[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, gentle listeners, this is your perennially genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you news from far and wide.
All is quiet here at our little outpost in the balmy Aegean since I re-imposed discipline on the studio staff. The technicians are busily concentrating on their knobs and dials, all bright and clean since I set the girls to polishing our equipment. Yes, here at Radio Derb we are once again a well-oiled machine.
Let us see, then, what the news wires have brought us this week.
02 — Reflections on 9/11. Another year, another commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, and another opportunity to air my annoyance at the public displays of emotion this occasion generates.
The emotion is of course genuine. There are people at these ceremonies grieving for the dead: people who lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, lovers and friends. I don't doubt the sincerity of their grief. There are ordinary citizens there, too, who just want to show solidarity with those grieving for the dead. Nothing wrong with that. Heck, I'll even allow that the politicians who show up may be expressing genuine feelings.
The problem I have here is the making a state occasion out of the grief. Here's an account of one of the official ceremonies, in Washington, D.C., quote:
President Barack Obama marked the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks … on the South Lawn of the White House. Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden, walked out of the White House at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center tower … They bowed their heads to observe a moment of silence, which was followed by a bugler playing taps. [Then a quote from Obama:] "It is an honor to be with you here again to remember the tragedy of 12 Septembers ago, to honor the greatness of all who responded and to stand with those who still grieve and to provide them some measure of comfort once more," Obama said.
I'd pick a nit there with the word "tragedy." The first words in my dictionary's definition of the word "tragedy" are: "a dramatic composition …" Just so. A tragedy has some dramatic structure — human nature struggling with fate, or with itself. There is no structure in malicious mass murder. Nine-eleven wasn't a "tragedy," it was an atrocity. I wish I could feel that our president paid as much attention to the meaning of words as he does to their sound.
In downtown New York City there was another ceremony, with all the local politicians attending — although at this one, in a rare show of good taste apparently ordered by Mayor Bloomberg, not speaking. There was a moment of silence at the clock time when the first plane hit, then families of the victims started reading aloud the names of those who died.
Well, all right, I guess; but I can't help thinking there's something a bit self-indulgent, a bit ignoble about these public ceremonies; something a bit girlishly unfitting for a strong, proud nation.
It is of course the proper business of bereaved relatives to grieve for their dead, but is it really the proper business of politicians to be out there grieving with them? Isn't the proper business of politicians rather to be fixing the flaws in our national security that allowed this atrocity to happen? Have they actually been doing much in that direction?
I'd just prefer it if we were a little more … Roman about 9/11. More icy vengeance, less weepy emoting. Sure, we did some of the vengeance thing: chasing al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, offing bin Laden, hunting down other leaders and dropping drone bombs on them. All good stuff, for sure; but our addiction to legal niceties and our reverence for multiculturalism both blunted our sword.
In the matter of the first, those legal niceties, consider the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known beyond doubt to have been a key player in planning and executing the 9/11 operation. We caught the son of a bitch in Pakistan ten years ago. Seven years ago he was put in the detention camp at Guantánamo. There he's been ever since, watching movies, playing Nintendo, reading his Koran, and complaining about the food. He and four of his comrades were charged five years ago — five years ago, listener — with numerous crimes, including 2,976 counts of murder.
So what's been happening since then, in this last five years? Well, the main thing that's been happening has been a running fight between, on the one side, Barack Obama and Eric Holder, who want to give every conceivable benefit of the doubt to KSM and his pals, and who have in fact given the distinct impression they would like to see the terrorists acquitted on account they were all knocked about and water-boarded by CIA and military interrogators; and on the other side a united, determined force of 9/11 families and sympathizers, joined with police and firefighter unions and veterans organizations, determined to get some measure of justice for what was done.
Pushed by these groups, but acting with the deepest reluctance, the administration finally authorized pre-trial hearings last fall. The trial itself will begin in late 2014 at the earliest. Hey, you know, the lawyers have to be given time to prepare a proper defense. It's only been twelve years …
As I said, legal niceties: that's the first sword-blunter. The second is our reverence for multiculturalism, symbolized immediately after the 9/11 attacks by George W. Bush showing up at a mosque to assure his countrymen that Islam is a religion of peace.
Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but here is a fact as indisputable as Mount Rushmore: If we had never permitted mass settlement of Muslims in Western countries, many thousands of American, British, and European people would have lived out their lives in peace, instead of dying in agony and terror at the hands of Muslim fanatics.
By continuing to allow that settlement, we doom unknown further numbers of our own people — American people, British people, Danish people, French people — to similar fates.
And for that, we are fools, fully deserving of the mocking laughter that undoubtedly comes from the enemies of our civilization as we gather at these solemn ceremonies of remembrance.
03 — Putin checkmates Obama. As predicted by Radio Derb three weeks ago, our President and Secretary of State were no match for Vladimir Putin across the chessboard. Putin had them in checkmate while they were still trying to remember how a knight's move goes.
The whole dismal affair generates mixed feelings in a patriotic conservative.
As a patriot, I don't care to see my nation humiliated, especially not by a former KGB goon like Putin. This is a guy whose first career was in harassing, intimidating, beating up, and occasionally killing harmless people on behalf of a corrupt unelected clique promoting a false ideology. National humiliation is hard enough to bear. When it comes at the hands of a crude thug like Putin, it's doubly painful.
On the other hand, I can't muster much personal sympathy for Barack Obama — who, as our national figurehead, bears the brunt of the humiliation.
Here is a guy who was wafted up far above his level of competence on thermals of affirmative action; who spent his youth lolling around in Academia soaking up all the claptrap of 1970s college radicalism; who then spent his young adulthood in the company of anti-American agitators and white-hating black preachers; who, while his mother who raised him was dying of cancer, wrote an autobiography dedicated to the father who abandoned him in infancy; who was elected to the Presidency with no executive experience at all, a deeply undistinguished legislative career, and no knowledge of the private sector beyond a few months he described as being, quote, "behind enemy lines"; who has never said or written a memorable or interesting thing; whose signature legislative initiative is being described even by some of his own supporters as a slow-motion catastrophe. Here he is, this emptiest of empty suits; and seeing him with egg all over his face, it's hard even for a patriot not to smile.
To add insult to injury, Vladimir Putin wrote — or more probably, had someone write for him, but signed off on — an Op-Ed in the New York Times, making his own case in clear, confident prose, in the kind of diction you might use when explaining the facts of life to a twelve-year-old.
Putin's New York Times Op-Ed was published on Wednesday. On Tuesday evening Obama had made a televised speech in which he said, amongst other things, the following:
[Clip of Obama speech: "America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyind our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional."]
Putin jumped on that. Quote from his Op-Ed:
I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is "what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional." It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.
I grudgingly agree with that. Of course, every proud nation likes to see itself as exceptional, just as every proud person does. I have Russian friends; I've heard them say that Russia is exceptional. It's the Third Rome, they tell me. European civilization was contained within the Roman Empire for half a millennium. When Rome fell, the torch passed to Byzantium, and was kept burning there for a thousand years. When Constantinople fell, the torch passed to Russia because, if I remember the details correctly, a niece of the last Byzantine Emperor had married Tsar Ivan the Third.
Well, that's great. Let's all be exceptional. While each of us rejoices in his own exceptionality, though, let's remember that if we are to live in harmony with each other, there are rules to be followed. Personally, I think I am exceptional. There's nobody else quite like me. That doesn't give me the right to go barging into my neighbor's house with a shotgun if I see him mistreating his children, though. I should call the cops.
Just so with nations. If there's to be any harmony in the world, we have to follow agreed rules. Exceptionalism doesn't mean you can break the rules. If you take your exceptionalism in that sense, then yes, as Putin says, it's dangerous.
Well, the whole issue is now where it belonged in the first place, in the hands of diplomats and bureaucrats. Let's hope it stays there.
04 — What's wrong with poison gas? A thing you hear a lot when you get into conversations about the Syria business is, what's so special about poison gas? Is killing people with Sarin really any worse than killing them with bullets, or high explosives, or flame throwers? Why?
The case that it is worse is not, in my opinion, a very strong one, but it's so widely held it deserves some respect. It gained its force in World War One, when a great many young European men suffered gas poisoning — among them, let it be recalled, young Adolf Hitler. My own high school physics teacher died in 1963 from damage to his lungs caused by gas in the trenches 45 years earlier.
For English people the horror of gas warfare was captured by the war poet Wilfred Owen. He describes British soldiers shuffling back to a rest area behind the front line trenches. Then suddenly, quote from the poem:
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling
End quote. That bit of Latin at the end is from one of the Roman poets: "Sweet and fitting it is, to die for one's country."
Well, as I said, the common revulsion deserves some respect. If we drop it, that just makes it more likely our own troops will end up at the receiving end of a gas attack. War's cruel enough already.
Barack Obama's other argument was that if poison gas becomes accepted, terrorists will use it. That doesn't hold much water. Terrorists already have used it, in the Tokyo subway, against their own countrymen. There is some irreducible element of lunacy and danger in the world that we just have to accept.
If Barack Obama really wants to bring down the danger level for the U.S.A., he should take border control and visa monitoring much more seriously. That would do far more good than blustering about red lines and exceptionalism.
05 — Discomfort Down Under. Radio Derb has been following the Australian election campaign with interest, mainly because Tony Abbott's conservative coalition looked likely to upset Kevin Rudd's Labour Party, in power since 2007. Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have both been taking strong lines against illegal immigration into Australia, but Tony Abbott's line was stronger.
Well, sure enough, in last Saturday's vote Tony Abbott's conservatives won a clear victory, and Abbott will be the next Prime Minister. The question now is whether his tough talk on illegals will translate into action. In this area of policy, nothing can be taken for granted. Multicultural elites in the media and the Academy hate Australia's white Anglo-Saxon Christian character and want it diluted by mass immigration. Business elites meanwhile are hungry for cheap labor to undercut Australian workers. Sound familiar?
Whether Abbott will be able to hold the line against these mighty forces, we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, one thing Abbott definitely does need to do is brush up on his vocabulary skills. Here he was on the campaign trail in mid-August:
[Clip of Tony Abbott: "No-one, however smart, however well-educated, however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom."]
That of course made Abbott the butt of many jokes. Australians in general were embarrassed: Abbott's gaffe caused considerable discomfort Down Under. In China, which is Australia's main trading partner, newspapers explained the unfamiliar term to their readers by using a phrase from Chairman Mao's thoughts: "bullet for liberating masses." Italian newspapers meanwhile used the standard Italian translation of "suppository": innuendo.
Anyway, the bottom line here is that Tony Abbott survived the gaffe, and romped to victory in Saturday's election, leaving Kevin Rudd's Labor Party bringing … up the rear.
Further good election news came on Tuesday from Norway, where Siv Jensen's Progress Party and Erna Solberg's Conservative Party won enough seats in parliament between them to form a government. The Progress Party is almost as hostile to illegal immigration as Tony Abbott's coalition, so the tide may be turning in Scandinavia against mass demographic change.
Or possibly not: the government of Sweden announced on September 3rd that they will give asylum to all Syrians who apply. Since the population of Sweden is nine and a half million, while the U.N. estimates the number of Syrian refugees at close to two million, this is borderline insane. And please note that the Swedish government is currently controlled by the more conservative of Sweden's two main parties.
So mixed news there from Scandinavia, but good luck to them all. Good luck too to Tony Abbott and his conservatives in Australia. I'm sure Tony will do the right thing … in the end.
06 — New York's election menagerie. Still more election news, this from New York City, which someone once called "the capital of a country that doesn't exist."
New York has elections coming up in November for city Mayor, Comptroller (which is kind of Treasury Secretary), Public Advocate (i.e. Attorney General), and some lesser positions. This week we had the party primaries.
The interesting one was the Democratic primary for Mayor. We all know New York is crazy left-liberal; I believe the last Presidential candidate who took the city vote was Calvin Coolidge. This year's Democratic mayoral field was wacky even by New York standards, though.
The general level of wackiness was set by Anthony Weiner, famous for compulsively texting pictures of his package to females he barely knew. Weiner actually faded away as the campaign went on — or, as the city tabloids inevitably put it, his support petered out. Three front-runners emerged. There was quiet, unassuming African American Bill Thompson, beefy red-haired Irish-American lesbian Christine Quinn, and unusually tall German-Italian-American Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio's other distinguishing feature — other than his being very tall, I mean — is his wife Chirlane, who is very black and also, by her own proud confession, a former lesbian.
This is the point where I lose the thread, as I always do sooner or later when discussing these far-left types. Isn't it supposed to be heinous, just about the worst thing in the world, in fact, to cause a person to switch his or her sexual orientation? Aren't those counselling services that try to turn homosexuals straight denounced from all the pulpits of political correctness? So how did Bill de Blasio get away with this?
Don't ask me. The customs and beliefs of the far-left people are as alien to me as those of Siberian nomads. It's probably just that if you're far enough left, you can get away with anything. Pas d'ennemi à gauche is the operative phrase here: "No enemies to the left." If that had been Jeff Sessions luring Chirlane to the altar, they'd be burning him in effigy in every public square in San Francisco.
So anyway, there was very tall Bill de Blasio with his very black wife. They have two good-looking children, a boy 16 and a girl 18. The boy, who sports a huge 1970s-style afro, starred in several of de Blasio's TV commercials and has been widely declared to be one of his dad's principal assets in the primary race. I'm not sure why having a personable son with an interesting haircut should made a candidate more electable, but then, as I said, this is alien territory to me.
All three candidates — the black guy, the lesbian, and the very tall white guy married to a black former lesbian — promised to rein in the police, tax the rich, and do wonderful things for the kiddies. There were probably some fine points of difference between them, but that was the main thing I got from the news coverage.
Well, de Blasio won the Democratic primary, so he'll be the Democratic candidate in November's election. The Republican will be Joseph Lhota, an experienced public manager and former deputy Mayor under Rudy Giuliani. Lhota easily won his primary against a millionaire vanity candidate. Lhota's a sensible fellow and a good law-and-order man.
It'll be interesting to see who wins in November. As liberal as they are, New Yorkers haven't actually voted a real left-liberal into office as Mayor since David Dinkins in 1989. They voted Rudy Giuliani in in 1993 and 1997, then Michael Bloomberg in 2001, 2005, and 2009. Giuliani and Bloomberg, though you wouldn't exactly call either of them a rock-ribbed conservative, were both strong for law and order. But then, both were elected when that was the most salient issue: Giulani in the early 1990s crime wave, Bloomberg right after 9/11.
Now, after so many years of relative peace and order, perhaps New Yorkers will feel they can indulge their true liberalism again. Or perhaps that liberalism is really just a pose now, a veneer covering a hard core of practical self-interest. We shall see in November.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Commiserations to Janice Lokelani Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele of Honolulu, Hawaii. Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele's last name was too long for the state DMV, so the last letter was dropped on her driver's license, leaving her a truncated and unhappy Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunael, and her Christian names were not included at all. There just wasn't room.
This made things awkward at traffic stops, so Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele got around with her state ID card. When she renewed that card recently, though, Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele saw that her name was now shortened on that card too.
Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele may not have a valid driver's license or ID card, but she still has the race card, and has been playing it with vigor. Quote from her: "How disrespectful of the Hawaiian people! You see, to some people in the world, your name is everything. Unfortunately, many people have been shamed into hiding their real names because they don't fit in with the dominant culture's lack of respect for the name." End quote.
I wonder what other traditional features of her culture Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele would like the authorities to respect. Cannibalism, perhaps? Infanticide? Or that quaint thing where you pound the body of your enemy out flat with your war club, then cut a slit in the middle and wear him as a poncho?
Item: In the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, a chap named Javon Booker was shot dead August 29th while trying to rob a convenience store. A local group called Mothers of Murdered Offspring held an anti-violence vigil September 5th in protest at Mr. Booker's untimely demise.
The anti-violence vigil went along just fine until 10:30 p.m., when someone pulled a gun and began firing into the crowd. Four people were wounded. Police have not yet identified the shooter. Whether there will be an anti-violence vigil to protest the violence at the anti-violence vigil, I have no information.
Item: According to psychologist Paul Ekman there are just six primary emotions: sadness, anger, fear, joy, surprise, and disgust. Just to make sure that Radio Derb is touching all emotional bases, here is a story to excite your disgust. At any rate, if this doesn't, nothing will.
The story concerns a "fatberg." That's like an iceberg, but made out of kitchen grease and other household waste that accumulates in the sewers beneath big cities. A record-breaking fatberg weighing 15 tons has been discovered beneath the streets of London. It appears to be growing at the rate of three tons a month as householders pour used cooking oil down the sink. In size, it's comparable to a double-decker bus. The local water company is trying heroically to break up the fatberg, but so far with limited success.
Wait, it gets even more disgusting. These are sewers, remember, designed to handle rainwater, dishwater, human waste products, and toilet tissue. Well, Londoners are switching from regular toilet tissue to wet wipes, which don't disintegrate. They get consolidated with the grease and become part of the fatberg.
OK, that's disgust well and truly covered for a while. I promise you nothing but sadness, anger, fear, joy, and surprise in the remainder of our broadcast.
Item: This one comes under joy, more or less.
The United Nations, with extensive view, has surveyed the world, from China to Peru, and come up with a World Happiness Report. It doesn't contain a lot of surprises. Happiest countries, from the top: Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Austria, Iceland, Australia. Unhappiest, from the bottom: Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Guinea, Comoros, Syria, Senegal.
Well, the Swedes have made a start on solving all that unhappiness, transferring the unhappy people of Syria to new lives in Sweden. If the other countries at the top of the list would follow their example, the problem of unhappiness in the world will soon be solved. So let's get shipping all the Rwandans, Guineans, Senegalese, and so on into Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, etc. Multiculturalism, that's the solution!
I did notice one curiosity in the list: Mexico, at number 16, is happier than the United States at number 17. So … why have 30 million Mexicans moved to the U.S.A.? Perhaps they were the unhappy ones.
And having given some debating points to Vladimir Putin back there, where is Russia in the happiness league? Number 68, that's where, down below Albania and Nicaragua. I guess reading Dostoyevsky will do that to ya.
Item: Thirteen years ago William Lowell Putnam III, trustee of the Lowell astronomical observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, discovered a hitherto unknown asteroid which ever since has been known by the humdrum designation "2000 TM61." Mr. Putnam would like to have the asteroid renamed as "Trayvon Martin."
Explanatory quote from Mr. Putnam, quote: "As I see it, the social fairness showed to Trayvon Martin was very sadly lacking … Inasmuch as I am the sole trustee of an institution which has some naming privileges, I want to do my share to see that this lad is remembered in an appropriate manner." End quote.
Unfortunately the International Astronomical Union, which has the final say in these matters, and which is obviously a nest of heartless white supremacists, rejected Mr. Putnam's request.
Personally I'm fine with it, just so long as they name some other asteroid Nicole Brown Simpson.
Item: If, like me, you were around and sentient in the mid-1960s, you will remember Marianne Faithfull, the beautiful young pop singer who was Mick Jagger's main squeeze for a while.
Those were wild intoxicating times, as we shucked off bourgeois restraints and founded a new society of liberated sexuality to the raw uninhibited rhythms of rock music. "If it feels good, do it!" we urged each other through clouds of pot smoke.
Well, it turns out that for Marianne Faithfull, it didn't actually feel good. Ms. Faithfull has confessed to a British TV program that until her fifties, she hated sex, and could only tolerate it when fortified by drugs and alcohol.
Quote from her: "It was a big problem for me in the Sixties, especially as I had to pretend that everything was so wonderful, wild and sexual. But it really wasn't." End quote.
Something to remember there when reading history or contemplating great social upheavals. A lot of big names in those things are having the good time they appear to be having. A lot of others are just faking it.
Item: Finally: Justin Bieber has grown a mustache. Who among us will ever forget where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news?
08 — Signoff. OK, folks, that's your ration of sadness, anger, fear, joy, surprise, and disgust for this week.
Let's just pause for a moment to reflect that following his failure to secure the Democratic nomination in this week's Mayoral primaries, we may have heard the last of Anthony Weiner. That will be a grave loss to the makers of bad taste puns. All we can do is pin our hopes on more verbal gaffes from Tony Abbott down there in the Antipodes.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]