»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Monday, February 28th, 2005

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[Music clip: Soaring chords, orchestra and chorus.]

01 — Intro.     Greetings, listeners! Once again this is your National Review Online newscaster John Derbyshire with all the news that's fit to be heard, brought to you from the glittering towers of National Review world headquarters.

Before we start, please note that as per multiple requests, I have added an item to the list of things I must not do on Radio Derb. The item is: screaming. I promise you this broadcast will contain no screams, though I cannot guarantee it will be all together free of sighing, groaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Also, in response to many, many requests, I have amped down the beep that introduces each segment.

Okay. Well, let's see what's been happening.

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02 — Ward Churchill games the system.     If there are medals given out for gaming the system, University of Colorado Ethnic Studies professor Ward Churchill should gets the gold. This guy has taken the university suits for suckers in so many ways, I'm losing count.

He claimed to be an American Indian, but apparently he isn't. He claims to have served in the 101st airborne in Vietnam, but military records show he was a truck driver. His artwork, posted for sale on art gallery website for several hundred dollars, turns out to have been copied from a 1970s artist named Thomas Mails.

Now Churchill, who has tenure, has got himself lawyered up and is looking for a package settlement from the university, should they decide to fire him, which they're pretty much going to have to do.

Quote from his lawyer: "If they offer ten million dollars, I would think about it. If they offer ten dollars, I wouldn't."

So here's how it goes in the academy nowadays. You cook up a bogus résumé, assign yourself some politically-correct ancestry, rip off a few art ideas from an obscure painter, and apply for a post in some junk discipline like Ethnic Studies. Then, if someone calls your hand, you get a lawyer and retire on an eight-digit settlement funded by Joe Taxpayer.

Is this a great country or what?

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03 — Colin Powell out of the closet.     Powell breaks silence on rifts with Rumsfeld says a headline here in front of me.

Does saying out loud the kinds of things that for the past three years you have been leaking to Washington correspondents really count as "breaking silence"? That's one of those metaphysical conundrums you need a philosophy grad to sort out for you, like the thing about a tree falling in the forest.

Let's just be glad this empty suit is no longer Secretary of State.

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04 — The Uganda monologues.     A planned production of the feminist play The Vagina Monologues in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, had to be canceled after the Ugandan Media Council, which licenses public performances in that country, issued a ban.

Declared the Council's published ruling quote: "The play promotes illegal, unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution. It should be and is hereby banned." End quote.

Information Minister in Nsaba Buturo chimed in with the observation that the play, if performed, would corrupt public morals — a phrase not heard for many a long year here in the sophisticated West.

The Media Council did allow, though not perhaps in the most felicitous possible choice of words, that the production could go ahead if the organizers were to, quote, "expunge all the offending parts."

Ms Ensler, however, was unwilling to have any of her parts tampered with. She protested to that her play is in fact all about women's empowerment. Ugandan writer Catherine Kanabahita wondered if this was really so. Said she: "Are there penis monologues? No. Isn't this just another case of exploiting women's sexuality?"

Good Heavens, Mrs Kanabahita! Why would anyone think such a thing?

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05 — Bush does Europe.     President George W. Bush went off to Europe and we got lots of photographs of him schmoozing happily with European leaders — you know, those people who tell us how wicked it is to use force in international relations … Er, unless you are Communist China, stacking up the missile batteries on the shores of the Taiwan Strait, in which goes to the Europeans will be glad to supply you with all the hardware you need.

When I saw the picture of Jacques Chirac grinning and shaking Bush's hand, I thought of one of Malcolm Muggeridge's quips from the 1950s.

At that time, Britain had a Prime Minister named Harold Macmillan and Macmillan had a political rival named R.A. Butler. Macmillan would go off on some foreign jaunt, and when he arrived back at Heathrow airport, Butler was always there in the welcoming committee — eager, said Muggeridge, to be the first to step forward and grasp Macmillan warmly by the throat.

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06 — Hunter Thompson RIP.     Gonzo journalist and Dalai Lama lookalike Hunter Thompson shot himself at his Colorado home. He was later cremated, wearing a seersucker suit, a Tilley hat, and his reading glasses.

If you were around in the early 1970s and read any book at all, it was probably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Choice passages were a staple of conversation in that strange decade. My personal favorite was the author's advice about what to do when you're speeding on the highway and you see a patrol car coming up behind you: Go faster.

Well, de mortuis nil nisi bonum. I can't help wondering about Hunter Thompson, though.

When I have been drunk or stoned, I have always thought myself a very fine fellow, witty and brilliant; when in actual fact, seen from the outside, I was just being an incoherent bore. Years of observing colleagues, friends and relatives in states of inebriation suggest to me that this is a universal truth.

So was Thompson really an exception? Did all that brilliant writing we enjoyed so much really issue from a mind under the influence? Or was Thompson just putting us on, writing only when stone cold sober?

I'm not setting out to burst anybody's bubble here. I just can't help wondering.

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07 — No sex in Sweden.     You may feel pretty sure that you are a guy, or a gal, as the case may be, but guess what? It's just the way you were brought up that makes you think that.

This is not just somebody's opinion. It is the actual government policy of the Kingdom of Sweden. Here's the quote from Jens Orback, Sweden's Gender Equality Minister. Yep, you heard that right. Sweden's government has a Department of Gender Equality. Quote: "The government considers female and male as social constructions. That means gender patterns are created by upbringing, culture, economical conditions, power structures, and political ideology." End quote.

So what would happen in Sweden if you tried to publish a book arguing biology might have something to do with male female differences? Your book would never see the light of day, that's what.

In fact, the government of Norrbotten County has banned the publication of a book that contains an interview with neurobiologist Annica Dahlström, who argues just that. Says the Norrbotten censor quote: "Since our job is to execute Swedish government policy, we cannot stand behind a book that expresses these opinions." End Quote.

So count your blessings. Larry Summers. You may be getting hate mail from outraged feminists, but in the United States you can still at least say the obvious out loud. For a while longer, anyway.

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08 — The Oscars goody bags.     I'm recording these comments a few hours before the Oscar ceremony, which I shall probably skip, being allergic to glamor, noise, and showbiz self-congratulation.

It looks like being quite a bash though, with no expense spared. Did you know that every nominee will get a goody bag worth $50,000?

What's in the bag? A three-day surfing holiday in California, a voucher for laser eye surgery, two days at the Carlisle Hotel in New York, a toaster, a kettle, a pair of cashmir pajamas, and a set of mink eyelashes.

That's some goody bag. If you're actually presenting prizes, you get an even bigger goody bag containing, amongst other things, a vacuum cleaner.

Memo to Oscar presenters. Just mind you don't drop those mink eyelashes in the toaster or suck them up with the vacuum cleaner by mistake. These things are easily done when you're recovering from laser eye surgery.

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09 — End of history postponed.     Spreading democracy around the world is a bit like leveling wet concrete. If you have ever done this — which I guess if you are under fifty and not an illegal immigrant, you probably haven't — you know how it goes. You get the surface nice and level over here only to find that a bump has developed over there … and so on forever.

Well, this past few days, we have learned that Egypt is going to have constitutional reform. The country's President, Hosni Mubarak, has asked his parliament to change the country's constitution to allow multiple candidates in presidential polls. Previously, you see, they had elections, but there was only one guy you could vote for. This is great news.

Ah, but now check out Venezuela. That country's President, Hugo Chávez, recently declared himself a proud Fidelista; that is, an admirer of 120-year-old Cuban despot Fidel Castro.

Chávez is beefing up his army the old fashioned way by buying stuff from Russia. He's also switching from the United States to China as the main customer for his country's oil. And he's eliminating his domestic opposition.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela's next-door neighbor country, Colombia, the Marxist guerrillas called FARC heating up their insurgency, probably with Venezuelan support.

Are we ever going to get to a world of tidy, hedonistic, peace-loving, constitutional democracies — that end of history that Francis Fukuyama promised us fifteen years ago? Place your bets.

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10 — Signoff.     Well, that's all for now, folks. Tune in again next week for more penetrating insights from Radio Derb.

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[Music clip: Kings College choir, "Abide with Me."]