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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your eternally genial host John Derbyshire with our first broadcast of 2014.
Just looking ahead at the calendar of scheduled events, it doesn't look to be a sensational year. Geopolitically, the main event will be the elections to the European Parliament, held in all 28 EU member nations from May 22nd to 25th. That's when we find out just how fed up Europeans are with the neoliberal project to abolish national borders and turn national parliaments into branch offices of Goldman Sachs.
My guess will be: Fed up enough to give the globalist elites a mild case of nerves, but not fed up enough to actually derail the neoliberal project. The fatted, stuffed, pampered, texting, tweeting, twerking, entertained-to-distraction populations of the post-industrial era just don't produce enough revolutionaries. Why would they? Plenty of things are wrong, and we are storing up some mighty, and all too foreseeable, troubles for the future; but hey, nobody's starving. Revolution? With all the follies and stupidities, 2014 is way better than 1789, or 1848, or 1917. When the chickens we've been so busily hatching come home to roost, we may remember the other thing that lamp-posts are good for. Until then, we'll go on blithely tweeting and twerking. [Clip: Joe Dolce, "It's-a not so bad …"]
And let's remember what August 2014 will be the centenary of. My placing of the European elections as the geopolitical headliner of the coming months assumes of course that China doesn't go to war with Japan, Pakistan doesn't go to war with India, Kim Jong Un refrains from nuking the Phillipines, and the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil doesn't end with a war between the Brazilians and their almost equally soccer-crazy neighbors. Latin Americans are so excitable. And don't laugh, there actually has been at least one Soccer War: Honduras vs. El Salvador, 1969. Look it up.
Well, well, let's not try to second-guess the future, which will come upon us in its own time and manner. Let's see what's been happening this last two weeks.
02 — A small victory in the culture wars. Over there in the United States of Hysteria, the main news event — and trust me, I can barely believe I'm saying this — was a Two Minutes Hate campaign against the star of a reality TV show.
That would be Phil Robertson, patriarch of the über-redneck hillbilly clan about whom the show Duck Dynasty is based. Here I have to confess to being out of touch. Duck Dynasty isn't aired on any of the regular channels out here in the Aegean, and our satellite TV doesn't work since a stray goat chewed through the connecting wires, so I have never seen the show.
And that really does put me out of touch. According to the Nielsen ratings, Duck Dynasty is regularly up there in the top ten for cable shows, with as many as fourteen million viewers some weeks. That's comparable to a major sporting event. The Robertsons are literary celebrities, too: In 2013 four books listing Robertson family members as their authors — notice how precisely I phrased that — made the top ten on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.
So Mr. Robertson and his family are very big indeed in today's popular culture. Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. That's how things looked for a while there anyway, in the days before Christmas.
What happened was, in an interview for the January issue of GQ magazine, Mr. Robertson stated a personal preference for vaginas over male anuses as objects of male erotic desire, and opined that the contrary preference was sinful, like bestiality. He further unbosomed himself of the recollection that when growing up as white trash in the 1950s South, he had never seen black people being mistreated.
These comments naturally sent liberals weeping, swooning, and rending their garments nationwide. The Narrative — capital "N" — that is, the set of ideas we are all supposed to mouth agreement with on pain of social exclusion — the Narrative asserts that buggery is an entirely normal and healthy practice — is, if anything, superior to vaginal intercourse as it bears no taint of the patriarchal oppression of wopersons in times past.
The Narrative also says that sin, in the sense of behavior displeasing to a higher power, is an empty concept, belief in a higher power being absurdly reactionary, unless of course professed by a Muslim, in which case it is part of the rich tapestry of diversity that gives strength to our nation.
The Narrative further asserts that prior to the Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobbby, descending from the sky in golden chariots in 1961, blacks in the South lived lives of unbroken suffering and degradation, being dragged from their pitiful shacks at break of day for a routine flogging before being driven into the fields to labor till sundown under sneering white overseers.
So Mr. Robertson had contradicted the Narrative, and had to be cast out into the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth. The homosexualist lobby that calls itself GLAAD, G-L-A-A-D, in which neither of the letters "A" stands for "AIDS," "anus," or [beep], though one of them really should … GLAAD set to work to shut down the TV show by calling up the show's commercial sponsors and threatening to Name Names.
The A&E network obediently, on December 18th, suspended Phil Robertson from the show. Jesse Jackson, a little slow off the mark — perhaps he was busy preparing his tax returns — piled on December 23rd, emerging from his 12-bedroom gated mansion in one of his trademark $5,000-dollar suits to accuse Mr. Robertson of exercising, quote, "white privilege."
After that, however, things started to go wrong for the diversity enforcers. The show is about the entire family, remember, and the other family members stood with Phil. It further turned out that some large portion of the millions who watch Duck Dynasty are in broad agreement with the Robertson family's ethos.
Yes, incredible to say, millions of viewers do not watch Duck Dynasty in a spirit of irony, sniggering to each other at the Robertsons' beards, guns, and piety. They like the Robertsons, and share Phil's opinion about the appeal of different orifices. Who knew?
The network had to back down and reinstate Mr. Robertson. The GLAAD commissars ended up with egg on their faces — which, let it be said … No; on second thoughts, let it not be said. Anyway, Phil's back on the air, and the Cultural Marxists have endured a minor setback, for which let's give thanks.
As a footnote to this story, some uncharitable souls have pointed out that the redneck, backwoods image of themselves the Robertsons promote seems to be of recent vintage. In photographs of the family from a decade ago, they are clean-shaven yuppies in polo shirts and chinos.
Yeah, well, this is TV remember, a medium never best known for adherence to mere facts. When the phrase "reality TV" first came up, it looked to many of us like an oxymoron. The words "reality" and "TV" don't belong together in the same paragraph, let alone the same phrase.
Ah, well, let's take our small victories where we can find them. GLAAD has suffered a reverse, as it were; the A&E suits are eating crow, and the Cultural Marxist Narrative has once again, to borrow a phrase from Stalin, failed to penetrate the backward parts of the proletariat.
03 — Golliwog news. I promised to keep the golliwog thread alive as best I could, at least until I can get my new marketing venture off the ground — a website named Golliwogs-R-Us.com, where fans of these cuddly stuffed toys can purchase golliwogs from a whole range of sizes and textures.
In keeping with that promise, here's a golliwog story from Shakespeare's island.
This story comes from the town of Brighton, on England's south coast. Brighton is a pleasant bourgeois seaside town, one hour on the train from London. When I was a youngster in England, the town's name was synonymous with adultery. It was where a middle-class London man went for a weekend with his mistress, telling the wife it was a business conference. Possibly I'm out of date on that. At any rate, there is no adultery in this story.
What there is, is another item in the long dreary catalog of stories about public money and the paid time of public officials being squandered extravagantly in the investigation of racism, the extirpation of which is so much more important than lighting the streets, keeping the parks clean, stocking the libraries, and apprehending petty criminals.
The racist here is a 72-year-old lady named Dawn Barnett, an elected member of Brighton's town council. In August this year, following complaints that a store in the town was selling golliwog place mats, Ms. Barnett said that the complaints were, quote, "political correctness gone too far, and that golliwogs are, quote, "nostalgic, not racist."
When the horrified shrieking died down and no more outraged citizens were immolating themselves on the town hall steps, the town council launched an investigation. After weeks of deliberation and evidence-gathering, the council held a five-and-a-half-hour closed-door hearing December 19th, emerging at last, blinking into the light, to announce that Ms. Barnett was not guilty of, quote, "failing to treat others with respect and breaching the Equalities Act." Just to be on the safe side, however, they also announced that all town councillors will undergo diversity training in the future.
Brighton has a population of 156,000.
A footnote here, for listeners who didn't follow my advice to buy a golliwog for a loved one this past Christmas: There are plenty of golliwogs available on eBay, and many online outlets selling these lovely toys. You may be too late for Christmas, but Chinese New Year is coming up January 31st, Easter on April 20th, Eid el-Fitr July 28th, and Yom Kippur October 4th.
04 — Keep smiling, comrades. Here's a story from China. You need to know that in a communist country, there is no bad news. Everyone is smiling, well-fed and well-clothed, marching forward into the radiant future under the wise guidance of the Party. In the old U.S.S.R., the ballet Swan Lake. which ends with the Prince and his sweetheart leaping into the lake together, had its ending changed to something more upbeat, so the audience wouldn't leave the theater depressed. That's the commie mentality.
You can argue about the degree to which China is still a communist country in that classical sense, but plainly the mentality lingers on. That's what this story is about.
China is terribly afflicted with air pollution. To give you some data here: There are certain tiny particles that are especially damaging to the lungs if breathed. The United Nations says that any concentration of these particles above 25 micrograms per cubic metre is unsafe to breathe. Twenty-five: hold that number in your mind.
Well, in October this year the Northern industrial city of Harbin registered a level over a thousand for these particles. Even Shanghai, which is by the sea — in fact "Shanghai" means "by the sea" — got up to a reading of 602 for several days last month. This is seriously polluted air.
That's the background. Here's the story.
The ChiComs obviously don't want their citizens to be unhappy about these horrendous levels of air pollution, so they decided to put a happy spin on the subject. You might think that's a tough thing to do, but the Chinese, let me tell you, are a very ingenious people.
So on December 9th China Central Television, the Communist Party's main media outlet, featured a report with the title "Five Surprising Benefits From China's Haze." The report described five good things about the air pollution. In summary:
In fairness to the Chinese people, I should point out that the report was heavily ridiculed on the internet over there, and CCTV eventually scrubbed the transcript from their own website.
Which you might argue is a pity. You know the old saying: When life delivers you lemons, make lemonade. Aren't the ChiComs just extending that principle into the sociopolitical sphere? And doesn't every cloud have a silver lining, even a cloud of smog with forty times the danger level of lung-destroying particles in it? Of course it does. Come on, sing along with Brian: [Clip: "Always look on the bright side of life …"]
05 — Leftist triumphalism at its worst. January 1st saw the swearing-in ceremony of Bill de Blasio, the new Mayor of New York City. It was a shameful and disgusting spectacle.
I've never been a big fan of Michael Bloomberg, the outgoing Mayor. His manner grates on me like a fingernail down a chalkboard; as does his whiny nasal voice, which forms every third sentence to begin with: "Let's get real …" His famous Nanny State campaigns against smoking, transfats, soda, and the rest offend my very strong desire to be left the hell alone by politicians while they get on with seeing that the laws are enforced and the public finances kept sound.
Worst of all, Bloomberg is the worst kind of immigration romantic, the kind that gives you the rather strong impression he doesn't like Americans, and that he thinks the nation's work would all be done much better if they could somehow be gotten rid of and replaced by eager, industrious, grateful foreigners.
Here he was for example addressing Arlen Specter and some other open-borders lunatics in July 2006, as reported by Newsday, quote:
He spoke of the importance of immigrants to the city's vitality, and even urged the senators to expand the number of visas for temporary workers to fill jobs requiring both "elbow grease" and "intellectual capital."
End quote. See, you just can't find Americans with elbow grease and intellectual capital. Americans are, in fact, no use at all, according to Bloomberg.
Well, that's Bloomberg. Even if you dislike the guy as much as I do, though, you have to admit he did some good things. Most notably, he continued Rudy Giuliani's law-enforcement policies, bringing crime and incarceration down to quite sensationally low levels. The homicide rate is running at three per hundred thousand, lower than the national average of 4.7. Incarcerations are down 36 percent on Bloomberg's watch.
Further, remember that Bloomberg came in just a few weeks after 9/11, when the city was traumatized and the downtown area was a scene of rubble and dust. I was downtown over the recent holiday, as it happens, visiting friends in Battery Park City, and it's thriving down there — smart new buildings, schools, playgrounds … That's been a great recovery.
So for all the Nanny State nonsense and for all the barely-concealed contempt for his own fellow countrymen, I'll cut Bloomberg some slack.
That's more than the incoming de Blasio administration was willing to do on Wednesday. Speaker after speaker stood up at the inauguration ceremony to speak with snarling ill will about the state of the city and Bloomberg's legacy. One of them, the chaplain of the city Sanitation Department, called New York a, quote, "plantation." Another, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, promised the audience a future that, quote, "puts shared prosperity above individual success," end quote. Down with individual success, I guess. Harry Belafonte called the city's justice system, quote, "Dickensian," apparently not having noticed that big drop in incarcerations.
It was leftist triumphalism at its worst, seasoned with lavish helpings of racial resentment. The keynote was "equality." The poster child was a little girl named Dasani Coates, star of a feature the New York Times has been running about homelessness. Dasani lives in a homeless shelter with her parents and seven siblings. De Blasio's Public Advocate, Letitia James, brought Dasani along as a guest at the inauguration, and everybody made a fuss of her.
Yes, it surely is unequal to live in a mouse-infested homeless shelter when a few blocks away there are million-dollar apartments. As my friend Kay Hymowitz noted in City Journal, though, the reasons for little Dasani's poverty are not terribly hard to figure out. Her parents are both drug addicts; her mother's never held a job, and peed away a $49,000 inheritance on booze and drugs. And then there are the eight kids … How, exactly, is Bill de Blasio going to make these irresponsible moochers "equal" to the hard-working yuppies in the nice apartments? He didn't tell us.
And in fact de Blasio isn't the candidate of the feckless poor like Dasani's parents, because they don't vote. Not many New Yorkers do: Turnout at the Mayoral election was 22 percent, of which de Blasio got 73 percent. So he's the mayor of 16 percent of the people.
Who are those 16 percent, and what do they want from him? Well, most of them are unionized city employees looking to hold on to their iron rice bowls and extravagant health and pension benefits. De Blasio better attend to them and their needs. That's where his votes are; that's where his campaign funds come from. The hell with homeless kids, although they do make nice props at an inauguration ceremony.
06 — Globalization winners and losers. Just a follow-up there, to allow myself to backtrack ever so slightly.
Bill de Blasio is a leftist nitwit whose mayoralty will be a one-term failure, in fact possibly a catastrophe. You can take that to the bank. Still, some things are true even though the Party says they are true, and there actually is an issue of inequality in the advanced economies. It's nothing to do with the things de Blasio waxes indignant about — unemployable drug addicts having eight kids they can't support, street felons being hindered in the pursuit of their felonies by aggressive policing — but it's a real issue none the less, and one you'll be hearing much more about in coming years.
The economics blogs have been all a-buzz over a report on globalization issued by the Financial Times just before Christmas, title "Capitalism: In search of balance". It's good quantitative analysis, with links to graphs and tables.
The bottom line is, that global inequality is decreasing, but inequality in the advanced nations is increasing; and the same forces are making both things happen.
To put it slightly differently: Who are the winners, who are the losers from globalization? Answer: The winners are poor people in the smart Third World — India, China, some of Latin America — and rich people in rich countries. The losers are poor people in the dumb Third World, mainly sub-Saharan Africa, and the middle and working classes in rich countries.
Two groups in the world did well between 1988 and 2008, achieving the highest real increases in their income.
End quote. Well, it's not news. We all know the middle class is cratering. The welfare state caters to the Western poor; global capitalism caters to the Western rich; there isn't anything that caters to the middle-class worker bee, however hard he works, however many hours he puts in, however hard he tries to put away some savings.
It'll get worse, probably at an accelerating rate as the rising waters of machine intelligence inundate more and more middle-class job categories. Our policy-makers ought to be thinking really hard about this, but none of them are. The case for immigration restriction is right there, for example, but hardly anyone in power acknowledges it. Free trade policies are in question, too.
I used to scoff at people grumbling about inequality. "What does it matter if some people have too much," I would say, "so long as everybody has enough?" I don't say that any more. At some point the working and middle classes will get fed up with being the goat carcass in this game of buzkashi. What happens then may not be nice.
07 — Global Warmers stuck in ice. The story of the Akademik Shokalskiy has a nicely ironic flavor to it.
Akademik Shokalskiy is the name of a ship, a Russian ship. A team of Australian climate scientists set off on this ship in the direction of Antarctica, which they said was losing its ice at an alarming rate because of global warming. Their mission was to raise awareness.
Just before Christmas Akademik Shokalskiy steamed into Antarctica's Commonwealth Bay, where sure enough there was no sea ice at all. You can imagine the climatologists on board chortling: "See — we told you so!
Unfortunately on Christmas Eve a terrific blizzard came down. When at last it lifted, the Akademik Shokalskiy was stuck firm in thick ice. Attempts to free the ship were unsuccessful, and this Wednesday and Thursday the researchers and ship's crew were evacuated by helicopter.
This, please note, is the Antarctic summer, when ice is supposed to be melting.
The irony is nice, but I wouldn't set too much store by it. I've tried to avoid commenting on the Global Warming business. For one thing, a huge and intrinsically chaotic physical system like the Earth's climate is awfully hard to predict. For another, there are too many interested parties quietly stuffing money into the pockets of propagandists on both sides: "green" industry boosters and environmental ideologues for the affirmers, oil and gas companies for the deniers.
And then, events like this Akademik Shokalskiy affair are perfectly compatible with any climate model. You can hike all day, up hills and down dales; and at the end of the day you may end up a thousand feet higher, or a thousand feet lower than when you started. At the end of this century we could be warmer overall, or cooler overall, than when we started, but with a lot of ups and downs along the way.
For the record, as best I can read the data, there probably is long-term warming going on, though whether it's caused by human activity I don't believe has been dispositively established. Now, will someone please come and stuff some money in my pockets? Anyone? Please? …
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Science news of the week, from the Discover magazine blog: You know how when your dog is setting up to do Number Two, he checks out the ground carefully, turns himself round a few times, and makes some slight adjustments in his position before pulling the trigger? Ever wondered what that's all about?
Well, the boffins have found out. Your pooch is lining himself up with the Earth's magnetic field.
No kidding. This is an actual paper in a journal titled Frontiers in Zoology, issue dated December 27th. Twelve researchers — twelve — have their names on the paper. They spent two years gathering data on 70 dogs of 37 different breeds, a total of 1,893 dumps. Quote:
Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm MF conditions.
End quote. There's another dog mystery solved. There can't be many left. Every schoolboy of course knows the classic answer to the question: "Why does a dog lick its genitals?" Answer: "Because it can." I wonder if they have to line up with the magnetic field to do that?
Item: In our September 14th broadcast last year we alerted listeners to the sad story of Ms. Janice Lokelani Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele of Honolulu, Hawaii, whose name was too long to fit on her driver's license.
Well, when Radio Derb speaks, the world acts. No doubt in response to our broadcast, the Hawaii DMV overhauled their documentation procedures. At the time of Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele's complaint, Hawaii driver's licenses and ID cards only had room for names totaling up to 35 characters. Now they can accommodate 40 characters for last names, 40 for first names and 35 for middle names.
Some people just live to make nuisances of themselves to the rest of us. Plainly Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele is a couple of blossoms short of a lei, but like every other nuisance, she has strained logic to hit you over the head with. She took the name Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele from her husband, Mister Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele. Then Mr. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele died, and she wants to keep the name out of respect to his memory, and very likely also, if you ask me, out of ethnomasochistic loathing of her own maiden name, which was something like Smith.
So the lady's a widow, see? It's a pity her husband wasn't the captain of a steamship company on the Danube. Then she'd be a Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänswitwe, and we'd be able to refer to her in proper German fashion, by title and name, as Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänswitwe Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele. She could retire to that little town in Wales named Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and force anyone that wanted to send her a Christmas card to buy extra-large envelopes. Sorry, I'm rambling.
Item: Just one more from the science news here. Scientist have learned that you can't cook french fries in space. Apparently to get deep-fried potatoes of a decent texture, you need convection currents in the cooking oil, and that doesn't happen in zero gravity. Presumably the same thing applies to deep-fried twinkies, so Paula Deen can cancel that booking for the International Space Station.
The name of the lead researcher here, by the way, is Theodoris Karapantsios. Yes, this research was conducted in … Greece. [Groans.]
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents, as time's wingéd chariot drags us forward through the dust into another year.
This will be the year Radio Derb celebrates a decade on the air, May 27th. I have my research assistants Mandy, Candy, and Brandy toiling away to prepare transcripts of all our broadcasts in time for the anniversary date; but somehow this work doesn't seem to have as strong an appeal as beach volleyball, so we may not make the deadline. The girls wish you a happy New Year anyway — girls? ["Happy new Year!"] And I'll just append to that a special shout-out to Charlie in Long Island, who was kind enough to recognize me in the Syosset Stop'n'Shop during my stateside visit over the holiday. Happy New Year, Charlie!
Here's Peter Dawson. More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Peter Dawson, "Auld Lang Syne."]