[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your conjugally genial host John Derbyshire bringing you a selection from the week's news.
All is very quiet here on Taki's private island in the Aegean. Most of the staff and a good portion of the villagers have gone off in Mayor Papakonstantinou's rather ancient yacht to our neighboring island to celebrate the arrival of Betty and Philip's new great-grandchild — not their first, by the way, as I erroneously reported last week.
It promises to be quite a party. Duty keeps me at my post here in the studio, and I can't help worrying about the girls and the rest of my staff crossing several miles of wine-dark sea in the Mayor's rickety old tub. I was educated in the old English system, you see, with lots of narrative poetry; and one of the poems we learned was Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "The White Ship," which is about another bunch of party-goers setting out to sea nine hundred years ago. It doesn't end well.
Away with these dark thoughts, though. Let's see what's happening in the world beyond our little sun-kissed island.
02 — Jihadis love death, we love legal nitpicking. Remember the Fort Hood shooting? That was in November 2009, nearly four years ago. Army Major Nidal Hasan, a Muslim fanatic, murdered 12 of our soldiers and a civilian medic, and wounded 32 other people in a clinic at the Texas Army base. One soldier was a pregnant woman whose fetus also died, so you sometimes see 14 as the death toll.
This week Major Hasan finally went on trial. Finally — after almost four years. What took so long? Well, it took over a year for an Army medical board to certify Hasan as sane. That meant he could be formally arraigned on capital charges. He was duly arraigned six months later. A date for the court-martial was then set for eight months after that, two years and four months from the actual shooting.
Six months further on, after a change of lawyers, Hasan tried to plead guilty, but his plea wasn't accepted. By this time an issue had arisen with the beard he'd grown in custody. He said the beard was a religious obligation; the military judge ordered him to be forcibly shaved, and there were months of wrangling about that. You might think that the court was being too darn fussy here; but an appeals court ruled they hadn't been fussy enough, and replaced the judge with a fussier one. That happened last December, so we're now three years and some from the shooting.
We finally got to jury selection in June this year. A jury was empaneled in July, and the actual court martial began, as I said, this week, Tuesday.
This is the rigmarole that passes for justice in the U.S. military nowadays. There isn't a shadow of doubt that Hasan committed the murders. There were numerous witnesses, and Hasan was shot down at the scene, carried off with a severed spine — he is now paraplegic. On the first day of the trial this week, in fact, Hasan, acting as his own lawyer, admitted having carried out the killings.
There is no reason on earth why Hasan shouldn't have been executed by firing squad, sitting in his damn wheelchair, three and a half years ago — no reason other than our sick passion for infinitely punctilious legal nitpicking, and our even sicker fear that we might offend the sensibilities of religious fanatics who hate us. (The issue of the beard has still not been resolved, by the way. As of this week, Hasan still has the beard.)
All this is in line with the immortal words of Army General George Casey, speaking on TV the Sunday after the shooting, that, quote: "As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse," end quote. Hasan had given plenty of evidences of his Islamist inclinations prior to the shooting — his business card said "Soldier of Allah," for crying out loud. As a Muslim, though, he was untouchable.
I once coined the phrase "Better dead than rude" to describe the extremes of General Casey-style political correctness, in which hurting the feelings of some religious or racial minority is worse than murder. I meant it as a joke; now it's a U.S. Army regulation.
As we go to tape the court martial has heard Hasan admit his guilt and swear allegiance to jihad, listened to grisly testimony from witnesses to the shooting, and endured some procedural wrangling from lawyers kept on standby while Hasan represents himself.
Hasan seems to want to be executed, in accordance with the declaration in his PowerPoint presentation to fellow officers a year and a half before the shooting that, quote, "We love death more than you love life!" If his guilty plea is allowed to stand, though, he can't be given the death penalty.
And then again, if Hasan represents himself incompetently, that will be grounds for the current proceedings being declared a mistrial.
So many fine legal niceties; so much care that everything be precisely procedurally correct; so much consideration given to this man who, fired up by an alien ideology, murdered thirteen Americans in plain sight; so little interest in anything that an ordinary citizen can recognize as justice.
03 — Military music beats military justice A sidebar issue that's come up in the Hasan case is whether the Army is doing the right thing by those dead and wounded soldiers in treating this as straightforward murder rather than terrorism. If Hasan were to be classified as an enemy combatant, the dead would be entitled to posthumous Purple Hearts, and the wounded would get priority at VA medical facilities.
There's a case to be made there. Two of the dead — one an Army reservist and one a civilian medic — were killed while charging Hasan. That's heroism by any definition, though I doubt the medic — he was by the way the only civilian among those killed — is eligible for military honors.
Furthermore, because Hasan is being court martialed by regular process as a U.S. soldier, he's innocent until proven guilty, and as such has been drawing his regular Army salary all these four years — over $200,000 so far. This seems outrageous to a lot of people, including me; so much so, a bill has been introduced in Congress to suspend the pay of military personnel accused of serious offences. If found innocent at court martial, they could then get their back pay released to them. That seems reasonable.
I have to say, though, that the idea of reclassifying the incident strikes me as deeply unappealing. In the first place, it would force the authorities to start the whole circus over again, leading to another four years of legal hairsplitting, appeals and counter-appeals, procedural motions, and the rest.
In the second place, the Guantánamo Bay facility stands as silent witness to the fact that we really don't know what to do with terrorists. Homicide as a criminal offense has been around since Anglo-Saxon times. If the Army's political correctness enforcers can drag out a straightforward murder court martial for four years, think what they could do with the much newer and jurisprudentially fuzzier crime of terrorism.
In the third place, Fort Hood was not a combat zone, the dead and wounded were not equipped for combat, and Hasan was not by any reasonable definition an enemy combatant under enemy command. He was a soldier who murdered his comrades. It's a thing that happens in armies, always has and always will, until all passion and folly have been purged from the human race. I refer you to Rudyard Kipling's fine poem "Danny Deever," about the outcome of just such a case of military murder.
They are hangin' Danny Deever, you must mark 'im to 'is place,
And in the fourth place, this movement to reclassify the incident smells to me of the kind of feelgood emoting that governs far too much of our public life, and that certainly should have no place in our armed forces.
So no, I'm not upset that Hasan is being court martialed for murder instead of terrorism. I am upset, though, at how absurdly over-scrupulous and drawn-out the prosecution has been.
And don't think we're anywhere near a conclusion yet. Remember Army Sergeant Hasan Akbar, who murdered two comrades and wounded a dozen others back in March of 2003 — over ten years ago — in Kuwait. That Hasan was found guilty and sentenced to death after a mere two years of processing. Eight years later he's still among us, in the Fort Leavenworth stockade, working his way through the appeals process.
Don't hold your breath. The last time a service member was executed after being found guilty of a capital crime at court martial was 1961.
The old quip used to be that "military justice is to justice, as military music is to music." Judging from this farce, that's an insult to military music — which, as a matter of fact, I rather like.
[Clip: "Garry Owen."]
04 — Is Bongo Bongo on the Congo? A little light relief here from Shakespeare's island up there in the brumous north, and introducing Radio Derb's hero of the week.
The topic here is foreign aid, which a British economist once described as the transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor ones.
Well, here's a British politician, name of Godfrey Bloom. Mr. Bloom was himself formerly an economist working in the financial sector. He is now a Member of the European Parliament, representing Yorkshire, up there in the northeast of England. Mr. Bloom is 63 years old and has been married for 30 years to a lady of Polish origins. His Dad was an RAF fighter pilot in WW2.
Mr. Bloom's political party is UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, which takes the audacious position that the U.K. should be an independent nation, her internal affairs subject to no laws but those her elected representatives make in her own parliament.
So there's Mr. Godfrey Bloom; and I must say, I rather like the cut of his jib.
He's in the news because of some remarks he made in public about foreign aid the other day. I can't find a good-quality recording to play you, but here's what he said, quote: "How we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month when we're in this sort of debt to Bongo Bongo Land is completely beyond me — to buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris …" End quote.
Mr. Bloom is broadly right on the facts, although the amount Britain spends in foreign aid is actually somewhat more than a billion pounds a month, about 1.4 billion. Take for example Rwanda, which gets 75 million pounds a year from Britain's taxpayers. The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, personally owns two private jets costing $50 million each and lives in a vast, luxurious palace, with a huge estate in the country when city life gets boring. In 2011 he stayed in a $17,000-a-night hotel room in New York. He has a weakness for Rolex watches, and owns several of the most expensive styles.
OK, but … where is Bongo Bongo Land? The nearest thing anyone has been able to find is the West African nation of Gabon, whose President is named Ali Bongo. As it happens, President Bongo is the son of the previous President, Omar Bongo. Between them, the two Bongos have ruled Gabon for 46 years; so Bongo Bongo Land is not a bad alternative name for Gabongo … I'm sorry, I mean Gabon.
The fact that Bongo Bongo Land was obviously a reference to sub-Saharan Africa is of course what caused the fuss. Sub-Saharan Africans are mostly black; and black people are, as the late Larry Auster observed, holy objects in the Western liberal imagination, so that any disrespect to them is a species of sacrilege.
So all the hysterical old maids of British public life came out on parade, clutching their hankies and bottles of smelling salts and rending their garments. Some raddled, pock-marked harpy named Laura Pidcock, from a group called Show Racism The Red Card, said that Mr. Bloom's comments were, quote, "incredibly damaging." Incredibly — you can't believe how damaging they are. The damage is incalculable! The entire fabric of the nation has been torn asunder!
Some leftwing British politician with the name Rushanara Ali — so far as I can discover not related to President Ali Bongo — wailed that, quote, "These are an offensive and narrow-minded set of remarks." He then broke down and wept.
Interviewed on British TV by a chap named Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Mr. Bloom was pressed to tell the viewing multitudes whether or not he was racist.
Given that "racist" is by now nothing more than a Marxist cuss-word, like "saboteur" in Stalin's Russia or "counter-revolutionary" in Mao Tse-tung's China — given that, I live in hope that one day the victim in one of these political correctness hate-fests will respond to the question whether or not he is racist by saying calmly: "Yes, I am. What's it to ya?"
Godfrey Bloom didn't do that, unfortunately, but he did the next best thing: he pulled off his lapel mike and walked out of the studio.
So there are still a few real Englishmen left, un-cowed by the PC schoolmarms. Long life and good health to Mr. Godfrey Bloom, Radio Derb's hero of the week.
05 — The immigration fix is in. There isn't much immigration news this week, with Congress in recess and all, but what little there is is all bad.
With the Gang of Eight bill passed by the Senate, the chief bulwark against mass amnesty for illegal aliens is now the House of Representatives. The House has a Republican majority, 234 to 201, so if the GOP wanted to stop mass amnesty, they could. Unfortunately they don't, because big-money business donors want cheap labor just as much as the Democrats want 30 million future voters and welfare clients. Just last week Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, went to Las Vegas to kiss the ring — well, I'm hoping it was just the ring — of hotel and casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, an open-borders fanatic.
The procedure when Congress comes back from recess is, that the House passes some kind of partial legislation: a modified DREAM Act, probably, decorated with some meaningless fluff about border security. House majority Leader Eric Cantor, an Ellis Island immigration romantic, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who has a spine made of damp papier-maché, have already cooked up something along these lines.
That House bill is then put in a folder with the Gang of Eight Senate bill and sent to a House-Senate conference whose House members are selected by … guess who? [Clip: "Cry"] Yes, three-hankie Tan Dad John "Zero Percent" Boehner. That "Zero Percent" is Boehner's rating by FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a restrictionist group.
So the conferees will confer and produce a Conference Report, which will look uncannily like the Gang of Eight bill. The House will pass it, GOP members explaining to their constituents with wide-eyed innocence that, gosh, they signed on to the border-security provisions in the House bill, didn't they? while listening out for the clink, clink of Sheldon Adelson's silver pieces landing in their campaign chests.
And then, in the words of former Representative J. D. Hayworth, quote: "Reckless spending will go into overdrive, hastening our fiscal doom, and more illegals will rush across our borders, insuring the balkanization of America."
This isn't a fantasy scenario: it's what's going to happen. We have that on the word of no less an authority than Chuck Schumer. Quote from him:
We would much prefer a big comprehensive bill but any way that the House can get there is okay by us. I actually am optimistic that we will get this done. I've had a lot of discussions with members of both parties in the House. Things are moving in the right direction.
When Chuck Schumer says things are moving in the right direction, my advice would be, pack a survival bag and take to the hills. Things are moving in the right direction for Chucky Sleaze when the U.S.A. is moving in the general direction of Brazil.
06 — It's the blecks. My friend and fellow counter-revolutionary Steve Sailer has coined a useful expression: "Occam's Butterknife." This is a reference to the logical principle known as Occam's Razor, formulated by the medieval English philosopher William of Ockham. Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, said William: Don't multiply entities beyond what's necessary. In other words, when all else is equal, the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is the one you should favor.
That's Occam's Razor. Steve's perversion of it, Occam's Butterknife, says that when the simplest, most straightforward explanation — the one favored by Occam's Razor — when that explanation is unacceptable to you for social or emotional reasons, look for something more complicated.
With the bankruptcy of Detroit, Occam's Butterknife has been getting a strenuous workout. All the bigfoot political commentators have been wielding Occam's Butterknife. To a diehard empiricist and old student of mathematical logic like myself, this has brought much quiet amusement.
Here for example was bigfoot commentator George Will, in his syndicated column August 1st. Quote:
This bedraggled city's decay … does pose worrisome questions about the viability of democracy in jurisdictions where big government and its unionized employees collaborate in pillaging taxpayers. Detroit, which boomed during World War II when industrial America was "the arsenal of democracy," died of democracy.
End quote. It wasn't just Will. Here's Peggy Noonan in her syndicated column, August 2nd, quote:
The bankruptcy and decay of Detroit puts the spotlight again on corrupt public officials (the Motor City has been rich in them) one-party rule (it was a Democratic town, pretty much top to bottom, for 50 years) and public-employee unions and the long-term implications of their demands on what used to be called the public purse.
End quote. If you move away from the bigfoots to the more pedally-challenged commentators, Occam's Butterknife turns into Occam's spackling trowel. A recent prize exhibit here was Salon's movie critic Andrew O'Hehir in a thigh-slapping July 27th piece titled "Why the right hates Detroit."
Why do we hate Detroit? Basically, because it's so vibrant. Sample quote:
As centers of African-American cultural and political power and engines of a worldwide multiracial pop culture that was egalitarian, hedonistic and anti-authoritarian, these cities [that is, Chicago and Detroit] posed a psychic threat to the most reactionary and racist strains in American life.
See, we evil racists saw in Detroit's vibrancy a threat to our dull white-bread so-called culture, so we set about to destroy the place. How exactly did we do that? O'Hehir doesn't really make it clear, but some kind of invisible death ray seems to be involved. You really have to read the whole thing for the insanity of it.
I recall a fine example of Occam's Razor — not the butterknife, now, the original razor — from thirty or so years ago when I was doing office work in London. I had a colleague, a white guy from South Africa, who spoke with those strange flattened vowels they use. He actually pronounced the name of his country as "S'thefriceh."
Well, chatting around the office one day I mentioned a certain district of London that was plagued with street crime. At that time my youthful liberalism had not yet altogether worn off, so I was reaching for Occam's Butterknife, positing poverty, fatherlessness, lack of public facilities, and so on as the causes of all the street crime.
My Boer friend listened for a while till his patience ran out, then he cut me off with Occam's Razor.
"It's the blecks, dear fellow," he said. "It's the blecks."
So it was, and so it is. I recommend that snippet of S'thefricen wisdom to Will, Noonan, and O'Hehir.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Remember all those claims from the Left that we invaded Iraq to secure access to their oil? Well, here are some snippets from a Wall Street Journal story dated this Wednesday.
Iraq aims to boost oil production … from three southern key oil fields … The 13-billion-barrel supergiant West Qurna-2, being developed by Russia's Lukoil OAO Holding … The 12.6-billion-barrel supergiant Majnoon oil field, led by the major Royal Dutch Shell PLC … and the Garraf oil field, being upgraded by Malaysia's Petronas Carigali and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., or Japex …
We have long since known, to the chagrin of those of us who supported it at the time, that the Iraq invasion was pointless and foolish. Well, it sure was foolish, but it wasn't altogether pointless; not for the Russians, the Dutch, the Malaysians, and the Japanese. You're welcome, guys!
Item: From the police blotter: The Boston Herald reports that the following events took place after a patrol car pulled over a Cadillac that had forced a truck off Interstate 93.
The driver of the Caddy turned out to be 25-year-old Vivencia Bellegarde, a female person of color. Quote from trooper Kokocinski, the guy who pulled her over, quote:
She repeatedly called me a racist and told me she was from Haiti and she was gonna "put voodoo on my white (expletive)." She further explained that her name translated means "give life take life" and she emphasized "take life." She then shouted that she was "coming for all you white (expletives)."
Trooper Kokocinski did a search, which turned up three EBT cards. The EBT card, in case you don't know, is the modern form of the food stamp program, stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. Another quote from the trooper's report, quote: "I questioned her as to why she had other people's EBT cards and she began screaming that I was a 'dumb (expletive)' for paying for food when she gets it for free." End quote.
Just another day in the Welfare States of America.
Item: You may have heard that our embassies in Muslim countries were all closed for much of this week following terror threats.
NPR ran a story about this with a neat little twist in it. You really have to read the fine print on some of these stories. I'm indebted to a kind reader for bringing this to my attention.
NPR's Michelle Kelemen, in an All Things Considered segment, introduces us to State Department spokescritter Marie Harf. Here's what Ms. Harf told NPR, quote:
Everyone's preference in this building, from the secretary on down, is for our embassies and consulates to reopen as soon as possible, as soon as is safe to do so, so we can continue providing exactly that kind of support to U.S. citizens and others looking to come to the U.S.
End quote. As I said, you have to pay careful attention there. The key phrase is: "and others looking to come to the U.S." See, our embassies in Muslim countries don't just exist to offer support to expatriate Americans. Heaven forbid! They are also there to help foreign Muslims who want to come settle in our country. Because, you know, there are only 57 Muslim countries for them to settle in. And, you know, it's a civil right for foreigners to come to the U.S.A. You're not against civil rights, are you? And also, you know, this is good policy because of all the great benefits America has gained from permitting mass settlement of Muslims in our country. Like [explosion] and [gunfire] and [crickets] …
Item: A snippet here from North Korea. Lee Choon Hong, a popular comedienne, was performing for workers at a farm project favored by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un when she made a slip of the tongue that was perceived as somehow disrespectful to the ruling party.
Ms. Lee was hustled from the stage by security guards and shipped directly to the Jikdong Youth Coal Mine, where she was set to hard labor, perhaps alongside Michael Richards.
She got off lightly, mind. The last person to vex the Supreme leader was Kim Chol, a vice minister of the North Korean army, who, as we reported last October, was executed by mortar fire for drinking alcohol during the mourning period for previous leader Kim Jong Il. At least Ms. Lee's still alive.
It seems a little harsh for a bad comedy routine, though. We all worry about North Korea's bombs. If you're a stage performer in that country, a much bigger worry is that your act will bomb.
08 — Signoff. And there you have it, gentle listeners — another week of sliding down History's razor blade.
In the private realm, I note without specifics that there was a wedding anniversary this week not a million miles from the Derbyshire homestead. Traditional marriage, as we all know, has been losing its market share in recent years, even as the word "marriage" has been awarded to ever more unconventional arrangements. Pretty soon you'll be able to contract a marriage with your grandmother, your parrot, your bowling team, or your lawnmower. Why not? It's a matter of civil rights.
Well, I'd like to go on record that marriage-wise, I'm a big fan of the original thing, so I'd like to close out with a song celebrating it. You'd be surprised how far back you have to reach for songs like that. In this case I'm reaching back to 1957 and the lovely voice of Peggy Lee, possibly the greatest thing ever to come out of North Dakota. Ms. Lee wasn't that great at being married herself, alas, but she captured the ideal in this classic song.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Peggy Lee, "The Folks Who Live on the Hill"]