• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. Greeting from Buckley Towers, in the heart of Manhattan. Yes, this is Radio Derb on the air once again, under the stewardship of your equiponderantly genial host, John Derbyshire.
Bit of an ominous week this week, nature-wise. There was a big earthquake in Tibet's Amdo Province. Then a volcano popped off in Iceland, filling the troposphere with grit and shutting down air travel in Europe.
This kind of thing always makes me nervous. When the chroniclers of a new Chinese dynasty set about describing the decline of the previous dynasty, they always cite warning portents. The beginning of the end of the Han dynasty, we are told, was signaled by a mysterious green serpent appearing in the Great Hall of Benign Virtue, causing the Emperor to flee in terror. Then an earthquake struck the capital, and tidal waves swept coastal dwellers out to sea. Strange double rainbows were observed, and hens were transformed into roosters. Say what?
I sometimes wonder if we are being afflicted with similar omens. I haven't seen any reports of hens turning into roosters, but this week did turn up a human embryo with one Dad and two Moms, created in a lab in the North of England. Then, on Wednesday night, a mysterious huge fireball lit up the sky over the Midwest.
What can it mean? What can it all mean? [Clip: "Twilight Zone" theme.]
02 — Thank God for the Atom Bomb. OK, let's start this week with a little reading.
This is from John Keegan's 1998 book, The First World War, Chapter 6. It's Monday, September 26, 1915, and we are near the little town of Loos, in the topmost corner of France, near the Belgian border. This is the second day of the Battle of Artois, Britain's contribution to the great offensive of that year on the Western Front. Here are the British going into battle, long quote:
In early afternoon they moved forward in ten columns "each [of] about a thousand men, all advancing as if carrying out a parade-ground drill." The German defenders were astounded by the sight of an "entire front covered with the [British] infantry." They stood up, some even on the parapet of the trench, and fired triumphantly into the mass of men advancing across the open grassland. The machine gunners had opened fire at 1,500 yards range. "Never had machine guns had such straightforward work to do … with barrels becoming hot and swimming in oil, they traversed to and fro along the [British] ranks; one machine gun alone fired 12,500 rounds that afternoon. The effect was devastating. The [British] could be seen falling literally in hundreds, but they continued their march in good order and without interruption" until they reached the unbroken wire of the German's second position: "Confronted by this impenetrable obstacle the survivors turned and began to retire."
End of long quote. That's war for you. Of course, one can easily find accounts just as grisly from Antietam and Gettysburg, Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima, Stalingrad and Inchon, or a hundred other battlefields of the industrial age.
But then, in the middle of the last century, civilized nations stopped engaging in the wholesale massacre of each other's young men. Why?
The biggest reason was surely nuclear weapons. Paul Fussell wrote an essay titled "Thank God for the Atom Bomb." I echo the sentiment. I never had to face anything like the Battle of Loos, and odds are my son won't either.
There's nothing certain in human affairs, and if you were to tell me the human race ain't gonna study war no more, I'd raise a skeptical eyebrow. It's undoubtedly thanks to nukes that we've been spared any more of the mechanized mass slaughters of the 20th century, though. I'll give thanks for that, and hope that my nation always has more nukes than any other, and that they know it.
I shall also, though much more quietly, enjoy the thought that if nuclear push ever does come to nuclear shove, there will be no rear echelon in that war, and the politicians and armchair war lovers will be in the front line with the rest of us.
03 — Arizona law on illegals. Tuesday this week the Arizona state legislature passed a law making it a misdemeanor for non-citizens to be in the state without valid immigration documents, and requiring local police forces to check people's immigration status on reasonable suspicion. The Governor is expected to sign the bill.
Said the Los Angeles Times, quote: "Immigrant rights groups were horrified, and contended that Arizona would be transformed into a police state," end quote.
Hm, "immigrant rights groups," eh? Well, let's see: I'm an immigrant, my wife is an immigrant, and half our friends are immigrants, so an immigrant rights group is something I should be keenly interested in. Why do I suspect that these "immigrant rights groups" are not the least bit interested in me or my rights? Probably because I'm aware that these so-called "immigrant rights groups" are just fronts for the cheap-labor lobbies, Mexican revanchists, love-the-world sentimentalists, and the Democratic Party, which, finding the U.S. population insufficiently receptive to its policies, is determined to import a new population.
As for Arizona becoming a police state: That's an insult to our police officers, and an even more egregious insult to the poor devils who live in real police states, places like Cuba, China, or Zimbabwe, where the authorities can take your property, your liberty, even your life, without answering to courts of law.
If I lived in Arizona, I'd want it to be a police state for law-breakers. That's why we have police, that's what they're for — to enforce the law. Nobody in Arizona who's not breaking the law need fear the police.
In any case, it's not likely this Arizona law will survive legal challenges, any more than California's Proposition 187 did. The federal government will not enforce the people's laws, and if frustrated state governments try to, federal judges slap them down.
Our rulers, of both parties, have determined that unlimited, unmonitored immigration from Mexico is what they want, and they don't care what we think about it.
04 — "IMF" for the states. Not that the feds are oblivious to the problems of states. The talk lately is of an "IMF for the states." Get your head around that.
The IMF is the International Monetary Fund, basically a big friendly society into which every country puts some cash, and on which they all have withdrawal rights in case of fiscal emergency. Well, the idea seems to be that our fifty states should be in the same relation to the federal government as IMF member states are to the IMF.
After all, the people of the states all contribute to federal revenues through taxes. The feds send money back to the states, of course — in some cases more than the states remit; but when a state's in a fiscal emergency, as so many are today, they need some reserve of funds to draw on, some new machinery for bailing themselves out of trouble, like the Municipal Assistance Corporation that saved New York City back in the 1970s.
That's the argument. I'm in two minds about it.
On the one hand, states are in trouble because they followed foolish policies — they were too generous to public-sector labor unions, and they happily played the part of the grasshopper in the old ant-and-grasshopper fable. Let them pay for their folly and stupidity. Perhaps they'll learn some lessons.
On the other hand, though, if states can no longer afford adequate public services, the feds will step in as a sort of public service provider of last resort. Sure, the federal government is mis-managed and broke, too, but they can do something the states can't do: they can print money — at least for a few years, which is all any politician cares about.
Either way we get an expansion of federal power. In the first case, they're just writing checks, which you can be sure will have strings attached; in the second, we may have federal employees providing state services.
There doesn't seem to be any other way out of this bind. The calamity of the U.S.A. in the early 21st century may have its source in the errors and follies of our state governments — a somber lesson for us Tenth Amendment fans.
05 — Gay teen gets own prom. Here's a young lady, 18-year-old Constance McMillen of Itawamba County, Mississippi. Ms McMillen is a lesbian, she says. She wanted to take her girl friend to the high school prom. Furthermore, she wanted to wear a tux to the prom. The local school board said no to both.
Ms McMillen got lawyered up, and the school board responded by just canceling the prom. The ACLU reacted with a lwasuit of their own, apparently having found an inalienable right to attend a prom somewhere in the Constitution.
Well, here's the end of the story: The parents of Ms McMillen's classmates organized a prom on private property to which she was not invited. The school board set up a fake prom at a local country club, to which they directed our young sapphist, along with six other people.
Now, it's possible for thoughtful people of conservative inclinations to take different positions on this. Presumably Ms McMillen's parents paid their property taxes to the school district, so their daughter is entitled to the social goods the district offers. Presumably that would be the ACLU position, and it's not a bad one in logic and jurisprudence.
On the other hand Ms McMillen is grossly and willfully offending the sensibilities of her fellow-citizens, and there is some limit to how much of that they have to put up with. What if she wanted to attend the prom naked; or in a Ku Klux Klan outfit; or with four-letter words embroidered on her prom dress? The ACLU could probably work up a defense of such things on First Amendment grounds, but I doubt many of us would give them the benefit of the argument. Yet by advertising her sexual preference in the way she wanted to, our young fricatrice is giving just as much offense to small-town Mississippi sensibilites as she would if she turned up in SS regalia at a prom in Manhattan.
It's possible to be too zealous of minority rights, and forget that the majority has some rights, too. People of conventional majority opinions owe a debt of tolerance to eccentric minorities; but minorities owe a reciprocal debt of consideration to majority sensibilities.
hen someone comes on saying: "I'm going to shake up this sleepy little burg. I'm going to show you dull-witted, narrow-minded hicks just how benighted you are," well the burgers are entitled to say: "No you're not. We wish you no harm, but we like ourselves the way we are. If you can't stand that, please go live somewhere else."
My congratulations to the people of Itawamba County for having resolved the issue in the way they did. As for Ms McMillen: Honey, if you get in touch with me by email, I'll give you the names of some towns in Massachusetts and Vermont where lesbianism isn't merely tolerated, it's practically compulsory. I'm sure one of them could find a room for you.
06 — Steve Levy, a politician to watch. I'm going to recommend a politician to you. This isn't a thing I do often, tending as I do to the view expressed by the poet e.e. cummings that, quote, "a politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man." They're a necessary evil, though, and some are less evil than others.
Out in New York's Suffolk County, where my own spacious estates are located, we are blessed with a County Executive. We even have a County Legislature, in fact, though nobody can remember why, or tell you anything it does. Anyway, having an executive, the executive naturally has a chief. That's my man, Steve Levy.
Steve arouses mixed emotions among the good people of Suffolk, by which of course I mean the conservatives. For one thing, he was a Democrat until a few weeks ago. He switched to the GOP so he could contest the Republican Party nomination for Governor of the state.
The front runner for the nomination was, and still is, Rick Lazio, the guy who lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2000 Senate race, even after I sent a hundred dollars in to one of his fundraisers. Lazio's a decent sort, but deeply uninspiring, politically timid, and shows no evidence of ever having had a thought that wasn't written out for him by some party committee after they'd tested it on four different focus groups. Let's just say the expression "New York Republican" fits him like a glove.
Steve Levy is more skillful, more imaginative, more forthright. He says as little as he can get away with on social issues, pounding away at the real problem facing this state, and many others: Too many public employees sucking up too much taxpayer money. As County Executive, he's also taken a strong line against illegal immigrants.
I'd better admit that Levy's a long shot, polling behind Lazio among GOP primary voters, who in turn is polling well behind the putative Democratic candidate, hard-left liberal fanatic Andrew Cuomo.
Still, the primary's five months away, and a lot can happen. Levy's clever and nimble, and talks more fiscal sense than all the other candidates put together. Whether or not he's the Governor of New York State this time next year, he's a man to watch.
07 — Paul-Palin? Poll of the week was the one showing Ron Paul in a statistical dead heat with Barack Obama. This opens up some intriguing speculations — none of them, I'll admit, terribly realistic, but fun never the less.
On the one hand we have the Tea Party movement — middle Americans standing athwart the tracks of the Big Government locomotive yelling "Stop!" On the other hand, if you can strain to remember what was going on two years ago, there was the Ron Paul movement. Remember that? The money bombs, the legions of fired-up youthful enthusiasts, Ron's lead in campaign contributions from military personnel? Is there a way to fuse the two phenomena together?
The Ron Paul 2008 movement has morphed into something called the Campaign for Liberty, which I confess I haven't kept close track of, but which seems to have a lot of overlap with the Tea Party movement. Could we be looking at a Paul-Palin ticket here? Hey, they'd have my vote.
I'm dreaming, of course. Ron will be 77 when the 2012 election comes around. Right now the best use of his considerable energies would be in helping his son Rand get elected to the Senate in Kentucky.
As for Sarah, as much as the Tea Partiers may adore her, and as winsomely as she may flirt back at them, it's hard to shake off the feeling that her heart belongs to dull old, stupid establishment Republicanism.
True, she's endorsed Rand Paul; and true, her support for John McCain in Arizona can be excused as an act of political gratitude; but at this point Pawlenty-Palin, Romney-Palin, or even Bachmann-Palin — there's a thought! — looks more likely than Paul-Palin.
Given the herd mentality and feudal deference that hold the Republican Party in thrall, we'll probably end up with something like McCain-Hatch, or some other ticket with an aggregate age north of 150, but hey, I can dream.
08 — "Public charge" doctrine overthrown. Former Justice Department lawyer Kris Kobach has uncovered a nasty little poison pill buried in the two thousand-odd pages of the massive Obamacare bill. This is a clause that will overturn the "public charge" doctrine.
Let Kris explain, quote:
This doctrine is nearly as old as U.S. immigration law itself. It is the rule that no alien can be allowed into the United States if he is going to become a burden on the U.S. taxpayer upon entry — a public charge. In 1996, Congress added teeth to the doctrine by imposing a five-year bar on legal aliens receiving federal means-tested public benefits. In other words, no feeding at the public trough until you've been supporting yourself for five years. But now Democrats have eliminated the five-year bar with respect to the new health-care benefits.
Why would the Obamarrhoids do something so obviously contrary to the public interest, imposing a new burden on U.S. taxpayers? Kris speculates that it's to shore up support for Obamacare. If the administration can get an immigration amnesty enacted, there will instantly be ten or eleven million new legal residents depending on the federal government for their health care. From the Democrats' point of view, what's not to like?
So now, to the tired, poor, huddled masses, you can add all the world's sick people too. Come on in, folk! If this amnesty doesn't catch you, the next one will, and meantime you have free use of the emergency room.
Don't worry about paying, we don't mind you being a public charge, just so long as you vote Democrat.
09 — Miscellany. And now …
[Aside.] Can I get a drum roll, Ahmed? Do we have a drum roll?
Thank you. And now, ladies and gents …
[More drum roll … more …]
Er, all right, guys, let's not over-egg the pudding here. And now, listeners, yes! It's our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: I'm sorry not to have given a major segment to the dreadful plane crash in Russia that killed Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president, and his wife Maria, and a raft of senior Polish government and military officials.
The horrible irony of the thing was that these people were on their way to attend a commemoration of the Katyn Forest massacre of 70 years ago, when Stalin had the entire Polish officer class and other potential national leadership groups, to the total number of 22,000, shot and buried in mass graves.
The Soviets denied responsibility for Katyn until 1990, when Gorbachev 'fessed up. Radical Russian nationalists, and a few mainstream commentators, still deny the crime, or admit it only very grudgingly; but sensible Russians, and certainly the leadership, knows what was done.
You can't blame Poles for being wary of the Bear, nor can you doubt that Vladimir Putin considers Poland a buffer state within Russia's sphere of interest, with strictly limited rights of self-assertion, but the tales you've been hearing of Russian complicity in last week's plane crash are nonsense. It was just one of those horrible things that happens.
It's a double tragedy that it had to happen to Poland, which has had all too many horrors to mourn this past few decades. Radio Derb offers sincere condolences to the people of Poland.
Item: There's an election coming up over in the Mother Country, and the leaders of the three parties held their first televised debate.
It was a bit of a snoozer, the main thing coming out of it being that the third party, whose name is Liberal Democrats, has gained a lot on the Labour and Tory parties, mirroring the generalized disgust with establishment politics we see over here with the Tea Party movement.
All three parties are Nanny State Multiculturalist, with microscopic differences of approach I'll tell you about some other time, when I can be bothered to look them up. That seems to be what British people want at this point in their decline.
Boy, I'm glad I'm out of there.
Item: I walked right into a propellor blade last week with my criticisms of the iPad. A lot of people had just shelled out 800 bucks for the thing, and didn't take kindly to my picayune criticisms.
All right, I'll back off … provided Apple Inc. ships me one so I can do a full evaluation. I'll be wanting the 64 gig model with 3G, if it's not too much trouble, guys.
Item: Yet more trouble from angry listeners, this time over my references to Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the charismatic ruler of Turmenistan. Why, these irate listeners want to know, am I omitting his patronymic?
I apologize; I have indeed been remiss; in future I shall refer to the president by his full name, patronymic included.
My particular apologies go, of course to President Gurbanguly Myalikguliyevich Berdymukhammedov. I am sorry, Mr President: or, as you say in Turkmenistan, durolha nirede.
(I think that may actually mean "where is the bathroom," but it's the best I can do at the moment.)
Item: As if Tiger Woods didn't have enough to worry about, here comes Maureen Decker, who was his kindergarten teacher. She's now retired, but she's taking umbrage at a story Tiger told to Charles Barkley, who put it in a book, and then again to Barbara Walters in an interview.
According to the story, on his first day of school, some sixth graders tied Tiger to a tree, spray-painted an extremely bad word on him, threw rocks at him, and, says Tiger, the teacher saw it and didn't do anything.
Ms Decker says he made it all up, and she would certainly have taken action if such a thing had happened.
Oh, Tiger. Still, Tiger can take comfort in the fact that there's at least one female on the expose-Tiger bandwagon who does not carry a business card with her phone number and the word "masseuse" printed on it.
Item: President Obama wants our national space program to focus on getting to Mars. The Democrats want to go to Mars. Quote:
We want major breakthroughs, a transformative agenda for NASA.
Oh no, not more transformation. Can't these damn politicians just leave things alone for once?
Hearing that the Democrats want to go to Mars, my first reaction was to recall an old Cold War joke.
It's 1957 and the U.S.S.R. have just put the first artificial satellite into orbit. Hungary is still under lock-down after Soviet suppression of the previous year's revolt. Two Hungarians meet in the street in Budapest.
First Hungarian: "Have you heard the news? The Russians have developed a rocket to take them to the moon."
Second Hungarian, his face lighting up with joy: "What, all of them?"
10 — Signoff. There it is, ladies and gents; another week of striding forward into the radiant future under the bright banner of Hope and Change, in step with those giants of historical mastery: Barack, Joe, Harry, and Nancy. What blessed times we live in!
I'm still just a little worried about those volcanoes, earthquakes, and fireballs, though. Farmers of America: keep an eye on your hens.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]