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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your dolichologically genial host John Derbyshire, with a helping of titbits from the week's news.
Much to discuss here, so let's go straight to the reports.
02 — Crazy people — a protected minority. Big story of the week was the Monday morning mass murder at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. Thirty-four-year-old New Yorker Aaron Alexis entered the base with a civilian contractor's pass and shot up the interior, killing 12 people and wounding eight before he himself was shot dead by police forty minutes later.
The Navy Yard horror was one of those events that we tend to dismiss as the human equivalent of lightning strikes, random and inexplicable, with no social or political lesson to be taken — unless you're one of those who think that ownership of firearms should be restricted to agents of the state, which personally I'm not.
I don't agree with that, not in this case. I do believe there are social and political lessons to be learned here. In fact I'm taking the whole incident a bit personally.
The shooter, Aaron Alexis, had mental problems. Quote from a Reuters report, September 17th, quote:
Police in Newport, Rhode Island, were so concerned about Alexis' behavior on a business trip there in August that they alerted Navy police.
End Reuters quote. That's where it gets somewhat personal. An old friend of mine in California went mad recently. With my friend it's not microwaves, it's satellites. Actual quote from him. He's talking about the signals being beamed to him by a governmment satellite, quote: "My brain, I can feel it starting. I'm blasted by the signals, every couple of minutes. I yell and I scream, 'Stop it, I don't need this,' but they never listen." End quote.
OK, you say, the guy needs psychiatric help. He sure does, but how does he get it? His wife begged him to see a psychiatrist. He claims he did, and got a clean bill of health. If that's true, the psychiatrist should be in jail; you only have to spend five minutes in the guy's company to know he's nuts.
He doesn't think he's nuts, though. The government satellites, the signals, it all makes perfect sense to him. Nothing his family or friends could do would persuade him he has a mental problem, or persuade the public authorities to take any interest in him. They've all taken aboard the shallow and foolish dogmas of the 1970s, that crazy people are a protected minority, and that to coerce them into treatment would be an infringement on their rights.
At last my friend's wife threw him out, then divorced him. He lost his business, although presumably not the pistol license I know he had when he was compos mentis. Now we don't know where he's living or how. I await the headlines.
And this is in California, third state in the nation for per capita welfare spending, behind New York and Hawaii. Matter of fact, here's a report out of CBS Los Angeles, September 16th, quote:
A projected $650 million in welfare benefits will be distributed to illegal alien parents in 2013, county officials said Monday … Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich announced the latest figures from the Department of Public Social Services, which showed more than $376 million in CalWORKs benefits and food stamps combined have been distributed through July to illegal alien parents for their native-born children … An estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County.
Plainly California isn't shy about spending a few hundred million on welfare for the benefit of people who shouldn't even be in the country. How about setting aside a few bucks to give necessary care to a citizen, to save his family life, and perhaps the actual lives of some innocent strangers down the road? Something's cock-eyed somewhere.
03 — Black privilege. I got all the way through a long segment there on the Washington Navy Yard shooting without mentioning that the murderer was black. I can see you shaking your heads and clicking your tongues in disappointment. "This is not like Radio Derb," you're saying.
OK, Aaron Alexis was black. Does this matter? After all, rampage killers come in all races and ethnicities. The Fort Hood killer was an Arab, a West Asian. The kid who shot up the movie theater in Colorado last year was white. The Virginia Tech shooter was Korean, an East Asian. Homicidal lunacy is an equal-oppportunity affliction, isn't it?
Well, not exactly. The data actually shows that blacks commit serial and spree killings at about twice what you'd expect from their proportion of the population. That's less of a disproportion than for other kinds of crimes — for robbery, the multiplier is eight — but it's still a disproportion. Listeners may remember the D.C. snipers, John Mohammed and Lee Malvo; or Omar Thornton, who killed eight white men at his place of work in Connecticut three years ago because, he had told family members, they were racists. Or Colin Ferguson, who shot up the Long Island Railroad in 1993.
All right; but these rampages are such rare and singular events, I think the basic statistical rule that applies here is the one that says: "Outliers prove nothing." For sure Alexis wasn't singling out whites for attention: at least two of the people he killed were black.
That said, the backstory to the shooting, and some of the reporting on it, do illustrate a certain feature of contemporary American society; a feature that, for want of a better term, I'll refer to as black privilege. I picked out two illustrations of black privilege from the news coverage, without trying very hard.
Here's the first one. Alexis served four years in the Navy, during which time he got at least eight misconduct charges for things like insubordination, disorderly conduct, and unauthorized absences, and including two arrests. Notwithstanding all that, he got great reviews from his superiors and an honorable discharge. It should have been a general discharge, according to experts quoted in the newspapers.
If you move around in American society much, you can't help but suspect that the Navy brass went easy on Alexis for fear of being accused of racism, which is the second worst thing that can happen to you in a military career — right in between the worst, which is being accused of sexual harassment, and the third worst, being killed in action.
There are parallels here with Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, who likewise got glowing evaluations, regular promotions, and numerous astonishing breaks on account of being a Muslim. So maybe the correct heading here is not "black privilege" but a more general "diversity privilege."
04 — He appeared to be dark-skinned. The second illustration of black privilege in news coverage of the Navy Yard shooting came on Fox News Monday morning.
I'm going to play the soundtrack of the Fox News clip. You need to know that the interviewer is a black guy, and he's interviewing two witnesses, a white woman and a black man. Here we go.
[Fox News clip: Black interviewer: Could you describe the guy? What was he dressed like? …
Just listen to the social dynamic there! Standing next to a black guy, being asked questions by another black guy, the white woman goes into race cringe mode. The shooter "appeared to be dark-skinned." He wasn't wearing a hat.
It's like watching a subatomic particle approaching another one of the same charge. The repulsive force gets stronger as the moving particle gets closer. It gets to within a certain distance — He appeared to be dark-skinned — then the repulsion is too strong and the particle bounces off the force field and flies away in a random direction: He wasn't wearing a hat. Why should he have been wearing a hat? Hardly anybody does.
The black witness, though, has black privilege — the privilege to speak frankly and honestly: A tall black guy, yeah. The black interviewer likewise: He was a tall black guy.
It's a captivating little snippet, like something out of a Tom Wolfe novel. You could use it as a classroom illustration to teach a group of visiting space aliens about racial etiquette in early 21st-century America.
You know what I mean by space aliens, right? Those critters that … appear to be green-skinned.
05 — Too dark to be Miss India. Since I've opened the race and diversity boxes, there, let's pull out another news story. This one concerns a beauty pageant.
Yes: Here she comes, Miss America. Sunday evening saw the coronation, in Atlantic City, of a new Miss America, 24-year-old Nina Davuluri, representing New York. Ms. Davuluri was born in Syracuse, New York to parents who immigrated from India 30 years ago. They're Hindus, and so is she.
Ms. Davuluri appears to be dark-skinned, and that annoyed some people who suspected a case of diversity privilege. They suspected, I mean, that the judges passed over white contestants in favor of Ms. Davuluri to demonstrate their multicultural correctness.
In the state of our society today, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, though I have trouble understanding why anyone would care. It's the Miss America pageant, for crying out loud. It barely even rises to the level of showbiz.
Still, we journalists must do our due diligence, so on your behalf, listeners, determined to uncover all the facts, I patiently went through the Miss America website, viewing all 52 contestants.
So far as I could tell the numbers broke out as follows: 20 white blondes, 21 white brunettes, 5 blacks, 2 Hispanics, 2 Indians, 2 other Asians. So this is still pretty much a white thing, in fact disproportionately a white blonde thing; perhaps that put an extra layer of race guilt on the judges. I say again, though: Anyone taking this seriously enough to post indignant tweets about it needs to get out more.
For the record, I thought Miss West Virginia, a white blonde, was the prettiest. She also has a pretty name: Miranda Renee Harrison. I see Ms. Harrison is studying for a degree in broadcast journalism. Who knows? There might be a vacancy at Radio Derb, right here on the cutting edge of broadcast journalism, if Ms. Harrison doesn't mind living on a sun-kissed Mediterranean island with no-one to socialize with but strapping young Greek farmboys and yours truly. Keep in touch, Ms. Harrison.
The last word on Nina Davuluri's triumph was given by science blogger Razib Khan, whose family come from Bangladesh. Razib pointed out, with supporting illustrations, that Ms. Davuluri is too dark to be Miss India.
Indians, like most non-Europeans, favor light skin as more attractive. The current Miss India, Navneet Kaur Dhillon, elected in Bombay this March, has skin barely any darker than mine. The first and second runners up both have blue-green eyes and skin as pale as Miss West Virginia's.
Goodness knows how they keep civilization going in a place as politically incorrect as that.
06 — Syrian crisis caused by climate change! Radio Derb has pretty much avoided the whole climate change kerfuffle. As we said back in February 2010: "The data is so voluminous and so fuzzy, I'd want someone to pay me a living salary for a few months to sift through it all before I formed a judgment, and unfortunately nobody's stepped up."
I had a decent scientific education, and I spent most of my working life up to my elbows in data. I know science and scientists, and I know data, and what can be reasonably drawn from it.
Climate science belongs to the category of scientific topics that are profoundly complex, to a degree that progress in understanding is awfully slow. Other topics in that category are genetics and neuroscience. There is an element of chaos in these topics that puts actual limits on what we can hope to understand.
If you don't know about chaos, go to YouTube and put "double pendulum" into the search box. Probably the first clip that comes up is Steve Troy's movie of an actual double pendulum — a pendulum in two parts joined at a hinge. The motion of the lower pendulum is chaotic. It's determined by the laws of physics — there's nothing magical here — but it's not predictable.
That pendulum has just two moving parts. A population of some species evolving under the laws of genetics, or a brain processing information from inside and outside its parent organism, or a continental weather system, have billions of moving parts, or the equivalent. If the habitat of the species gets colder and drier, will the population evolve this way or that way? If I send a babble of high-pitched noises into its ear, will the organism respond by doing this, or that? If a forest fire dumps a load of smoke and CO2 into the air, will there be more or less rain next week? Lots of luck finding out. These are physical processes determined by laws, but not necessarily predictable.
So I'm cautious on climate change and a bit impatient with people who display certainty about it. Most of those people, in my experience, are fired up by ideology: they hate free-market capitalism, or they hate overbearing government, or they hate science itself.
Given that I'm also deeply skeptical about First World governments involving themseves in the internecine squabbles of Third World hell-holes, you can imagine the color I turned when I read this headline: How Climate Change Helped Fuel the Syria Refugee Crisis. Listeners, I appeared to be purple-skinned.
The author, a lady named Samantha Peters, who appears to be light-skinned, is pushing a concept she calls "Future Humanitarianism," which, quote, "requires humanitarian organizations to recognize that we need to be addressing not only the crises of today, but also the crises of tomorrow." She gives as an example, educating India's men and women on the importance of preventing domestic violence. Domestic violence is one of the things that will be on the rise as climate change kicks in, see? Likewise with conflicts like the Syrian civil war. Climate change will cause more of them. Quote: "We need to plan for these humanitarian interventions now."
I picked this story up from Ann Corcoran at Refugee Resettlement Watch, and I can't improve on Ann's comment, quote:
The climate has been changing since the beginning of time, but to hear these people talk about it, the only solution is for Western countries to invite the world's impoverished people to come to the West and thus drag us into poverty as well.
Yep, that's their solution. For the love-the-world leftists, in fact, mass immigration from poor, backward countries into rich, developed ones, seems to be a solution for everything; including, now, it seems, climate change.
There's a sort of Grand Unified Theory under development in which all the leftist obsessions are linked together, with common solutions embracing all of them: the end of the nation-state, the end of the family, the end of fossil fuels, more power to bureaucrats, more years of schooling, affirmative action, hate speech laws, and gay marriage.
I tell you, it's a Unified Theory of left-liberal hegemony, and its name is "Future Humanitarianism." I say it's broccoli and I say the hell with it.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Another beauty pageant story, sort of. Congratulations here to King Mswati III of Swaziland, down in southern Africa. King Mswati, who appears to be dark-skinned, is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. The custom of his country, which the king observes very scrupulously, is for all the most comely young virgins of the kingdom to perform a dance, the Reed Dance, once a year before the king. He picks one of the young dancers to be his companion. So it is a sort of beauty pageant.
Should the young lady thus chosen become pregnant, she is elevated to the rank of royal wife. Hence the congratulations: 18-year-old Sindiswa Dlamini, who also appears to be dark-skinned, has just become King Mswati's 14th wife. Our best wishes go out to the happy couple.
Item: And yet another beauty pageant story. They seem to come in batches. This story is datelined Jakarta, Indonesia, September 19th, and concerns a Muslim Miss World.
I bet you didn't know there was one. Well, there is. It's an annual event, now in its third year, exclusively for Muslim women. The ladies are assessed not only on their appearance — in proper Islamic dress, of course — but also on their piety, religious knowledge, and understanding of the Koran.
Well, the winner of this year's Muslim Miss World is 21-year-old Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola of Nigeria, who appears to be dark-skinned. When Ms. Ajibola was asked to speak after being announced the winner, she recited a verse from the Koran. As well as a handsome trophy she wins, yes, a trip to Mecca.
The Muslim Miss World. First prize, a week in Mecca. Second prize, two weeks in Mecca … Sorry, I couldn't resist that. I will, though, resist the temptation to make jokes about female circumcision or losing contestants being stoned to death. You make your own.
Item: Some pest news — two items here, from opposite sides of the world, but both concerning infestations in official residences.
First, roaches have been found in the White House. Yes, I know what you're going to say, but let's have a little respect for the office, please. These are real roaches, and it's embarrassing if one shows up at a state dinner or such.
I think we should consider the possibility that these roaches are among those who escaped from a Chinese roach farm, as reported by Radio Derb two weeks ago. I'll admit the timing doesn't seem quite right — I mean, could they really have swum the Pacific and hiked across the continental U.S.A. all in two weeks? But how much do we really know about roach abilities? Perhaps they came over the pole. Or perhaps they're genetically-modified super-roaches, bred by the ChiComs for intelligence gathering. I think the NSA needs to get on this one.
My second pest story comes from Australia, where new Prime Minister Tony Abbott is unable to move into his official residence because it's infested with possums.
A possum, in case you don't know, is a little marsupial, found only in Australia and New Zealand, in size and appearance something between a rat and a raccoon. The Prime Minister's official residence in Canberra is teeming with the little critters.
Now, I don't claim to be the suppository of all wisdom where pest control is concerned, but I will just insert this one suggestion into the back end of the broadcast here, if I may: Mr. Prime Minister, get yourself a boomerang. If there's one thing that terrifies a possum, it's the sight of a boomerang flying through the air towards it. Those possums will be fleeing the house faster than you can stow a jumbuck into a tucker-bag.
I heard that from Paul Hogan, so it must be true.
08 — Signoff. And that's it, ladies and gentlemen.
Here's a little music clip to see us out. It's kind of commemorative. Radio Derb is going to tape this week in the small hours of September 20th. That's forty years to the day since a small private plane crashed in Natchitoches, Louisiana, taking the life of singer-songwriter Jim Croce, just 30 years old.
Croce wrote and performed some lovely songs on a variety of themes, that are still played on oldie stations. He was at his best, though, in what you might call working-class ballads, drawing on his own experiences doing whatever kind of unskilled work he could find in his native Pennsylvania through the lates sixties and early seventies, and hanging out at cheap bars and diners with his workmates.
The songs spoke pretty directly to me at the time. I'd arrived in the U.S.A. a few weeks before, quickly run out of money, and was doing the kind of scuzzy, low-paid jobs Jim was writing about, and hanging out in those same kinds of bars.
It was a good introduction to the U.S.A., seeing it from the basement level, among the working people of America who keep everything going, in spite of the efforts by all the richer, luckier, and better-educated types constantly trying to wreck the place. I learned how to stack shelves, use a mop, load a truck, keep out of the boss's way, and tip a bartender; and I learned it all to the sound of Jim Croce singing about just those things.
Here's one of his best: "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues." Thanks, Jim. Rest in peace, pal.
[Music clip: Jim Croce, "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues."]