»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]

01 — Intro.     Greetings ladies and gentleman. That was one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches and this is John Derbyshire bringing you Radio Derb after a sombre week for the United States.

This broadcast will be mostly Katrina-oriented, of course, as it should be. I'll mention a couple of other topics down at the end.

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02 — Things we would rather not think about.     For a nation as for an individual, it is at times of crisis and great stress that we find out about ourselves. These are times when the little facades we erect to make life bearable fall away for a while; times when we momentarily forget the words to the little cheer-up songs we sing to ourselves, the little lies we comfort ourselves with when the stress isn't there to wrench them away.

So it was this past week. All sorts of things we would much rather not think about, and which no doubt we will soon once again be busy not thinking about, come crashing through the surface: the uselessness, waste, and incompetence that are routine in our government at every level, from the municipal to the national; the vast cold indifference of nature; and, perhaps above all most discomforting of all for us middle-class Americans, the huge hopeless and solid mass of our poor black fellow citizens shuffling despairingly across our screens last week — those Americans whom no one really gives a damn about and nobody really has a clue how to lift up.

We have long since made a collective decision to deal with this issue by sweeping it under the carpet. Well, old Katrina just blew aside that carpet.

Can we get it back in place real quick, please? We none of us — liberal or conservative or moderate — want to think about this.

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03 — Katrina: the first failure.     Okay, let's see.

We are conservatives. We believe in the Principle of Subsidiarity. We believe, in other words, that the higher level of government should not do the things that a lower level can handle.

Maintaining local flood control dykes, planning for local disasters; that is stuff that the states and municipalities ought to be able to cope with, at any rate, at a first-response level. If they can't cope and things get out of hand, a call to the feds is appropriate.

That liberals are dumping on George W. Bush isn't at all surprising. Conservatives should practice a little restraint, on federalist grounds. Whatever W did or didn't do, whatever foul-ups you might be able to pin on FEMA and DHS, the first and most glaring failure here was a failure of state and municipal government.

And boy, what a failure! If you can take your eyes away from Washington D.C. for a moment, check out your own city and your own state. How would they perform in a major crisis?

America was built on self-government and local self-reliance. How are those ideals holding up? Not too well, to judge from Katrina Week.

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04 — Katrina looting: "Cops got all the best stuff."     Among the minor casualties of last week will surely be reporter Martin Savage of NBC News. He's the guy who brought us that clip of two New Orleans police officers helping themselves to shoes and clothing at a Walmart store.

You've heard about shooting the messenger, right? Heck, shootings too good for a messenger like that. Savage's career is toast.

Along with this, although it didn't come from Savage's clip, is one of the best quotes so far from a New Orleans resident. Quote:"The police got all the best stuff. They're crookeder than us."

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05 — Louisiana corruption (1).     I had a vague idea that New Orleans was a pretty corrupt city, but it seems I didn't know the half of it. And the strangest thing is, New Orleans people seem to like it that way.

Josh Levin did a report in Slate.com about the city's mayor, Ray Nagin. Nagin came in as a reformer, promising to do something about the corruption. In one of his cleanup drives he had one of his own cousins arrested in connection with bribes in awarding taxi licenses.

This, says Levin, was seen by New Orleans voters as disloyal to a family member, and Nagin's poll numbers dropped.

I mean, I'm all for family values, but that's ridiculous.

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06 — Louisiana corruption (2).     A great quote here from columnist Errol Louis at the New York Daily News.

Errol runs through the simply awful statistics about corruption in Louisiana, including this one, quote: "Adjusted for population size, the state ranks third in the number of elected officials convicted of crimes. Mississippi is Number One. Recent scandals include the conviction of fourteen state judges and an FBI raid on the business and personal files of a Louisiana Congressman." End Quote.

That's not the money quote. Here's the money quote.

Errol winds up his column with this beauty, quote: "Ten billion dollars are about to pass into the sticky hands of politicians in the Number One and Number Three most corrupt states in America. Worried about looting? You ain't seen nothing yet."

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07 — The Katrina discount.     Things this big don't happen without a few linguistic innovations coming in.

One of my favorite so far has been the term apparently current in the disaster area for something that you have acquired by looting. Folk say: "It came with the Katrina discount." That's a discount of a hundred percent, see?

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08 — Katrina horror stories.     You've heard the horror stories about the New Orleans Superdome: rape and murder, gang fighting, tourists preyed on, etc.

Let me tell you something about journalism. A lot of the consumers of journalism are eager to believe the worst and are fascinated by grisly horror stories. And guess what? Journalists know this and play up to it; so take those stories with a grain of salt.

Here is Major Ed Bush, Press Officer for the Louisiana National Guard, talking about the situation in the Superdome. Quote: "People have been surprisingly well behaved."

What? Well, just for once, the truth really is in the middle there somewhere. The reports of tourists being threatened and fearing for their lives sound pretty plausible as I've read and seen them. The rapes and murders and corpses stuffed in trash cans, I'll suspend judgment on until we get some evidence.

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09 — Rehnquist passes; Scalia comments.     The other major news item of the day is the death of SCOTUS Chief Justice William Rehnquist. You'll be hearing a lot of SCOTUS talk the next few days, along with the Katrina talk. Here to start you off is a quote I picked up last week from Antonin Scalia.

Scalia was speaking at Chapman University in California and delivered a fine rant against the "living Constitution" concept. Here's the quote, which all you conservatives should have printed up on a little card to glance at now and then while watching the confirmation hearings.

Scalia: "Now the Senate is looking for moderate judges, mainstream judges. What in the world is a moderate interpretation of a Constitutional text? Halfway between what it says and what we'd like it to say?"

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10 — Signoff.     That's it for now, folks. A bad week for the U.S.A., and in my opinion, a very, very bad week politically for George W Bush.

We're going to be thinking about ourselves a lot for awhile: about America, our home. As we do so, the effort to straighten out the affairs of a fifth-rate sinkhole Arab despotism is going to seem less and less relevant to anybody.

Whatever case W can make, he'd better start making it, making it real good; or we'll be looking at a Democrat administration in 2008. Which God forbid!

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[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]