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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your Homerically genial host, John Derbyshire, reporting to you from Taki's private island here in the sun-blessed Aegean.
We had a strange little incident on the island this week. My research assistants Mandy, Candy, and Brandy were down on the beach enjoying a game of volleyball when a man emerged from the nearby bushes, stark naked. It was a shock to the girls, who are well-brought-up and rather shy.
The guy was nice and apologetic, though — said he'd been shipwrecked. Mandy gave him a beach towel and sent him to see me at the studio here. I tried to be hospitable, but the guy talked my ear off with some long extravagant tale about trying to get home to his family in Greece, one-eyed monsters, a witch turning guys into pigs, sacred cattle, and I don't know what else.
When I couldn't stay awake any longer I gave him an old pair of my jeans and a shirt and some flip-flops and showed him the way to the dock in time for the next mail boat from the mainland.
I tell you, there are some weird crazy people in the Aegean.
Enough of that. Let's see what's been going on in the world.
02 — Off with their heads! Joseph Rudolph Wood went to his reward on Wednesday, lying on a gurney at the state prison in Florence, Arizona.
Wood's passing generated some news as he took an unusually long time to die. His execution was by lethal injection, and the dosage seems to have been poorly calibrated. Well over an hour after the drugs were administered, Wood was still audibly breathing — enough time for his his lawyers to file an emergency telephone appeal in federal court demanding that the execution be stopped. Wood finally ceased breathing an hour and 57 minutes after the drugs went in, while the lawyers' appeal was being heard by phone.
Cry me a river. Seventy percent of Americans support the death penalty for the worst criminals, and I'm in that seventy percent. Wood was one of the worst. He shot and killed a woman who had a restraining order against him, after first shooting her father. There were eye-witnesses. It was clearly premeditated.
This lethal injection business, though, is deplorable. It's cowardly and dishonest. I'm happy for the state to kill criminals in my name, but I'd prefer it were done swiftly, decisively, and in a way that leaves no illusions about what's being done: an act of gross violence against an enemy of the civic order.
Lethal injection is an attempt to pretty this up, to pretend that the act of violence is something other than what it is; to pretend, in fact, that it is some kind of medical procedure. That's cowardly: The state refusing to face up to what states have to do in their own defense. It's dishonest: there is nothing medical about an execution, and doctors don't belong in the vicinity.
The old British method of hanging by the drop method is preferable, although even there stuff can go wrong. The most famous case was that of John Lee, back in 1885 — "The Man They Couldn't Hang." The trapdoor of the scaffold failed to open three times for Lee, and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He did 22 years, was released, emigrated to the U.S.A., and died in his bed at the age of eighty, in Milwaukee.
The firing squad is an acceptable alternative, but again there's no certainty — hence the officer standing by in military cases with a pistol to administer the coup de grace. The human body can take a surprising number of bullets without giving up the ghost.
Federal judge Alex Kozinski discussed this topic recently, as the Arizona case wound to its conclusion. Quote from him:
The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos.
I don't see why it's inconsistent, unless our national ethos includes dressing up brutal actions to make them appear gentle. I think the guillotine's an excellent idea. You take a person's head right off in an instant, there's not much doubt he's dead. Plus there's a shower of blood to make it clear to all present that an act of lethal violence took place, in just retribution for the felon's act of lethal violence.
There are zones you can argue about: Juvenile felons, retarded felons, complicity in group actions. There is still a core of cases like Wood's, where the evidence is irrefutable and the felon's responsibility plain. Then the state has a right to take from him what he took from another.
Here is the thing that shocked me about the Joseph Rudolph Wood case: He committed his crime in 1989 — twenty-five years ago. Is that really the best we can do? Twenty-five years, with plain evidence against him and no mitigating circumstances? It took the Arizona Supreme Court five years just to affirm the sentence.
Surely there's something wrong there. I'm all for due process, but … twenty-five years?
03 — Ministering for dollars. One of the more depressing things about the invasion across our southern border has been the complicity of the Christian churches.
Lapsed though I am, I still get my newsletter from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, and it's full of tear-jerky stuff about these, quote, "Vulnerable Child Refugees." That's what they're called by the Right Reverend Lawrence Provenzano, Episcopal Bishop of Long Island: "Vulnerable Child Refugees." Quote from him:
Today, I am calling upon the clergy and people of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island to open our homes, our churches and community centers and all of our agencies and programs to begin accepting and helping these displaced children immediately.
That begs a rather obvious response, and I await some information about how many Guatemalan gangbangers the Bishop has put up in his own home.
And you never, in any of these self-serving, self-righteous blatherings, you never hear about the millions of dollars these bleeding-heart clergyfolk are getting from the federal taxpayer. Make no mistake, this is big business.
The blogger who calls himself "Sundance" at the Conservative Treehouse website has done some fine analytics on this, estimating that each unaccompanied minor costs the federal taxpayer around $40,000. He has tracked down dollar figures for some of the grants going from Health & Human Services to church outfits. These are grants specifically designated by HHS — actually the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is within HHS — for "Unaccompanied Alien Children." Samples:
Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc. in Austin, Texas: HHS Grant $8,389,270.
And so on, and on. Ann Corcoran over at the excellent Refugee Resettlement Watch website has been banging this drum for years, but news about all this money sluicing from federal taxpayers through to the churches seems at last to be breaking out into more mainstream outlets.
Here for example is a well-researched piece by Leo Hohmann at World Net Daily, July 1st. Lead paragraph, quote:
Thousands of Central American children crossing the border illegally could soon turn into asylum seekers armed with immigration lawyers provided by church groups and paid for by federal tax dollars.
Nine contractors receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the feds to resettle refugees and asylum seekers, and six of those nine are church groups: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Church World Service, which is ecumenical, and World Relief Corporation, which is an umbrella group of evangelicals.
The sums of taxpayer money here are tremendous. In its 2012 Annual Report, which Hohmann actually links to — and this is 2012, remember, before the present border flood — the Conference of Catholic Bishops showed $65.9 million in federal grants to care for unaccompanied alien children and refugees. That means 93 percent of the Bishops' charitable spending on unaccompanied children and refugees, 93 percent, comes from the taxpayer.
While they're raking these funds in from the government, the churches are still of course asking their congregants for money; and the nasty, dishonest, and to my sensibility quite creepy thing is, they boast of these lesser amounts from parishioners, without ever speaking about the much bigger government grants.
Here for example is a 1,200-word item from the Episcopal News Service, July 8th, telling us how church members in one afternoon raised $1,000, quote, "to buy shoes for the children, some of whom arrived at Abbott House without any footwear," end quote.
That would be Abbott House in Irvington, New York. A thousand dollars from those parishioners — pretty good, eh? Except that, looking at the Federal Register for July 15th I see that Abbott House got a grant of nearly three million dollars for those same children.
If squeezing a thousand dollars out of your parishioners is newsworthy, shouldn't three million dollars of taxpayer money going to the same location be three thousand times as newsworthy? Yet I can find no mention of the grant in any of the Episcopal News Service bulletins for July.
Why the silence? Is that how Christian charity's supposed to work? What happened to separation of church and state?
One of the most interesting pointed me to an article in the New Zealand Herald, dated July 10th. Headline: Rape case shakeup on cards this election.
Yes, there's an election coming up down there in the antipodes, set for September 20th. New Zealand has a parliamentary system with two and a half parties competing for votes. The two big parties are National, which is pro-business, low taxation, free trade, and culturally somewhat conservative, and Labour, which is redistributionist and leans to Cultural Marxism, deferring to feminists, racial minorities, homosexuals, and so on.
Notice I said that National is somewhat conservative. The whole cultural atmosphere down there is well to the left of the U.S.A., so these markers are relative.
And yes, both these parties have policies on rape. They both want to change current jurisprudence.
National's target is the defendant's right to silence in rape cases. If you're accused of rape you have a right to say nothing; and judge and jury may not infer anything against you from your silence. National wants, quote, "to explore allowing a judge or jury to see an accused's refusal to give evidence in a negative light," end quote. To explore, please note: to explore allowing the weakening of a defendant's right to silence. Sounds like pressure from the feminist lobbies has moved them just a fraction of an inch from traditional Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.
It's the Labour position that's really scary. Labour propose to, quote, "shift the burden of proof of consent to the defendant," end quote. Under this proposal, if you are the defendant in a rape case, you can forget about presumption of innocence: To get acquitted, you will have to prove that the other party consented.
In most cases, of course, that is not possible. So this proposal, if Labour wins the September election and implements it, will be a license for vindictive women to have men sent to prison.
The Labour Party's justice spokesman — his name is Andrew Little — pooh-poohed that, quote:
I don't see why. You're assuming that there is a propensity to lay false complaints. There is no evidence pointing to that.
That's just flat wrong. This whole area is of course an ideological minefield, but there have been empirical studies. There is evidence.
The studies converge on around eight to ten percent of rape charges being false. Not even ideologues think the rate is zero. Pioneer feminist Susan Brownmiller, in her book thirty years ago, offered two percent as an estimate. That would be four thousand false rape accusations a year in the U.S.A.
All right: New Zealand is a small country far away. Perhaps they're going through some weird feminist spasm. Why should the rest of us care?
Because this crazy stuff is in the air all over the Western world, that's why. We live in a thickening ideological miasma, where lunatics with extreme agendas of group revenge call the shots in major political parties.
You don't think this could happen here? You don't think there are factions in American public life that would sign on to stuff like this? Wake up!
That's the segment; but I'll just add a footnote here. I want everyone to note and give me credit for getting through a segment about New Zealand without making a sheep joke. Jokes about Kiwis being intimate with sheep are juvenile and deplorable, and Radio Derb indignantly eschews them. These are our fellow members of the Anglosphere and they're entitled to proper respect. [Aside]: Isn't that right, darling? [Baa-aa.]
05 — Two kinds of asymmetry. The Middle East punch-up took an interesting turn this week.
A Palestinian missile landed a mile from Tel Aviv airport Tuesday morning. With the safety of air passengers in mind, the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA, issued a 24-hour ban on flights to and from Tel Aviv by American carriers. The European equivalent of the FAA did likewise. Late Wednesday both bans were lifted.
This is a neat example of what we master geostrategists call "asymmetric warfare." Israel's a strong, stable country, thriving economically and powerful militarily. Their opponents here are a gang of Islamic fanatics with a stock of cheap missiles, most supplied by Syria and Iran but a few home-made. If you're not interested in targeting, just in creating terror in a densely-populated country, you don't need any expensive guidance avionics, just a casing, propellant, and explosive. A garage-sized workshop, some machine tools, and a stock of Agricultural chemicals, you're in the rocket business.
There's the asymmetry of the thing. As a commercial nation surrounded by unfriendly countries, Israel depends more than most on air transport and air travel. If the enemy lands a lucky shot near the airport, as happened Tuesday, the disruption is tremendous, at very little cost to the enemy.
This is so much the case, you have to wonder why there isn't more of it. New York's Long Island, which I know well, has lots of engineering expertise, plenty of garages, and easy access to fertilizer. Why hasn't some terrorist group or lone lunatic shut down Kennedy airport?
Thirty years ago, in fact, when we started to hear about shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, there was a flurry of speculative opinion pieces about how this marked the end of civil air travel, how the airliner would become obsolete as these missiles got cheaper and better, and we'd all have to go back to traveling by boat and train.
Obviously that didn't happen. It yet might, though. Some technological predictions, like that personal helicopter we were promised in 1950, are just wrong; others, like the videophone, are only premature. Now the forces of barbarism have seen how easy it is to disrupt a civilized nation, their efforts may soon be coming to a nation near you.
Meanwhile, what should Israel do? I'm partial to Israel, for reasons I've explained long since, and I don't care what they do to the Palestinian Arabs. No, I don't want my country to get involved, and no, I'm against all foreign aid, except for one-off cases where it's convenient to bribe some barbarian chieftain to respect our interests. Those points aside, for what it's worth from a safe distance, I wish Israel well.
Here's a thing, though. Militarily and economically, Israel is completely dominant in its region, and will likely get even more so in years to come. When you have that kind of superiority, some noblesse oblige is in order, the strong deferring to the weak — a different kind of asymmetry. There comes a point where you have to show some generosity, some largeness of spirit; where you have to give something.
I know, I know: Israel gave Sinai back and got nothing in return. Israel gave Gaza back, and got rockets for their trouble. I know the history. I also know how deep the underdog mentality goes among Jews, making noblesse oblige seem awfully difficult, even unnatural.
The kind of asymmetry we saw this week will be repeated, though, and may get a lot more asymmetrical. Smuggled nukes, biological agents, … who knows? There will come a point where it makes sense to deal, and there is someone to deal with.
The point hasn't come yet — maybe in five or ten years. Maybe in 2023, when Israel celebrates 75 years. I hope Israel's leaders will be wise enough to recognize the moment when it does come, and sensible enough to practice noblesse oblige. That's from a friend.
06 — Distant ripples from a civilizational catastrophe. There's been some grisly news copy coming out of the Ukraine, where that Malaysian airliner, MH17, was shot down near the Russian border July 17th.
There is of course by now a whole buffet of conspiracy theories to choose from. If you want to believe that the Jews did it, or the Freemasons, or the Rosicrucians, by all means go ahead; I won't try to dissuade you. The probability is, however, that the MH17 shootdown was just a collision of stupidities.
The bigger stupidity was that of the missile battery crew, who thought they were shooting down a Ukrainian military transport plane. The lesser stupidity belonged to Malaysian Airlines, who — along with Lufthansa, Aeroflot, and some other carriers — chose to ignore warnings from the FAA and ICAO, the international equivalent, about the hazards of Ukrainian airspace.
Echoing the previous segment, I have to say it's surprising there aren't more incidents like this. Given the terrifying accuracy and power of modern anti-aircraft ordnance — often under the supervision of 19-year-old conscripts with sub-par IQs — and the number of unstable zones in the world, you'd expect more.
There have been enough, goodness knows. The Ukrainians themselves shot down a Russian plane over the Black Sea in 2001, apparently just a blunder on some routine peacetime military exercises. The U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988; the U.S.S.R. shot down a Korean Airlines plane in 1983, killing a U.S. Congressman along with 268 others; and so on. Stuff happens.
Even sheer dumb-bad-luck stupidity has some causal antecedents, though. It's absurd to think that Vladimir Putin issued orders to shoot down a civil airliner, but there's not much doubt his government is aiding the rebels in Ukraine's incipient civil war, and presumably supplied them with the missile battery. To that degree he has some indirect responsibility.
The calls for sanctions against Russia, notably by the European Union, are therefore more than just political theater. Putin's stirring up a real civil war down there, and if sanctions cause him to pull back, there's a case for sanctions. They might just do that: The levels of sanctions the EU has in draft proposal would shut Russia out of the world financial system, a thing Russia can ill afford.
Will those sanctions actually happen? I find it very difficult to think of the EU as anything other than what I called them in February, reporting on the riots in Kiev back then: The EU, I said, is a paper tiger. I'd be glad to be proved wrong in this case. Stirring up civil war in a European nation is not a thing any responsible national leader should be doing.
Further back in the causal chain has been the sorry state of Ukraine itself — not just these past few months, but since independence from the U.S.S.R. in 1991. To quote from our February broadcast:
[Clip: "It's corrupt. Way corrupt. On the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013, put together by the respectable German think tank Transparency International, the Ukraine is tied at 144th out of 175: tied, that is, with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Iran, Nigeria, and Papua New Guinea. Russia ranks 127 on that index: the U.S.A. is a shiny clean 19."]
When you're tied with Cameroon and Nigeria for corruption, you are not a fully functioning country.
Further back yet on the causal chain is the U.S.S.R. itself, and its founder Lenin, whom I'd vote the most evil figure of the past century. Tsarist Russia had its little faults and weaknesses, no doubt, but what Lenin brought about was far worse, a real civilizational catastrophe.
The events of today, including the destruction of MH17, are distant ripples from that tremendous political earthquake of 97 years ago.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Let me just do a little textual analysis on Bishop Provenzano's phrase "Vulnerable Child Refugees."
I can't do much with the word "vulnerable," other than to observe in passing that in light of some well-known clerical scandals, it's a word I think ministers and priests might best steer clear of when talking about youngsters.
The word "child" is downright dishonest. Pew Research has done a study based on a Freedom of Information Act request showing that in fiscal year 2013, which ended last September 30th, 91 percent of illegal immigrant minors apprehended at the border were teenagers. Ninety-one percent. Of the nearly 60,000 illegal immigrant minors who were apprehended since then, 84 percent have been teenagers.
Just for reference here: The school leaving age, the age when a person may legally quit public secondary education, is 14 in El Salvador, 13 in Honduras, and Guatemala doesn't seem to have compulsory education at any level.
Finally, the word "refugees." In that World Net Daily piece by Leo Hohmann, Leo quotes the director of Immigration Services for Catholic Charities of Arkansas, a chap named Frank Head, Jr., as saying that the Central American "children" don't qualify as refugees under the current United Nations definition. Precise quote from him, quote: "They will not get refugee status."
The founder of the Christian religion said, quote: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." I recommend that verse to Bishop Provenzano. He'll find it in the eighth chapter of St. John's gospel.
Item: Some happiness news. The University of Warwick, over in Blighty, did some research on the genetic roots of happiness. A certain version of a certain gene is associated with higher scores on neuroticism and lower life satisfaction.
OK, but who's got that version?:
Among the 30 nations included in the study, it is Denmark and the Netherlands that appear to have the lowest percentage of people with this short version.
So those are your happiest nations.
The researchers went further. They reviewed data on the reported wellbeing of Americans and then looked at which part of the world their ancestors had come from. Americans whose ancestors came from these nations were happiest, even after controlling for personal income and religion.
I don't know about this. If you ask me to name a Dane and a Dutchman I come up with Hans Christian Andersen and Vincent van Gogh, both manic depressives. Possibly my sample is too small there.
And then, researchers from the University of British Columbia and Harvard surveyed American cities and came up with New York as the unhappiest, followed by Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee and Detroit.
Whatever. This whole happiness thing is overrated. As the philosopher said: Would you rather be a pig satisfied, or Socrates dissatisfied?
I hang my hat on the theory of Depressive Realism, an actual theory in psychology, which says that all you cheerful, optimistic types just aren't seeing things straight. This is a vale of tears we're in here. Face it like an adult, or retreat into childish dreams of happiness.
Happiness? As New Yorkers say: Fugeddaboutit.
Item: From happiness to intelligence. There's a common cant you hear, especially in comment threads, that IQ is a meaningless metric, that IQ tests only measure the ability to pass IQ tests, and so on.
Not to be too scrupulously polite about it, this is BS, and people who say it don't know the data. We have IQ test data going back decades and covering millions of subjects. We can do good, high-grade statistics with it. It turns out to be one of the best predictors of life outcomes.
Including health. Headline: Intelligence Predicts Health and Longevity, but Why? This is a study by Linda Gottfredson, University of Delaware, and Ian Deary, University of Edinburgh in Scotland. First half of the abstract, quote:
Large epidemiological studies of almost an entire population in Scotland have found that intelligence (as measured by an IQ-type test) in childhood predicts substantial differences in adult morbidity and mortality, including deaths from cancers and cardiovascular diseases. These differences remain significant after controlling for socioeconomic variables.
Dennis Mangan has a good discussion of this on his blog. Are smart people just smart enough to know to take care of themselves? Or is high IQ just one aspect of an entire physiology in better shape and less liable to break down? Read Dennis's ruminations for yourself.
I fall back again on depressive realism. Dumb people take risks in the cheery conviction that nothing bad will happen. We depressive realists are smarter, and know better.
From the Good Book once again: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." How many times do I have to tell you?
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents.
I was a bit rude about the Episcopalian clergy back there. I never feel easy about that, even though I'm not a believer. Like most people raised in the Anglican tradition, believers or not, I have a strong sentimental attachment to the liturgy and the old hymns.
To see us out, and in hopes of redeeming myself with any supernatural powers there may be, here's one of my favorites: The Church's One Foundation, courtesy the choir of King's College, Cambridge.
More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: King's College choir, "The Church's One Foundation."]