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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Thank you, Franz Joseph. Yes, that was one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches and this is John Derbyshire with your weekly roundup of news items from Hell, here on Radio Derb.
It was a busy week down in the nether regions, so let's go right to the newswires.
|02 — George W. Macbeth. The vice is slowly closing on the administration's
The mid-September report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker was always going to be some kind of punctuation mark, but which one? An exclamation point? "Hey, we've got this thing under control at last!" Well that doesn't look very likely. A question mark? Perhaps. "Not sure how this is going — could we please have some more time?" Or a colon, as in: "Okay, got that done: now this follows, and this, and this, …" Well, just a comma, perhaps: "Okay, thanks much, we'll just keep slugging forward."
Well, it's evermore clear that in the minds of congressional Democrats, the September report will be basically a period. "It's over. Pull back to fortified bases, preferably in Kurdistan. Let's see what the Iraqis can do for themselves. If the answer is nothing, then let's get out of there altogether."
That's actually four periods, but you get the point … so to speak. Our commanders in Iraq, along with Ambassador Crocker, are getting the point, too. They got it recently in some sessions with congressfolk and Pentagon reporters, sessions linked by video from Baghdad.
The exchanges, during those spells when the video link was actually working, consisted mainly of the Baghdad guys asking for more time and the Washington guys saying, "not a chance."
General Petraeus was asked by one lawmaker what effect a troop drawdown would have. The General responded that, quote: "It would clearly put more pressure on the Iraqis, who are already under a lot of pressure." Right: They're under so much pressure, they're taking off the entire month of August for vacation.
"We're not staying," said Senator Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "You don't have much time."
Senator George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, told the video-linked image of Ambassador Crocker that, quote, "There's got to be some real evidence that action's taking place there; and everything you can do to convey to Mr Maliki and his executive committee, to the other players in the region, that the American people's patience is running out." Right, that should bring Maliki back from his vacation villa … not.
For George W. Bush this is the last act of Macbeth, when all his erstwhile supporters are slipping quietly out of the palace and the king is left muttering to himself: "The mind I sway by and the heart I bear / Shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear."
Well, mutter away, George. Burnham wood is coming to Dunsinane.
|03 — Campaign candidates roundup. And what have we got on the campaign
Well, Oprah Winfrey has come out strong for Barack Obama. She says he's her favorite guy. What is it that she sees in him? Darned if I can figure it out.
Obama himself sounds like he's ready to invade Iran. Quote: "I will not hesitate to use force — unilaterally if necessary — to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or immediately threatened." Isn't he supposed to be an antiwar candidate? This is getting confusing.
Al Gore told an audience in Colorado that the Earth is on the point of turning into Venus, where daytime temperatures reach 867 degrees Fahrenheit and it rains sulfuric acid. Boy, I'm glad I have central air.
John McCain swore that he'd stay in the Republican race until next spring. John, you're a great patriot and a fun guy, but you lost us when you climbed into bed with Ted Kennedy on the Amnesty bill. Go home, John. Take a cab.
Fred Thompson will soon definitely announce that he absolutely will — no doubt about it, positively and unequivocally — announce something or other … unless he decides not to.
John Edwards did a morning show for ABC News, but his pose as a fascinating candidate with gripping views on major issues of the day was somewhat marred by an audience member in the background obviously dozing off. The camera did a quick pan round and when it goes back to Edwards, the background guy had disappeared. Either he lost motor control and fell off his chair, or the ABC crew dropped him through a well-prepared trapdoor, or he was vaporized by a well-aimed blast of searing laser light reflected from the candidate's hair. We may never know.
This, by the way, was after John's tour of Appalachia, visiting small communities that don't have a doctor within a hundred miles. Now why would that be? Anything to do with medical-malpractice insurance rates driven sky-high by ambulance-chasing attorneys like, oh, say, John Edwards?
Rudy Giuliani is showing up late everywhere.
Bill Clinton says that Mrs Clinton is not a man.
Now for the candidate you really care about: Dr Ron Paul, the only congresscritter known to regularly vote against spending bills that have his own earmarks in them, was reported to have won over half of all campaign donations from military personnel. A recalibration of the numbers brought the figure to slightly under half, but that's still pretty impressive for an antiwar candidate.
Perhaps our troops believe they are fighting for our nation and our Constitution, and they like a guy who speaks up loud and clear for both.
|04 — L.A. Catholics pay for hierarchy's follies. The diocese of Los Angeles
is to pay out 660 million dollars to settle sexual abuse lawsuits with several hundred parishioners. Average payout per plaintiff parishioner is 1.3
I got lost here somewhere. If a priest has abused a child, shouldn't the priest go to jail and the child gets some counseling? Where does this 1.3 million dollars come in?
I suppose there must be some tort law there based on the idea that the diocese itself was negligent. But presumably the plaintiffs here are Catholic people. Why would they wish to inflict this much harm on their own church and rip this much money from, ultimately, the pockets of their fellow congregants? I guess 1.3 million dollars will buy you a lot of self-justification.
It's hard to feel much sympathy for Cardinal Mahoney personally, anyway. All through the attempt to push an amnesty bill for illegal aliens through the Senate, Mahoney was rooting for the amnesty and scolding the rest of us for our lack of Christian charity towards the freeloaders and scofflaws who have broken into our country to leech off our taxpayer-funded services … or, when the taxpayers don't come through, the funds of honest Catholic parishioners.
So don't cry for Mahoney, cry for the parishioners of Los Angeles who are paying — literally — for the follies of their hierarchy.
|05 — London literary hoax. I know from extensive market research surveys
and from the many, many emails I get written in Middle English, that Radio Derb listeners are an exceptionally literary lot. Well, here's a story from
the other side of the pond to depress you all.
Forty-three-year-old David Lassman from the ancient city of Bath, which is quite relevant in this context, couldn't get his novel published. He thereupon decided to play a trick on the literary world.
He copied out bits and pieces of the Jane Austen classics Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. Having done so, he mailed off these palimpsests to various publishers and literary agents.
To make the scam a bit easier to spot Mr Lassman submitted the works under the name Alison Laydee. As I'm sure you all know, Jane Austin's early pseudonym was "a lady." Furthermore, Mr Lassman named his Pride and Prejudice knockoff First Impressions, which, as every Janeite knows, was the working title for the original.
Of the eighteen people Mr Lassman sent his manuscripts to, only one spotted the plagiarism. Let that man's name live in honor: It was Alex Bowler, assistant editor at Jonathan Cape.
The rest all disgraced themselves. J.K. Rowling's literary agent Christopher Little said he was, quote, "not confident placing this material with a publisher." Penguin Books, normally a wise, astute, and reliable publishing house — well, it published two of my books — described Jane Austen's work as a, quote, "really interesting and original read, but not right" for them. And so on.
Of course, if Mr Lassman had tried this stunt with real literary giants — Toni Morrison, perhaps, or Maya Angelou, or perhaps even the great J.K. Rowling herself — his deception would have been spotted in a jiffy.
Or perhaps these arbiters of literary excellence, these publishers and editors, perhaps they are of the same kidney as John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, who, when Catherine asks if he has ever read Mrs Radcliffe's novel Udolpho, replies: "Udolpho! Oh, Lord! Not I; I never read novels; I have something else to do."
|06 — Tancredo talks truth to NAACP. The National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People had a conference in Detroit to which they invited all the announced Presidential candidates from both parties. All eight
of the Democratic hopefuls showed up, but only one Republican, Tom Tancredo.
Tom got a laugh saying, quote: "Do you think we should wait a few minutes to see if the other guys show up?" He then talked about illegal immigration and about how it was hurting American workers, especially colored workers.
I get insulted every time I hear that illegal immigrants are working jobs American citizens won't take. I've done those jobs. You've done those jobs. Our kids have done those jobs.
Well, given that the average attendee at an NAACP conference is a government or education-system functionary — a Buppie with enough bureaucratic weight to swing a nice desk job for his kids — I doubt the entire truth of that statement, but let it pass.
What are the rights and wrongs of Republican candidates showing up at events like this? Personally, I think Tom was right to show up. He's the illegal-immigration point man for his party, and the silence of so-called black leaders on illegal immigration — which does indeed, as Tom said, affect black Americans even more than the rest of us — is deafening. It was good to see Tom stick it in their faces, though of course he was gentlemanly about it.
On the other hand, I think one Republican is enough and the others were right to stay away, though I do regret their weasel-word excuses for doing so — "scheduling conflict," and so on. They should just come right out and say that America ought to be getting past all this ethnocentric lobbying by the Association of Colored This and the Organization of Black That.
The NAACP and outfits like it are sowers of discord and should be shunned by all sensible patriots. Democrats — who can sometimes be patriotic but are rarely sensible — may do as they please; but unless there are extenuating circumstances, as in Tom Tancredo's case I believe there were, Republicans should stay away.
|07 — A Country & Western song for W. Peggy Noonan wrote a column for
the online Journal the other day expressing the disillusionment with George W. Bush that is now apparent in all corners of the conservative
blogosphere, and which I might as well admit I share.
Peggy quoted an email she'd received from a friend. The subject line of the email was: "I took the W off my car today." Said Peggy: "It sounded like a Country-and-Western song, like a great lament."
Now, reading this, I started to hear a whirring of tiny wings. Yes, it was the muse, come to kiss me.
My Muse is strictly verbal, you understand, so I have adapted my sentiments here to the tune of the old Hank Williams classic "Why don't you love me like you used to do" — which, come to think of it, might be the very song that our President cries himself to sleep with nowadays.
[Clears throat, sings.]
|08 — Miscellany. Okay, here is our traditional closing miscellany of brief outrages.
Item: Here's a new word to go with the times we live in: "e-coup."
"E-coup." Now, you know what a coup is. That's when some country's military gets fed up with the wranglings of civilian politicians and seizes power for itself.
Well, in Turkey they've been having a constitutional crisis. Prime Minister Erdoğan — who was a bit of an Islamist firebrand in his youth and who spent four months in jail in 1998 for religious incitement — swears that he is now a moderate. He is leading his party into a general election this Sunday owing to a constitutional court having overturned his attempt to get a sympathetic president installed last spring.
The Turkish army, which regards itself as the guardian of Atatürk's secularist legacy, is not a fan of Mr Erdoğan and has been making its feelings known, posting a statement on the internet saying that the Islamist tendencies of Mr Erdoğan and his party had gone far enough and that they, the army, would step in if they went any further.
An e-coup, you see? Well, at least it doesn't break as many windows as the traditional sort of coup.
Item: In a murder trial in central London, a female Muslim juror has been dismissed and has been charged with contempt of court for listening to music on an iPod hidden under her hijab. That's the sort of head to toe body garment that strict Muslim women wear.
You have to pity this lady. Not only is she in trouble with the British law, she's probably going to get stoned to death by her local Sharia court for listening to music when she should have been quietly muttering Koranic verses to herself.
In fact, what was she doing on jury duty, anyway? Next thing you know, women will be driving cars.
Item: I am a Germanophile. I think German civilization was one of the greatest things that ever happened to the human race.
Oh sure: That guy with the little square mustache did a number on Germany's reputation, but heck, everybody's allowed one mistake. If you put Bach, Goethe, Gauss, Beethoven, Hilbert, Thomas Mann, and Marlene Dietrich on the other side of the scales, I think Germany comes out looking pretty good.
So I was glad to read this news story on MSNBC about a baby boom in Germany. Up to now Germany has had one of Europe's lowest birth rates and its population is actually shrinking, but now there's been an uptick. In Düsseldorf fifteen percent more babies were born in this year's first quarter than in last year's.
Now upbeat stories about improvements in European birth rates always leave you wondering just which Europeans they're talking about. Germany has a big Muslim-Turkish minority. These however seem to be actual German Germans reproducing.
Well, good luck to them. If there's another Gauss or a Beethoven in there, so much the better for all of us.
Item: Just because it's my show and I can do what I like, I'm going to advertise my Germanophilia by reciting some lines I learned in school.
These lines were written by Düsseldorf's most famous literary offspring, Heinrich Heine back in 1823. Heine was the guy who said: "When they start burning books, they'll end up burning people" — prophetically, as it happens, since his own books were burned by the Nazis.
All right, here we go.
Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
There, now; never let it be said you don't get a dash of culture — or in this case, Kultur — from Radio Derb.
Item: Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff says that construction of the border wall in Texas should begin this Fall, quote, "because the fence is not only to protect the border communities, it's to protect the country." Secretary Chertoff said that Washington aims to have, quote, "operational control of the border" by 2013.
Operational control of the nation's border. That's pretty good. That will be 12 years after 9/11.
Apparently, protecting the country by safeguarding our southern border was not a feature of administration policy in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006.
Mr Pugh swam more than half a mile in the coldest water on earth — minus two degrees Centigrade. He said afterwards, quote: "I was in excruciating pain from beginning to end."
Wow. Worth the trip, then — eh, Lewis?
Of course, he also had to tell us that, quote again:
I hope my swim will inspire world leaders to take climate change seriously. The decisions which they make over the next few years will determine the biodiversity of our world. I want my children and their children to know that polar bears are still living in the Arctic.
Yes, well: Just thank your lucky stars you didn't meet one, Lewis.
Item: The game of checkers has been completely solved.
Computers have been playing checkers for decades now, but they always lost the occasional game. Well, that's all over. A team of computer scientists in Canada — what else do they have to do in Canada? — has figured out the best move in every possible situation that could ever arise in checkers.
That means their program will never lose a game. Either it will win; or, if the opponent plays perfectly — for example, if the program is playing against itself — it will tie.
The researchers are now seeking complete solutions to more complex games: chess, bridge, and Middle East politics.
|09 — Signoff. That's all, folks. I've given you Shakespeare, Heinrich
Heine, Jane Austin, and Hank Williams. I don't know what more you could ask for.
It's been another week of rearguard action by Republicans in Congress; another week of duty and sacrifice for our servicepeople in Iraq and Afghanistan; another week of misery and despair in the White House; and another week of preening and gloating in Tehran.
These are not very happy days for our country. Still the corn is high, the beaches are open, the Dow went over fourteen hundred [sic] and we'll make it through somehow. Keep the home fires burning, America.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]