[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your loquaciously genial host John Derbyshire, the Russian snow finally brushed off my boots, bringing you a cornucopia of politico-cultural insight from near and far. Off we go!
02 — Iraq War ends. The war in Iraq officially ended this week. So … who won?
Depends where you're standing. Often in history it's hard to tell who won a war. The world wars of the 20th century accustomed us to the notion that you win a war by destroying the enemy's military forces, bringing down his system of government, arresting or killing his leaders, taking over his capital, occupying his territory, and imposing your will on him. Sometimes that works. Other times not.
Consider the Thirty Years War back in the 17th century, fought between (A) the Holy Roman Empire, joined with Spain and the Catholic bits of Germany, and (B) France, joined by Sweden, Holland, and the Protestant bits of Germany. It didn't end with the French occupying Vienna, or the Hapsburgs occupying Paris, though there were a couple of close calls. In that World War sense, neither side won or lost.
On the other hand, some nations came out of the war stronger, notably France and Sweden, while some came out weaker, mainly Spain and the Empire. If you were a Spaniard or an Austrian, you wouldn't hardly have noticed; but the Empire in particular was holed below the water line. The really big losers, whose populations absolutely did notice, were the Germans, on whose territory the war had mostly been fought, and whose male population was halved by the fighting and associated famines and plagues.
The Iraq War was a bit like that. The Iraqis, on whose territory the thing was fought, suffered the most, with untold tens of thousands of dead and major destruction of property. The really interested parties — Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the U.S.A. — come out of the conflict a bit better or a bit worse off, in ways that won't be completely clear for a while.
The biggest winner is probably Iran, which has seen Iraq, its main opponent in the region, reduced to impotence. Lesser winners include powers and factions that stayed out of the fighting but made good diplomatic and financial bets on the result: China, for example, and the Islamists in Turkey.
For the U.S.A. the war was a blunder that cost us four and a half thousand lives, close to a trillion dollars, and much goodwill. I belong to the sad company of commentators — along with much weightier names like Bill Buckley and Henry Kissinger — who supported the war initially but soon came to regret having done so. We thought it was a punitive expedition: Get rid of the anti-American dictator and break his stuff, install someone more friendly, then vamoose out of there with warnings that we'll do it all again if necessary.
The George W. Bush administration had other plans. For them it was a missionary war. Puffed up with sanctimonious moralism, they announced that Iraq would be made a beacon of security, prosperity, and democracy in a troubled region — a grateful friend of America's for evermore. How'd that work out?
In Falluja on Wednesday, Iraqis burned U.S. flags to celebrate the war's end. The departure ceremony itself was held behind concrete shields with helicopters hovering protectively overhead. No important Iraqi officials attended. Insurgent groups are still active, with attacks this year running 500 to 700 a month. There are unresolved issues over distribution of oil revenues.
On the other hand last year's election was certified as fair by independent observers, commerce is thriving, the oil is flowing, and Saddam is six feet under. It's not much to show for a trillion dollars and 4,500 young American lives, in a region that isn't really very important to the U.S.A.; but it's not nothing.
03 — Blimprich still airborne. Amazingly, it seems to me, the Gingrich blimp is still airborne. At week's end the gasbag was polling second in Iowa behind Romney, and third in New Hampshire behind Romney and Paul.
Now, some listeners have chidden me for saying unkind things about Newt: calling him a bag of wind, and referring to his flabby hide, and so on. Fair enough: and I'll admit to some sour grapes that my dream of a Bachmann-Paul ticket is fading fast. I thought, and still think, that if Bachmann could knock some sense into Paul's head about immigration, and Paul could bring Bachmann round on foreign aid, we'd have a great team there. Alas, it seems this is not to be.
Still, I was actually trying to be restrained when I said those rough things about Newt. I mean, it's not as though I called him a philandering, hispandering, draft-dodging, coat-turning, smug, pompous, venal darling of the mainstream media, a lifetime tax-eater and political trough-feeder, a Beltway Baron who has never done one minute of productive work, the only House Speaker ever to be disciplined for ethics violations … How'd you like it if I called him all of that? Which of course I never ever would, no siree.
Wait a minute — who's this writing a gushing piece about Newt in the New York Times last weekend? Why, it's Bill Keller — silver-spoon coastal über-liberal, just stepped down after eight years as executive editor of the New York Times. By your friends shall you be known.
Sorry, listeners. If you don't like "bag of wind," how about "sleazy whore"?
04 — "The menace of illegals." See if you can guess who said the following thing, quote: "I view the flooding illegal, job-seeking immigrants as threats to our economy, society, security and the delicate demographic fabric which [our country] is built on. We are determined to protect our border and our citizens' jobs … It is the obligation of any government that is concerned about the future of its people." End quote.
OK, who said that? Was it
OK, time's up, put your pencils down please. The correct answer is (D) None of the above. The speaker was in fact Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. Further quote from the news story, quote:
Netanyahu paid a surprise visit to a local neighborhood that has turned into a slum inhabited by hundreds of African asylum-seekers, who fled to Israel through the nearby border with Egypt.
Then we get a quote from Bibi himself, quote:
"I heard the residents' cry about their city being flooded with illegal immigrants. One needs to stand there and listen to them, to hear the despair of the mothers and fathers and business owners, who feel that they are losing their city and the ability to have a normal life. Similar cries can be heard in other cities around the country."
End quote. These African illegals are mostly from Sudan and Eritrea. They claim to be refugees from civil strife. Possibly a few of them are; most, as Bibi pointed out, are just economic migrants, fleeing the failed nation that they and their ancestors made for a successful nation made by different people and their ancestors.
In case you doubt the thing I just said, I refer you to the Portland, Maine Press-Herald, issue dated December 10, headline: Faced with a lawsuit, Portland rescinds taxi policy. The issue here is that the city of Portland wanted to change the rules for renewing taxi permits — permits, that is, to access the new city airport. At present a taxi driver can renew his permit by proxy, giving someone power of attorney. The city wants drivers to show up in person. Eleven taxi drivers from Somalia are suing to stop the change. Why? Quote from the Press-Herald, quote:
The Somalis have argued that they sometimes have to go to their homeland to attend to family matters, and that those trips can be lengthy. They might not be in the country when their permit is up for renewal.
The Somalis in Maine were almost all admitted as refugees from their terror-filled homeland. So … why are they going back so much, for such long spells?
Not to keep you in suspense, gentle listener, the answer is that the entire "refugee resettlement" business is a monstrous scam, with very few controls at either end. Our Somalis, like Bibi's Sudanese and Eritreans, are just gaming the system, getting U.S. settlement visas for themselves and their friends (posing as relatives) by telling sob stories no-one can check.
Most of Bibi's illegals slipped in across the long Sinai border with Egypt. Bibi has asked his government to accelerate construction of a fence now in progress along the border. He promises that the fence will be completed within a year. He's also planning a trip to Africa to negotiate for speeded-up repatriation of illegals.
Now that's a national leader who cares about his country. Where is our Netanyahu?
05 — The perils of Putin. In last week's broadcast I prognosticated that Vladimir Putin's Russia is faced with a choice of three paths forward. To quote myself:
The signs this week are that Putin is going for Door Number Two: appeasement. He's been conciliatory to the demonstrators, who even when arrested have suffered nothing worse than a mild roughing-up and a 15-day sentence. He actually praised the demonstrators in a presser on Thursday, although he couldn't keep his contempt totally under control, letting slip at one point that he thought their identifying white ribbons looked like condoms.
There are perils here for Putin. One of the most irrefrangible laws of political science is the one that says an authoritarian regime is never in greater danger than when it tries to liberalize. Putin certainly knows this. For one thing, he is a master political strategist. For another, the principal example of that law in modern times has been the fate of the Soviet Union, brought down at last precisely by Michael Gorbachev's attempts at liberalization.
For the time being, though, Putin is playing nice. He still controls events, yet there has been no Tiananmen Square against the demonstrators. Putin's plan is gently to claw back some of the popularity he has lost so he can win the March presidential election without too much ballot-stuffing.
Assisting him in this endeavor is Mariya Kozhevnikova, a well-known TV actress, 27 years old, and beautiful in the classic Russian style, lissom, creamy-skinned, and blonde. The gorgeous Ms Kozhevnikova, who featured as cover girl in the Russian edition of Playboy magazine two years ago, was elected Representative for Tomsk in the recent elections. That's Tomsk in Western Siberia: head straight through Minsk and Pinsk then hang a left at Omsk. Tomsk.
Ms Kozhevnikova wasted no time making it clear that she is a Putin supporter, criticizing the recent demonstrators as, quote, "professional provocateurs" whose mission was to, quote, "ignite" the people. When it comes to ignition, the lady can be taken as an authority: she is so hot she blisters paint.
Anyway, you can see what I mean about Putin knowing all the tricks. You yourself try to stay loftily above the squalid political fray, letting your people do the dirty work for you.
As a journalist I have been doing my due diligence, checking up on the lady. "Kozhevnikova" is not easy to spell, but YouTube is your friend. Anyway, I wish Mariya luck in serving under Putin. As it were.
06 — Eric Holder, libertarian. I've been taking a lot of SudaFed recently. A nasty little opportunistic infection snuck in under my immune system, which was already depressed by a different condition, and has been hanging out in my throat, ears, and sinuses throwing wild parties for all its friends.
To buy my SudaFed I have to go to the pharmacy counter and show my driver's license. The reason I have to do that, the pharmacist tells me, is that some wicked people have been doing high school chemistry on the SudaFed to extract a mild narcotic. Speaking as a person of libertarian inclinations, I call this nanny-state-ism and quietly deplore it; but it's only the most minor of inconveniences, so I let it go and obediently show my license to the girl behind the counter.
I have to show my driver's license when I go to vote, too. Here I have no problems. It seems to me no business of the state if I want to get a mild buzz by grinding up eighty dollars worth of SudaFed and blowing my fingers off doing amateur chemistry. Contrariwise, certifying that votes are cast only by live citizens, and only once per citizen, seems to me rather obviously a proper concern of the state.
The United States Department of Justice takes the opposite point of view from mine. They're fine with the SudaFed business. They'd probably be fine with me being cavity-searched when I want to buy aspirin. Libertarians they ain't.
In the matter of voter identification, though, suddenly Eric Holder and his boys morph into so many Murray Rothbards. It's a gross infringement on our liberty, they tell us, to have to identify ourselves when voting. Furthermore, it's — see if you can guess what's coming? bear in mind that this is Eric "My People" Holder calling the shots here — furthermore, it's … it's … wait for it … it's, yes … RACIST! Oh my God, it's racist! Stop it for heaven's sake, before the Earth crashes into the Sun and we're all burned alive!
Dimly aware in their pea-sized brains that calling everything they don't like "racist" is beginning to bump up against the Law of Diminishing Returns, the Obamarrhoids have developed a new line of argument. Voter ID fraud is not a problem they are telling us. It never happens!
Well, thank goodness for the internet. Chicago Tribune, December 16th, headline, quote: "Waukegan couple from Iran plead not guilty to voter fraud." Main story, quote:
Mahmoud Vakili, 67, and his wife Parvin Vakili, 62, pleaded not guilty in Lake County on Wednesday to charges of perjury of the election code and mutilation of election material. They were charged in early November, officials said.
End quote. "Conscientious voters," eh? I'll bet they were. Wonder which party they voted for … but that's too hard to guess, I won't even try.
The bottom line here is that illegal voting, like the closely allied subject of illegal immigration, entirely favors the Democratic Party, and that's why the Democratic Party fights so tenaciously to keep both things going. The fact that both phenomena are corrosive of the American national fabric is of no importance to these people. Why would it be? They hate America.
07 — Corzine blames the back office. Jon Corzine is one of the big people — a bit larger than life in many ways. Star trader at Goldman Sachs; head of Goldman Sachs; U.S. Senator; Governor of New Jersey; CEO and Chairman of humongous world-spanning bond brokerage MF Global.
Getting anything done in any of those positions depends on work done by much smaller people: lowly staffers and back-office types. I know all about it; I used to be one of those types. Your CEO with his eight-digit annual remuneration package depends crucially on numbers and reports fed up to him by analysts and programmers making six digits — and that only just barely, with the help of bonuses.
So what does Corzine do, when subpoenaed to explain to Congress how $1.2 billion of customers' money is missing from the account books of MF Global? He blames the little people. Quote from Bloomberg.com, December 15th, quote:
"I contacted the firm's back office in Chicago and asked them to resolve the issues, which I understood they did," Corzine said. He didn't say explicitly whether he was aware at the time that the loan may have included funds from customer accounts.
Here's a message from a one-time back-office worker bee in the financial industry to Jon Corzine. With those huge remunerations go huge responsibilities, Sir. You failed to discharge those responsibilities. Trying to stick the blame on some 80-thousand-a-year operations clerk is low, shameful, and ungentlemanly. The blame is yours, and the punishment should be yours too. Suck it down, pal.
08 — Cameron makes a stand. Imaginative writers since Homer have understood that under stress, your true self is revealed.
Just so, the true character of the European Union has been revealed under the stress of the Euro crisis. The EU is a Franco-German racket. The Alemanni and the Franks, having failed during the last century to bring either enduring fascism or enduring communism to the heart of Europe, decided that slowly, gently, frog-boiling-style, they would corral the other Europeans into a political union where they could call all the shots.
Plenty of people in Britain saw this coming forty years ago, but the prospect of a share in the spoils proved too tempting for Britain's corrupt and irresponsible ruling classes. They went along with each incremental advance towards the Franco-German bureaucratic utopia, always confident that they would be able to maintain at least some of their power to milk their own people in their own way. That was the thinking that caused them to stay out of the Eurozone.
Now the folly of all this is daily more apparent. The Franco-German attempt to patch up the Euro crisis with a new batch of financial regulations that would apply even to non-Euro states like Britain, was too much even for the spineless left-liberal Europhile Prime Minister David Cameron. He exercised Britain's veto, bringing negotiations on the new regulations to a halt. The recorded vote was 26 to 1.
Those British politicians even further to the left than Cameron, which is to say most British politicians, could barely contain their fury. Cameron's partner in the current governing coalition, Nick Clegg of the Al-Gore-ite Liberal Democratic Party, sputtered that Britain is now, quote, "isolated" and, quote, "marginalized." Hey, just like 1940!
Out further left in the Dennis Kucinich zone, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband honked in the House of Commons that Cameron had made a, quote, "catastrophic mistake" by exercising the veto.
If standing up for your country against the Napoleon-Hitler alliance is a mistake, I guess Miliband is right. Politically, though, Cameron's move is playing well. He's got a big bounce in the polls, and public sentiment against the whole project of European union has been boosted. There is new clamor for a referendum on Britain's relations with Europe, not only from the general public but increasingly from Cameron's own party, which after all has the name "Conservative," even if that's been the only conservative thing about it during Cameron's reign.
The British people — what's left of them after the mass immigration of the past fifty years — have never been very happy about being in Europe. Some of them are starting to notice that the best places to live in Europe nowadays are Norway and Switzerland, the two countries that stayed firmly out of the whole racket.
If Britain survives as a nation, which I wouldn't say is certain, it will be as one proudly independent and skeptical of all grand bureaucratic schemes for improving the lot of mankind via an infinity of laws and regulations — what a character in Shakespeare calls "inky blots and rotten parchment bonds."
All together now: "Fog over the Channel: Europe isolated!"
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
• Item: Google has patented a self-driving automobile. This is not a terrific surprise, as we know that Google has been test-driving such vehicles for several years. Their team has now logged nearly 200,000 miles on the roads of California and Nevada with zero or minimal driver involvement.
Other companies have similar projects. The self-driving car is a technological inevitability. Driving is a very low-level skill around 99.9 percent of the time, as revealed by the fact that you can solve crossword puzzles in your head while driving. It's the other 0.1 percent that's knotty, of course; but with advances in GPS and artificial intelligence, we shall shave it down to 0.01 percent, then 0.001 percent, and in ten years you'll be able to sleep happily at the wheel.
I for one welcome our new self-driving automobile overlords.
• Item: A portmanteau item here with three stories on punishment for genocide, from three different continents.
Number One: Theoneste Bagosora, chief of staff in the Rwandan defense department in 1994, was in charge of the soldiers who perpetrated the massacre of 800,000 Tutsis that year. Mr Bagosora just got his sentence reduced, don't ask me why, and will now be free in 2030, when he'll be 89 years old. This is a decision of the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Number Two: Khmer Rouge leaderette Ieng Thirith, 79 years old and believed to be suffering from Alzheimer's, will after all be kept in detention. Some other U.N. court has overruled medical experts who declared her unfit to stand trial. The Khmer Rouge's adventure in mass murder took place in the late 1970s, you'll recall. The three main leaders of the regime are still on trial, though the U.N. did manage to squeeze out a conviction against a fourth last year.
Number Three: Heinrich Boere, a former SS man charged with killing Dutch civilians, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Germany. Herr Boere is 90 years old.
OK, here's my question: What ever happened to just putting people up against a wall and shooting them? Let's call it the Ceausescu Principle. I mean really, we're still adjudicating crimes committed 17, 32, and 67 years ago? But I guess it all makes work for lawyers, and what could be more important than that?
• Item: There is much excitement in the world of particle physics that the Higgs boson may have been spotted. This is a bit bogus, if you don't mind my using two two-syllable words beginning with "bo-" in adjacent sentences. What would have been sensational would have been not finding the Higgs in the range of masses predicted for it by the Standard Model of particle physics.
The Standard Model, though it doesn't explain everything we'd like explained about reality down there at the sub-sub-sub-microscpoic level, has survived every test it's been given for forty years, so it's a pretty good theory. The Higgs even seems to be plumb in the middle of the mass range predicted for it.
I'm happy for the physicists and their Model, but really: Dog bites Man.
• Item: Time magazine declared "The Protestor" to be their Person of the Year. I can't think of much to say about this, except that if I were to organize a march on Washington to protest congressional corruption, swelling federal spending, the government's refusal to enforce immigration laws, foreign aid, the refugee resettlement scams, the higher education rackets, the choking of enterprise and initiative by trial lawyers and regulators, the Medicaid and Medicare fraud that everyone seems to know about but never gets dealt with, trillion-dollar missionary wars, legalized racial and ethnic favoritism, and all the rest of the things I hate — If I were to get a crowd together to protest all that, I am pretty sure Time magazine would not put me on its cover. Just a guess.
• Item: Christopher Hitchens has died, much too young. I can't say I was a fan, am not in fact sure I ever read to the end of anything he wrote.
Hitch was a court jester for the liberal elites. He took care never to violate their most sacred taboos. Like Stephen Jay Gould, who also died too young, also of cancer, Hitch carried the banner of soft Marxism forward into the post-Soviet era.
I'm sorry if I sound lukewarm. I'm an opinion journalist, like Hitch, and I am fully aware, as he was, that it is a low kind of trade — "the vituperative arts," as Auberon Waugh said. Hitch was superbly good at it, far better than I could ever hope to be, and miraculously productive to the end. Is that a bit better?
I'll add this: He was often fun to watch, quick at thinking on his feet, and something like a genius at not suffering fools gladly.
There now; it didn't come out so bad. I even think the subject might have applauded it. Goodnight, Hitch.
• Item: Not much else. 146 Indians — dot, not feather— have died from drinking hooch liquor. A new charter airline in Thailand is hiring only transvestite and transsexual flight attendants, presumably to distinguish itself from the big Western airlines, which hire only gay ones. The airline is PC Air, and they are now taking bookings; though once you are in the plane and snuggled up cozily in your seat, you can't be sure where they'll take you. And in Afghanistan a man has beaten a sheep to death with a baseball bat while U.S. soldiers stand by watching. Like the rest of you, I'm hoping it was just a practice run for when they get Hamid Karzai away from his bodyguards.
10 — Signoff. Now you can't say I didn't give you full measure this week, Derb-keteers. Seven main segments and six items in the miscellany. Yes, Radio Derb is back at full strength, and after this week's labors I can retire to the grotto with the girls in full confidence I have left the world better informed, wiser, and morally improved. There will be more news and views from Radio Derb next week, just in time for Christmas. Take it away, Franz Josef!
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]