»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, May 4th, 2007

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

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! That was one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, written for the Derbyshire Regiment, and this is your host John Derbyshire with your weekly round-up of news from far and wide, courtesy of National Review Online.

Here we go.

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02 — GOP '08 candidates on parade.     The ten declared candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination had a debate, or any rate they had a Q&A with Chris Matthews.

It beats me how Matthews got that job. The guy on Saturday Night Live who does the Chris Matthews spoof isn't half as unnerving to watch as Matthews himself.

Still, there he was. And there they were: big swinging you-know-whats McCain, Giuliani, and Romney, and hopefuls Tommy Thompson — not to be confused with Fred — Tancredo, Hunter, Paul, Huckabee, Brownback, and Gilmore.

Nobody really screwed up here and nobody really shone. That doesn't leave things unchanged, though, because one of the big swingers, Rudy Giuliani, really needed to shine here; and his not shining knocked a couple more chips off his credibility.

All seven of the hopefuls needed to shine, of course; so none of them having done so leaves us still with a big three, a little seven, and a lurking three undeclared: Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, and Chuck Hagel.

To be continued.

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03 — Benchmarks for Iraq.     Here's a word you'll be hearing a lot the next few days: "benchmarks."

Benchmarks. You see, the Congress and the President are through with their little ritual dance around continued funding of the Iraq war. Congress passed a bill with a withdrawal schedule attached. They knew the President would veto it, and congressional Democrats knew they didn't have enough votes to override the veto, so this was gesture politics.

But what now? Since (a) the war has to be either funded by Congress or not funded by Congress and (b) congressional Demo-rats don't have the cojones to not fund it, something has to be worked out.

What they are looking at is a kinder'n'gentler version of the previous bill. "Okay: We won't set a timetable for withdrawal. Instead, we'll attach some conditions on things the Iraq government must do — recruit more Iraqi troops, work out a revenue-sharing deal on the country's oil, …" that sort of thing.

Those conditions are going to be called "benchmarks," and that's the word you'll be hearing. This might fly as enough Republicans may sign on to a bill with benchmarks to make it veto-proof.

It makes the members of the Iraqi government look like pathetic stooges, of course, to be telling them: "Oh, we'll go on fighting your terrorists for you, but only if you'll do this and this and this …"

But then, if you think congressional Democrats give a fig about how the Iraqi government appears to its own people, you haven't been paying attention.

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04 — Politicians are stupid, but not unteachable.     The May 1st rallies in support of illegal immigrants were a fizzle.

Last year they were a tremendous event with hundreds of thousands turning out in cities all over the country: 650,000 in Los Angeles. The number in Los Angeles this year: 35,000. And so it went all over the country. In New York City less than a thousand illegals and their supporters showed up.

The other big difference from last year was that there wasn't a politician in sight. Last year big-name politicians turned up to speak to the massed throngs of scofflaws — big names like Hillary Clinton and Teddy Kennedy. This year, nada.

Politicians are stupid, but they can learn. Our job, gentle listener, is to teach them.

Let's say you're Hillary Clinton, a person who never gave a moment's thought in her life to immigration issues. A quarter million illegal immigrants show up on the streets of your city waving Mexican flags and chanting slogans in Spanish. You think to yourself: Hey, colorful ethnic minority with grievance against Uncle Sam? Hispanic vote key to winning elections? Hoo, I gotta go and give them a speech.

So you do. And then you go back to HQ. You read your emails; you talk to the guys who take incoming phone calls from your constituents; You read your mail. Uh-oh.

Next time there's a big rally of illegal immigrants scheduled you make sure you have another more important engagement. You know, addressing the Artichoke Growers Association upstate, perhaps. Anything, really.

Like I said: They're stupid but they're not unteachable.

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05 — The two faces of Barack Obama.     Barack Obama had a Bill Cosby moment: haranguing black Americans about the need to look to the problems in their own communities, to marry the mothers of their children, to not be afraid to "act white" in school, and so on.

Everybody knew that this was some kind of strategy play, but for what? Was it a play for the white vote on the assumption, which is probably true, that white people love to hear black politicians tell their own people to shape up? Or was it a play for the Church Ladies and the older generation in black America who vote much more than the younger? Or what?

Well, whatever it was, the man is talking out of both sides of his mouth. In the L.A. Times, April 30th, there was a report of Obama addressing a church audience in south-central L.A. Was he doing the Bill Cosby thing: telling them to pull their socks up, keep their kids in school, stay married, and all the rest of it? Eh … not exactly.

What he was saying was that Uncle Sam — which means you and me, fellow tax-paying citizens — should shovel more money into the urban ghettos. Quote:

We have now spent half a trillion dollars on a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. We could have invested that money in south-central Los Angeles or the south side of Chicago, in jobs and infrastructure and hospitals and schools. Why is it we can find the money in a second for a war that doesn't make any sense?

End quote.

Now setting aside the issue of spending money on the Iraq war, who is the "we" in those sentences? Who is the "we" who could have, quote, "invested" all that money in the Los Angeles slums? Why should we think it would make any difference?

Invest money in schools? Okay: In Kansas City they — I guess I should say "we" — rebuilt the entire school system from scratch under the order of a federal judge, with huge investments in school buildings and computer equipment, sports equipment, overhead projectors, the works. It made no discernible difference.

How many trillions of dollars have we spent since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs in trying to alleviate urban poverty? And what has the effect of it all been? Does anyone remember the TV coverage of Hurricane Katrina? Well, no — I know we're not supposed to.

I think I liked Obama's other idea better. Instead of asking the rest of us to dump yet more public money into the ghettos, let the people who live there do more for themselves.

I liked that Barack Obama better than the one who wants to take all that money from the military and, um, "invest" it in, um, "infrastructure."

I definitely liked that Obama better … but that was only a strategy.

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06 — The Made in China peril.     I was in a hotel room early this morning about to take a shower. Yes, listener: I was naked. Just switch off your imagination for a minute here.

Well, there I was in the bathroom of my suite at the hotel Washington. I picked up the little ellipsoid of soap that they provided. It was cling-wrapped and I turned it over and over looking for some kind of pull tag to, to peel off the cling wrap. Suddenly I saw the label: Made in China.

Aaaargh! I nearly dropped the damn thing. Does Made in China mean that it contains some horrid chemical that will turn my skin blue, or give me psoriasis, or something?

That's how suspicious I'm getting — and you're getting — about Made in China stuff after this pet food scare.

And it's not just that, either, not in my case. I have memories.

I have memories, for example, of standing in line for a chest X-ray at the hospital in a Chinese town. The X-ray technician didn't do any of that dodging outside the room to throw the switch, the way radiologists do here stateside. He just sat there all his working day staring at a screen on the other side of which was my chest, and on the other side of that, an X-ray machine blasting X-rays through my chest and then through the screen and through him.

I bet that technician glowed in the dark.

The phrase "adverse health effects" hasn't really caught on in China yet: not in X-ray departments, not in pet-food preparation, not in … Well, use your imagination. Not in the manufacturer of bathroom soap, perhaps.

Well, my skin hasn't sloughed off yet, so maybe it's not all bad news from China.

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07 — The Latino corporate shakedown.     Just cast your mind back a couple of weeks, gentle listener, when I drew your attention to this PBS documentary film about World War Two, the work of filmmaker Ken Burns.

Latino activists were running a campaign against the movie — and against PBS, and against Ken Burns — because the movie doesn't show any Latinos.

To add insult to injury, the movie is to appear on PBS this coming September — which is, as I'm sure I don't need to tell you, Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Ken Burns movie, which runs about fourteen hours, took the approach of going to just four small American towns and getting the townspeople to tell their World War Two stories. Well, here are these Latino activists complaining that none of the veterans in the show are Latinos.

So what? The filmmaker can't tell the story he wants to tell, the way he wants to tell it? Are there any Irish Americans in this Ken Burns movie? Any Italian Americans? Any Polish, Hungarian, Finnish, Armenian, or Iroquois Americans? Why should anybody care?

Aren't we all, you know, Americans? Do Joe Rodriguez and Maria Gonzalez really feel so un-American that they can't identify with the Americans in these movies? If they do, then in what sense are they really Americans at all?

Why does a movie-maker find himself being harassed by these professional race hustlers, these peddlers of hyphens, these sowers of discord?

The nuisance-in-chief here is a chap named Manuel Mirabal, chairman of an outfit that names itself the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility. Mr Mirabal has asked General Motors and Anheuser-Busch, the main sponsors of Ken Burns' film, to withdrawal their sponsorship.

I hope these corporations will tell Mr Mirabal to go to Hell. If they don't then I, for one, won't be buying any more Chevies or Budweisers.

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08 — The Queen comes visiting.     The Queen of England is coming for a visit to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown in Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America.

Ah, the dear old Queen. All right, I'm an American now, and I was never much of a monarchist anyway. Constitutional monarchy is a workable system though, and it's still going strong in a lot of places: Japan, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and a few others.

It's hard to see how anyone could be a better constitutional monarch than Betty Windsor. Now eighty-one years old, she got her education in politics from three years of weekly seminars with her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Since then she's had weekly chats with nine more Prime Ministers and she has seen ten U.S. Presidents come and go. She's a smart lady and she takes her duties very seriously.

Her coronation was the first public event that I can remember. We had a street party. Every child got a special coronation mug — my sister still has hers — and we got some other stuff, too.

We heard about the whole ceremony being shown on TV, though since nobody in our street had a TV, this was a bit academic.

Someone bought me a book of pictures that you could cut out and stand up to make a complete coronation procession: all the different uniformed services, all the coaches, the foreign dignitaries, everything. The complete display went all the way around the living room.

I've felt fondly about Betty ever since. It's true she doesn't really excel in the charm or the public-relations departments, but then she doesn't really have to. She's the Queen of England, for Heaven's sake.

Anyway, she's better than some of her predecessors. The King James that Jamestown was named after, for example, was not a very attractive character. People didn't wash much back in 1607, and King James was a very hairy man; so he had all his clothes made a couple of sizes too big so that he could scratch himself more conveniently. He was also gay — not that there's anything wrong with that, of course!

Of course Betty is straight as an arrow; and she would eat the Crown Jewels rather than be seen scratching herself in public.

Well, God save Her!

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09 — The fragile freedom of the Baltic States.     I know, I know, I'm a chronic pessimist; but good things do happen in the world, and one of the best things that's happened in my lifetime has been the liberation of the Baltic states from Soviet rule.

These three countries — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — were part of the Russian empire until the 1917 revolution, when they broke free. Their freedom lasted until World War Two when they were first invaded and raped by Hitler, then invaded and raped by Stalin, and then incorporated — those of them that were still alive — into the Soviet Worker's Paradise.

Patriotic Russians believe in their hearts that these three countries are historically parts of Russia, the same way that patriotic Chinese believe that Tibet is historically part of China. The Baltic peoples, like the Tibetans, strongly disagree, and would much prefer to govern themselves. After the Soviet Union collapsed, they got the chance and they've been thriving in independence ever since.

If you had told me in, say, 1970, or even in 1980, if you had told me that I would live to see independent Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, I would have laughed at you. Well, there they are.

The Russians haven't given up on the imperial dream, though. Recently the Estonians took down a war memorial to the Russian soldiers who had taken Estonia out of the Nazi frying-pan into the Soviet fire. Russia reacted ferociously to this with mass demonstrations — almost certainly state-sponsored, and in any case most certainly not restrained by Vladimir Putin's police — mass demonstrations attacking the Estonian embassy in Moscow.

Estonia is a member of the European Union and they have appealed to the EU for support. Well, lots of luck with that, guys. As a previous Russian leader would have said: "How many divisions has the EU got?"

But good luck to the Estonians anyway, and long may these small, brave nations keep the Bear at bay.

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10 — Miscellany.     Okay, let's see. Not much else here …

[Item]:  Ex-Governor of New Jersey Jim "My truth is that I am a gay American" McGreevey has entered a seminary with a view to taking holy orders.

Can you guess which Christian denomination has been favored with the affections of the Love Gov.? Go on, try to guess.

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Item:  George Tenet, the most prominent Clinton leftover in George W. Bush's administration, has published a book arguing that he was right about everything and all the people about him were wrong and have been telling lies. Uh-huh.

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Item:  How hard is it for a man to make a woman lose her temper? Well, let's just say it's not as hard as analytic number theory.

French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, who is what passes for a conservative in France — he's at a kind of Al Gore spot on the political spectrum — Nicolas Sarkozy pulled off the trick on Wednesday in a televised debate with the other candidate, Ségolène Royal. If Sarkozy is Al Gore, Ms Royal is a sort of Dennis Kucinich, though she's much easier on the eye.

Sarkozy riled up the lady with some womany issue — disabled kids, I think it was — and then he reeled her in.

With any luck Sarkozy will get in. The runoff election is on Sunday, and then, who knows? Perhaps it will once again be legal for a Frenchman to work more than 35 hours a week.

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Item:  Five young men in Britain have all been sentenced to life imprisonment for planning a terrorist atrocity involving Oklahoma-City-type fertilizer bombs.

The names of the five young men were Omar Khyam, Jawad Akbar, Salahuddin Amin, Waheed Mahmood, and Anthony Garcia.

If you're wondering about that last one, he'd done some work as a model and changed his name to Anthony Garcia for that purpose, thinking that it sounded more modelly than his birth name, which was Rahman Adam. He was born in Algeria. The other four were all of Pakistani origins.

When reports started to surface saying that the American embassy was giving special scrutiny to visa applications from British citizens of Pakistani origin, a British Muslim leader declared that this would be — drum roll, scary music — this would be … racism!

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11 — Signoff.     Well, there you are, patient listener. That's all for this week. It's a Derb Derb Derb Derb world, and from where I'm sitting it doesn't look as though it's getting any better.

I may have a different outlook next week when I shall be sitting on the deck of a cruise ship somewhere between Madeira and the Azores, sipping fortified iced tea and soaking up the rays. Sometimes it's amazing what a change of climate will do to one's spirits.

Well, we shall see. If I can post my sound clips from mid-Atlantic I shall endeavor to do so. Failing that, I'll see you in a couple of weeks.

Keep working, keep smiling, and don't take any wooden nickels.

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[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]