»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, August 3rd, 2007

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

01 — Intro.     Well, here we are once again, listeners: Radio Derb on the air. That was one of good old Franz Joseph Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, and this is your ever-smiling host John Derbyshire to bring you news from far and wide.

Let's start with the contentious and controversial world of TV interviewing; and with the most contentious, most probing, most challenging of all TV interviewers: Larry King.

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02 — Larry King soft-interviews Cheney.     U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney permitted himself to be interviewed by Larry King on Tuesday. Yes, the combative and secretive Vice President fearlessly exposed himself to TV's most penetrating and relentless cross-examiner.

Responding to Larry King's compliment on his tie, and question as to where he bought it, the Vice President said that he expected the September report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to show significant progress in Iraq.

When Larry asked him what his favorite sport activity had been at high school, Cheney replied that Pakistan is our very good friend.

Nothing daunted, the famously incisive Larry came right out and asked Cheney whether brown shoes can be worn with a seersucker suit. Caught off-guard, Cheney quickly recovered his wits saying that the declared intention of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to subpoena Karl Rove, was not a very neighborly thing to do.

As viewers around the country gasped in disbelief at his audacity, Larry looked the Vice President straight in the eye and asked him if it was true, as reported in the Washington Post and elsewhere, that he preferred Pepsi to Coke. Struggling to control his emotions, Cheney said that he had full confidence in Attorney General Gonzales and that everyone around the White House agreed that Gonzales is a very nice fellow.

Boy, the nation's highest-paid interviewer really had us on the edge of our seats with this one … or if not exactly on the edge, then on that bit behind the edge where the seat gets nice and soft and doesn't cut into your thighs.

If this had been a boxing match the ref would have stopped it halfway through. I mean, he would have if someone had woken him up to do so.

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03 — Illegal aliens a protected class in Pa.     Outrage of the week comes from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where federal judge James M. Munley struck down a local law, the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, passed over a year ago by the city council of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Hazelton has been swamped with unskilled and poorly-socialized foreigners present in this country illegally, using Hazleton city services and making a nuisance of themselves — often feloniously so — to Hazelton citizens.

Here is a list of plaintiffs in the case brought before Judge Munley: Pedro Lozano, Humberto Hernandez, Rosa Lechuga, Jose Luis Lechuga, John Doe 1, John Doe 3, John Doe 7, Jane Doe 5, Casa Dominica of Hazleton, Inc., Hazleton Hispanic Business Association, and Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition.

Pedro Lozano, we learn, is a legal immigrant from Colombia. The Lechugas are a married couple from Mexico, also legal. Humberto Hernandez is a mystery man, and he was in fact dropped from the plaintiff roll because nobody could find him. But who are these Jane and John Does?

Well, John Doe 1 is a Mexican living unlawfully in the U.S.A. Jane Doe 5 and John Doe 7 are another married couple, also living here in violation of U.S. law, both from Colombia. John Doe 3 is also living here in defiance of our laws, but we don't know his country of origin.

So contemplate this for a moment: Half of the individual plaintiffs in this case are people living in our country illegally — people who, if apprehended by ICE, the immigration enforcement police, would be detained and deported under U.S. law.

Furthermore they and the court all know this. That's why they're listed anonymously in the court papers.

If an ICE agent had walked into the room while one of these scofflaws had been making his deposition, the agent could have arrested the plaintiff and locked him up. It's as if some criminal wanted by the FBI were to come to a U.S. court as a plaintiff in some highly-publicized case. The FBI, you can bet, would be over to that courthouse in a jiffy to put the cuffs on the guy.

No ICE agents showed up in Judge Munley's courtroom last week, needless to say. If they had, they would probably have been arrested and dragged away and charged themselves by some Pennsylvania clone of Johnny Sutton.

It is now a well-established legal fact in precedent and statute that illegal aliens are a protected class whom the law may not touch, and that anyone who does not like this is a despicable racist bigot.

Open up the borders! Let 'em all come! They have more right to be here than we have! It is we who should be arrested and deported, we so-called "Americans" with our disgusting, shameful prejudices and our racist laws. Someone put handcuffs on me please and call the paddy wagon!

And after you have crammed my loathsome carcass into the cargo hold of the next plane back to Blighty, hand over the keys of my house and car to their rightful owners: John Doe 1, John Doe 3, John Doe 7 and Jane Doe 5.

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04 — Hillary snookers Obama.     You have to feel a bit sorry for Barack Obama, or at least you would have to if you didn't hold liberals in seething contempt.

Last week Senator Obama told us we should sit down with our enemies, with places like Syria and Iran. We should "use our words," as they tell my son when he gets into a fight with another kid at school. We should practice a kinder and gentler diplomacy.

Okay, Senator, if that's how we should deal with our enemies, how should we deal with our friends? Places like, oh, say, Pakistan?

"Why," says candidate Obama, "we should invade them!" Quote:

There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered three thousand Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

End quote. The senator did, though, later allow that it might be wrong to actually nuke Pakistan.

What seems to have been going on here is Senator Obama has been letting himself be pushed into these positions by deft footwork on the part of Hillary Clinton. All that peacenik talk about sitting down with our enemies was meant to make Hillary look hawkish, peeling off some of her pacifist base — people who are already unhappy about her original support for the Iraq war.

Hillary reacted to that by purring softly that Obama's gentle approach was, quote, "naive and irresponsible." That got Obama scrambling to triangulate with some hawk talk, hence the invade-Pakistan stuff.

Clinton-Obama is turning into one of those tennis matches where one player is way better than the other, strolling calmly along the baseline popping balls deftly across the net into just the part of the opponent's court furthest from where he happens to be, so he has to lurch and scramble to make the return.

Campaigning is in fact a lot like tennis. You don't win so much by doing smart things as by making your opponent do dumb things.

Hillary Clinton is a smart lady running a smart campaign. Let's hope the forces of light and truth can come up with a candidate equally smart to defeat her in November '08.

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05 — Iraq War cost heads for the trillion.     Remember Lawrence Lindsey? No? He was Director of the National Economic Council in the first George W. Bush presidency. At least, he was until September 15th, 2002 when, in an interview printed in the Wall Street Journal, Lindsey estimated that a war in Iraq might cost over a hundred billion dollars, perhaps as much as two hundred billion.

Mitch Daniels, then Director of the Office of Management and Budget, poured scorn on this, as did other administration officials. The White House let it be known that the cost of the war would be in the range of fifty to sixty billion.

The White House further let it be known that Lawrence Lindsey's services were no longer required. He is now running a consultancy firm.

Mitch Daniels is nowadays Governor of Indiana. George W. Bush was still President and the Iraq war had cost five hundred billion dollars by June this year, with current expenditure running around ten billion a month.

These big numbers are tiresome, so let me introduce some ad hoc units here.

I'll call a hundred billion dollars a "Lindsey" and fifty billion dollars a "Bush." Total costs so far are then about five Lindseys or ten Bushes, and expenditure is running at a Lindsey every ten months or a Bush every five months.

Total costs of a trillion dollars — that would be ten Lindseys or twenty Bushes — is well within sight: around August of the year 2011 at current rates.

A trillion dollars is about five thousand dollars for every working American. Ten billion a month, the current expenditure level, is around fifty bucks each.

Fifty bucks a month: a bargain to defeat whoever it is we're supposed to be defeating in Iraq this month — Saddam loyalists, Shia militants, foreign al-Qaeda, homegrown jihadis, Iranian infiltrators, … I've lost track.

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06 — Russia seizes Santa's workshop.     In their boldest geostrategic move for decades, Russia has seized the North Pole.

If that conjures up an image of Spetsnaz troops in winter camouflage gear storming Santa's workshop; well, it wasn't quite like that. What seems to have happened is that someone in the Kremlin got alarmed listening to last week's Radio Derb, where I forecast the final long-mispredicted arrival of permanent oil shortages and ever-rising oil prices.

The Kremlin guy got on the phone to the Geology Department at Moscow State University and asked them whether there are any big oil fields left that Russia could fairly claim as her own. He was told that, well, it's widely suspected that there are huge oil and gas fields under the Arctic Ocean.

Learning this, the Kremlin guy made some more calls and the end result was a Russian submersible — one of those little deep-sea Alvin things with remote-controlled arms — planting a rustproof titanium flagpole, bearing a Russian flag, on the sea bed at latitude ninety degrees north, a/k/a the Pole.

It would have been nice if one of these submersible's crew members could have stepped out onto the seabed and said the Russian equivalent of: "That's one small step for a man." That would be, er: "Это один маленький шаг для человека," according to Babelfish.

However, the seabed at the North Pole is under fourteen thousand feet of water, so you wouldn't last long out of your submersible down there even if fortified with a couple of bottles of Stoli.

A Kremlin spokesman, taking a break from packaging H-bomb components for shipment to Iran, said that since the North Pole was situated on an extension of Siberia's continental shelf, it was all perfectly legit.

That got me reaching for my atlas. Actually. I see that the Siberian shelf is connected to the Canadian one by a long ridge called the Lomonosov Ridge ridge or the Harris Ridge, depending on who's doing the calling, and this ridge bypasses the Pole, going about a hundred miles to its south — that's a bit of geographical humor there, folks — before meandering its way over to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.

And that's even ignoring the fact that under international law a nation only gets to claim seabed up to two hundred miles from its shores, and the closest bit of Russia to the North Pole is six hundred miles away.

So on this one, the Russians are all wet — not to mention cold, very cold.

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07 — Our Iraq troops not plaster saints.     The New Republic, which is some kind of upstart political magazine, caused a fuss by publishing some dispatches from a soldier in Iraq, one Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

Private Beauchamp reported that some of his comrades misbehaved when not under fire: passing unkind comments about a disfigured woman, playing disrespectfully with human bones at a mass burial ground they'd unearthed, and deliberately running over dogs.

The reports raised a number of questions.

  1. Is it possible that U.S. soldiers could be so uncouth?
  2. What were Private Beauchamp's motives in telling these tales?
  3. If the stories are true, what does that tell us about the Iraq war?
  4. If the stories are true, what does that tell us about ourselves?
  5. If the stories are false, why did the guy make them up?
  6. If the stories are false, what should the Army do with Private Beauchamp?

Well, here's my take on it. To pass from the numerical to the alphabetical:

  1. I have no idea whether the stories are true or not.
  2. If it could be proved to me that the stories are true, I wouldn't be terribly surprised. I haven't been around soldiers much for a good many years, but I recall that they do have a ghoulish sense of humor, that they can be coarse and cruel, and when not under the discipline of battle, they can relieve their tensions in ways that wouldn't pass muster in everybody's drawing room.

    What on earth do you expect? In the case of our Iraq troops these are young American men raised on South Park and gross-out movies. I'm bound to say, while repeating that I don't know any more than you do whether or not Private Beauchamp's stories are true, they don't strike me as wildly improbable. As Rudyard Kipling told us: "Single men in barracks don't grow into plaster saints."

    Okay, that was (b). Now …
  3. If the stories were true, what would that tell us about the Iraq war? Not a darn thing one way or the other that I can see. It would just be some unsupervised young men engaging in crude, tasteless horseplay, which is a thing that young men are prone to do. It doesn't mean anything. Nothing follows from it.

    Now …
  4. If the stories are false, why did Private Beauchamp make them up? To draw attention to himself, I suppose, and to get a bit of color into his copy, which he thought wasn't lively enough. It's the kind of thing unscrupulous writers will do; just as gross talk and behavior is the kind of thing that bored, unsupervised young men will do.

    Finally …
  5. Here's the question I'd really like to see answered: Why is a serving soldier allowed to publish this stuff, true or false? Isn't this a violation of the most basic standards of military discipline?

    I don't really care whether Private Beauchamp's stories are true or false, but I want him kicked out of the Army and I want his commanding officer up in front of a board of inquiry to answer questions about how Private Beauchamp got away with broadcasting unflattering stories about his unit.

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08 — Miscellany.     Okay, here's our closing miscellany of some short items picked from the news at random.

Item:  Rolandas Milinavicius, owner of a car dealership in Atlanta, Georgia, was pestered by two of his employees who wanted pay raises.

What did Mr Milinavicius do to resolve the situation? He shot the two employees dead.

Mr Milinavicius, an immigrant — apparently a legal immigrant — from Lithuania, as were the two employees, is facing two counts of murder.

It must be really tough being a labor organizer in Lithuania if that's how they resolve their pay disputes.

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Item:  All conscientious citizens worry about the environment, of course; but if you're a Muslim, you have one more thing to worry about than the rest of us have: pork rain.

Yes, pork rain. This is a news story from the Old Country, from the fine old town of Rugby, where a noble game originated. A pet-food company is planning to build a factory there, and local Muslims have complained. Quote from a neighborhood spokesmuslim:

Several families have complained because of the smell of the pork; and also, if the factory is cooking with it, pork particles and odor could rain down on them from the chimney at some point.

End quote.

You see? Pork rain. My advice to this pet-food manufacturer would be to move their operation somewhere else. China, perhaps?

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Item:  The finals of soccer's Asia Cup were played in Jakarta, Indonesia. Iraq beat Saudi Arabia, one-nil, scoring the game's only goal after 71 minutes of play. Very eventful game, soccer.

The goal was scored by Iraqi team captain Younis Mahmoud, who took some of the shine off the victory by declaring that there was absolutely no way he would go back to Iraq because if he did, someone would kill him.

We learned in fact that none of the Iraqi team players lives in Iraq. They all play for teams in other Mideast countries. The Iraq national team hasn't played a home game since 1990.

In Iraq itself the citizens celebrated by firing guns in the air. At least four people were killed and twenty injured by falling bullets.

Iraqis seem not to have a very firm understanding of basic physical laws. Or perhaps it's just that they don't give a damn any more.

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ItemIngmar Bergman died.

Bergman was a key figure in the great movement that swept Europe in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a movement whose defining characteristic was taking life much, much too seriously. He made ponderous movies on heavyweight themes: love, death, God, moral responsibility, and so on, all dressed up with grim landscapes and plonking symbolism.

I was a sucker for it all at the time, being an adolescent — just the age when you want to see life taken too seriously. Nowadays I'd rather watch a Jim Carrey movie.

I'm going to rent a Bergman movie from Netflix anyway, though, just to see if there really was anything there. I shall report back on this.

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Item:  Republican National Committee to President Bush: Drop dead!

Yes, the RNC passed a resolution, urged on by state party leaders, to secure America's borders and enforce our immigration laws.

No mention of George W. Bush's pet project to amnesty four illegal immigrants and to add yet another category of guest-workers to the current list of non-immigrant visa categories: H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, L-1A, L-1B, etc., etc.

There is no mention of those pet projects because outside the precincts of the White House and the Wall Street Journal editorial offices, you can't find a Republican who favors them.

Democrats seem to like them, though. Perhaps the President should just switch parties.

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Item:  Mr Ashrita Furman of New York has broken the world record for underwater pogo-stick jumping. Mr Furman also holds world records for underwater jump rope, underwater juggling and underwater hula hoop.

He sounds like just the guy the Russians need to look after that flag they've planted at the North Pole.

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Item:  The problem of corrupt government officials is not new in China. That's "not new" as in "been going on for about five thousand years." Travelers in imperial China noted that honest officials were so rare, the Chinese frequently deified them and built temples and shrines to their memories.

Uneasily aware of how far its own bureaucrats have slipped back into traditional habits, one regional government in East China has produced an internet game titled Incorruptible Fighter in which players can track down and kill corrupt officials. The program proved so popular, demand for it crashed the server.

Corrupt officials. Well, thank goodness we don't have that problem here in the U.S.A.! There might of course be an opening for a game where you get to track down and kill out-of-control district attorneys or federal prosecutors.

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09 — Signoff.     There you have it, Radio Derb fans: another week in the sleep of reason here on Planet Earth.

Tune in again next week for more of the news you need from Radio Derb.

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[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]