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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Well, there goes summer. The kids are back at school, the street is silent, the house is silent, and the a/c's shut off.
Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
I'd have to put this last week down as dreary and sad, acknowledging that this may be just post-Labor Day tristesse on my part. Although there's no denying the sadness. Western civilization lost one of its finest ornaments this week.
|02 — Luciano Pavarotti, RIP. Yes, we have lost Luciano Pavarotti.
What did I think of him? Well, I thought enough of him to put them in a novel. True, nobody would publish the novel; but to the committed literary artist that is of no consequence whatsoever. You can read the whole book on olimu.com. [Note added when archiving, February 2019: olimu.com is now defunct. The text of the novel, with an audio reading, is here.]
Luciano first shows up in Chapter 22. Just for mechanical reasons of plot, I made the great man a bit less amorous that he in fact was; though later — this is in Chapter 41 — I retail a famous Pavarotti story from the late 1970s. Here's the story.
Luciano was interviewed by a very pretty young American lady who suggested that perhaps it might be true, as someone had said earlier in Luci's career, that God had kissed his vocal chords. "Well, then," replied Luciano without missing a beat, "'E must 'ave kissed you hall hover."
I wish I could think of lines like that.
Pavarotti was a truly great performer who brought opera to untold numbers of people — including, as a matter of fact, me — who might otherwise never have been attracted to this peculiar, rather artificial art form. Grazie, Signore, grazie!
[An extract from Pavarotti singing "A te, O cara" in Bellini's I puritani, I.iii]:
Al brillar di sì bell'ora,
|03 — Retrospective hopes on candidates' debate. Did you catch the
Republican candidates' debate on Wednesday last? I'm just going to come right out and admit that I didn't.
I don't even have an excuse. I made a mental note of the time, but the time came and went. I was reading a really absorbing book about British India and I didn't feel like going downstairs to watch a bunch of law school grads boasting about how they'll fix what can't be fixed, spend money the nation hasn't got, and administer medication for maladies they can't diagnose correctly.
Still, I hope it all went well. I hope that Rudy — who gets my vote as the least bad of the lot — put on a better performance than he has the previous times I've watched him debate. I hope Ron Paul reminded everybody of what the U.S.A. might be if we could just wind the tape back to 1960 and start over, which, alas, we can't.
I hope Tom Tancredo, who has been right for years about what the rest of them have been wrong about for years, reminded them once again how out-of-touch they all are.
I hope Duncan Hunter's seen the light on H-1B visas. Yo, Duncan: You import foreign workers for some line of work when we're short of natives to do it; and the only acceptable evidence of shortage should be that wages offered for that work are going through the roof.
I hope Mike Huckabee left his guitar at home. I hope nobody got asked about the Theory of Evolution; or for that matter about Homological Algebra or asynchronous cellular automata or neuroplasticity. I hope John McCain has stopped calling everybody his friend. I hope Mitt Romney didn't get his hair mussed.
And I hope there will be more of these wonderful debates real soon, real soon.
|04 — Does Fred have the fire? Fred Thompson is running for President. That
kills all my jokes about how Fred will definitely announce any day now, unless he doesn't. Well, he did.
Everybody seems to like Fred; and a couple of wise, learnéd, been-round-the-DC-block, seriously non-stupid friends of mine are quite bowled over by him.
I'm not bowled personally, but then I'm finding it harder and harder to pay attention. I need to shut myself in a room with a pot of coffee and a sheaf of Byron York's articles.
A couple of conservative commentators have raised the fire-in-the-belly question. Does Fred really want it enough? Is he hungry enough to be the Republican nominee?
Isn't that what they were all writing about Rudy six months ago?
But how about you, Derb? Are you hungry to know who'll be on the ticket? Do you have enough fire in your belly to warm you through reading two hundred articles and blog posts about Fred Thompson?
Next topic, please.
|05 — Creationism's champion. Just a little note on creationism here.
Creationism: or, as a certain editor at a certain other conservative magazine prefers to call it, "Intelligent Design."
Yes: I know I shouldn't, I really shouldn't. And yes, I know there are some great people out there. I mean it. There are many loyal, patriotic, law-abiding, civic-minded, thoughtful and responsible people out there who believe that Charles Darwin was a limb of Satan, if not actually Old Scratch himself.
I know it, truly I do. I also know that what follows doesn't really prove much about anything. Still, I can't resist the temptation, so here you go. It's in the form of a question.
Which United States legislator, back in 1989, co-sponsored a Constitutional Amendment, no less — House Joint Resolution 297, The Community Life Amendment — to authorize teaching, quote, "the creation of the Earth as accepted in Judeo-Christian tradition in public schools."
I'm not going to give you the answer right here. If you want to know who that legislator was, go to the men's room at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport any day next week between five and six p.m. Take a seat in the last stall on the right and I'll slip the answer to you under the partition.
|06 — AFL-CIO leaps to the defense of American
workers illegal aliens. Our nation's wonderful
law school graduates — the very cream of them: those that end up as judges deciding our national affairs — they have been
distinguishing themselves once again.
This time it is U.S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney, a Clinton appointee over there in San Francisco … [laughs] what else do you need to know? … er, in San Francisco, our nation's very first sanctuary city — the first city, that is, to publicly announce that U.S. citizenship isn't worth a bucket of warm spit inside the municipal boundaries.
The story here is that the Bush administration, to soften us up for its next amnesty bill, has instructed the Social Security Administration to send out letters notifying employers of more serious penalties if they, the employers, don't act on discrepancies in the Social Security numbers of employees.
Social Security has been sending out what are called "no match notices" for twenty years or so when the names and numbers submitted by employers don't match the Social Security master records. A lot of these no-matches are just clerical errors, but around about a third are acts of identity theft by illegal immigrants scamming off U.S. citizens.
Up to now employers didn't pay much attention to the no-match notices because prosecutions were rare and fines were small. That, according to the administration, will no longer be the case … at least until they get their precious amnesty bill through Congress. These new letters were to tell employers about this new, stricter policy
Well, the AFL-CIO, that good friend and protector of the American worker, filed suit to stop the new policies on the grounds that they, quote, "violate workers' rights and unfairly burden employers," end quote.
That workers have a right to give an employer a false Social Security number is news to me. That keeping clean, accurate records of the people who work for them is an unfair burden on employers, is likewise news to me; and that the AFL-CIO is deeply concerned about the burdens that employers have to bear is further news.
Maxine Chesney is a judge, though, so I guess she's much wiser than me. She has ordered the government to stop sending out these letters while she ruminates on the case.
|07 — Pull up your pants! We had a few exchanges on The Corner last month
about the social and linguistic phenomenon of owning the insult, owning the insult.
I had noticed that the Tories and the Whigs both got started that way. "Tory" originally meant something like "illiterate Papist peasant from the darkest bogs of Ireland," while a Whig was an unprincipled cattle-rustler from the wild Scottish borders. Well, Tories and Whigs became respectable political parties.
Owning the insult can be a fashion statement: men's pants worn way down low, for example. Prisoners in our jails are not allowed to wear belts for fear they will use them as weapons or as instruments of suicide, and so their pants hang low. Deciding to own this insult, young black street toughs have taken to wearing their pants way down low in honor of their jailed soul brothers, every one of whom is of course an innocent victim of a racist establishment.
This jailbird fashion has been getting out of hand and you now see pants worn with the waistband actually below glute level, exposing several inches of colorful underwear if you're lucky.
Now, a backlash is developing with town ordinances being passed to prohibit this unsightly fashion. Louisiana has led the way. In Delcambre, which I know has one of those Louisiana pronunciations that sounds absolutely nothing like the way the word is spelled, in Delcambre that exposed underwear will get you a five-hundred-dollar fine or six months in the slammer.
The interesting thing is that much of the pull-up-your-pants legislation is being pushed by black lawmakers who can't see what honor accrues to their race from the emulation of jailbirds.
Career black spokesmen are of course on the other side of the issue. Former NAACP Director Benjamin Chavis has vowed a court challenge and has called for a "root causes" approach. Quote: "The focus should be on cleaning up the social conditions that the sagging pants comes out of," said Mr Chavis.
Oh yeah, let's get cleaning up those social conditions. But, er, how exactly do we do that, Mr Chavis?
Has the rhetoric of racial guilt-mongering ever sounded hollower than it does today?
|08 — Chen Guangcheng, a brave dissident. Lou Dobbs, bless his Texas heart,
has started a campaign to get newspapers and TV readers saying "Communist China" again, since, after all, the place is a one-party state and
that party is named "the Chinese Communist Party."
Come on, Lou. Those are journalism-school graduates we're talking about here. You don't expect them to grasp complex logic like that, do you?
By way of illustrating that China actually is a communist country, with all the old tactics of Leninist rule still in the closet, ready to be used anytime the party feels like using them, consider the case of Chen Guangcheng.
Mr Chen has been blind since infancy. This hasn't stopped him self-educating himself in the law — or what passes for law in Communist China — and doing what he can to help the poorer people in his native province in their struggles against the Party bosses, especially in the matter of forced abortions and sterilizations.
This work has got the blind and harmless Mr Chen sentenced to four years in prison, and that's where he is right now.
When a human-rights outfit in the Philippines gave Mr Chen a human rights award, he asked to be allowed to go and collect it, but of course the ChiComs refused. His wife managed to get herself a passport and she was going to Manila to collect the award on Chen's behalf. Trying to leave the country from Peking airport, however, she was detained and beaten by communist police and her property was taken away.
Quote from Mrs Chen: "The darkness of this society is way beyond your comprehension." I believe it.
Still, let's show a little understanding for the Party bosses. They have a big party congress coming up and you don't want troublemakers running around to disturb all those unanimous standing ovations for the Party leadership. And then next year there come the Olympics, so everything will need to be especially neat and orderly for them.
If the price of all that harmony and order is that some damn nuisance blind guy gets clubbed senseless, or some inoffensive woman gets beaten and robbed by public security goons — Well, heck: You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, you know.
|09 — The healthcare shambles. Healthcare; oh, healthcare. This one really
brings out the pessimist in me.
On the one hand, the present system is nuts and everybody hates it. I get approximately two letters a week from my healthcare provider, United Healthcare Insurance Company of New York, whose service center, it says on the envelopes, is in Atlanta. I suppose I should be glad it's not in Nepal.
I've given up opening these letters. Nobody in my family has been to the doctor for ages. God knows what these folk are writing to me for. I pay them ten thousand dollars a year out of my meager income to take care of us if we get sick or fall off a ladder. I figure that ten thousand dollars entitles me to be left alone when I don't need them.
My previous insurer kept dropping me. I'd go to the doctor. The lady at the desk would say, "Oh, you're not covered." I'd call the insurer. They'd say, "Oh, right, sorry! You fell off the computer. No problem! We'll have you back on in a day or two."
What a shambles it all is! And whose idea was it to attach healthcare to jobs? Why are private companies involved with their workers' hemorrhoids and blood pressure?
Anyway, I don't see how the current system will survive the onset of cheap DNA sequencing. Insurance is about quantifying uncertainties and spreading the risk If, as seems likely, even the susceptibility to infectious diseases, and personality traits like accident-proneness — if even these are detectable in my genome, then insurance has very little part to play.
We'll end up with a national single-payer system run out of Washington, DC. And that of course will be a horror show of incompetence and bureaucratic bungling, like everything else Washington does: like Homeland Security, like the CIA, like disaster relief and farm subsidies and border controls and No Child Left Behind, and all the other ziggurats of folly and waste that cloud the DC skyline.
What got me thinking about this? Oh, a news item: John Edwards has a healthcare plan.
You're not a serious candidate if you don't have a healthcare plan, not even if you got to be a bazillionaire by suing doctors. Well, John Edwards has a healthcare plan. He's a serious candidate. [Laughter.]
|10 — Signoff. That's all, folks. The sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks
is coming up. I intend to celebrate it by taking my guns down to the local range and reassuring myself that if jihad comes up my driveway,
I'll at least take a couple of the buggers with me.
I'd urge you to commemorate the event in some similar way, preferably involving firearms. Then you'll be in a fair mood to sit and listen while General Petraeus tells us we need to stay in Iraq forever.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]