[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. … … Oh, are we on the air? … Sorry, I'm a bit out of it. It's been a most stressful week. Could we have some soothing music, please?
[Clip: In a Monastery Garden …]
Thanks. OK, that's better. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your enervatedly genial host John Derbyshire with the week's news roundup.
I do apologize for being slow off the starting blocks there, listeners. The last few days have, as I said, been very stressful. Turns out the Mayor and police chief here on the island have been eavesdropping on our cellphone calls. That would include highly confidential calls I have been making to Turkmenistan in re some modest oil and mineral concessions I own there, courtesy of my dear friend President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
The first I knew of this eavesdropping was when Mayor Papakonstantinou and Chief Agamemnon stopped by to suggest that perhaps I needed some business partners in managing my concessions. I politely declined, had the girls give them each some sweet honey cakes, and sent them away.
Next thing I know it was all around the village that I was in league with the Turks. If you know a little Greek history you'll know that anything beginning with T-U-R-K is a red rag to a bull over here. It hasn't yet come to peasants with pitchforks and flaming brands marching on the studio, but I have been obliged to enter into partnership negotiations with the Mayor and the Chief.
You don't want to hear about my problems, though. Let's see what's been going on in the wider world.
[Clip: The three witches from Macbeth: "When shall we three meet again …"]
That was the three witches from Macbeth, and this segment is a follow-up to one we did last October about the three ladies guiding U.S. foreign policy at that point: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, our Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, and the President's Human Rights adviser Samantha Power.
Lest any of my female listeners fear that I am about to drift into political misogyny, let me assure you I have here on the desk the magic charm against such tendencies: my Margaret Thatcher commemorative coffee mug.
So what's been going on with the weird sisters of American foreign policy since last October? Well, all three have been through significant career developments.
Mrs. Clinton is no longer Secretary of State, having been replaced for Barack Obama's second term by John Kerry. Mrs. Clinton has retired to her estates to plot. She is said to be terrifically popular, which baffles me. She is said to be contemplating a 2016 presidential campaign, which horrifies me. And she is 65 years old but looks older, which consoles me.
Susan Rice was widely suspected of terminological inexactitudes in regard to last September 11th's attack on our Benghazi mission. The attack was obviously planned and organized by Islamist terrorists — September 11th, hel-lo? However, Ms. Rice — our Ambassador to the U.N., remember — insisted to the media and Congress that, to the contrary, the attackers were merely a random mob of Benghazi citizens disgruntled over increases to ticket prices at the local opera house.
Congressional suspicions that Ms. Rice knew neither what she was doing nor what she was talking about scuttled her chances for any new job requiring Congressional approval. She's been hanging on as U.N. Ambassador.
Samantha Power's main recent career development has been a negative one: she did not become Secretary of State for Obama's second term, as she had hoped. This has probably saved the Republic from annihilation.
Ms. Power, a George Soros hand puppet, is the leading exponent of the doctrine that the use of American power is legitimate only when American national interests are not involved. She most likely believes that the entire concept of American national interest is imperialistic, racist, patriarchal, homophobic, and carcinogenic. Quote from her, in a 2003 article she wrote, quote:
U.S. foreign policy has to be rethought. It needs not tweaking but overhauling. We need a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored, or permitted by the United States … Some anti-Americanism derives simply from our being a colossus that bestrides the earth. But much anti-Americanism derives from the role U.S. political, economic, and military power has played in denying such freedoms to others.
So that's what's been happening with the Three Horsegirls of the Apocalypse. That doesn't bring us quite up to date with Hill, Sue, and Sam, though. There have been developments this very week. Next segment …
President Obama this week appointed Susan Rice as his National Security Adviser. Since her move makes vacant the position of U.N. Ambassador, we'll be needing a new one of those. Obama has nominated Samantha Power.
I'll just note parenthetically here the statuses of these two jobs. National Security Advisor is an informal position not mentioned in the Constitution, in fact not even existing until Dwight Eisenhower appointed the first one sixty years ago. Ike wanted some advice independent of the State Department bureaucracy and not subject to congressional confirmation.
Since the Republic got along for 164 years without a National Security Advisor, I suppose you might question the necessity of such a position; but I'm not going to second-guess Eisenhower, a President that on the whole I admire, so let's assume the country needs a National Security Advisor. Well, Susan Rice is the new one, and she doesn't need Congressional confirmation, which is just as well as she probably wouldn't get it.
Ambassador to the United Nations does need Congressional confirmation. The usefulness of the post depends on your estimation of the U.N. Radio Derb considers the whole show to be more trouble than it's worth and a waste of good Manhattan real estate. If anyone can tell me of anything the U.N. has done this past sixty-odd years that couldn't have been done just as well by traditional diplomacy, I'll change my mind. Until then my vote would be for expelling the U.N. from our territory and having no more to do with them; or, failing that, permanent default on our U.N. dues, a demand that U.N. headquarters be relocated to Burkina Faso, and the appointment of a cardboard cutout of Pee Wee Herman as our Ambassador to the wretched institution.
OK, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, reshuffled this week to new positions; Hillary Clinton back home in Chappaqua chanting spells … er, I mean, planning strategy.
When working together in power during Obama's first term, these three ladies formed a sort of witches' coven of humanitarian meddlers, dedicated to bringing the gospels of multiculturalism, feminism, and democracy to benighted places like Egypt, Libya and Syria.
That meant helping people in those places to get rid of the dictators ruling over those places. Sure, the dictators were by and large friendly to U.S. interests. They were, in the traditional formula, sons of bitches, but our sons of bitches. Anyway, U.S. interests mean nothing to these ideologues, who barely consider the U.S.A. to be a legitimate nation.
So the sons of bitches had to go. Mubarak went and Gaddafy went. Mysteriously, Egypt and Libya did not turn into Burlington, Vermont and Portland, Oregon; but no doubt that is just some temporary glitch in the onward march of progress. They'll all be eating granola and listening to NPR any day now.
So let's move on to the next project: Syria! If we just help those rebels get rid of Bashir Assad, the Syrians will be opening Whole Food stores, setting up lesbian communes, and enacting affirmative action law school admissions in no time! Let's help those rebels there! What could possibly go wrong?
Well, the same thing that always goes wrong when the human-rights people take over: We end up with something worse than we started with. Bashir Assad is not a nice guy and doesn't run a nice regime; but the same was true of Mubarak and Gaddafy, or for that matter of Chiang Kai-shek, Fulgencio Batista, the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein. The opposition to Assad has some liberal-democratic elements, but the energy is all coming from Islamist groups, notably Al Qaeda. These are the people we're committing ourselves to in the name of human rights.
That's the problem with the Middle East: there isn't a good side. You can line up with Al Qaeda, or someone like them; or you can line up with Mubarak, Gaddafy, and Assad, or someone like them. They're working out their own destinies over there: Sunni, Shia, and secularist. We're best letting them get on with it and keeping the whole snake pit at arm's length.
04 — Murky Turkey. You've probably seen the pictures of rioting in Istanbul, capital of Turkey. You've been saying to yourself: (a) What's going on there? and (b) should I care?
[Ouch! The capital of Turkey is of course Ankara. Sorry sorry.]
I'm sorry to have to direct you to the archives again, but Radio Derb's take on the news is authoritative and definitive; so check our transcripts for November 24th last year, when we told you all you needed to know as to how things stood with Turkey back then.
What you're seeing now, in a nutshell, is friction between big social forces, the main ones being: nationalism, post-industrial modernity, traditionalism, and Islamism. I'll take them in turn.
Nationalism is important because Turkey is an ethnostate. The great majority of the population is Turks speaking Turkish. The ethnonationalism of the Turks is enhanced by there being no related peoples on their borders. To the north are Slavs and Caucasians; to the south, Arabs; to the East, Persians; to the West, Greeks and more Slavs. There are related peoples further out: you can walk a couple of thousand miles across Central Asia into the heart of China speaking Turkish, or something like it, all the way. There is even a pan-Turkish movement seeking to unite all these peoples in a great empire, the mythical Turan … but that's kind of a fringe phenomenon. The man in the street over there feels himself a Turk in a Turkish state surrounded by non-Turks.
Then there's modernity. A hundred years ago the Ottoman Empire was on its last legs. Intelligent young Turks at the time wanted to live in a modern state, like Germany or France. They looked on the Ottomans and their institutions as moth-eaten old relics of the past, hindering progress to an efficient forward-looking industrialized society. They felt about Islam, the Ottoman state religion, the way Enlightenment intellectuals in Europe and America felt about Christianity — it was a dusty old superstition. They felt about the Sultans the way British progressives like George Bernard Shaw felt about the Royal Family — they were useless relics.
So the Turks got themselves a republic under a charismatic modernizing leader, Mustafa Kemal. This Kemalist republic pushed religion away into the private sphere, Westernized clothing and the alphabet, and kept the country out of World War Two.
You don't shuck off 600 years of despotism quite so easily, though. Without any tradition of separate power centers or impartial law, Turkish politics never found stability. Turkish politics kept capsizing, and the army had to come in and get it upright again.
Then along came Recep Erdoğan, who became Prime Minister ten years ago. A very adroit politician, Erdoğan exploited the weaknesses in Turkey's political system to neuter the army and gather power to himself, while at the same time boosting the economy with free-market reforms.
So far, so good; but Erdoğan is a traditionalist Muslim who wants his people to be more observant. This traditionalism is mixed with ethnonationalism: Erdoğan particularly wants his countrymen to be more fecund, as he worries that Turkey's Kurdish minority is outbreeding Turkey's Turks. Hence a string of recent petty reforms: No sales of alcoholic drinks after dark, no lipstick on airline stewardesses, etc.
All this is fine with country folk out in the provinces, and even with some urban Turks who've benefited from the economic reforms; but it doesn't sit well with younger Westernized types and with Turkey's other traditionalists, the Kemalists.
Since Erdoğan's brand of Islam is Sunni, and since Bashir Assad ticked him off by not taking his advice, he has gotten himself invoved in Syria on the rebel side, which brings us back to U.S. foreign policy. The rebel side in Syria is our side, remember, because it's the side of human rights.
Bottom line here: Recep Erdoğan is a champion of human rights, so those rioters in Istanbul throwing rocks at his police are our enemies. Got that?
Let's just hope they don't burn our Consulate and kill our Ambassador; then things would be really hard to follow.
05 — Hold tight to that First Amendment. We'd better hold on tight to that First Amendment, the way things are going in the Western world.
Story from Britain. Matthew Taylor, 35 years old, the owner of a clothing store in Newport, South Wales, had some T-shirts in his store window printed up with various jokes and slogans. One of them bore the legend: OBEY OUR LAWS, RESPECT OUR BELIEFS, OR GET OUT OF OUR COUNTRY. This followed the killing in broad daylight, in a London street, of a British soldier by Muslim fanatics.
Before you could say jihad Mr. Taylor was being interrogated by the local Bobbies, who told him if he didn't remove the T-shirt from his window he'd be down at the local station house being charged with inciting racial hatred. Apparently people who don't obey British laws and respect British beliefs form a race.
The police said they had, quote, "received a complaint from a member of the public" who, quote, "felt it was offensive." I'm sorry to say Mr. Taylor buckled under the pressure and removed the T-shirt; though I nurse the hope that he will replace it in his store window with one saying DEATH TO THOSE WHO INSULT THE PROPHET. I doubt law enforcement would have any problem with that.
Over to France, where there is a nationalist party named Front National, the National Front. Party leader is a 44-year-old female lawyer named Marine Le Pen. Her party got 18 percent of the vote in last April's election, placing third behind François Hollande's Socialist Party and Nicholas Sarkozy's Slightly Less Socialist Party. Eighteen percent. Hollande got 29 percent, Sarko got 27, so the National Front is a highly competitive party in French politics, pulling in two-thirds as many votes as Sarkozy.
Madamoiselle Le Pen is an MEP, a Member of the European Parliament. She's been an MEP since 2004, so she was one when, in 2010, she made some remarks at a public meeting comparing the sight of Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France. Under French law, which is just as bad as British law, this would have been an unlawful incitement to racism, Islam being, as everyone knows, a race. However, as an MEP, Mlle. Le Pen enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
Last week a committee of the European Parliament removed that immunity by what the BBC correspondent called, quote, "an overwhelming vote." The entire parliament has to affirm the decision, but that's expected to be a formality. Then it'll be tumbrils for Mlle. Le Pen.
Back to Britain's brumous isles and the case of 35-year-old Emma West of South London. Ms. West had her brief spell of fame a year and a half ago when someone filmed her seated in a public tram with her toddler on her knee and venting her feelings about mass immigration into her country. Quote:
What has this country come to? A load of black people and a load of f***ing Polish. You ain't English. No, you ain't English either. You ain't English. None of you's f***ing English. It's nothing now. Britain is nothing now. My Britain is f*** all now.
End quote. After the airing of that video, Ms. West was charged with a racially aggravated section 4 public order offence. Her lawyers span out the case for a year and a half, but last week Ms. West finally pleaded guilty to the slightly less serious charge of a racially aggravated section 5 public order offense, which is defined to mean "using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress." She will be sentenced June 24th.
Ms. West, it has to be admitted, is not a model citizen. We have just learned in fact that last month she pleaded guilty to different offenses, to stabbing and slashing her boyfriend with an ornamental knife and assaulting a police officer. This was during a conversation about family matters.
The boyfriend seems insouciant about the matter; at any rate, the couple are still together. Ms. West was arrested and prosecuted none the less. The name of the prosecuting attorney in that case was Remi Ogunfowora; but apparently Ms. West managed to keep her feelings in check during the court proceedings.
06 — Weighty matters. Geoffrey Miller is an academic living a dangerous life. That is to say, he's an academic in the human sciences who asks impertinent questions about human nature.
Miller is a tenured professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, but currently a visiting lecturer at New York University in New York City. I went to a dinner in his honor during a recent trip back stateside: he's a good speaker and we had a fun evening with him.
His particular beat is sexual selection, Charles Darwin's second great theory, evolution by natural selection being of course the first. Miller's best-known book is The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, and I recommend it to your attention. Human behavior, Miller says, has been shaped in part by what is appealing to the opposite sex. He claims that this helps explain things like morality and music, which are otherwise hard to explain. As I said, it's interesting, and he's a good writer. Read the book and form an opinion.
Now Geoffrey Miller's in trouble. One of his duties is to help select students for postgraduate work. In that context, he tweeted last Sunday, quote: "Dear obese Ph.D. applicants: If you don't have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won't have the willpower to do a dissertation." End quote.
This was just as offensive to fat people as Matthew Taylor's T-shirt was to members of the law-disobeying, belief-disrespecting race, or as Mlle. Le Pen's remarks were to members of the Muslim race.
Members of the fat race have been marching, or perhaps waddling, on Professor Miller's NYU office to protest, chanting the mantra of Fat Liberation: "Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fat is just as good as lean!"
Unfortunately, this being the U.S.A., they can't get him prosecuted under a racially-aggravated public order offense. With him having tenure, they can't even get him fired. They have, however, embarrassed him into apologizing. His spirit thus broken, Prof. Miller will now have to take on the fattest postgraduate student who applies, and resign himself to buying a new office chair every three months.
Another human scientist who got in trouble somewhat further back is Satoshi Kanazawa, who teaches over at LSE, the London School of Economics. Kanazawa set off the PC alarms two years ago with an article in the magazine Psychology Today in which he argued that while black men are on average more attractive than others, black women are less attractive than women of other races. Kanazawa put both phenomena down to an excess of testosterone. Well, that got people a-shrieking and a-swooning, and Kanazawa had to grovel to keep his job.
Now here is Kanazawa on his LSE website exploring the link between IQ and obesity. His conclusion, quote:
Childhood intelligence has a direct effect on adult obesity unmediated by education or earnings. General intelligence decreases BMI only in adulthood when individuals have complete control over what they eat.
Translation: Stupid kids end up as fat adults. If your childhood IQ is below 75, then at age 51 you'll likely have a Body Mass Index in the 28 to 29 zone. Contrariwise, if your childhood IQ is over 125, your BMI at age 51 will be a svelte 25 to 26.
I dread to think what might happen if Geoffrey Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa ever team up on a joint project. IQ … black women … obesity … It doesn't bear thinking about.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Everybody knows that the German language has a weakness for long words. A Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänswitwe is, as everyone knows, the widow of the captain of a steamship company on the Danube; a Hottentotenpotentatentantenattentäter is of course a person who assaults the aunt of a Hottentot potentate; and so on.
Well, the noble German language is now poorer by one such word. Up until last week the Bundesrepublik had on its books a rule for the delegation of monitoring the labelling of beef, which is to say a Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. Following a change in EU regulations, that rule has now been repealed, which means that the word is no longer in the rule book.
So say auf wiedersehen to Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. Then, after dabbing away a tear at the loss of such a fine word, calm yourself by listening to something from your favorite German composer. This one, perhaps.
[Clip of Monty Python sketch about Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplendenschlitter-crasscrenbon-frieddiggerdingledangledongledungle-burstein von Knackerthrasher-appelbanger-horowitz-ticolensic-granderknottyspelltinkel-grandlichgrumblemeyerspelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisenbahnwagen- gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwurstel-gernspurten-mitzweimache-luberhundsfut-gumberaberschönedanker-kalbsfleischmittelraucher von Hauptkopft of Ulm.]
Item: I'm just going to read you this one from the Fox News website, quote:
Mothers looking to give their children a unique, yet familiar, candy treat are in luck. A lollipop company based in Austin, Texas called Lollyphile is offering new Breast Milk Lollipops, meant to mimic the flavor of a mother's milk.
End quote. Well, that should make a nice teat … er, I mean treat, for the kiddies. I just hope we don't get into controversies about whether they can suck on these things in public places.
I don't think I can squeeze any more out of that story, so let's hasten on.
Time for one more? OK, one more.
Item: Lynne Rosen and John Littig were a couple in Brooklyn, New York who ran a weekly radio show titled "The Pursuit of Happiness," giving listeners advice on how to be happy. When not on the air, he was a motivational speaker and member of a rock group, she was a practicing psychotherapist.
In a story I guess you can file under "physician, heal thyself," the two were found dead in their apartment last Monday with their heads in plastic bags connected to a helium tank. It was definitely joint suicide; they left notes. Apparently she'd been suffering badly from depression and wanted to end it all, and he didn't want to live without her.
Condolences to the loved ones of Ms. Rosen and Mr. Littig, and one discomfiting reflection: If that's how it goes with radio shrinks telling you how to be happy, you have to wonder about people offering investment advice.
Should anyone want my advice on how to be happy, it's the same as the traditional English sailor's rule for keeping seasickness at bay: Stay busy, and keep your eyes on the horizon.
08 — Signoff. That's it, folks. Now as I said, I don't want to impose my problems on you — or, if you're down there in the South, on you-all. Definitely not. I am, though, just going to observe that for some reason, even petty troubles seem worse in the summer.
Here is Eddie Cochran with the canonical expression of that observation: "Summertime Blues."
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: From Eddie Cochran, "Summertime Blues."]