• Play the sound file (duration 34m06s).
[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire Marches.]
01 — Intro. Welcome to Radio Derb, ladies and gentlemen. That was one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, and this is your genial host John Derbyshire with news and views from the past week. We'll go straight into it, with a little acoustic guitar music to balance out that Haydn clip.
02 — Obama's MLK speech. [Josh White clip] That actually was a Joshua — the great Josh White, singing the old spiritual "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho." And here comes Barack Obama, giving an address the day before Martin Luther King Day at King's old church. Obama used the Jericho story as his theme, noting that those walls didn't come tumbling down till everyone shouted in unison. Therefore, said the Senator, we have to be united. Who's "we" in that sentence? We Americans? We Democrats? We black Americans? Given the date and venue, sounds like the last. But politically speaking, black Americans are just about the most united group in the country — close to 90 percent of them vote Democrat. That's not united enough for Obama? Then he got into a long riff about an "empathy deficit." Now, "empathy," according to Webster's Third, is, quote, "the capacity for a vicarious experiencing of another's feelings, volitions, or ideas." So what the Senator's getting at there is, we're not feeling each other's pain as much as we ought. Or perhaps just black Americans aren't — it's really difficult to nail down Obama on that first person plural pronoun. Supposing the Senator's right about this, what should be done about it? To his great credit, Obama doesn't beat about the bush here: What should be done is, the gummint should give us money. Passing over once again, because I honestly do not know, who the "us" is in that sentence, that is the main thrust of Obama's speech, the central message. The gummint should give us money. Quote: "We can't celebrate Dr King's dream and yet still have insufficient funds to cash that promissory note that was promised at the beginning of this nation." Obama could have saved us all a lot of time if he'd just cut to the chase and repeated Bob Geldof's famous line from the Live Aid concert back in 1985: "Give us your [beep] money!" Obama kept returning to this theme. Quote: "We must push our elected officials to supply the resources to fix our schools." Er, newsflash here, Senator: that was already tried back in 1987, when federal judge Russell Clark took over the Kansas City school district and imposed huge tax hikes, first on the city and then on the state, to fund extravagant spending on the city schools. They got Olympic-size swimming pools, state of the art computer and broadcasting labs, wildlife sanctuaries, planetariums, model United Nations chambers, Latin lessons, fencing coaches, the works. By the early 1990s, Kansas City was spending more per student than any other school district in the country. What was the result? Dropout rates nearly doubled, attendance rates dropped (82 to 76 percent), and test scores didn't budge. So maybe money isn't the answer, Senator? Ooh, don't tell Obama that. Quote: "We can't pass a law called No Child Left Behind and then leave the money behind." Another quote: "Insurance companies, drug companies, don't want to give up their profits," end quote. When of course they should! They should give up their profits to, you know, us. Somebody should make them do that. Why are these companies allowed to have profits? Perhaps for the same reason this country is called "the United States of America," not "the People's Republic of America."
03 — Campaign (GOP). Over on the GOP side, we're down to one conservative in the race, since Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter dropped out. My man Ron is holding up pretty well, though. He actually got a silver in the Nevada caucuses, with two-thirds of independent voters going for him. Limited-government conservatism isn't dead yet, at least out there in the West. On the other hand, John McAmnesty won South Carolina, picking up 24 delegates. He didn't ask his pal Edward Kennedy to campaign for him, I don't know why. Nor did he explain to us how a candidate who thinks we should stay in Iraq for 100 years if necessary, can win a general election campaign in a country where 63 percent of the people are against the war. Nor has he yet clearly backed off his promise to push 12 million trespassers to the front of the immigration line, ahead of people who've been waiting for years in their home countries to get a residence permit for the U.S.A. All John McAmbiguous has said is that he'll do something or other to secure the border before he hands out goody bags to the lawbreakers. Meanwhile, we've been hearing some juicy stuff about Mike Huckabee's decade in office as Governor of Arkansas. Apparently Mike didn't do much for the Republican party in the state, in fact he left it worse than he found it. According to the Washington Times, Huckleberry actually funneled Republican Party funds to Democratic candidates in the state legislature. Huck says he was just, quote, "building coalitions." I think the definition of "building coalitions" is, letting Democrats have their way in everything that matters. Ah, if only Democrats were as kind to Republicans as Republicans are to Democrats. Arkansas now has a Democrat governor, and five more Democrats in the state legislature that when Huckabee took office. It's also light one Republican U.S. Senator and one Republican U.S. congressman. But hey, it's packed tight with those wonderful "coalitions." That's the important thing, isn't it? I tried to build a similar case for Mitt Romney's Massachusetts, but the darn place is so irredeemably Democratic, Romney's governorship was just a blip. The new governor of Massachusetts is a chap named Deval Patrick, a much more traditional Democrat type — his first action on taking office was to change the governor's car lease from a Crown Victoria to a Cadillac. I haven't seen any news stories about Governor Patrick "building coalitions" with Republicans in his state legislature, but perhaps that's just because he hasn't been able to find any.
04 — The economy. And then we have the economy. I get a bit nervous here, because I don't believe I understand the economy at all. I sometimes suspect, in fact, that the national economy — not to mention the international economy — is a bit like quantum theory: if you think you understand it, then you definitely don't. What matters, of course, is not whether Radio Derb understands the world economy, but whether the government economists, the people who run the central banks, and the folk who issue and guarantee the big bonds — whether they understand the world economy. Do they? We're about to find out. There are certainly signs those big guys are worried. The Federal Reserve just gave us the biggest cut in short-term interest rates for 23 years — nice if you're on the debtor end, which of course the U.S.A. is nowadays. Every debtor needs a creditor, though; and if the rest of the world decides that it has better things to do with its resources than swap them for shrinking dollars, then, Katie bar the door. Our president has worked up a short-term stimulus package to get us all busy getting and spending again before a real recession can kick in. How's he going to finance this package? Why, by borrowing money from willing foreigners, that's how. Again, if those willing foreigners turn significantly less willing, get your mountain bike oiled up, 'cause you won't be able to afford to run your car. And this is the happy scenario — a big, long, U.S. recession. The ugly scenario is a world-wide depression, caused by total collapse of the debt markets, and reinforced, as the last one was, by protectionist measures demanded by struggling electorates in democratic countries. Still, look on the bright side here. As I said, I don't know squat about economics. And as Sir William Harcourt said to the young Winston Churchill: "My dear Winston, the experiences of a long life have convinced me that nothing ever happens." That was back in 1895; and, as we all know, nothing much has happened since then.
05 — Clintons dump black men. Oh, wait a minute, how could I have got through my campaign spots without mentioning the Clintons? It's more and more clear that what I told you in last week's Radio Derb is true: The Clintons and their party are giving up on the black male vote, figuring that if they can get Hispanics and women, that will more than make up for the loss. There's the problem with identity group politics: If some other identity group promises more votes and influence than yours, you can kiss your candidate goodbye — or, in this case, hasta la vista. Politics is not a sentimental business. If it was, the Clintons wouldn't be in it, because when sentimentality pills were being handed out, the Clintons had stepped out of the line to go shred a few billing records. Latest from the Clintons: Senator Obama was consigliere to a Chicago slum landlord; Senator Obama thought Republican ideas — like tax breaks for evil Wall Street fat cats — were wonderful; Senator Obama waffled on key issues when in the Illinois legislature, voting "present" instead of "aye" or "nay"; Senator Obama is a shill for some nuclear energy company keen to dump radiocative waste in our back yards; Senator Obama has a secret room in his basement where he tortures cute small animals … This is great fun to watch. Underneath it all is a melancholy truth, though: that once the civil rights movement had done its work, and unjust laws had been struck down, black solidarity was a losing strategy for black Americans. As an identity group, they are now homeless. The Democrats don't want them — probably never really cared about them, for all the flapdoodle about Bill Clinton being our first black president. The Republican Party welcomes black Americans as individuals, but has mostly refused to pander to them as an identity group. Worst of all, by yoking themselves to the Democratic Party, black Americans signed on to the open-borders lobby, thus bringing about their own dispossession. My advice to them now would be to vote for Ron Paul. However, the signs are, so far as one can see the signs, deep down in that humongous hole they've been digging themselves this past 40 years, that black Americans are still digging.
06 — The Maldives. OK, listeners, here's a pop quiz, get yer pencils out: What is the flattest country in the world? This is nothing to do with the Radio Derb item of a couple of weeks ago, when I informed you that with a few trivial exceptions, the U.S.A. is the fattest country in the world. We've all got over that, with the help of a milk shake and a bag of Cheezits. This isn't fattest, it's flattest. So what's the flattest country? Answer, which I know you didn't get: The Maldives, a scattering of coral atolls in the southern Indian Ocean. The highest natural point in The Maldives is only 7½ feet above sea level. The Maldives is also the world's smallest Muslim nation, the practice of other religions being prohibited by law to its 300,000 citizens. Since it's a Muslim nation, you know crazy things are going to happen in The Maldives. (Though I'm just going to break off from my main narrative here to grumble about counties having names that start with "the." I thought we'd got rid of this, actually. When I was a kid, the world was full of "the" countries: The Lebanon, the Ukraine, the Argentine, the Philippines. It was a darn nuisance. France has a government that you can call "the French government," but what do you call the government of a "the" country? "The The Lebanon's government"? If the inhabitants of Germany are the Germans, what are the inhabitants of The Ukraine — the The Ukrainians? OK, that's my grumble. Now back to our regular scheduled programming.) Where was I? Oh yes, the Maldives. Well, since 1978, the President of this peculiar nation has been a bloke euphoniously named Maumoom Gayoom. (Which sounds like the set-up to one of those old jokes, you know — If Claire Bloom had married Muhammad al-Badr, former king of north Yemen, then after being widowed had married Maumoom Gayoom, would it be proper to address her as Claire Gayoom Badr-Bloom? … Never mind.) President Gayoom's 90 percent vote in the 2003 elections would have humiliated the other candidates, if there had been any, which of course, … there weren't. Well, President Gayoom was the subject of an assassination attempt January 8, when a bearded young man shouting "God is Great!" went at him with a knife. The president was saved by a 15-year-old Boy Scout who had turned out with his troop, in full Scout kit, to greet the leader. The lad grabbed the knife blade, at some injury to himself, and is now a national hero, sitting up in his hospital bed telling relays of reporters that he was acting on the Boy Scout motto: "Be prepared." Well, it's good to know that the Scouts are on our side in the conflict with Islamic terrorism. With the highest point of your territory only seven feet above sea level, though, if global warming turns out to be a reality, the The Maldivians had better be prepared for a really long swim.
07 — Clueless in Gaza. Ah, the Middle East. "Ship me somewheres east of Suez," pleaded Kipling's soldier. The further east the better, would be my preference — countries like Burma and North Korea are havens of sanity and good government compared with some of these hell-holes in the Arab world. Take the Gaza Strip, for instance. Now run by Hamas, a fanatical terrorist organization financed by our dear friends in Saudi Arabia, the Gaza strip is basically a welfare slum. Most of its inhabitants live in refugee camps, and are clothed and fed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. What are they refugees from? Actually, from the war of annihilation the Arabs launched against the infant State of Israel back in 1948. That war didn't work out quite as planned, Israel remains un-annihilated, and Arabs who ran from the fighting are still vegetating in those camps on the U.N. dole, sixty years later. Back in 1948, Europe was full of refugees from WW2, millions of them, but to their great good fortune, they did not have a U.N. agency to keep them in a state of permanent dependency. Nor did they have 300 million ethnic brothers who refused to absorb them, seeing more to profit from in keeping them poor and displaced. Well, there's the Gaza Strip, hot and dusty welfare slum run by a gang of crazy terrorists. What the crazy terrorists like to do is, lob high explosive missiles over their borders into Israeli towns. This naturally irks the Israelis, who retaliate by send planes on bombing runs into Gaza. So not only is Gaza a hot, dusty welfare slum run by lunatics, it is also subject to occasional bombing. Great place. huh? Before you rush off to book tickets for your next vacation there, though, note that things have been getting worse there recently, if you can imagine that. Fed up with having their citizens killed, the Israelis have blockaded the stinking place. Gazans have reacted by tearing down the wall that separates them from their only other neighbor, Egypt. Now Egypt is a country that, to put it very very mildly, does not tolerate Islamic terrorist groups. They have spent much of the past half-century trying to put down the Muslim Brotherhood, one such group. Hamas, which runs Gaza, got its start as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. So you can imagine how the Egyptian government feels, watching Gazans pull down the wall that kept them out of Egypt. On the other hand, of course, the Gazans are Egypt's poor, poor Arab brothers and sisters, who have been so cruelly treated by the evil Zionists and their Western puppets. I don't know what the Arabic is for "cognitive dissonance" but I'll guarantee there are some heated arguments going on among Egyptian leaders right now. Chances are there'll be tears before bedtime.
08 — GOP debate. OK, it's Thursday night here in Radio Derb spacetime, and I'm going to watch this Republican candidate debate in Florida. I haven't watched too many of these debates, and it's time I made up. I shall report back shortly. Here is some soothing music to keep you tuned till I get back. [Minuet in G] OK, sat through an entire candidate debate there. I'd better admit that I dozed off for a while in the middle — I'm sorry, but I mean, face it, it was all a bit wonkish, wasn't it? It's great that these guys are all briefed up to the nose-holes on things like federal disaster insurance and alternative energy sources, but, you know, if you're sitting there in a really comfortable armchair, and you had that extra glass of wine at dinner, well, an hour and a half of politics is about an hour too much. I was glad to see how good-natured it all was, and how much these guys all like each other, or at least don't dislike each other so much they can't keep it well hidden. McCain called Ron Paul "Ron"; Giuliani called McCain "John." So much more relaxing than watching those beastly Democrats snarling and spitting at each other. A bit too relaxing, in my case, but I've already apologized for that. OK, here's the round up: Romney — smart, capable, likeable (for the first time, for me), boring as all hell. McCain — less smart, less boring, probably just as capable, but wrong about too many things. Very, very nice tribute to Rudy at the end there, though. Giuliani — uninspiring, till we got to that question about the New York Times, when I suddenly remembered why I favored him. (Not liked, favored — if you like Rudy Giuliani, you should seek counseling.) Huckabee — funny, likeable as all get out, wouldn't trust him to mail a letter. Paul — Talked plain good sense with conviction. He's supposed to be the nutty one? Bottom line: Paul the clear winner, but Romney did well, and nobody disgraced himself, or our party.
09 — Miscellany Here's our closing miscellany of minor items.
Item: Something new to worry about: the planet is running out of dirt. David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington, tells us that the average depth of topsoil on our planet is only three feet, and modern agricultural methods are depleting it by one percent a year. Mr. Montgomery has written a book with the title Dirt, to draw attention to the issue. Dirt. We're running out of the stuff. Well, that'll put the Clintons out of business.
Item: Chuck Norris said that John McCain is too old to be president. Lashing back, McCain said, quote: "I'm going to send my 95-year-old mother to just go over and wash Chuck Norris' mouth out with soap." Well, lots of luck with that, Ma'am. Should make great reality TV, anyway.
Item: Our president came back from his Middle East trip with the same thing our presidents always come back with when they visit that part of the world: a great big wedgie. No, said the Gulf states, we can't pump any more oil, we're pumping all we can. Sure, said the Palestinians, we'll stop lobbing missiles into Israel — except that, sorry!, we have absolutely no control over the guys lobbing them. Sorry, said the Saudis, we don't believe what you're telling us about the Iranian nuclear threat, we'd rather believe what your own National Intelligence Estimate said. You know, said the Israelis, we'd love to get those settlements out of the West Bank, but there's just too much public opposition. This is a democracy, after all — that's why you support us, right? Oh, the Saudis did agree to buy a ton of military stuff from us … if Congress approves it, and if the British, French and Russians don't undercut us on price. Great trip, Mister President. Is that Middle East a fun place, or what?
Item: One more Joshua here: an evangelist preacher in Liberia, West Africa, who uses the name Joshua, but whose actual name is Milton Blahyi. Before he got religion, this Joshua was a commander in one of Liberia's rebel armies during the civil war of the 1990s. Quote from the BBC news item, quote: "Mr Blahyi stopped fighting in 1996, saying God appeared to him as he was charging naked into battle and told him he was doing Satan's work." Say what? Oh, did I mention that the 37-year-old Joshua was known in his military career as "General Butt Naked" because he went into combat with no clothes on, to scare the enemy. He says he is now ashamed of that. He is also ashamed of having killed small children and eaten their hearts, as preparation for battle. Oh, heck, Josh, we've all done things we regret, you know?
Item: The New York Philharmonic will play a concert in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, February 26. Our own Jay Nordlinger has written a great piece about this for National Review. It's not clear whether Dear Leader Kin Jong Il will be attending the concert. I can guarantee, however, that one tune they will not be playing is that solo the Dear Leader sings in Team America: "I'm ronery, so ronery, so ronery and sadry arone …"
Item: Over in the Mother Country, a young chap and his lady friend were stopped from getting on a bus. 25-year-old Dani Graves and his fiancée claim they were discriminated against by the bus company. Why weren't they let on the bus? Because the driver judged that Mr. Graves's girlfriend might be in danger if the bus were to brake sharply. Why would he think that? Ah, well, you see, the young lady wears a dog collar. Not the clerical type — this is an actual dog's collar. She also wears a leash, a regular dog's leash; and Mr Graves, her fiancé, is at the other end, holding the leash. Explains Mr Graves, quote: "The use of the leash is a sign of trust. She's very animal like, she's kind of like a pet, as well as a partner." He said he "does everything" for the lady, including laying out clothes for her, feeding her and cleaning their house. After all, as Mr Graves says, quote: "You wouldn't expect your cat or dog to wash the dishes." Well, no, of course you wouldn't. Vain to speculate, I suppose, about the more intimate details of this couple's life together. I do hope, though, that when they are out walking, Mr Graves behaves as a responsible pet owner should, especially if his fiancée wanders onto the neighbors' lawns.
10 — Signoff. I haven't seen that last story reported in the American newspapers anywhere, so I guess you could call it a … scoop. OK, well, with that I must leave you. I have columns to write, books to review, and indeed a book to write — not to mention, of course, children to raise and a wife to please. What I don't have any more, since the last Radio Derb, is a little ol' bundle of dog to talk to, and walk with, and help me stay sane and focused. We miss you, Boris — but thanks for 15½ years of the most love a creature ever gave to a family. Now here's another guy with an acoustic guitar, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, the Jewish cowboy.
[Music clip: "Old Shep."]