[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire Marches.]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb on the air here, ladies and gents, and this is your genial host John Derbyshire with the news of the hour. First, a little housekeeping, as I have to welcome an entire new cohort of Radio Derb listeners, thanks to my good friend, Rev'm Al Sharpton.
02 — Sharpton shakedown. I'd like to take the opportunity to extend a warm welcome to all my new listeners. Thanks for tuning in, and let me assure you that Radio Derb is an equal opportunity employer. For the benefit of longtime regular listeners, just let me explain what happened. See, I got a note in my mailbox the other day that at first I didn't understand at all. It wasn't written or typed, it was put together from letters and words cut out of magazines and pasted together, like the ransom note in a kidnap movie. What it said was: "Nice little Radio Station you've got there, Derbyshire. Be a shame if anything happened to it." Underneath was a phone number. Well, I called the number. Who should I get at the other end of the line but Rev'm Al Sharpton! Rev'm Al explained, in very soothing tones I must say, that there was no cause for alarm. What must have happened was, someone suspected me of discrimination in hiring practices. Looking out through the glass wall of the studio at the army of technicians, producers, and sound engineers that makes Radio Derb possible, I could see his point. Naturally, I felt terrible. I started to apologize, and was going to promise to seek out more minority hires, but Rev'm Al cut me off. He was on his way to a meeting, he explained, something to do with some project that his National Action network was setting up — midnight basketball, I think it was. Anyway, he told me the project needed some funding, and if I could see my way to helping out, he'd make sure there'd be no more of those disturbing notes in my mailbox. I at once pledged a sum of money. After the other end of the phone line had been silent for thirty seconds or so, I doubled the amount. Rev'm Al said that would do nicely, and he'd recommend Radio Derb to all his friends and supporters. So welcome to all you new listeners! Thanks for tuning in! I'd also like to give special thanks to Rev'm Al, who not only got me off the hook with those notes, and brought in a whole new listener demographic for me, he also gave me the name of a really good tax accountant, who tells me I don't have to pay any tax at all if I don't want to! In fact, I don't even have to file! Thanks, Rev'm Al! That other name you gave me though, the one for your hair stylist, that didn't work out so well. My wife says I'm using up all her hair spray, and if I don't go back to my plain old buzz-cut, she'll divorce me. Women — what can you do?
03 — Obama / Osama. I know that Radio Derb listeners are a well-informed demographic, so I know that none of you is going to confuse Obama with Osama. One of them is the likely Democratic Presidential nominee living in a very nice house in a tony suburb of Chicage, the other is the world's leading terrorist, hiding out in a cruddy cave in Waziristan … at least according to the CIA, though given the CIA's track record for accurate information about the nation's enemies, I'm betting that the bearded one is actually living in a nice air-conditioned apartment in Saudi Arabia. Be that as it may, we don't get these two guys confused, do we? I mean, they are completely different. One of them follows this wacky religious teaching that the U.S.A. is the Great Satan, condemned to distruction for its historical sins, while the other one … Oh, never mind, I've made the point: these are two separate guys, Osama and Obama. Well, someone needs to explain this to Microsoft Corp. Their Hotmail software has a spell checker that replaces "Obama" with "Osama." Someone told me this, I tried it out, and it's absolutely true. I'm told they're having a top-level meeting at Redmond right now to get the bug fixed; or, if that can't be done, to at least get the spell-checker to replace "McCain" with "Ahmadinejad," so nobody can say they're being partisan.
04 — Irish referendum. [Irish jig clip] That was Gerry Heaney there playing the fine old jig "Father O'Flynn," in honor of the noble people of Ireland, who have saved civilization once again by voting "No" to the Lisbon Treaty. Just to remind you of the backstory here: The globalist elites who run the EU — that's the European Union — very much want to abolish those stupid old nation-states that people are so irrationally attached to, and put the whole of Europe under the benevolent rule of a single multinational bureaucracy, which of course will know what is best for everybody, in every part of Europe. These philosopher-kings will have a constitution to guide them. Trying to get Europeans to approve their constitution, though, has proved tricky, since the constitution necessarily abolishes all the particular customs and practices that the great unwashed, stuck in their medieval notions of patriotism and sovereignty, are so attached to. The first attempt at getting their constitution approved failed three years ago, when the voters of France and Holland, given a referendum on the thing, voted it down. Nothing dismayed, the Eurocrats tweaked the constitution a bit, re-labeled it as a "treaty" in order to bypass the customary procedures of some member states, and ordered the governments of member states to jump. "How high?" replied the governments in unison, politicians in Europe being just as globalist in their preferences as politicians in the U.S.A. — the name "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill of 2007" ring any bells? All except the Irish. Irish politicians, by and large, are as keen to get themselves on the Eurocrat gravy train as politicians elsewhere are. However, there is this wrinkle in Ireland's own constituion that any constitutional change must be approved by a referendum, even the teensy-weentsy changes that, the pols assured everyone, were all that the Lisbon Treaty implied. Heck, the pols in Dublin weren't bothered: Europe's been good to Ireland. As an economic deal, the EU is popular in Ireland. Politics is something else, however. The Irish had a long, very long, fight for their sovereignty, and they're inclined to think long and hard before giving any of it up. When push came to shove last Thursday, they voted down the treaty by a decisive 53 percent to 47. [Clip form "Wearing of the Green"] Well, not any more they're not, Dermot, but there are some folk in Brussels who'd like to right now.
05 — Muslim offended. In Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence the most serious crimes have for a couple of centuries now been murder, rape, treason, piracy, and arson. Well, times change. As they do, crimes move up and down the list. Moving up very fast now is a fairly new crime — not yet in the really big leagues with murder and piracy, but getting there. This is the crime of hurting a Muslim's feelings. Case in point: Ms. Bushra Noah. Ms. Noah is a Muslim lady from Syria living in London. She applied for a job at a hair salon. The salon turned her down for the job, on the grounds that she wouldn't remove her headscarf. The proprietress of the salon said that she wants the hair of her stylists to provide clients with a showcase of different looks. Ms. Noah's hair, hidden under her headscarf, obviously wouldn't do that. So, no job. However, the rejection hurt Ms. Noah's feelings. Her feelings were hurt, and she's a Muslim. [Alarm sounds] She sued the salon's owner, Sarah Desrosiers, for seventy thousand dollars. The case came up before an employment tribunal — that's one of those special committees set up outside the normal legal system, to rip money from the pockets of honest citizens and shovel them into the pockets of Muslims with hurt feelings. The tribunal thought seventy thousand a bit over the top, but awarded the weeping, suicidal Ms. Noah ten thousand dollars. I don't know what Ms. Noah plans to do with her windfall. Take a first-class flight back to Syria, perhaps, so she can tell the story to her relatives over there, causing them all to fall around laughing at what bloody fools the British have become.
06 — School choice. So, what will the Eurocrats do after the debacle in Ireland?
Well, they'll probably do what my local school board does when we vote down their budget, which we do pretty regularly: They'll brush some more lipstick on the pig, put it in front of us again, and ask us to vote again; and keep on doing that till we all get sick of the whole business and buckle under.
That brings us to the topic of education, in the news this week as the Democrat-controlled Congress, acting on orders from the teacher unions, prepares to kill the Washington D.C. school choice program.
Meanwhile, Andrew Coulson over at the Cato Institute has calculated that the figure usually given for per-student cost in Washington DC is low. The real number, he says, if you factor in teacher retirement programs as well as the operating and capital budgets, is close to 25,000 dollars per student. For a classroom of 20 students, that's half a million dollars a year.
This just tells me what I already knew: public education is totally out of control.
Is there a better way? Yes — Ikea! No kidding. I'm looking at a report in the June 14th issue of the Economist, about Sweden. Now, you may think this is counterintuitive. The root problem with our public school system, after all, is that it is a socialist cyst in our free-enterprise body politic, a little bit of Soviet-style economics entrenched in our free republic. Since Sweden is the home of everything socialist, what could they possibly have to tell us?
Well, a lot — think of Ikea. Lots of goods you actually want, stacked in a strictly no-frills environment, and requiring some assembly on the customer's part.
That pretty much describes Kunskapsskolen, a chain of private schools that's a roaring success over there. The entire school syllabus is on a website. Each student works at his own level, and can portion out his time on different subjects as he chooses. Each subject's divided into steps. The classrooms are basic and bare. For sports, arts, and shop, students go off to rented, shared facilities. Teachers get just seven weeks off a year, same as most Swedish office workers. Parents can follow kids' progress on the Internet.
The whole thing's a commercial operation, with a return on capital around five to seven percent. Quote from the boss of Kunskapsskolen: "We don't mind being compared to McDonald's. If we're religious about anything, it's standardization. We tell our teachers it's more important to do things the same way than to do them well." End quote.
Could we get a chain of these Ikea schools going here? Not with a Democratic Congress, we couldn't.
07 — Nepal's dethroned king. The world is on tenterhooks to know how things will work out in Nepal, after elections back in April gave a plurality to the Maoists. What would the Maoists do, everyone wondered? Get everyone building backyard blast furnaces? Invade Tibet? Invite Henry Kissinger for a game of ping-pong? Well, the first thing they did was abolish the monarchy. Nepal is now, if the guys at the magazine will pardon the expression, a new republic. The next thing they did was lock a guy in the toilet. Yep, it wouldn't be Radio Derb without a bathroom segment, and here it is, all the way from Nepal. The new Maoist Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation, Matrika Yadav, locked up one of his underlings, a chap named Dandu Raj Ghimire for one and a half hours inside a toilet cubicle. Something to do with a dispute over conservation. Mr. Yadav said he wanted Mr. Ghimire to know what it was like to live in a foul environment. Well, I know nothing about Nepalese toilets, but I do have a pretty extensive experience of Maoist ones, and my sympathies are entirely with the victim here. So are the sympathies of Nepal's government workers: they have all come out on strike in support of the potty prisoner. I think I know how Chairman Mao would have dealt with that, but I'll wait to see how the Nepalese handle it. Nepal's ex-King, meanwhile, is looking for a place to live, so if you have any rooms to let that might be suitable for a monarch and his consort, let me know and I'll pass it on. Must have modern toilet facilities.
08 — Miscellany A handful of short items to see us out.
Item: It's not just Muslims having their feelings hurt. Here come the Hindus, all in a lather about Mike Myers' new movie, Love Guru. Chief whiner here is Ms. Bhavna Shinde of the Sanatan Society. Quote from Ms. Shinde: "They should draw a line when it comes to people's faith." Here is a translation of Ms. Shinde's complaint back into the original Hindi: [Ker-ching sound] Come on, Hindus, have a sense of humor. Anyway, doesn't India have a flourishing movie industry of its own? Why doesn't some Bollywood director make a movie called Love Preacher. They could call in Jesse Jackson as a script consultant.
Item: Do you watch those CSI shows on TV, where forensic experts have to solve tricky crime problems? They're too gruesome for me, but my 15-year-old daughter loves them. Well, here's one for the CSI people. Feet have been washing up on the western coast of Canada. Feet, in sneakers. Mostly right feet. The feet have all been recovered along the shorelines in the Strait of Georgia, which lies to the south and west of Vancouver. Nobody has a clue where they come from, though of course everybody has a theory. Forensic experts are having a field day, being pulled out of their labs to tell us stuff like this, quote: "When bodies decompose, they break into 10 pieces, two arms, two legs, two feet, two hands, the head and the torso. This raises questions as to what has happened to the rest of the bodies." End quote. That particular expert was an oceanographer named Curtis Ebbesmeyer, quoted in the Vancouver Sun. Mr. Ebbesmeyer sounds like a fun guy to have at your next dinner party. Anyway, if you know anyone who's misplaced his or her right foot while wearing sneakers, have them get in touch with the Vancouver police department.
Item: Imagine you discovered a million fat people who you didn't know were there. Well, that's what just happened down under in Australia, the lucky country. Sounds more like the lardy country, to judge from this report, quote: "Obesity is the major threat to Australia's future health, with an estimated nine million of the 21 million population obese or overweight. That is a whole million more obese adults than we had thought," end quote. That's from Professor Simon Stewart, author of a report titled "Australia's Future Fat Bomb." Euiw. I just hope all those overweight Ozzies down in the Southern hemisphere don't cause the Earth to tilt on its axis. Perhaps we Americans should put on a little more avoirdupois to keep the geophysical parameters in balance. Do we still have some of that cheesecake left, Honey?
Item: I guess you won't fall off your chair if I tell you I'm not a big fan of the Iraq War. I supported the attack, but I naively supposed we'd just break some stuff, kill some leaders, install some more friendly gangster, then get the heck out of there. I guess I forgot that we have a divine mission to purge the whole world of evil and sin. So here we are, five years and a trillion of your and my dollars later, still swatting away at counterinsurgency. No, I'm not a fan. If we're going to do counterinsurgency, though, civilians are going to get in the way, however careful our troops try to be. That's what happened at Haditha back in 2005, best I can judge; and it looks as though the Marine Corps investigators looking into the incident agree. Most of the charges against the eight Marines originally charged have now been dropped. Congesssman John Murtha and the various media outlets who piled on to accuse the Marines of wanton massacre, have now all made grovelling apologies. No, I made that last bit up. It's what should happen, but I'm not holding my breath.
Item: Sympathies from Radio Derb to the flood victims of the midwest, especially to relatives and friends of the 24 people who've died. Shame on the two teenagers arrested in Waterloo, Iowa for attempted looting in an evacuated apartment building. Imagine — taking advantage of a disaster like that to go stealing stuff. I would not, of course, be so insensitive as to make a comparison with any other part of the United States. I'll only note that in the Waterloo incident, the police who arrested the looters had not, so far as I have been able to ascertain, been doing any looting themselves.
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thanks once again to the obstreperous Irish for knocking that stupid Euro-constitution on the head with a shillelagh. My own ancestors struggled against Irish cussedness for eight hundred years before it dawned on us that we were wasting our time. Nice to sit back and watch someone else learning the same lesson. So here you go, listener: knock back that glass of Jameson's, throw another turf on the fire, kick off your brogues, and dance along with Gerry Heaney again.
[Music clip: Irish Washerwoman]