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01 — Intro [Voice of Michael Graham] This is Michael Graham and you're listening to Derb Radio on NationalReview.com — what Air America would be if it were funny and informative.
[Music clip: from Carmen, Act 1 Prelude.]
[My voice] This is John Derbyshire with snippets of news from the last few days.
02 — Kids are unbeatable. Britain's House of Lords, the upper house of the Mother of Parliaments, has voted down a proposal to completely outlaw the physical chastisement of children.
Twelve European countries already have total bans on hitting kids and progressive British folk want the same.
Both sides of this debate have picked language suitable to their cases. The pro-chastisement faction, which includes a great majority of the public, refers to "smacking" while the antis call it "beating."
Smacking or beating, it's a fine old British tradition, as you can see from the names given to schoolmasters in old English novels: Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby, Thwackum in Tom Jones, and so on.
What the anti-smacking crowd want is for the vice anglais to go the way of fox-hunting; and when it has, the virtucrats will have won one more victory over our ancient liberties. The busybody left-wing elitists will have tightened their grip on our private lives, and one more aspect of the autonomy of the family will have been erased by state power masquerading as humanitarian concern.
03 — Ceauşescu justice. The most nonsensical and embarrassing sight of the past few days has been that of Saddam Hassan Hussein doing the perp walk.
This is all nonsense. Saddam didn't break any laws. As dictator of Iraq, he was the law.
So what actually is the origin and nature of these laws Saddam is supposed to have violated? Aren't we just replaying here the stupid farce of the Nuremberg trials, when Soviet torturers took a break from their work in the cellars of the Lubyanka to sit in judgment on Nazis, whose crimes were no worse than their own — with whom, in fact, they'd been co-operating just five years before in the rape and looting of Poland?
Our obsession with courtroom dramas and legal process is totally out of control. Saddam, having been caught and identified, should have been set up against a wall and shot, like Ceauşescu.
I don't want my country's enemies "brought to justice." I want them killed.
04 — I didn't fail: you failed me. A circuit court judge in St. Petersburg, Florida has awarded class action status to a lawsuit charging schools in Pinellas County with failing to adequately educate black students.
Judge James Case wrote that the plaintiffs, quote, "have cited an overabundance of statistical evidence indicating that black students are achieving far below white students in every category," end quote.
The original case, brought by a Mr. William Crowley on behalf of his second-grade son, claimed that the district failed to narrow the achievement gap between black and white students in violation of the state constitution's Equal Protection Clause. Now that the case has class action status, 21,000 students are represented as plaintiffs.
So here's the deal. You can work hard at school, get good grades, graduate to a decent job, and enjoy middle-class prosperity. Or you can goof off in school, drop out without qualifications, sue local taxpayers for failing to educate you, and get prosperous by taking their money.
Is this a great country, or what?
05 — Oil for food. In a just world, the arrogant and corrupt American business interests who manipulated George W. Bush into the Iraqi war should of course turn over management of the whole show to the selfless, incorruptible folk who, in the interests of all humanity, run the United Nations.
What's that you say? Oil for food scandal? Has it been in the newspapers? Er, let me see, where's my New York Times?
Let's see … Abu Ghraib … U.S. torture policy … Abu Ghraib … justice for the Gitmo detainees … Abu Ghraib … No, I don't see anything here. Did Michael Moore make a movie about Oil for Food? No? Well, then, it can't be real, can it?
Is anyone investigating it? Oh yes, here's a news item. A fellow named Ehsan Karim has been investigating the whole thing on behalf of the new Iraqi government under the title Director of the Board of Supreme Audit. Well, he should be able to uncover something.
Oops, what's this? Mr. Karim died in a Baghdad hospital a few days ago after a bomb exploded under his car. Those selfless, incorruptible folk at the United Nations must be so upset.
06 — Marlon Brando RIP. The death of movie actor Marlon Brando eclipsed the gaiety of nations and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure.
In one of his earliest roles to impress itself on our collective imagination Brando played the part of a boxer. He died last week as boxers often do: flat broke after a lifetime of bad investments, careless extravagances, unlucky marriages, and wayward children.
For all his success and for all the marvellous images he left us, one gets the impression Brando didn't find much peace in life. May he find it now in death.
07 — Notes mixed up. Two big mega-successful hit movies have been released this past couple of weeks.
In one of them the happy lives of peaceful citizens are horribly disrupted when a megalomaniac lunatic seeks to assert control over the world's main supply of cheap energy but is foiled by a dysfunctional misfit in a weird outfit. That would be Spiderman 9/11 … No, wait a minute …
Er, oh, in the other one the happy lives of peaceful citizens … Wait a minute, I, I, I've got my notes mixed up here
08 — Frontiers of science. CNN reports that researchers at universities in Canada and Austria have completed a study of almost fifty years of Playboy centerfolds.
Their conclusion is that the characteristic differences between men and women are becoming less pronounced. Women shown in the centerfolds are now less shapely and more androgynous than they were in 1953.
The way things have been going lately, I'm just glad to know that the centerfold playmates are still female.
Still, you have to admire the diligence and persistence of these researchers. The things people will put themselves through in the name of science!
09 — A humanitarian mission. The Arabs who run Sudan have been conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the west of that country, with government militias committing acts of mass murder, looting, rape, forced resettlement, and so on. If things go on, we are told, more than a million people may die.
Now of course all this pales to insignificance when set against the atrocities committed by Americans in Iraq or by Israelis against Palestinian Arabs, but the U.N. has been moved to act none the less.
Kofi Annan went out there last week, with Colin Powell too, and they told the Sudanese government in no uncertain terms that if the outrages didn't stop they would be very angry indeed; and then if they still didn't stop, senior American and U.N. officials would hold their breaths until they turned blue.
In between bouts of hysterical laughter the rulers of Sudan pointed out that the U.S. has just called up its last reservist, a 104-year-old WW1 veteran, to cope with the Iraq situation; and that the U.N. needs all its armed manpower to complete its program of tracking down and killing Oil for Food investigators; and that if Mr. Annan and Mr. Powell glanced slightly to their right they would notice a door.
10 — Disinformation on Kerry's choice. Kerry's Choice roared the front page of the New York Post on July 6th. And the choice was? Dick Gephardt, according to the Post.
A few hours later the world learned that Kerry's choice was in fact Senator John Edwards. Obviously someone in the Kerry campaign had buffaloed the poor old Post — one of America's very small number of reliably conservative newspapers.
The natural reaction to this blooper for anyone who works in journalism is: "There but for the grace of God go I." I couldn't resist a smile, though. The trick was so well done.
I'd feel better if I thought that our side was capable of this kind of stunt. If we were, it would of course be called "dirty tricks."
11 — First impressions of John Edwards. So Senator John Edwards is to be John Kerry's running mate. Now I confess I'm not totally engaged with this and my impressions of Edwards are so far somewhat superficial.
My main impressions are that (a) he's pretty, and (b) he has a Southern accent. So naturally, every time the Senator's face comes up on TV I hear the voice of Herb Coward in Deliverance: "He got a real purty mouth, ain't he?"
I know, I know, there must be more to Edwards than that. And yes, I also know that Deliverance is a gross slander on the good people of the back-country South — who, as author James Dickey observed when asked about the book that inspired the movie: "They might kill ya, but they wouldn't rape ya."
Give me a week or two to work past the stereotypes here and I'll have something intelligent to say.
12 — Gotta do what you gotta do. Quiz time. Here's a quote. See if you can tell me who is speaking and whose outrageous actions he is talking about. Quote:
It's endorsing a giant corporation that is hollowing out communities, destroying Main Street small businesses, and getting tax breaks in the process.
End quote. Did you get it? The monster community-destroying corporation is Wal-Mart — that's easy. The speaker is Ralph Nader. That wasn't too hard either, given that he is at or near the top of anyone's list of people who hate successful corporations selling people things they want to buy.
But who's doing the disgraceful endorsing? Give up? It's Bill Clinton, that's who. Our boy Bill has written a book, you see — something to do with a kid from back-country Arkansas who grows up to become a defendant in a sexual-harassment lawsuit — and when you write a book you travel around promoting it at retail outlets like, well, Wal-Mart.
Just listen to Ralph seethe! Quote: "Reprehensible! It's like crossing a giant picket line and endorsing the low-wage, anti-American, pro-communist-Chinese economic view of Wal-Mart." End quote.
Seems to me that having already endorsed the communist Chinese view of campaign fundraising, Clinton didn't have much further to go here.
13 — Fickle finger of despotism. Back in April the government of China told the people of Hong Kong that they would not be allowed an extra measure of democracy in 2007, as previously arranged. To soften the blow, the communists followed up with conciliatory gestures, including the temporary loan of a precious religious relic: one of Lord Buddha's fingers.
In response the people of Hong Kong made a gesture of their own, one also involving a finger, at least metaphorically, by staging a mass protest march through the city's downtown area. At least one in twenty of Hong Kong's people took part. That's the equivalent of fourteen million Americans out in the street protesting.
The demonstration put dampers on the plans to celebrate the seventh anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule. Those celebrations were subdued, and Beijing did not send any notables to attend it.
You can just imagine the commies tearing their hair at this clamor for elections: first in Taiwan, now in Hong Kong. Citizens electing their own leaders? We can't allow that! But what are we going to do? At which point a general sitting in the back of the room clears his throat …
[Music clip: more Carmen]