»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, January 23, 2009

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]

01 — Intro.     Radio Derb on the air, ladies and gents, with your ineffably genial host John Derbyshire here at the mike. Lots of news to cover this week, so let's get on it.

02 — Caroline Kennedy.     [Hokey Cokey clip] Yes, this segment concerns Caroline Kennedy, who was being promoted, and indeed was promoting herself, as a replacement for Hillary Clinton, now that the latter lady has departed from Halitosis Hall (a.k.a. the U.S. Senate) in order to serve as the United States Secretary of State for Shaking Down Saudi Princes on Behalf of her Husband's Bogus Foundation. Then we heard that Ms. Kennedy had withdrawn her name from consideration because of her uncle Teddy's condition. Apparently the Kennedy family is short of members who can spare any time to look after Teddy, and is much too poor to afford hired nursing care. Had Caroline been appointed to the Senate, the grueling work schedule in that place — you know, that place whose members can take two years off to run for President withoug anyone noticing — the grueling work schedule of the Senate would have left Caroline no time to nurse Ted. Well, so far so good. The lady had withdrawn her name, and we looked to the alternatives, a field led by Andrew Cuomo. So:  the wife of a former president vacates a Senate seat; the daughter of a former president is in the running; then she backs out, and the son of a former Governor of New York takes the lead. As I've noted before, Plantagenet England had nothing on the present-day United States. Plantagener England ended with the Wars of the Roses, which made a mess of the country, but provided Bill Shakespeare with material for some great plays; so there are upsides and downsides here. Anyway, to return to Caroline Kennedy: No sooner had we digested the news that she was out of the running, than MSNBC was reporting she was back in. They said they got this information from "a person close to the family." What were we supposed to think? Was she in, or was she out? Or was she just playing Hokey Cokey with us? [Hokey Cokey clip] Then on Thursday Ms. Kennedy formally and, she says, finally, withdrew for, quote, "personal reasons." She wouldn't tell us the reasons, but a source said it had nothing to do with Uncle Ted's condition. What could it be? The rumor mills started grinding. A possible health problem of her own? If that's the case, I wish Ms. Kennedy a speedy and full recovery. Simple charity aside, we don't have that many presidential wives and daughters to choose our senators from amongst. More likely, according to latest rumors, the "personal problem" relates to taxes and domestic servants. But why would that disqualify Ms. Kennedy from going to the Senate? Among these high-ranking elites, not paying taxes and hiring illegal immigrants are pretty routine, aren't they? I mean, does anyone expect the overclass to live by the same laws as the rest of us? Of course not. And then another batch of rumors started up, saying that Ms. Kennedy was having the leg over with Pinch Sulzberger, proprietor of the New York Times. That was a real stretch. I mean, a Kennedy with a New York Times honcho — how likely is that? Ms. Kennedy's "personal reasons" remain a mystery as Radio Derb goes on the air; but we have a team of fearless reporters digging away at this, don't worry. Truth will out!

03 — Putin's painting.     Hitler and Churchill were both decently good painters, though both showed a curious reluctance to paint the human form. They stuck to still lifes and landscapes. Well, now here comes a new national leader eager to fill a canvas: Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister and puppet-master to the Presidency of Russia. At a charity auction in St. Petersburg, a painting by Putin fetched over a million dollars. The subject of the painting was a starry, snowy night sky, seen through the window of a traditional peasant's hut. The art critic of the London Daily Telegraph had this to say, quote: "With remarkable economy he contrasts the warmth, light, and gaiety of the interior with the cold and darkness beyond," end quote. Interesting. Just two days after the celebrity-art auction, human rights journalist Stanislav Markelov was shot dead in a Moscow street by persons unknown, after having made a mighty nuisance of himself to the Russian authorities. A female journalist with Mr. Markelov was also killed — the 15th journalist to be murdered by unknown strangers in the streets of Russia since Putin took power. I'm not qualified to judge the Prime Minister's artistic accomplishments, but I'll offer the following opinion about the artist himself. So far as Putin is concerned, the place of cold and darkness is located within.

04 — Gaza.     News from the Middle East. Israel said it had completed its troop pull-out from Gaza on Wednesday morning. "The territory's infrastructure has been badly damaged," says the BBC. Well, that's the kind of thing that'll happen to a territory whose elected government commits acts of war against a neighboring country. What did they expect the Israelis would do? — award them Most Favored Nation status? The United Nations have demanded that Israel open border crossings so that material can be shipped in for reconstruction. Quote from the Beeb: "The UN's humanitarian chief, John Holmes, said that unless building materials were allowed in, no reconstruction could begin," end quote. Mr Holmes said it was, quote, "absolutely critical" that building materials — like cement and pipes — were allowed into Gaza. "Otherwise, the reconstruction effort won't get off first base," he said. Uh-huh. And what's this a couple of pages over on the BBC website? Headline: "Gaza smugglers get back to work." Main story, quote: "Hundreds of Palestinians are starting to repair tunnels in Gaza that are used for smuggling in goods from Egypt … Residents along the border say food, fuel and other goods are moving through the several dozen tunnels that are still operational." End quote. So let's see: The U.N. honcho wants to get started on reconstruction, which he estimates will cost two billion dollars of U.N. money — which, since Uncle Sam is the biggest contributor to the U.N., means your money and mine, listener. At the same time, Hamas still has some tunnels in operation, and is smuggling in missiles and bombs through them as fast as it can, so they can make new attacks on Israel, to which Israel will undoubtedly respond by smashing up the two billion dollars worth of new infrastructure we just paid for. Lather, rinse, repeat; lather, rinse, repeat; lather, rinse, repeat …

05 — Ramos and Compean.     As one of his last acts in office, George W. Bush commuted the sentences of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and José Compean. Four years ago the two agents shot an illegal alien drug smuggler as he was fleeing from them. Federal prosecutor Johnny Sutton threw the book at them, charging them under a law that was never intended to apply to law enforcement agents. He granted immunity to the drug smuggler so that the rat could re-enter the U.S.A. and testify against the agents. Ramos and Compean ended up with 11- and 12-year jail sentences, the kind of sentence a career criminal gets on a fourth or fifth offense for acts of egregious violence. There's not much doubt the agents were seriously out of line, and nobody thinks Sutton was guilty of anything worse than horrendous judgment and pig-headed arrogance. It was the political dimension of the case that got so many of us riled up. In the midst of widespread anger about the Bush government's failure to enforce the people's laws on immigration, here was a guy who was not only entering the country illegally, but was doing so for nefarious purposes. He was the kind of person, in short, that, in the opinion of many Americans, including this one, needs shooting. In addition to that, there was the suspicion among many of us that when the Mexican government said "Jump," there were only two responses ever to come out of the Bush White House. One of them was "How high?" and the other was "How high, Sir?" This latter suspicion seems to have been confirmed. We've recently heard that the Mexican narco-government was indeed pushing for the strongest possible prosecution of the border agents. What infuriated so many Republicans was how totally cloth-eared the administration was to concerns that were at root patriotic, and how doggedly the Bush people persisted in policies that were great for Mexico, but bad for the U.S.A. The Ramos and Compean business unfolded in that atmosphere. These two agents were no angels, but (a) they did nothing that deserved such harsh sentences, and (b) they became symbolic of the anger so many of us nursed towards an administration that seemed to put a higher value on Mexico and Mexicans — even Mexican drug smugglers — than on America and Americans — even American law enforcement officers. Well, Ramos and Compean will soon be free; and we now have a new administration that will defend our country's borders vigorously and enforce the people's laws on immigration without fear or favor. Right? Right. [Laughter]

06 — Mexico woes.     Just to continue the Mexico news: What are the top three countries in supplying the U.S.A. with oil? Answer: Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico. Mexico depends on its oil even more than we do: oil revenues supply forty percent of Mexico's government budget. With the price of oil down 77 percent since July, oil producers are hurting. Mexico's hurting more than most, as pressure is declining at the Canterell field. That's Mexico's biggest oilfield, supplying a third of national output. Since the Mexican economy doesn't have a lot going for it other than oil, things could get nasty down there. If Mexican living standards take a dive, even a recession-struck U.S.A. will look pretty good to poor Mexicans. Perhaps it's time to speed up work on that border fence. Of course, some Mexicans will maintain their living standards, whatever happens. Take Carlos Slim, for example, whose telecoms firms enjoy almost a monopoly position in Mexico, and who is either the richest or second richest man in the world, depending on whose estimate of Warren Buffett's assets you believe. The New York Times, which has sunk deep into debt, announced this week that it had accepted a 250 million dollar loan from Mr. Slim. There's speculation that he wants to buy the paper. What a disaster that would be. I mean, it would kill stone dead all that fearless, ground-breaking reporting the Times has been doing on the damage done to our country by uncontrolled illegal immigration from Mexico …

07 — Serf Liberation Day.     The ChiComs have announced that March 28th will henceforth be celebrated as Serf Liberation Day in Tibet, commemorating the day in 1959 when China took full control of Tibet, sweeping away the evils of the old clerico-feudal order and bringing to the long-suffering Tibetan peasantry all the blessings of Communism: You know — purges, famines, public torture, self-criticism sessions, Cultural Revolutions, labor camps, forced abortions, traffic in human organs, and all the rest. Now it is true that not all the evils of old Tibet were invented by Chinese propagandists. Some were real. However, it has been the common opinion of mankind down the ages that native rulers, whatever abuses they might inflict, are to be preferred to foreign occupiers, whatever benefits they might bring. Lord Byron's epic poem Don Juan includes an episode where a Greek poet, living under Turkish rule two hundred years ago, looks back wistfully to a predecessor, a Greek poet who lived in the Golden Age of 500 B.C. He says, of this predecessor:

He served — but served Polycrates —
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.

Tibetans have lived for half a century under masters who are not their countrymen. They are second-class citizens in a nation that was once their own. Serf Liberation Day is a calculated insult to their patriotism and their history — typical of the cruel, sneering arrogance of the Chinese Communist Party. When will the Tibetan people — aye, and the Chinese people, too — be rid of these repulsive thugs?

08 — Madoff victim.     Last week's heroes were Chesley Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles, pilot and co-pilot of that plane that ditched in the Hudson. Here's my heroine for this week: Maureen Ebel of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Sixty years old, a widow for the past eight years — her husband was a successful physician — Mrs. Ebel had been living pretty comfortably, with a condo in Florida to go to in the winter months. Unfortunately she had all her savings — over seven million dollars — with Bernie Madoff, and now it's all gone. The lady is basically penniless. She's put the condo up for sale and gone out to work cleaning house for a friend's mother. Mrs. Ebel was a nurse in her younger days, and is going to get recertified so she can do well-paid full-time work again. It's the only way she can meet her house payments, and even then she'll have to take in a lodger. "If there's a nickel on the street, I'm picking it up," says Mrs. Ebel. Here's a person who lived a sweet life with a loving husband and no money worries. Now she's alone and poor. It's not that unusual a story, but the strength of character Mrs. Ebel is showing in her affliction stirs my admiration. I say the lady's a heroine. And if I can interject a personal foible here, I'm not that surprised to see exemplary behavior like this in a nurse. I'm a big fan of the medical profession. Those who deal with human suffering and death all day long develop a strong practicality about life and a resistance to self-pity that you don't see much elsewhere. Our own Theodore Dalrymple is an example. Another was my own dear mother, also a professional nurse, and as tough-minded and strong in character as Mrs. Ebel. Good luck to this fine American lady.

09 — Miscellany.     Here's the customary miscellany of brief items to see us off to bed.

Item:  PETA, that's People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA has opened a campaign against fishing — or, in animal-rights Newspeak, against, quote, "the hunting of sea kittens." They want us to start referring to our finny friends as "sea kittens," you see. That, they believe, will make the killing and eating of fish unacceptable. As their website asks, quote: "Who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?" Why, anyone who enjoys a nice sole meunière, I should think. I urge my fellow-citizens to rise up against this nonsense. After all, if fish can be rebranded as "sea kittens," next on their list may be Canada geese, those loathsome fowl that pollute our parks and brought down an airliner last week over New York City. What will they want us to call them — "Sky bunnies"?

Item:  Remember Boy George? [Karma Chameleon clip] That's the one. Well, Boy George is doing porridge. Yes, the 1980s pop star and gay icon is a guest of Her Majesty for the next fifteen months in London's Pentonville Prison, following a conviction for mistreating a young man he had hired for purposes of sexual gratification. The Sun newspaper, a London tabloid, reports that the singer's first meal in the Bridewell was microwaved fish — oops, sorry: "sea kitten" — with french fries and mushy peas in a plastic container. He's being well looked after, though. Quote: "They've put him in a cell with a Rastafarian guy to protect him." Well … nothing to worry about there, then …

Item:  The Mac-PC wars have been rumbling on for close to thirty years now. Here's the latest dispatch from the battle front. Apple has posted its best quarterly profit ever, 1.6 billion dollars, on revenues of 11 billion for the last quarter of 2008. Pretty good — way above analysts' forecasts. How's Microsoft doing? Net profit of four billion for those three months, and down below what analysts expected. In fact, Microsoft has announced it's laying off 5,000 workers. Hmm. I've been wondering if it's safe to upgrade to Vista now that Service Pack 2 seems stable. Maybe I'll make the switch to Mac instead. I hear that on a Mac you can actually shut down a program that's not responding, without having to power down the box.

Item:  Zimbabwe has issued a hundred trillion dollar banknote. When he heard the news, Hank Paulson smacked himself on the forehead and said: "Why didn't I think of that?"

Item:  A little bit of green news here from London. The Meteorological Office over there bought a fifty million dollar supercomputer to calculate the effects of climate change on Britain. Guess what: this supercomputer generates forty tons of carbon dioxide a day. So before the time the darn thing can tell the Brits how much warming they'll get, it will have fried them all anyway. Oh, well, at least it'll stop that endless British grumbling about the weather.

Item:  The very pleasant town of Dundee in Scotland has a Boy Scout organization, with one troop specifically targeting Muslim boys. To help them feel at home, the Boy Scouts have changed the pledge of allegiance to God and the Queen. Instead, these Muslim scouts will be allowed to pledge allegiance to, quote, "Allah, the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful," and, quote, "the country in which I am now living." I have no news on whether they will be similarly allowed to change the words of the National Anthem when they sing it: "Allah, the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful, save the gracious country in which I am now living. / Long live the noble country in which I am now living. / Allah, the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful, save the country in which I am now living." Nor do I know whether there will now be merit badges for stoning loose women, pushing over walls on homosexuals, or protesting cartoons. I do note in passing, though, that Dundee is home to one of Scotland's oldest Jewish communities, who seem never to have come in for this favorable treatment from the Boy Scouts. You Dundee Jews need to promote yourselves a little. It's the squeaky wheel gets the grease, you know. Try blowing up a couple of London buses — that'll get their attention.

Item:  Speaking of Scotland, I can't let this week's Radio Derb pass without noting that Sunday is Burns Night. Not just any old Burns Night, either: this is the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth. Get yourself a haggis, some neaps and tatties, and a bottle of the good stuff, hire yourself a piper, and get into the spirit of the thing. If you happen to be in Dundee, of course, you'll need to be properly multicultural, with some falafel and a bowl of sheep's eyeballs as side dishes. [Bagpipes … Muezzin]

Item:  Sunday is also, of course, Chinese New Years' Eve, so you have a painful choice of which celebration to undertake — painful, at least, if you belong to a Sino-Caledonian family. My own ancestors are entirely English, so I'm going to forgo the Burns Supper, much as I appreciate a nice firm haggis, and go with the Chinese New Year banquet. Doing so will spare me the pain of being whacked upside the head with a large cast-iron wok. What's the symbolic animal for the coming Chinese Year? You're not going to believe this, but it will be the Year of the Bull.

10 — Signoff.     Well, that's pretty much it for this week's news, Radio Derb listeners. Did I miss anything? I don't think so … let me see … Oh! How could I have forgotten this one? Sorry, I don't know what I was thinking of. Here you go: Sanjaya Malakar, the American Idol sensation, has written an autobiography. It's called Dancing to the Music in my Head, and comes with a mini-CD containg five original tracks by Sanjaya. There now, that's definitely all for this week. I'm going to pour myself a single malt and listen to some Wagner. Well, you know, I mean, when I've made my way home from National Review's magnificent sound studio here on the 95th floor of Buckley Towers. Cheers, everybody. Have a good time on Sunday with your haggis, moo goo gai pan, whatever.

[Music clip: From Siegfried]