hand and go nuclear. The Chinese said it was nothing to do with them, they didn't know anything about it, and everybody should stop bothering them with this North Korea stuff and just buy more T-shirts and Elmo dolls.
We're involved in the whole stupid business because we have thirty thousand troops stationed in South Korea, the reason for that being … ah, the reason for that being … well, as everyone know, the reason for that is … [crickets chirping].
South Korea itself has 650,000 active troops and over three million reservists — a combined total bigger than the entire U.S. armed forces. They run the twelfth-largest defense budget in the world. Why, on top of all that, they need thirty thousand American troops on their soil, beats my jar of kimchi.
The only reason South Korea doesn't have nukes of their own is because they've been relying on ours — a pretty poor strategy, if they want my opinion, when we have a President who thinks that squirting water up somebody's nose is a horrendous crime against humanity.
My advice to the South Koreans would be to get some nukes of their own ASAP. I'd give the same advice to the Japanese, who could probably be turning the things out like boxed sushi lunches inside of a week, if they put their minds to it.
05 — Pakistan steps up. At the other end of Asia, the Pakistani army seems to be getting serious with the Taliban. Reporters up there in the top right-hand corner of the country are telling us about floods of refugees, hundreds of thousands of them, fleeing from the fighting.
It's encouraging, but the jihadis are not by any means down for the count. On Wednesday they attacked a police station and set off a huge car bomb, killing 24 people, in the city of Lahore, where Rudyard Kipling learned the writing trade as a newspaperman a century and a quarter ago. The terrorists followed up next day with attacks on Peshawar and Dera.
The jihadists' idea seems to be to get people to leave these cities, shutting down the local economies and creating more refugee problems for the government. This seems not to have happened. The jihadists are, as the British say, on the back foot — struggling to keep their balance under the army's assault.
Now everything depends on whether the Pakistani government and army have the will to follow through and smash the jihadists once and for all. It's not a foregone conclusion. The government is corrupt as all get out, and the army would much rather be fighting India than its own tribesmen.
We'll see; but to the degree that it makes sense to hope for anything in this part of the world, the situation in Pakistan looks hopeful, or at any rate, less hopeless.
06 — Burris bribe. Well, that's enough news about ramshackle Third World hell-holes where cynical politicians buy their way into public office and then milk the system for their own benefit. Let's talk about some place a bit more salubrious. Let's talk about the great state of Illinois, Land of Lincoln.
You'll recall that Illinois lost a U.S. Senator in January when Barack Obama ascended to the Presidency. At the very end of last year, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to the seat.
After some embarrassing to-ing and fro-ing about whether the appointment was valid, Burris was sworn in as a U.S. Senator on January 15th.
Now, some mean-spirited, hyper-suspicious, and undoubtedly racist people wondered what Burris had done to deserve the favor of a Senate seat. He does, of course, have a compelling life story and empathy up the wazoo, but there didn't seem to be anything else to recommend him. Burris himself was asked for explanations, and he gave several under oath, not all of them agreeing with each other in particulars.
Well, this week the FBI released tapes of wiretapped phone calls between Burris and Robert Blagojevich, the Governor's brother, recorded at the time the Senate appointment was still in play. Burris is saying that he's willing to write a check to Blagojevich and get others to do so as well.
"If you guys can just write checks, that'd be fine," says the governor's bro. "Okay, okay, well we, we, I, I, will personally do something," replies Burris.
So apparently it wasn't that Burris was the most suitable candidate for the Senate seat, or the most empathetic, or even the one with the most compelling life story. It was a bit more than that. How much more, in fairness to the Senator, is still unclear. There's not much doubt that he lied under oath, though.
Will the U.S. Senate take action? That remains to be seen. If they don't, then the ethical distance that separates national politics from Illinois politics, just got a bit narrower.
07 — Napolitano in Canada. Our Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, went to Canada this week for the first time to discuss security issues with Canada's Minister of Public Safety.
As Radio Derb has reported, Secretary Napolitano is focused like a laser beam on the principal threats to the security of our homeland: infiltrators from Canada, and our own veterans.
She got the Canadians somewhat riled up — which they would probably pronounce as "roiled oop" — back in April by asserting that the 9/11 terrorists had entered the U.S.A. from Canada.
The main purpose of this week's trip, in fact, seemed to be to try to stop the Canadians from talking about this, as they have been doing non-stop since April, there being not much else to talk about in Canada once you've exchanged recipes for moose stew. She also needed to discuss new security measures that go into place next month on this sensitive and dangerous border.
As of Monday, Canadians seeking to enter the U.S.A. will have to show a passport or other approved document. Canadians who can't manage that will just have to fly down to Mexico and walk over the Southern border in the usual way.
08 — California's finances. Arnold Schwarzenegger is having a lot of fun over there on the left coast, swinging his budget axe to try to get California's finances into some kind of balance after the voters turned down all his tax-raising proposals.
On Wednesday he actually proposed ending — I guess that should be terminating — the state's welfare-to-work program, saving two billion dollars, but forfeiting the matching federal funds of close to four billion. Arnold's promised another three billion in cuts by this weekend.
If you're into Schadenfreude it's a gripping spectacle, watching the profligate folly of California's lawmakers catch up with them at last.
You can't help thinking, though, that, as Golden State boosters used to say, California's today is America's tomorrow. What about the profligate follies of Washington D.C.? When will the Devil come to claim their souls? Which is to say, ours, since we elected the fools.
Of course the feds may still bail out California; but that just raises the parallel question of who will bail the feds out when Old Scratch shows up with his pitchfork and his troupe of demons. Not the Chinese or the Japanese, they've already made that plain. Perhaps we could take a loan from North Korea.
09 — Miscellany. Here's our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Jay Leno leaves the Tonight Show this week after seventeen years and, according to some diligent joke-counter at the Center for Media and Public Affairs, 33,331 jokes — 4,468 of them about Bill Clinton and 2,999 about George W. Bush.
I'll admit to a weakness for Jay Leno, who I thought has done a good job on the show. Yeah, yeah, I know he's a liberal. Whaddya want? It's show business, they're all liberals. At least Jay doesn't push it in your face all the time, like Letterman or Jon Stewart or Bill Maher or that Colbert guy.
He's amusing and has interesting guests; and by the time his show comes on I'm half pickled and half asleep anyway, so my standards aren't high.
Good luck with whatever it is you're doing next, Jay.
Item: Next week sees the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Our own President will join his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, for a ceremony at the American Cemetery in Normandy to commemorate those who died in this tremendous campaign to defeat Hitler.
Britain will be represented by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who, thanks to a cratering economy and some parliamentary scandals, is just about as popular with Britons today as Hitler was 65 years ago.
There's been some grumbling among the Brits that no member of the Royal Family was invited, and the Queen herself is said to be furious, blaming Prime Minister Brown for making a pig's ear of the arrangements, as he has of pretty much everything else since taking over the government.
Other commentators have suggested that it's all been a plot by those sly, malevolent French to drive a wedge between les Anglo-Saxons. My own suspicions fall on Carla Bruni, a/k/a Madame Sarkozy, who doesn't want to be upstaged by the Queen — Her Majesty being always the classiest person in any gathering she joins.
I'll go along with any other explanation anyone can come up with though, just so long as it gives me a reason to keep disliking the French.
Item: Falling in love is proverbially said to be like chicken pox — much more serious if it happens later in life.
Possibly this rule also applies to fame. That at least would be one explanation for the self-destruction of Susan Boyle, the Scottish singing sensation whose appearance on a British TV talent show was the talk of the blogosphere a couple of weeks ago.
Now we hear that the lady is cracking up. In the lobby of a London hotel the other day Ms. Boyle swore at a journalist in front of guests, until restrained by police. She yelled: "How ***king dare you! You can't ***king talk to me like that." A policeman came over and asked if there was a problem. "Of course there's a ***king problem," replied the Caledonian chanteuse.
This puts the kibosh on the popular theory that though you may look like a horse's rear end, you can still be beautiful inside.
Ah, Susan, you can take the girl out of the bleak Scottish village, but you can't take the bleak Scottish village out of the girl.
Item: Heroine of the week is Michaelle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, which is to say Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's proxy as constitutional monarch of the dominion.
On a visit to some Eskimo settlements up there in the Canadian Arctic, where people live by seal hunting, Ms Jean ate a raw seal heart to show her support for the locals.
I wish I could tell you that this was a cute, furry baby seal and that Ms Jean had clubbed it to death herself in front of a platoon of weeping Greenpeace activists, but let's not ask for too much. Sufficient unto the day the heroism thereof.
Her Majesty, I'm sure, is proud of you, Ms Jean. The whole Empire is proud of you.
Item: "What's good for General Motors is good for America." That's what we used to say, back when we had industries that made stuff and jobs that you could do without having gone to law school.
Well, what's good for GM right now is Chapter 11, if GM's owners — that would be the United States Department of the Treasury — can square the deal with all involved.
Getting rid of GM's European operations is proving problematic. The German and British subsidiaries have some possible buyers, but it's obvious these components need to be fattened up a bit with more dollars before the sales can go forward. Better get on that, you Treasury guys, while the dollar's still worth something.
GM's U.S. bondholders are the other sticking point, insisting, in the annoying way bondholders will, that they be given a fair shake in the bankruptcy proceedings.
Ford Motor Company was still in business last time I looked, so you can still buy a car made by unionized American workers from a firm not owned by the government, for a little while longer.
Item: A handful of very brief items.
In Aloha, Oregon, a man dialed 911 when he discovered that the local McDonald's had left out a box of orange juice from his drive-thru order.
Russian authorities have found a five-year-old girl in Siberia who has been raised by cats and dogs. She'd never been allowed out of her parents' flat, and apparently they never spoke to her or paid attention to her. Hmm, isn't it more commonly the other way round? I mean, that's how my kids treat me.
In Burundi, in South-Central Africa, the trial has commenced of 11 men accused of killing albinos to sell their body parts, which are believed to have medicinal benefits.
The Federal Republic of Germany celebrated its 60th birthday — not as thrilling as a thousand-year Reich, perhaps, but much less troublesome to the rest of us.
A software engineer from California is twelve years into his quest to drink a cup of coffee at every Starbucks in the world — you can follow his progress at www.starbuckseverywhere.com.
And a British tourist in New Zealand has had his passport stolen by a wild parrot.
10 — Signoff. That's it, pilgrims, another week of sliding down the razor blade of history.
The wife and I are going out to dinner this evening at a great new restaurant we've been hearing about, that's just been opened by some entrepreneurs from Burundi. They have this delicious stew that they claim will keep you in the peak of good health for weeks after you eat it, so we're looking forward to that. Isn't multiculturalism wonderful?
Tune in again next week for more glimpses of the passing charivari, more compelling stories and empathetic insights from Radio Derb.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]