[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire Marches.]
01 — Intro. John Derbyshire here, ladies and gentlemen, with your weekly infusion of Radio Derb, recorded here in the lavish sound studio on the ninety-fifth floor of Buckley Towers, in the heart of Manhattan. The editors at National Review have been dropping heavy hints that if I don't start paying some attention to this election business, I shall be sent down to the ninety-second floor to peel grapes for Jonah, so I'm going to do my best to give you some convention coverage here this week. As I just found out, but I'm sure all you political junkies have known for days, the Party of the Little Guy has been having its convention in Denver this week. Let's see what they've been up to.
02 — Democrats get religion. Did you see how the Democrats got religion in time for their convention? The very first official event of the convention was an Interfaith Gathering, held in the convention center last Sunday. Various religious notables were there to put their seal of approval on the event. The Democrats' website lists Bishop Charles E. Blake, presiding prelate of the Church of God In Christ, Inc.; Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America; Sister Helen Prejean, listed as "social activist"; and Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. I am told that there was a Buddhist speaker present, too. Since I am an irreligious person myself, I suppose it would be churlish of me to point out that numerous religions are still excluded there … but of course I shall do so anyway. Where are the Hindus, Taoists and Zoroastrians? Where are the Jains and the Sufis? The shamans and the animists? The wiccans and the satanists? And Democrats have the nerve to call themselves "inclusive"? Pah! Anyway, much more to the point than any of that: where were the simply irreligious? The Democratic Party is, after all, much the less religious of our two big parties. Around ten million Democrat party members are irreligious — by which I mean, agnostics, atheists, or apatheists. (An apatheist, in case you don't know, is a person who couldn't care less about religion one way or the other.) So where were they at Denver? Well, they were outside the hall, that's where. The Coalition of Secular Voters, which represents the irreligious of America, held two demonstrations outside the hall following repeated rejections of their appeals to have an irreligious speaker address the Interfaith Gathering. The Coalition was particularly miffed at the statement by the head organizer of the Interfaith Gathering that, quote, "Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith." That's just not true, said the Coalition, quite correctly. So why are the Dems going to such pains to make themselves look like the Party of God? Well, because their candidate, Barack Obama, is desperate to erase the impression that he is a yuppie elitist agnostic, who attended the Rev. Wright's church for twenty years as a calculated act of political opportunism. I can't imagine why anyone should think that; but the idea is out there, and has to be stomped on good and hard, as it could lose the Dems a lot of votes. Hence all the godliness inside the convention hall, and hence the demonstrations outside it — which, by the way, were well received by conventioneers, and passed off without any violence, thank God. Or … whoever.
03 — Joe Biden. Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate, and Biden made the required acceptance speech Wednesday night.
Biden has been in the U.S. Senate even longer than John McCain, though that hardly seems possible. Unlike John McCain, though, he has done pretty much nothing else except sit in the Senate. Well, he seems to have done a few months' lawyering back in the late 1960s, but that's about it for life experience. This guy is a lifetime professional politician, a walking advertisement for the term limits movement.
Biden, in his speech, made much of his humble origins, as if having humble origins were an unusual thing in this world. Quote: "My parents taught us to live our faith and treasure our family. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they try." End quote. I don't know about you, listener, but I'm a bit more receptive to talk about the dignity of work when it comes from a person who has actually done some useful work at some point in his life.
Joe Biden's family suffered a ghastly tragedy soon after he was elected to the Senate, and of course, in true professional politician fashion, he made sure we got to hear all about it. Personal tradegies are great for picking up sympathy votes and muting criticism — ask John Edwards.
What happened was, Joe Biden's wife and infant daughter were killed in a car crash, and his two sons were badly injured. Quote from the Wikipedia article on Biden, quote: "Persuaded not to resign in order to care for them, Biden began the practice of commuting an hour and a half each day on the train from his home in the Wilmington suburbs to Washington, D.C., which he continues to do." End quote.
Joe made sure we heard all about that heroic commuting, too. Now, what happened to Biden there is not a thing any sane person would wish on his worst enemy. It was a real tragedy. However, if I'm supposed to be impressed that Joe commutes an hour and a half each day to his job — well, I'm not. I live in the outer suburbs of New York, and half my neighbors have a similar commute. I had one myself for eight years. To a real job.
All right, all right, I'm over my allowance of mean-spiritedness for this week. I'll just note that the big party tickets now comprise three — count 'em, three — U.S. Senators and one To Be Announced. In my arrogant opinion, that's way too many senators. About three too many, in fact. Enough with the senators already!
04 — Bill Clinton. And who's this stepping up to the podium? Why, it's our old pal Bubba, giving us the one moment of tension in the whole convention, as we wonder to ourselves whether he'll slip a poison pellet into Barack Obama's convention chalice. Well, he didn't. Whatever the Clinton plan to subvert Obama in the interest of Hillary's 2012 presidential run is, it apparently doesn't include a sour convention speech by Bill. The only sourness in the whole speech was on the face of Michelle Obama in the reaction shots we saw, and even Michelle was smiling by the end. Just one big happy family of lying, racketeering, sanctimonious liberals. [Alarm sound] Oops, sorry, set off the mean-spiritedness alarm there, I must be way over my allowance. All right, I'll try to be nicer. Bubba didn't actually have much of substance to say, and as usual with him, the very few factual things he said were all false. Quote: "The Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief. Sound familiar? It didn't work in 1992, because we were on the right side of history. And it won't work in 2008, because Barack Obama is on the right side of history." End quote. Well, actually, the 1992 election was fought on the economy, not on Commander-in-Chief issues, because everyone assumed that history had ended. Bubba's opponent in 1992, Poppy Bush, had anyway proved himself a very capable Commander in Chief, having won the first Gulf War swiftly and decisively. Nobody cared. It was the economy, stupid. And if anyone did say Bubba was too young and inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief back in '92, well, they were right. He was a terrible Commander-in-Chief, bombing aspirin factories to no good purpose and blowing up railroad stations in Serbia on behalf of Albanian drug smugglers while the jihadis in Afghanistan were hatching their plots. But that's Bubba for you, always ready with a glib lie. Whatever happens in November, at least we won't be looking at four more years of him. And what is it with leftists and history? They're always telling us about how well they are clued in to history's grand movements, while conservatives are clueless about them. Apologists for the old U.S.S.R. were supremely confident that they had history snaffled and bridled and were riding forward on it into the radiant future. They were always talking about how their enemies were headed into history's trashcan. That didn't work out too well, did it, Bubba? A wiser man than you would be careful with assertions about what history intends for us. History is not mocked.
05 — Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama made a little speech herself, to show us what a good wife and mother she is, when she's not shaking down hospital corporations and jacking up our medical expenses on behalf of the race-grievance rackets. No, I didn't watch her speech. I didn't watch the Biden or Clinton speeches, either, tell the truth. I'm working from transcripts here. The human frame can only stand so much. Watching Barack Obama's big Thursday night speech is as much liberal speechifying as I can handle. In Michelle's case, at any rate, I refuse to feel guilty about reading her speech instead of watching it. After all, she was reading it off a teleprompter. In fact, if they'd just print these speeches off the teleprompters right onto the transcripts, leave out the fool politicians altogether, that would work for me. Where was I? Oh yeah, Michelle. Well, what did she say? Well, she told us about her own family tragedy, her Dad getting multiple sclerosis in his early 30s. That's an awful thing to happen, but, you know, isn't all this parading of family tragedies a bit like those beggars who used to display their sores for all to see, as they rattled their begging cups? I can't help wondering if John McCain, mulling over his vice-presidential choice this past few days, has been telling his advisors: "Come on, guys, these names you're giving me are no good. None of these people has any dead kids or parents stricken young with incurable diseases — heck, there's not even a decent case of cancer among the lot of them. We can do better than this. I need catastrophes, I need diseases, I need deaths!" [Alarm] Oh boy, I'm way over my mean-spiritedness allowance. I'll be getting memos from the suits. All right, what did Michelle say? Let's see: She loves the military. She loves her kids. She loves her Mom and Dad. She loves her church. And yes! she loves her country. She truly, truly loves her country, she really does, even though it was established by white slaveowners. Even though she grew up oppressed, a black woman at Princeton struggling against the odds to finish her degree thesis about being a black woman at Princeton. Yes, Michelle loves America. We know she does, because the teleprompter said so.
06 — Obama speech. And then, the big speech by Obama himself. "Big" is right — these things are much too long. It's an odd thing: The best-known and most-quoted speech in our country's history was just ten sentences long, less than three hundred words. Yet very few subsequent orators have followed Lincoln's example. Well, perhaps we should make allowances. At an event like this, people expect a long and gassy speech. If you don't give them what they expect, they'll think you're eccentric, a thing Barack Obama needs to avoid even more than the average pol. So out comes the gas, great billowing clouds of it. A great deal of the speech was just about the man himself. I think it's fair to say that nobody's grumbling about Obama having low self-esteem. We did get some policy, though, and what we got was undiluted Great Society liberalism, though of course without a single mention of Lyndon Johnson, that racist warmongering Southern pig who tried to outshine Martin Luther King's civil rights glory with a boring load of, oh you know, legislation and stuff. If you were to sum up the actual policy proposals in Obama's speech in one sentence, it would be: "Under my administration, the federal government will spend trillions of dollars more while lowering your taxes." That's about it. Federalism, of course, will go out the window. Quote: "I'll recruit an army of new teachers and pay them higher salaries." To teach where, Senator? The federal government doesn't run any schools. Quote: "I will protect Social Security." How, Senator? Every budgetary expert in the nation tells us that Social Security is a great looming problem. There are a dozen proposals by thoughtful people to fix the issue. Which one do you favor? Quote: "I will invest in new schools." Like they did in Kansas City in that great experiment with limitless funding 20 years ago? What's your take on that, Senator? Quote: "Businesses should look out for American workers." So you're behind the E-Verify system to stop illegal immigrants getting jobs. How come we never heard you say so? Quote: "There will be equal pay for an equal day's work." Where is that not the case, Senator? Can you point to an example? If this is an issue so pressing as to be worth a mention in a nomination acceptance speech, there must be examples of inequity all over. Can you point us to one? Quote: "We must stop unwanted pregnancies." How you going to to that, Senator? Establish a new federal enforcement agency to seek out people in danger of getting unintentionally pregnant, and stopping them in the nick of time? I can see them kicking down the bedroom door and charging through: "OK, hold it right there! Stop right now! Freeze! … And then, the biggest eye-roller of all: "I will go through the federal budget eliminating programs that don't work." [Laugh] Senator, every presidential candidate has been promising to eliminate programs that don't work for as long as I can recall. None of them eliminated anything worth a damn, not even Ronald Reagan, who actually did want to do it, as opposed to just needing a feelgood line in some speech. It's a law of nature, Senator: no federal governmnet program is ever eliminated. In fact, it's a law of arithmetic. Even if a federal program only benefits a few hundred people, those people will be passionate and ferocious in defending it, while the rest of us really couldn't care less, as it only costs a few cents out of my taxes. The passion of a thousand will always override the indifference of a million. No, sorry Senator, no sale. You're not going to do any of those things, certainly not while, quote, "cutting taxes for 95 percent of families." You don't even know how to do most of them; and where you do know how, there won't be the money. Not to put too fine a point on it, Senator, your big speech was a heap of dog poop. Nice tie, though.
07 — ICE raid in Mississippi. Are you out of work, listener? Looking for a job? Well, if you'll settle for factory work, in a modern facility with good benefits, head on down to Jones County, Mississippi, town of Laurel. The Howard Industries plant down there, which manufactures electrical equipment, suddenly has 600 vacancies, following a raid by ICE last Monday. ICE is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the federal government, and on Monday they took 600 illegal immigrants from the Howard plant and are holding them pending deportation. The very next day, it says here in the Hattiesburg American, quote: "Hundreds of job applicants lined up, eager to take advantage of the sudden job openings at the plant located in Jones County, where the unemployment rate is 6.3 percent." End quote. So much for the catch phrase about "jobs Americans won't do." The leftist media outlets were of course full of sob stories about illegals having to take their children out of school. Quote from Associated Press: "The superintendent of the county school district said about half of approximately 160 Hispanic students were absent Tuesday." What are the children of illegal immigrants doing, using the resources of our public school system, which are intended for the children of citizens and lawful residents? So much for that other catch phrase about illegals not using public services. In fact, open-borders catch-phrases do down like bowling pins when one of these raids takes place. The liberal media's pin-setter machine soon has them standing up again, though. Gotta keep that racket going — the racket in which Republican businessmen looking for cheap labor link arms with bleeding-heart liberal Democrats seeking to deconstruct the U.S.A. You think I'm kidding about Republicans? Howard Industries is privately owned by Mr. and Mrs. Billy Howard. Mr. Howard has made no recorded contributions to either presidential candidate, but last June Mrs. Howard contributed $2,300, which is the maximum allowed, to John McCain's campaign. Perhaps the Straight Talk Express could give us some straight talk on how they feel about this federal raid on their campaign donor.
08 — Immigration extras. Some other titbits from the immigration front. ICE — once again, that's Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE has announced the end of its self-deportation program. This was a pilot program, offered in five cities, under which illegal immigrants who have ignored judicial orders to leave the country were given up to 90 days to deport themselves. About four percent of illegal immigrants were eligible — in the five pilot cities, about 30,000. So how many illegals took advantage of it in the three weeks the program was running? Eight. Eight, out of thirty thousand. Hmm. Not one of our federal government's more successful projects, then. "Critics," it says here — I'm reading from the MSNBC web site — "critics noted that those who participated in the program were barred from returning to the United States for as long as a decade." That's a criticism? There are people going through the proper legal procedures for U.S. residence who've been waiting more than a decade. The average waiting time for the Family Fourth Preference category of legal immigrant — that's brother or sister of a United States citizen — is twenty-two years for Filipinos. Why should not expelled illegals have to wait at least as long as that? Meanwhile, Thomas Tobin, a Roman Catholic bishop up there in Providence, Rhode Island, has urged ICE agents to cease from rounding up illegal immigrants. Immigration law enforcement, says the bishop, is inhumane. ICE agents should refuse to obey their orders, he says, and should be treated like conscientious objectors. I'd be a little careful with that, your grace. A person who declares himself a conscientious objector in the middle of a combat situation can, if I remember my Uniform Code correctly, be summarily executed then and there by his commanding officer. I'm betting this is not what the bishop intends, though personally, I must say … [Alarm] Oh, drat that stupid alarm. All right, I'll be nice.
09 — SAT scores steady. One and a half million high school seniors took the SAT exam this year, the biggest number ever, and amounting to more than one in three of the eligible age cohort. You can read the detailed results for yourself on the College Board website, which is of course www.collegeboard.com — click where it says "2008 College-Bound Seniors." The only reason I'm mentioning this is that the news stories about it carried what must surely be the stupidest remark of the week. This remark was extruded by a fellow named Gaston Caperton. Mr. Caperton is president of the College Board, which administers these tests. Here is the remark, quote: "It's essential that all students strive to attend college — and then succeed in their classes and, ultimately, graduate. We're gratified to see that our country is moving increasingly toward being a nation of college graduates." End quote. I suppose if I were to tell Mr. Caperton that a great many citizens do not wish to spend their youth and young adulthood hunched over books in libraries; if I were to tell him that most people are just not bookish and gain very little from further study once they have mastered the basics of literacy, numeracy, and civics; if I were to tell him that many of the people currently attending college, in fact very likely most of them, would be happier, more fulfilled, and more successful in life if they learned a useful skill or trade after leaving high school; if I were to tell Mr. Caperton these things, he would say that I am in the grip of the "soft bigotry of low expectations." In fact, that is the nicest thing I would expect him to say. In the current state of our public discourse, I would be lucky to get away from the exchange without being called a Nazi. I would like Mr. Caperton to tell me, though, if he would set any limits at all to the height of the expectations we ought to have. Why stop with "a nation of college graduates"? Why not a nation of post-graduates? Isn't it every citizen's right to attend graduate school? And why stop there? Our nation has many fine establishments of still higher research — there is, for example, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where Albert Einstein spent so many happy years. Shouldn't the Institute switch to open admissions? Let's do away with the soft bigotry of low expectations once and for all! Let's give everybody a Nobel Prize! Can we do that? Yes, we can!
10 — Rumbling made Rome. Here's a nice little snippet from the world of science — in fact from the journal Science, the official organ of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The article's called "Did rumbling give rise to Rome?" The gist of it is that most of the world's great civilizations seem to have arisen on the boundaries between tectonic plates, where earthquakes occur. The guy who uncovered this, a geologist named Eric Force, puts it down to the stimulating effect of living in insecurity. I dunno, though, I'm skeptical about the whole thing. If earthquake zones generate civilization, how d'you explain California?
11 — Olympic uniforms racist. If the stupidest remark of the week was that one about college that I quoted a minute ago, the stupidest commentary of the previous week, which I have only just got round to reading I'm afraid, came from Sameer Reddy in Newsweek magazine. The thing Mr. Reddy wants to tell us is that the newly-designed uniforms that our Olympic team wore over there in Peking for the games were — can you guess? — yep, racist. And classist, too. The redesign was by Ralph Lauren, and here's some of what Mr. Reddy had to say about it, quote: "Lauren has built an empire by becoming the unofficial outfitter of the American Dream, marketing an idealized image of America's former ruling class to the nation at large. However, the WASP aesthetic he sells … has come to represent a classist and racist set of ideals, hardly representative of the current multicultural social fabric of the United States. A strange choice then, to redefine the U.S. team's visual identity in this way, even as it marches further away from the 20th century, when WASP power reached its peak. But if one stops to consider America's shaky status as the world's preeminent superpower, Lauren's nostalgic, retro creations begin to make more sense." End quote. Wow. So when I put on a blazer or a polo shirt, it's because I'm yearning for the good old days of white supremacy and colonialism. I thought I was just trying to look smart. My thanks to Mr. Reddy for wakening me from my false consciousness. Now excuse me while I run out and buy myself a dashiki, and a couple of saris for my wife. Nobody's going to catch me falling behind the multicultural curve!
12 — Signoff. That's it, listeners. Just one footnote here, an item I somehow missed last week: the death of Hua Guofeng, August 20. Hua was the successor to Mao Tse-tung as dictator of communist China. He didn't last long because he was too dimwitted to keep his footing in the post-Mao power struggles, from which Deng Xiaoping soon came out on top. He did last long enough to promulgate a policy, though. You know how Chinese rulers have to have a policy, prefereably one with numbered steps, like a self-help program. Sun Yat-sen had the Three People's Principles. Mao himself had the Ten Major Relationships. Deng Xiaoping had the Four Cardinal Principles. Jiang Zemin, Deng's successor, gave us the Three Represents. Well, Hua had a numbered policy too. It was called "The Two Whatevers." No kidding, the Two Whatevers. I've had this on my mind this election season, I don't know why.
[Music clip: More Haydn.]