»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Wednesday, December 4, 2009


[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]

01 — Intro.     That was one of Franz Josef Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, and this is John Derbyshire, your incomparably genial host, with yet another edition of Radio Derb. Now, Radio Derb, as regular listeners will know, is dedicated to serious commentary and analysis on the gravest issues of the day. We don't normally report on celebrity gossip. Still, as a major national celebrity myself, I can't help but feel some spirit of solidarity with Tiger Woods in his recent troubles. It seems that the great golfer has not been above reproach in his personal life. Allowances must be made, though. A person as famous and wealthy as Tiger is bound to attract some opportunistic gold diggers — women who will lead him away from the paths of righteousness, just so that they can sign a lucrative kiss-and-tell contract with some sleazy supermarket tabloid newspaper. I'd like to take this opportunity to assure listeners that no such thing could happen at Radio Derb. Not only do we adhere to the strictest standards of morality here at Buckley Towers, our research assistants are carefully vetted for professionalism, dedication, and integrity. [Phone rings] Excuse me a moment … Hello? … No, Mandy's out of the office right now. She's upstairs assisting Jonah with some perscrutation. May I know who's calling? … The National Enquirer? I'm not familiar with that periodical … Mandy gave you this number? … I'm sorry, I can only leave a note for her to call you back … Is this in relation to research Mandy was conducting? Are you a conservative publication? …

02 — Bam speech.     OK, Tuesday brought us the long-awaited speech from our president on his Afghanistan strategy. I printed the thing off from the New York Times transcript, and I have it in front of me here. The first thing to be said about it is, it's far too long: 4,640 words. That's about four times the length of a major Op-Ed in a broadsheet newspaper, twelve times the number of words on an average page of that wonderful book We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, and nearly 17 times the length of the Gettysburg Address. The second thing you notice is that the speech is trying too hard — relying more than usual for presidential speeches on gassy clichés about how righteous and determined we are, and on what linguists call a "diction" — that is, a special vocabulary not used in everyday speech. Come on: when did you last utter the word "suasion"? There's a lot of "forging" going on, too. The president has been "forging" new partnerships; he's "forged" a new beginning with the Muslim world; we're going to "forge" an America that is safer, and so on. I can't resist the temptation to point out that the verb "to forge" has two quite different meanings in English … but let's pass on. The substance of the speech was, that the administration will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan next year, but that a draw-down will begin after 18 months, the speed of the draw-down to be determined by events in theater. The president declared three war aims: One, to, quote, "break the Taliban's momentum." Two, to clean up Afghan politics and human rights. Three, to prop up stability in Pakistan. This all rests on a proposition 16 hundred words in to the speech, quote: "Our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak." End quote. That's not a contemptible assertion, but it does leave a lot of questions hanging in the air. Further down in the speech, for example, the president says, quote: "Where al Qaeda and its allies attempt to establish a foothold — whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere — they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships." So apparently, all this momentum-breaking and cleaning-up and propping-up we're doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we may find ourselves doing all over again in Somalia or Yemen or goodness knows where else — Sudan, Algeria, Uzbekistan, who knows? — five or ten years from now. Our security isn't just at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it's at stake all over. And then it's implicit in the president's remarks that we know how to do the things he says we shall do — momentum-breaking and cleaning-up and propping-up — in spite of considerable evidence that we don't. And not only that we know how to do those things, but that we can do them in a couple of years or less. And then, quote, "In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror." Well, how did these malefactors get within our borders? Did foolish policies of immigration and border security have anything to do with it? That 30 billion dollar price tag for Afghanistan the president mentioned: Is it possible that money could be better spent on domestic security? Well, well; 30 thousand troops will soon be on their way to Afghanistan. That will bring our numbers up to what the Soviet Union had in Afghanistan in the 1980s. That worked out pretty well, didn't it? You could, I suppose, look on the bright side. Our troop numbers in Afghanistan will, after this surge, be almost twice the number we have in Germany, and look how peaceful Germany is! … But ten years from now it seems we'll have a hundred thousand troops in Somalia, or Yemen, or Turkmenistan, or Mauretania, or somewhere. This is our national security strategy — endless occupations, endless wars, trillions of dollars sluicing through into the Swiss bank accounts of Third World gangsters. I guess it makes sense to somebody, but it makes no sense to me.

03 — Jobs summit.     Not that the administration is ignoring our domestic problems. This week the president held a jobs summit. Here, I must say, I feel a bit sorry for the administration. They need to do certain things to stop the slide into a worse recession, perhaps a major depression; but the only things they can do to that purpose, are things that worsen the structural problems that got us here in the first place. Take the financial crises in our states and cities, for example. The underlying problem here is that too many states and cities have taken on far too many employees, and been far too weak in standing up to the demands of public-sector unions for generous wage and benefits packages. The proper structural solution to that is to fire scads of public-sector employees and overhaul the benefits packages. To do those things, however, would swell the unemployment numbers and depress the markets, public-employee pension plans being huge market players. Similarly, the government needs to extend unemployment benefits in order to keep up demand. That, however, reduces incentives to take lower-paying jobs, keeping unemployment numbers up. Yet again, small business needs to be freed from tax and regulatory burdens, and from ever-rising costs of employee healthcare; yet government needs those taxes, can't reduce manpower in its regulatory agencies for the reasons just mentioned, and is politically committed to so-called healthcare reform that will raise costs all round, though less so for big established firms and more so for small new firms. The only sure path to a healthy economy is the path of what Andrew Mellon called "purging the rottenness out of the system" — a policy of "the worse, the better." It's been done before: Margaret Thatcher did it, and so did Ronald Reagan. The problems are, (A) We're in a much deeper hole than 1979 Britain or 1981 America were in. Three times as many Americans have lost their jobs in this recession as in the 1981-82 downturn. If we take the path of "the worse, the better," the worse could be very bad indeed. It's all very well to talk about purging the rottenness out of the system, but there is far too much rottenness in the system today. If you purge it out, the system may disintegrate. (B) In spite of things being so bad, awareness of how bad they are is muffled by the greater sophistication of economic management this time around, and by the enstupidation of the populace via destructive educational theories, proliferation of trivial entertainments, and the importation of millions of uneducated foreigners. We're not looking at Carter-era levels of inflation, for example; and so there is no national will to support policies of Thatcher-Reagan-style unflinching rigor. (C) Barack Obama is not Margaret Thatcher, nor is he Ronald Reagan. At this point, I'd be surprised if he measures up to Jimmy Carter. We are doomed.

04 — Climategate.     The revelations about the Climate Research Unit at a British university are echoing round the globe. That is not of course the only such research unit, but the shenanigans there have cast doubt on all the others. Our own NASA, for example, has a Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University here in New York. Have they been diddling with their data too? Chris Horner at the Competitive Enterprise Institute thinks they have, and he's getting ready to sue NASA to release data he claims they've withheld. NASA, he tells us, used to say that 1998 was the hottest year on record. Then, a couple of years ago, they crunched the numbers again, and decided that 1998 wasn't the hottest year, 1934 was. Then they did it again, and came up with 1998 and 2006 tied for hottest year. This kind of thing really inspires confidence in the quality of the data and the algorithms, doesn't it? Don't think that climate-change deniers are just a bunch of misfit bloggers, either. Both sides of the issue are pretty well politicized. Here is a nation-sized climate change denier, for example: Saudi Arabia. It doesn't take too much savvy to figure out why a major oil exporter would be hostile to the idea that fossil fuel use leads to climate catastrophe. Listen to Mr. Mohammad al-Saban, chief Saudi representative at next week's Copenhagen summit, quote: "It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change," end quote. Not that Third World oil producers and major polluters are totally opposed to climate-change alarmism, where they can see opportunities to squeeze guilt money out of Western nations. Bottom line here: Climate science is a highly contentious field, deeply politicized and poisoned by ideology; the data comes with wide margins of error; and no government should commit vast national resources on such wobbly foundations. We don't know that there is a climate catastrophe in our future, and we don't know there isn't one. All we can do under the circumstances is keep trying to clarify and improve the science, keep pushing for more openness from the researchers, and deal with climate problems as they happen. Colossal international programs to prevent something whose occurrence is uncertain are obviously appealing to bureaucrats, ideologues, and power-hungry politicians. To the rest of us they are not appealing, only appalling.

05 — Swiss minarets.     Where you have a lot of Muslims, you will have mosques for them to pray in; and a mosque should have a minaret, that high pointy tower whence the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer. [Clip] Yes, like that. Well, Switzerland had a nationwide referendum on Sunday about the banning of minarets. Result of the referendum: 22 out of the 26 Swiss cantons voted for no more minarets to be built, with an overall 57 percent of voters nationwide favoring the ban. Switzerland currently has four minarets, which nobody thinks will be pulled down. The ban is on further building of minarets. Muslims were of course unhappy about the ban. "Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community," grumbled the head of one Swiss Islamic organization. The Grand Mufti of Egypt said that the ban was an attempt to, quote, "insult the feelings of the Muslim community in and outside Switzerland." Fiddlesticks. What the vote actually was, was an expression of a widespread and very healthy wish among the Swiss that their nation and culture not be subjected to dramatic changes without their permission. Most people in most nations feel that way. They also feel strong resentment at being told they are bad, cruel, and intolerant when they stand up for their country and its traditional culture. Ordinary patriotic citizens like their country the way it is. There are always some changes they're willing to contemplate, of course, but they don't want to see their nation transformed in the cause of some multicultural ideology. Why on earth would they? The people of Egypt wouldn't stand for assertive Christians demanding rights of settlement and concessions from the majority population in their country. There are 400 thousand Muslims in Switzerland, in a population of 7.6 million. That's 5.3 percent. 5.3 percent of Egypt's population would be nearly four and a half million. All right, let's ask the Grand Mufti of Egypt if he'd be happy with four and a half million Christians from, say Uganda settling in his country and demanding the right to build churches all over, with high steeples. Would he? Of course not; and he'd be quite right. A nation is entitled to its own culture, its own traditions, its own architecture. The people of a country, the native people, have a right to be consulted before their nation is transformed. They also have a right to insist that foreigners who settle in their country assimilate to the national culture. The people of Switzerland, the people of every country know that. The only people who don't know it are Western elites whose brains have been addled by multiculturalism.

06 — Four cops murdered.     Our completely dysfunctional criminal justice system was on grisly display this week, in the person of Maurice Clemmons, 37 years old, of Tacoma in Washington State. Clemmons was first sent to jail in 1989, aged 17. That was in Arkansas, his home state. He got 48 years for five felony convictions, including a rape. The following year he got an additional 60 years for burglary and theft of property. He had to be shackled during court proceedings because of a tendency to hide things in his clothing, then throw them at court personnel, though in one case he missed and hit his Mom. He also tried to grab a guard's pistol when being transported to the courtroom. After all that, he served only eleven years, being released on parole by an order from Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in August 2000, in spite of a record of bad behavior while incarcerated. Clemmons promptly went back to crime, and in July 2001 was returned to prison on a parole violation, and with a charge of aggravated robbery pending, worth ten years in the jug. However, through a procedural screw-up by the local DA, the aggravated robbery charge never got to court. In March 2004, Clemmons was released. He moved to Washington State, got married, and started a small landscaping business with his wife. There were some police reports of domestic disturbances, and Clemmons was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for shipping drugs through the mail, though he was not charged, for reasons no-one can explain. Earlier this year he was jailed pending eight felony charges, one of them second-degree rape of a child. He got out on bail November 23. Six days later he walked into a coffee shop near Tacoma and shot dead four police officers. Nine children were left without a parent. Clemmons himself was shot and killed three days later by Seattle police officer Benjamin L. Kelly, who was on patrol alone when he encountered Clemmons, and whose hand I should very much like to shake. All credit and honor to officer Kelly. All shame and dis-honor to the numerous public officials, including Mike Huckabee, who kept giving this habitual criminal second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth chances. If you're sentenced to 48 years in a proper court procedure, you should serve 48 years, not one day less, on any grounds short of a complete overturn of evidence followed by a retrial. If that simple rule had been followed, Clemmons would have been in jail till 2037, and four police officers would still be with us. Parole is a lethally stupid idea, and governors should issue pardons very sparingly, where there is a compelling reason.

07 — Gatecrashers.     Let's talk about gatecrashers. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan entered a clinic at Fort Hood base in Texas four weeks ago, and opened fire, killing 13 servicepeople and wounding 30 others. Hmm … not really a gatecrashing, perhaps, since Major Hood was himself a medic, but undoubtedly a national security issue. Let's try again: Oh yes — here are twelve million illegal immigrants, settled in our country without permission or documentation, depressing low-skilled wages and clogging hospital emergency rooms, leeching off your property taxes, and demanding the right not to assimilate to what's left of our culture. If that's not gate-crashing, I don't know what is, and it for sure has serious national-security implications. Never fear though: the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee is doing a thorough investigation of the gatecrashing issue. No, not the Fort Hood incident — that's been shunted off to a sub-sub-sub-committee that meets once a year in the basement of a hardware store in Bismarck, North Dakota. Definitely not the issue of illegal immigration — only racists and bigots care about that. No, the House Homeland Security Committee has turned the dazzling laser beam of its attention on a far graver matter, of far more pressing urgency: the matter of two reality-TV wannabees gatecrashing President Obama's state banquet for the Prime Minister of India. Tareq and Michaele Salahi managed to evade White House security to mingle with such luminaries as Service Employees International Union leg-breaker Andy Stern, the president's influence-peddling czar — oops, sorry, I mean "social secretary" — Desiree Rogers, real-estate scammer Chris Dodd, and Mao Tse-tung groupie Anita Dunn. Who wouldn't want to gate-crash a party attended by gravitas-loaded luminaries like that? Within a week the House committee was holding hearings, with long and learned discussions about points of etiquette, like: Who is the correct person to greet the president's guests? The aforementioned social secretary would seem to be the obvious choice, but she couldn't explain herself to the committee because the president excused her from testifying. Don't worry, though, these hearings will continue until Congress gets to the bottom of the matter. The safety and security of the American people are, always have been, and always will be, the first order of business for our elected representatives. [Explosion]

08 — Doomed: human nature.     Here's the ninth in our series of readings from that tremendous, world-shaking book We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. Here we are in Chapter Seven, whose theme is human nature. I have just done a brief review of the nature-nurture wars that roiled the human sciences across the last third of the 20th century. Here we go.

The dust of battle has pretty much settled now, in science departments if not in the popular press, and nature is the clear victor. Name any universal characteristic of human nature, including cognitive and personality characteristics. Of all the observed variation in that characteristic, very roughly half — from a quarter to three-quarters — is caused by biological differences.

You may say that is only a half victory for the Biologians, but it is a complete shattering of the Culturist absolutism that ruled in the human sciences forty years ago, and that is still the approved dogma in polite society, including polite political society, today.

Pull two adult human beings at random from the population and measure what we can measure about their minds and behavior. Their measurements differ. Why do they differ? A Freudian would say: "Because their parents treated them differently when they were infants." A Marxist would say: "Because of their different class backgrounds." A modern Culturist would say: "Because of the overall environment — familial, social, and material — in which they grew up.""

The actual answer is:  About half the difference between them has biological causes — either straightforwardly genetic or "womb events" that irreversibly affect the developing fetus. The other half is indeed "cultural," though not much of it has to do with parenting styles. The biggest contribution seems to come from childhood peer groups. (I have a British accent; my wife has a Chinese accent; our kids speak ordinary American English with no accent …)

That means we must lower expectations about how much we can expect to change our individual selves, and other citizens, including even our own children. To the degree human beings can be changed, or change themselves, the methods of doing it are poorly understood. That's why social engineering is usually a bust: a good conservative lesson, but one rooted in pessimism about human potential.

09 — Miscellany.     Here's our closing miscellany of short news items.

Item:  People keep telling me that homosexual marriage is a done deal, that it's just going to happen, and that we conservatives just may as well get used to it. Well, I don't know. Most Americans like the institution of marriage pretty much the way it is, and don't want it changed. The state senate in New York, as liberal a state as you can find, had a vote this week on a bill to legalize homosexual marriage. The bill was defeated 38 to 24. This is in spite of the state senate having a slight Democrat majority, 32 to 30, and heavy lobbying for the bill by liberal bigshots like U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and state Attorney general Andrew Cuomo. The reason for the "No" vote was expressed very succinctly by a state senator from my neck of the New York woods, out on Long Island, quote: "overwhelming opposition from my constituents." Democracy at work!

Item:  Got the annual letter from my health care insurance company. My premiums go up a hundred dollars a month as of January, to around 13 thousand dollars a year. That is actually very close to the number that the Congressional Budget Office predicted in a report issued this week for family policies if Congress does nothing on health care. If Congress passes Obamacare, on the other hand, the CBO predicts that a family policy will cost over 15 thousand dollars, a rise of ten to 13 percent. The New York Times headlined this as, quote, "No Big Cost Rise in U.S. Premiums Is Seen in Study." Say what? Ten to 13 percent is no big cost rise? It's two thousand dollars a year out of my pocket, pal. Ah, but the CBO estimates small to no increases in employer-based premiums. Funny, isn't it, how every government program seems to come down to herding us like sheep, with ever more incentive to be an employee and pay withholding taxes, and ever less incentive to strike out on your own and be independent? Though of course, with a shepherd as wise and beneficent as the federal government, who wouldn't want to be a sheep? Let's all get behind the president's health-care plan. Whaddya say, citizens? [Sheep sounds]

Item:  In case you're through worrying about al Qaeda, in the blithe confidence that the president's Afghan surge will soon have them on the run, here's another group of crazy Islamists to worry about: al Shabab. This one's based in Somalia, the world's most dysfunctional nation. They are probably responsible for the suicide bombing at, of all things, a graduation ceremony for medical students in Mogadishu on Thursday. Twenty-two people were killed, including three cabinet ministers. Why should you worry about this? Well, because there are 35,000 Somalis in the U.S.A., and al-Shabab seems to have been busily recruiting them. Young Somali men keep disappearing from their homes, mostly in and around Minneapolis, then turning up in Somalia, often dead. The FBI says that the young men are being radicalized in the U.S.A., going to Somalia for training, then coming back with dreams of jihadist glory. Quote from a BBC news report, quote: "The FBI were reluctant to spell out the threat, but they do believe something sinister is happening in the local Somali community. They're calling it their biggest terror investigation since 9/11." End quote. These are men who were admitted to this country as refugees, under the good intentions of our State Department's refugee settlement program, one of the most generous in the world. Good intentions pave the road to … where? I forget.

Item:  November 20 was the 50th birthday of Barbie, every little girl's favorite doll. To celebrate the event, the toy company Mattel, Barbie's progenitor, sponsored a Barbie exhibition in Florence, Italy. Among the exhibits were Barbies in traditional Islamic dress — yes, a chador Barbie and a burka Barbie. No word in the report on whether these Islamic Barbies come with genital mutilation kits, or bags of stones in case burka Barbie strays from the paths of Islamic righteousness with jihad Ken. And given that Barbie is now 50 years old, it's a bit odd that there's no mention of cougar Barbie …

Item:  Those of you who are willing to put your faith in the wisdom of a New York jury to convict Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his associates, here's a little story for you from the New York courts. When John Gotti, the boss of the Gambino crime family, was sentenced to life imprisonment for racketeering in 1992, control of the family business passed to his son, John Gotti Junior. The FBI and local prosecutors bent their efforts to putting John Junior away. They succeeded with some minor charges, and Junior did six years for racketeering, coming out in 2005. Since then he swears he's been going straight, but the authorities keep pressing charges. Three different juries deadlocked on kidnapping and racketeering charges in 2006. Last year the feds tried again, adding conspiracy to murder and drug trafficking to the usual racketeering charges. The jury deadlocked again, the judge declared a mistrial, and this week John Gotti Junior is back in his two million dollar mansion in Oyster Bay, a few miles down the road from my own sumptuous estate in Long Island. There is of course no way this kind of bungling could let Khalid Sheik Mohammed loose on the New York streets. No way! Impossible!

10 — Signoff.     That's it for this week, listeners. I'm … hold on, my producer just passed me a note … something that came in over the fax machine, sender unknown, transmitted from a Long Island phone number. Hm. Let's see, what does it say? "Nice little radio show you've got here, Mr. Derbyshire. Be a shame if anything happened to it." What does that mean? I don't get it … Can we find out who sent this? …

[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]