»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, February 22, 2008

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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire Marches.]

01 — Intro.     John Derbyshire here, ladies and gents, a little shell-shocked and more than a little stiff from the family's ski trip, and a bit hoarse from yodelling across the valleys to get my kids' attention — I am one of the 17 Americans left who still doesn't possess a cellphone … But ready with another edition of Radio Derb, to chill your blood and make your flesh creep. Here comes all the news you would really rather not hear.

02 — NYT on McCain's affair.     The least surprising event in the presidential campaign so far has been the New York Times turning on John McCain, having previously endorsed him for the Republican nomination. Anybody who was surprised by this, needs to go back to the remedial class in U.S. politics. Richard Nixon famously said that a Republican candidate has to run to the right to get the party nomination, then run back to the middle to win the general election. People have been having a bit of fun with this at McCain's expense, remarking that he's somehow gotten the nomination sewn up after running left of center for a year, and will now have to run to the right for the general, in the hope that some conservatives somewhere will pull the lever for him. Whatever: The mainstream media have a plan just as clear and logical as the Nixon original: Support the left-most Republican you can find, do whatever you can to help him win the party nomination, then dump on him for all you're worth, all the way to the general. That's what this New York Times story is all about, the one about McCain having an affair with a perky blonde lobbyist ten years ago. Is there anything to it? And if there is, should we care? The second of those questions isn't really salient until we have an answer to the first, which we currently don't. Quote from a story about the story: "The publication of the article capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair." Doesn't sound very cut'n'dried to me. Obviously the Times is trying very hard, but they haven't yet got this one to the level where anyone should interrupt his dinner to catch the TV news clips. It would not be terrifically surprising to learn that John McCain likes perky blondes. Heck, what guy doesn't like them? I'm more for the quiet brunette type myself, but I don't mind perky blondes a bit, not a bit. That powerful, confident men flirt with attractive women who are seeking something from them, as lobbyists always are, is likewise not astounding. Did anything more go on? Nobody knows, and all the circumstantial evidence says no. Until we know more than that, I can't see why I should care. And even when we do know, one way or the other, I won't be voting for the guy anyway. Fingers crossed, and voting-machine-arm ready, for a Republican Congress.

03 — NYT inside stories.     Here are a couple of inside stories about the New York Times, to show you what we're dealing with here. Inside story number one: I am very reliably informed that Pinch Sulzberger, publisher of the Times, visiting at a Manhattan apartment, complained indignantly to the proprietors of the apartment that while back copies of New York Magazine were available for reading in the bathroom, the only copy of the New York Times to be found on the premises was in the recycling bin. Inside story number two: A few months ago the issue of racial differences in average intelligence was in the news. The Times published an Op-Ed piece by psychology professor Richard Nisbett pooh-poohing the idea of group differences. Then a day or two later, they published six letters in the Letters column concerning the piece. All six agreed with Nisbett, though one thought we had to watch out we don't slip into "McCarthyism." Among the letters the Times did not publish was one written jointly by Arthur Jensen of the University of California at Berkeley and Philippe Rushton of the University of Western Ontario. Jensen and Rushton are the two leading authorities in this field, with decades of research and published findings. Their letter was brief and to the point, and corrected a major error in Nisbett's piece, supplying factual details from research. Yet the Times did not publish their letter, apparently being unwilling to tolerate any dissent on this subject, even from accredited researchers. That's the Times for you: All the news that's fit to twist.

04 — Hillary on Obama's plagiarism.     Watching Hillary sink gibbering down into that quicksand is still the best political spectacle in town. The latest straw she clutched at was the one about Obama having lifted some lines from leftist black Democrat Deval Patrick, words Patrick used when he was running for governor of Massachusetts two years ago. Obama's actual words, which were indeed very close to Patrick's, were, quote: "Don't tell me words don't matter. 'I have a dream' — just words? 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' — just words? 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' — just words? Just speeches?" End quote. OK, point number one: Politicians, and their speechwriters, lift words from all over, often without the courtesy of acknowledging where they lifted them from. FDR's line about nothing to fear but fear itself, for example, was lifted from Thoreau, without attribution. (You'll find it in Thoreau's Journal for 1851.) There might be an argument that taking words from a contemporary fellow politician is worse than taking them from some dead literary dude, but it's a nicety. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Patrick had borrowed his words from someone else. Point two: Patrick and Obama are two horses from the same stable, both radical leftist African Americans, both in fact with experience in Africa, born five years apart, both Harvard Law School grads, both with work experience consisting mainly of lawyering on behalf of "community activists," a.k.a. race-guilt-hustling nuisances. It's not the least bit surprising they talk the same way, and Obama's choice of words could be pure accident. What would be surprising would be, if these two guys didn't talk much alike. Anyway, Hillary's picking on this little absurdity highlights her main problem here. She will of course do absolutely anything to defeat Obama — "by all means necessary," as the saying goes. The problem with "by all means necessary" in electoral politics is, it has a point of diminishing returns — the point at which your transparent ruthlessness starts turning off a lot of voters. It seems to me Mrs. Clinton's campaign has already passed that point. Hard to think of anything she could do now that wouldn't make things worse. Even things that in other circumstances would be looked on indulgently as permissible campaign rough-and-tumble, are now just going to come across as unprincipled ruthlessness. Poor Hillary tried so hard, so very hard not to come across as the Queen of Mean. On the campaign trail, though, we get a good look at candidates, and your arm gets awful tired trying to hold that mask in place month after month.

05 — Michelle Obama's obsession.     Meanwhile, Obama's developing a wife problem. Michelle Obama attended Princeton University from 1981 to 1985, and graduated with a BA in Sociology, with African-American Studies as a minor. It's pretty clear that she belonged to that subset of black Americans to whom nothing in the world is more obsessively fascinating than their own blackness. You might think the fact that Mrs. Obama's major was sociology at least gives her an out from that charge. Sociology is race-neutral, after all, isn't it? Then you find out that the title of her senior thesis was: "Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community." As a friend of mine remarked very uncharitably: It couldn't have betrayed Mrs. Obama's obsessive interest in her own blackness any better if it had been titled "I'm black! I'm black! I'm black! I'm black! I'm black!" Now, we should make allowances. Allowance One: Mrs. Obama grew up in the Me Decade, when self-obsession, especially for those who belonged to designated-victim groups, was pretty much compulsory. Mrs. Obama belonged to two, black and female. Allowance two: The arithmetic of affirmative action, which was securely in place at Princeton when Mrs. Obama entered, pretty much guarantees feelings of insecurity among the beneficiaries. The entire logic of affirmative action means that most of the beneficiaries are people who would not have got in to the university just on ability. Then the non-affirmative-action pool of students is smaller than is would otherwise be, and therefore more intensively selected by ability, making the ability gap even larger between the affirmative action mediocrities and the students qualified just on academics. And then, Princeton itself was running the affirmative action program in such a way that you can't help but suspect the college administration was controlled by a secret cabal of Klansmen. They seemed to do everything they could to whip up racial separatism and hostility — for example, giving the affirmative-action students separate orientation courses. Opening up bogus separatist feelgood disciplines like "African American Studies" reinforces the effect. Even if Mrs. Obama didn't show up at Princeton with a racial chip on her shoulder, Princeton did everything in its power to put one there. What we'd like to know is, is it still there 23 years later? Mrs. Obama's casual remark in that 60 Minutes interview that her husband, as a black man in America, risks getting shot every time he ventures out of doors, and her other remark, made just this week, that she's reached the age of 44 and a bit without ever having felt proud of her country, suggest the answer is, yes. Herbert Hoover's wife scandalized the old South by having the wives of black congressmen to tea in the White House. With Mrs Obama in the White House, you have to wonder if any white congresswives would be getting invitations to tea.

06 — Ron Paul still running.     And how could I leave the campaign trail without putting in a word for the one conservative still running, my man Ron Paul? Well, Ron is still pegging along nicely, thanks very much. He got 5 percent of the Wisconsin primary vote this week, and 7 percent in Washington state. He currently has either 14 or 16 pledged delegates, depending on whom you believe; but all those small numbers pack a lot of intensity, and there'll be some fun at the Convention. Dr Paul had more money in his campaign war chest at the end of January than any other candidate of either party, and no debts. He draws SRO crowds wherever he speaks — this weekend, at the University of Texas in Austin, be there or be square. There has been some talk about his congressional seat being under threat, but Paul doesn't seem worried. There isn't going to be a Ron Paul presidency; but the only hope of preventing the forthcoming implosion of our nation's political and fiscal system is policies like those Paul is promoting. When we're all sitting around dazed in the rubble following that implosion, people will be saying: "Hey, that funny-looking old coot was right after all!" Paul's campaign today makes that sentiment possible tomorrow — makes a rebirth of American conservatism and a great national revival possible one day. Our grandchildren will be putting up statues to this guy. Meanwhile, I am sad to report that the website Hotties4RonPaul.com has run out of their pin-up calendar — which, I hasten to add, is tastefully G-rated. It does, though, include perky blondes. Looking at those perky blonde hotties showing their charms on behalf of a conservative presidential candidate, in fact, I must say, for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country.

07 — Kosovo's independence.     The big foreign news is the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. Main points: Kosovo is next door to Serbia, and in strict international law is, I think, still a part of Serbia. Both places were part of the old Yugoslavia. Serbs speak a Slavic language and are mostly Christians of the Eastern Orthodox rites, with some Roman Catholics up in the north. Kosovars speak mostly Albanian, a completely different language, and are nominally Muslims, though mosque attendance is low, and Albanians are regarded by all their neighbors, and in fact also by themselves, as an irreligious people. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have the largest population growth in Europe. An 87-year-old Kosovar has seen the Albanian population of the region multiply by five, to over two million. The Serbs feel passionately that Kosovo belongs to them — some of the great events in their history happened there. Russia supports Serbians as being fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians — in other words, for cultural reasons, and also to vex NATO, which the Russians regard as an anti-Russian organization. The Serbs have been out-bred in Kosovo though, and pretty much kicked out of the place, except for one corner, as part of the general trend of ethnic cleansing going on all over the world these past few years. People just don't want to live with people unlike themselves any more. The Kosovars, in fact, are talking about a Greater Albania, incorporating bits of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and northern Greece, as well as Albania proper of course. Add Kosovo itself to that five and you get six, which by a curious coincidence is the number of stars on the Kosovar flag. Well, the Serbs are mad and burning embassies in their capital — embassies, that is, of countries that have recognized Kosovo, which includes us. I would love to be able to tell you that the marine guard at our embassy, with our ambassador behind them calling the words of command, opened fire in a disciplined fashion on the howling mob, killing a couple of dozen of them and sending the rest running for their lives. Of course I can't tell you that. The Marines I'm sure would be willing, but you rise in the American diplomatic service nowadays according to how much jelly you have in your spine. The Serbian mob also burned a MacDonalds, I see here. Poor old MacDonalds — they always get caught in the anti-American crossfire, though I guess this one provided a living for several Serbs. The EU is mad about the embassy burnings, and threatening to freeze Serbia's membership application. Russia is mad for the aforementioned reasons — cultural affinity with Serbia, mainly. The U.N. is mad because Serbia did nothing to protect the embassies that got torched. Everybody's mad as hell. Moral of the story: The age when different ethnicities could live in some kind of harmony under strong central or imperial governments, is over. Ethnic separatism is the new fashion. Diversity is a bust. What's that you say? You have been told for years that ethnic diversity is wonderful and you ought to celebrate it? Yeah, well, go tell it to the Serbs and the Kosovars.

08 — Miscellany     A miscellany of short items.

Item:  Steven Spielberg has pulled out as artistic director of the ChiCom Olympic games, on the grounds, he tells us, that China isn't doing enough to stop whatever beastly things are happening in Sudan. The ChiComs have cut a deal with the Sudan government, supplying them with arms to be used in their suppression of the Darfur region, in return for rights on raw materials. Given what the ChiComs have been doing for decades to the people of Tibet, East Turkestan, and Inner Mongolia, not to mention their own people, and given too their keen support of horrible governments like the ones in Burma, Rhodesia, and North Korea, it seems a bit nit-picky of Spielberg to choose Sudan as the issue to make his stand on. Spielberg's a Hollywood airhead type though, and Darfur is the fashionable cause du jour at the kind of parties Spielberg goes to. I'm not going to complain. It's good that someone of his celebrity is taking a stand against the disgusting ChiComs and their vulgar, over-hyped Olympics-in-the-smog. Memo to the International Olympic Committee: Giving the games to a country under unelected dictatorship is a really, really dumb idea. Didn't you guys learn anything from 1936 and 1980?

Item:  In demographic news, a 16-year-old girl in Argentina is now the mother of seven children. She had a baby when she was 14, a set of triplets when she was 15, and she has just had another set of triplets. Reminds me of that old Bob Newhart joke about: "Somewhere in the world, three times every second, a woman has a baby. We have to find that woman and stop her!" Looks like there's no stopping this Argentine gal, whose name is Pamela. She really hasn't planned things very well, though. If she had got herself up through Mexico to the U.S. border and then over it, this latest set of triplets would have been born American citizens and young Pamela would be up for far better welfare benefits than she's getting in rural Argentina. Perhaps the Bush administration could team up with John McCain, Teddy Kennedy, and the Wall Street Journal to air-drop leaflets over South America explaining the situation.

Item:  A neuro-headset which interprets your thoughts and intentions from electrical activity in the brain will go on sale later this year. It will be sold to computer-game buffs, and will let them control their computers by thought, reading patterns of brain activity through the skull. No implanted electrodes, no messy conducting gel, just a headset you strap on. As the parent of a computer-gaming kid, I find this disturbing. Already I have to power down my son's computer from the basement circuit box if I want to see him exercise any part of his body other than the mouse hand. Now with this new gadget, he'll just sit there immobile thinking his way through the game. No need for a body at all. And where is this stuff going? If a headset can interpret my thoughts, how long before a remote device can do it? Is functional telepathy just round the corner? I guess this will be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for our PC enforcers. They'll not only be able to monitor what we say, but what we think. And it'll kill the game of poker stone dead.

Item:  Quote from an AP report on Friday: "Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will today to announce approval of a 28-mile section of virtual fence along Arizona's border with Mexico. The fence, built by the Boeing Co. and using technology the Bush administration plans to extend to other areas of the Arizona border, could get under way as early as this summer, officials said." End quote. As early as this summer! 28 miles — that's for a border 2,000 miles long! And a "virtual fence" — nothing as vulgar as a real fence, which might tick off our friendly neighbor to the south. Will the virtual fence actually stop anyone coming over that 28-mile stretch? The administration sure hopes not, and in any case there are still another 1,972 miles where people can walk in. Still, after 20 years of people flooding in illegally across our southern border, it's great to see the federal government leaping into action like this, isn't it? Well, not "leaping," exactly. Shuffling, perhaps, or crawling. Let's hear it for Homeland Security!

Item:  Where's out president been? Africa. Yep, Africa. Why? Don't ask me. Something to do with AIDS and west African oil. The oil thing I guess is nice, so we can keep driving our four ton SUVs and heating our palace-of-Versailles-size McMansions, as is our god-given right, but the AIDS thing is mainly just feelgood gesture politics. It's no business of ours how many Africans die of AIDS. Well, perhaps not altogether no business. Africa is a great incubator of nasty diseases, and there's a case to be made for keeping an eye on them, just for our own protection. The President's proposal to spend $30bn over five years on AIDS prevention in Africa is absurdly extravagant, though, and I hope Congress does block it, as they are threatening to. That would be about $200 of my money, mister president. I have better things to do with $200. If humanitarians, church groups, and other private associations want to help Africa, jolly good luck to them, but this is no business of the US taxpayer, certainly not $30bn worth.

09 — Signoff.     There we are, ladies and gents, another week into the bin. The republic is another week older and deeper in debt. On the bright side, though, someone in Tanzania is getting free condoms on our dollar, so I guess that's something to make you proud of Uncle Sam — even if, like Mrs Obama, only for the first time in your adult life.

[Music clip: More Haydn.]