[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. This is your improbably genial host John Derbyshire bringing you a potpourri of news from far and wide.
Not much politics this week, as we're in the electoral doldrums between the conventions and the debates. I'll do what I can, but it's tough to make this stuff exciting. In lieu of excitement, I'll try to be mean-spirited instead.
02 — Democracy's a flop. OK, let's try to suck a little politics out of the news anyway.
Viral video of the week: [Clip: "Gangnam Style…"] No, no, no, not that one. Isn't anyone on top of the job here? I tell you, you just can't get good help nowadays. Could we try again please? [Clip: Obama voter, "He gave us a phone…"]
OK, Thursday the Drudge Report ran that video as their top story. The lady offering her opinion there is black. This came after Howard Stern ran some man-in-the-street interviews from Harlem: [Clip: "Do you know who you're going to vote for …?"] The snickering in the background there is Howard Stern. He does this stunt every election cycle.
What can we learn from this, Comrades? The thing a lot of commentators have said is that Drudge Report and Howard Stern both are being really mean to black people. After all, it's not hard to find dumb nonblack people walking around the streets: Jay Leno's been demonstrating that for years in his "Jaywalking" segments.
What the thoughtful inquirer asks at this point is: "OK, but is the proportion of seriously dumb people higher among blacks than among nonblacks?" I'll leave listeners to research that for themselves, as I'm still sore from the beating I got the last time I ventured into the topic.
What I think those clips undeniably show is, that there are a lot of people who should not have the vote; or, to put it another way, that universal adult suffrage is a lousy idea.
At this point commentators usually summon up remarks by several of the Founding Fathers to the effect that they did not intend the United States to be a democracy. The word "democracy" does not occur in either the Declaration of Independence, nor the Constitution, nor the Bill of Rights. "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch," scoffed Benjamin Franklin.
In the original Constitution, the matter of who gets to vote and who doesn't was left up to the individual states. Federal power over the voting issue only appeared in the Fifteenth Amendment, 83 years later. What it usually came down to at the ground level was that in order to vote, you had to be over 21, white, male, not an indentured servant, and the holder of some property.
Well, time marched on, and now we have universal franchise. Is there a better way to do things?
For starters, setting some kind of intelligence level for voters isn't going to work. We don't have the administrative capacity to administer that many IQ tests, and the opportunities for cheating and other chicanery are too manifold. And then, be careful what you wish for. The political opinions of smart people are often as wrong-headed as those of Howard Stern's interviewees, though in a different way. Suppose that in 1930 the franchise had been limited to people with Ph.D.s. We would have had soviet-style communism in no time. That's what most 1930s intellectuals favored.
With that in mind, I once suggested that only some middle range of intelligence should get a vote: IQs from 90 to 125, say. There you have enough smarts to make sensible decisions, but not so much you're living in an ivory tower high above the real world. It's not a bad idea, but again the administration is a killer.
A lot of people, and you can count me among them, think that taxpayers should vote but tax-eaters — which is to say, government employees — shouldn't. Once you try to think that through, though, you get into an awful lot of nit-picking. What, for example, about someone who works for a big government defense contractor? He's privately employed, but still indirectly sucking on the government teat. Or what if I work for a private firm that sells part of its output to that defense contractor? And are you going to deny the vote to the military? No? How about porters in VA hospitals? Things get fuzzy here real fast.
There you have the argument for universal suffrage: it's administratively way easier than any alternative. I guess that means we're stuck with it.
That leaves the question: Will our republic survive it? Here's one of those Founding Fathers, John Adams, writing in 1814, quote: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." End quote.
My bet is that John Adams was right. Stock up on canned food and ammo.
03 — Obama to blacks: Drop dead. Here's another thing those clips in the previous segment tell us: Black voters love Obama.
This is actually a bit odd. As my colleague Ed Rubinstein reports at VDARE.com, in matters of income and employment, blacks have done badly in the Obama years. In fact, they have done worse than other racial groups.
Employment: In January '09, when Obama was inaugurated, black unemployment was 12.7 percent. Last month it was 14.1 percent. If you divide 14.1 by 12.7 you get 1.11, so that's a proportional increase of 11 percent. The corresponding numbers for non-Hispanic whites are from 7.1 percent at inauguration to 7.2 percent last month, a proportional increase of only 1.4 percent.
The sorriest group of all, says Ed, are black teenagers, both male and female. Their unemployment stood at an appalling 37.9 percent last month, a proportional increase of nearly eight percent in the Obama years. White teenage unemployment is 22.8 percent.
Household income shows a similar discrepancy: It dropped two percent for whites in the Obama years, but three percent for blacks.
So blacks should be pretty darn disgruntled with Obama and looking to show him the door, right? Wrong: Current polling shows somewhere between 95 and 100 percent of blacks intending to vote for Obama.
A mystery, huh? Not really. I need a quote here. Where's the quote? … Here it is. Quote from Lee Kuan Yew, who was Prime Minister of Singapore for thirty years, and the power behind the curtain for a further twenty, quote: "In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion." End quote.
Singapore's unemployment rate, if you'd like to know, is below two percent. In GDP per capita they rank fifth in the world; we're eleventh. So possibly Lee Kuan Yew knows a thing or two.
Tell you what, though: If we could get him over here, give him honorary citizenship, annul the "natural born" clause in Article II of the Constitution, and run him against Obama, 98 percent of blacks would still vote for Obama. Because he's black, you see.
04 — Obama: One of the 47 percent. Barack Obama may have done nothing to raise the living standards of the average black family, but he's sure done wonders for the Obamas.
In a new book titled Presidential Perks Gone Royal, political insider Robert Keith Gray, who's been hanging around the White House since the Eisenhower administration, shows that Obama is our most expensive president ever. Obama and his family cost us about 1.4 billion — yes, that's "billion" with a "b" — 1.4 billion dollars a year. That's 24 times as much as the British spend on their Royal Family.
Robert Gray itemizes the expenses. Sample quote, concerning the Obama family dog, quote: "Bo made the news when he and his handler were flown to join the president on vacation in Maine. It has been reported that the first family's dog handler was paid $102,000, last year." End quote.
Does the president, or one of his family members, want a vacation? We understand, of course, that he can't just take off for Cancun without some security; so there's Camp David. Combined transportation and personnel costs for a Camp David visit: $295,000 a night.
Does the president, or one of his family members, want to watch a movie? There's a full-time movie projectionist on duty in the White House 24/7, with his own apartment there, just in case some Obama wants to see a movie at five minutes' notice.
Does the President want to fly off for a little political campaigning? Air Force One is kept tanked up, fully staffed, and ready to go. This is especially outrageous, as the President is supposed to reimburse the federal government for political campaigning costs. There is of course no way he could reimburse for the cost of keeping a large passenger plane on permanent standby. His political party should do the reimbursing, but fat chance of that.
Worst of all, and previously unknown to me, the president can appoint White House staffers without Congressional confirmation. Obama has 469 senior staffers. Two hundred and twenty-six of them are paid more than $100,000 a year, according to the book. Seventy-seven are paid as much as $172,000 per year. That's 36 million dollars, if you're keeping count. And this is not to mention the 43 so-called "czars" Obama has appointed. As nice as it is to be Barack Obama, it must be almost as nice to be one of his pals.
The expense of our Executive Branch is way out of control, listeners. In my book We Are Doomed I marveled at the fact that the Vice President's wife has a chief of staff. (I couldn't find out how many Indians she's chief of.) It's even worse than I thought, though: the President's dog has a chief of staff.
Harry Truman used to buy his own postage stamps — and lick them, too. We'd be a healthier nation if we could get back to some of that republican simplicity.
Alternatively, we could return these colonies to the British Crown, and apologize for their condition. It'd be a whole lot cheaper.
05 — Support the civilized man. There's been a little fuss in New York City over advertisements posted in the subways saying In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Underneath, in smaller print, the poster says "Support Israel, Defeat Jihad."
I'd register some quibbles there. Most adjectives can only be fairly applied to a limited range of nouns. The adjective "purple," for example, can be applied to the noun "shirt," but not to the noun "velocity." The adjective "angry" can be applied to the noun "congressman," but not to the noun "refrigerator," and so on.
The adjectives "civilized" and "savage" can properly be applied to entire peoples, though I'd guess the second one is politically incorrect nowadays even in that usage. The 18th-century British, with all their many faults, were civilized; the Indians of contemporary North America were savages … so it says in the Declaration of Independence.
That's to speak of entire peoples, though. I am sure there were illiterate psychopaths among the 18th-century British; and no doubt there were, even at that early time, American Indians who were literate, well-mannered, and fond of classical music.
Our language is rich in adjectives for all kinds of individuals. I think we should reserve "civilized" and "savage" for entire societies. So from my point of view, these New York posters don't make much sense.
I sort of know what they mean, though, and I'm on board with that sentiment. There is, as Mark Steyn and no doubt others have pointed out, an important qualitative difference between a nation that, in armed conflict, strives to avoid killing innocents, and a nation that strives to kill as many innocents as possible. That's the difference between Israel and states that sponsor or encourage terrorism against civilians. And we should support the first, and condemn the second. No argument from me on that.
The New York posters are the brainchild of Pam Geller, an activist who is a principal of, among other outfits, one called Stop Islamization of America. That particular organization has been listed as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a cynical cultural-Marxist money racket run out of Montgomery, Alabama, that has done nothing to alleviate southern poverty but has mightily enriched its board of directors. Being listed as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center is a patriotic badge of honor. I'll be sending a check to Stop Islamization of America just as soon as I'm through with this broadcast.
Anyway, those posters have caused something of a fuss in New York City. A lady named Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-born self-described "liberal Muslim," was caught spraying over one of the posters with pink paint, while wearing a bright pink coat in approximately the same shade. I didn't at first quite get the pink connection. I thought perhaps it's some Muslim thing, like green for the Irish. Now I see Ms. Eltahawy has explained herself, quote: "Pink is the least violent color of all." So a color can be violent or non-violent? I really think our adjectives are getting out of control.
Anyway, Ms. Eltahawy was arrested and charged with criminal mischief. She got a night in the cells and a desk-appearance ticket. "This is what happens when you nonviolently protest in America!" she shrieked as the bobbies led her away. Another thing that happens when you nonviolently protest is that nitwits like Ms. Eltahawy spray pink paint on your protest materials. So it goes.
Ms. Eltahawy is not alone. Four other people have been arrested for defacing these posters. With breathtaking originality, they had written things like "RACIST" and "HATE SPEECH" over the posters. Agents of the Southern Poverty Law Center, perhaps. Well, some hungry family down in Alabama will eat a hearty meal tonight, I'm sure.
06 — Olds from the Near East. I guess that segues naturally into the news from the Middle East.
I have yet more nits to pick with the phrase "news from the Middle East," though. In the first place, what comes out of the Middle East isn't "news" so much as "olds." It's just the same darn thing year after year, decade after decade.
Here's a little game you can play on your computer when Solitaire palls. Go to Google News, type in the word "Palestinians," and see what headlines come up. Then just run your eye down the headlines and pick out those that you might just as well have seen in a newspaper of forty years ago. I just tried it and came up with easily half a dozen. Door for Israeli-Palestinian peace may be closing; that's from Reuters. Palestinians Accuse Israel of Blocking Peace Process; that's Voice of America. Spreading Palestinian Protests Focus on Leaders; New York Times. The whole place is a time warp.
I even have nits to pick with the expression "Middle East." When did Tunisia, for example, get to be in the Middle East? Its capital city is west of Copenhagen and Rome, which I guess puts Denmark and Italy in Eastern Europe. In my schooldays, the Far East was China and Japan, the Middle East was India and Iran, the Near East was Israel and the Arabs, and Tunisia was in North Africa. I suppose it's no use grumbling about these things, but it'd be easier to keep track of the news, not to mention the olds, if places would stop drifting around so much.
Anyway, the news from the Middle East. Just as Radio Derb told you last week, you do have to look beyond the nutsos climbing embassy walls and burning flags. Quote here from the London Sunday Times, quote: "Islamist militias accused of murdering U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens were driven from Benghazi, Libya, yesterday by tens of thousands of demonstrators furious over his death … They were infuriated by the attack on Stevens, who was popular among liberals for helping the rebels." End quote. That is of course the British usage of the word "liberals" to mean people who want a more free and open society, not the American usage in which "liberal" is a synonym for "witch hunter with a bust of Lenin on the bedroom dresser."
So yes, it's not all "Death to the Great Satan!" The Muslims do, though, as we also told you last week, have some stuff to work out among themselves, in the course of which we should leave them well alone, commerce aside, and above all not let them settle in our countries en masse.
As an illustration of that, witness Islamic leaders at the United Nations last week demanding a world-wide ban on anyone saying anything disrespectful of Mohammed. Two leaders of major Islamic nations, Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and Ali Zardari of Pakistan, quote: "called on member states to adopt a legally-binding instrument banning blasphemy, to serve as a point of reference that the world community must comply with." End quote.
I'm respectful of religion, and Muslims are entitled to their sensitivities. They're not entitled to impose them beyond their borders, though. If we kept them fenced within those borders, we wouldn't have to bother about this stuff.
Also at that U.N. session, Hamid Karzai [ker-ching!] the puppet President of Afghanistan, deplored, quote, "the menace of Islamophobia," saying that it threatens peace and co-existence among cultures and civilizations. Given the current state of "peace and co-existence" in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Palestine, I'd respectfully suggest to President Karzai [ker-ching!] that there might be other hindrances to "peace and co-existence" at work in that part of the world. Which is to say, in the Near East and North Africa.
07 — MSNBC rant. This one's actually a couple of weeks old. A reader brought it to my attention, though, and I can't resist it. It's a rant. I'm going to call it my rant of the week, notwithstanding it really belongs to a different week.
The context here is a bunch of talking heads on MSNBC discussing risk. Someone mentioned the risks that entrepreneurs take. At that point, a different talking head, a mulatto lady named Melissa Harris-Perry, slammed her hand on the table and launched into her rant. Listen:
[Clip: "What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously! What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America?
That naturally excited my curiosity about where, exactly, Ms. Harris-Perry does live, the more so since Obama-booster Chris Matthews told us a few days later that he knows all about the tribulations of black people because he drives past lots of them on his way into work through Washington, D.C. from his million-dollar house in one-percent-black Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Answer: According to an article in the Times-Picayune, April 28th this year, Ms. Harris-Perry lives in Esplanade Ridge, New Orleans, with her husband James and her 9-year-old daughter. The area's urban all right. Quote from Wikitravel, quote: "Some upper-income neighborhoods are bordered by lower-income neighborhoods and the level of safety can change from block to block," end quote. On the other hand, it's something of an architectural showcase. Quote from neworleansonline, quote: "Esplanade Avenue is a living gallery of 19th and early 20th century residential architecture. The oak-lined boulevard and surrounding neighborhoods, with proximity to both City Park and Bayou St. John and an excellent stock of historic housing, draw natives and visitors alike to this area." End quote.
So it's not easy to say how much Ms. Harris-Perry is exaggerating. She must be exaggerating some, as in the Times-Picayune piece we read, quote, "She has come to love the house and especially the Esplanade Ridge neighborhood, where she has gotten to know neighbors and appreciate the architecture. Harris-Perry says that both the backyard and front porch are ideal places to spend leisure time." It doesn't really sound like she's ducking bullets there, does it?
And if she was, she'd be criminally negligent towards that 9-year-old daughter. As well as her $750,000 salary from MSNBC, Ms. Harris-Perry makes $200,000 as a professor of Hate Studies at Tulane University. That's nearly a million dollars a year in salaried income. If, with all that money coming in, the lady deliberately chose to go and live in Crack City, she has some explaining to do to that poor kid.
In a column that got me in a heap of trouble a few months ago I wrote the following, quote: "To be an intelligent, well-socialized black person in present-day U.S. society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history." I think Melissa Harris-Perry illustrates the point. Yet still she wants to harangue us about the suffering she endures at the hands of the racist power structure.
Hey, lady, count your blessings: the greatest of which is, that you live in a country where you can make a million dollars a year by guilt-tripping fawning white liberals.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I just noticed a link between the Melissa Harris-Perry of segment seven there and Mona Eltahawy, the lady spraying pink paint in segment five. Quote from newsbusters.com, quote: "Eltahawy, a former Reuters correspondent, has been a recent favorite of CNN and MSNBC's weekend morning shows to discuss Egypt, and she often smears together the Islamist 'right wing' and the American right wing, as she did on Melissa Harris-Perry just 11 days ago." That last occurrence of Melissa Harris-Perry is in italics, so I guess it's the name of the show for which Ms. Harris-Perry is being paid 750 grand per annum. Birds of a feather.
Item: Another story from New York: Li'l Squinty's in town! Yes, the strabismic dwarf of Tehran showed up to address the U.N. on the evils of the most evil nation to exist since the invention of evil, namely of course Israel.
While Squinty was over in Turtle Bay laying out his final solution to the Jewish problem, the flunkies he'd brought along in his entourage were storming the local discount stores in search of cheap shoes, vitamins, toilet paper, and other things they can't get at home because of sanctions on Iran.
I'll leave you to mull over the rights and wrongs of those sanctions among yourselves, while I bask in a warm glow of nostalgia. This, you see, is just like old Cold War days, when Russians assigned to Western embassies went home loaded up with blue jeans and work boots.
Earlier in the Cold War it was bath plugs. A friend of mine who grew up in Austria, half of which was occupied by Soviet troops after WW2, told me that they stole all the bath plugs. By one of those inexplicable twists of socialist economics, the U.S.S.R. was plagued by a shortage of bath plugs.
Ah, socialist economics … four more years of Obama and we'll know all about it.
Item: Governor Jerry Brown of California has signed a bill setting regulations for self-driving cars on public roads. Google has been driving these cars, or rather letting them drive themselves around, for a couple of years, but now they're official. You can insert your own Lindsay Lohan joke here.
I've been following the fortunes of these self-driving cars for a while now. I think it's a great idea. Once the systems are perfected, they'll be much better at the dull mechanical skill of driving than we humans are, leaving us more time to think higher thoughts about poetry, mathematics, and the meaning of life. Perhaps they already are good enough: Google's only had one fender bender, and that was while the self-driving car was under manual control!
The end of driving has also been prefigured, in the strange way these things sometimes are, by changes in our own attitudes. My own kids, both in their late teens, both drive, but without enthusiasm. The spectacle common forty years ago, of young guys gathered in your driveway to spend Saturdays tinkering with their cars, is now never seen.
So this change to self-driving cars is coming when we're prepped for it — an instance of what Arthur Koestler called the future casting its shadow back into the past.
Item: If you don't believe that Western civilization is busily slitting its wrists, meditate on the following story from Britain.
The current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, filling such great shoes as those of Robert Walpole, Lord Palmerston, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher, is presiding over a nation deep in debt and forced to severe austerity measures. Spending on everything is being cut: hospitals, schools, welfare, social security, but most of all the military. The strength of the British Army is being reduced by 20,000.
One thing, though, is not being cut. In fact, its funding is being increased. Cameron was at the United Nations this week telling the assembled gangsters and despots that: [Clip: "On the issue of overseas aid, I think it's important that …"]
Britain's Department for International Development, which rips money from the pockets of British taxpayers and transfers it to the Swiss bank accounts of African despots — as Peter Bauer memorably described foreign aid forty years ago: "Transferring money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries" — this Department's budget has risen steadily every year, and will go on rising until at least 2015, Cameron promised. It's currently fifteen billion dollars a year.
You ready for the punch line? Cameron is the leader of the Conservative Party.
And you still don't think we're doomed?
09 — Signoff. That's it, folks. I register with sorrow the passing of Andy Williams, who gave harmless pleasure to millions. Logic suggests that I play an Andy Williams clip to see us out. However, though I admire the man's art and personality, his music reminds me of the two years of ballroom dancing instruction I took to please my wife. For some reason Andy Williams tunes are a favorite with ballroom dancing instructors. I had two left feet when I started, and the same two when I quit, so the recollection is a bitter one.
Instead, to close the show, a little opera. I wrote about opera in my Taki's Magazine column this week, and included a short clip of Montserrat Caballé taken from the Act One trio in Bellini's La straniera. Here's the whole trio, the 1969 New York recording with Vincente Sardinero and Amadeo Zambon. Savor it: vocal music of this quality doesn't come along too often.
[Music clip: The trio from SAct One of Bellini's La straniera: Caballé, Sardinero, Zambon.]