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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. That was one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches and this is your genial host John Derbyshire with yet another edition of Radio Derb.
Lots of mischief and mayhem to report this week so let's get right on down to the depressing details.
02 — O'Bama Endorsed By Ambulance Chaser. Now, young Paddy O'Bama, as we all know, gets masses of votes from black Americans and also from wine-swilling, Volvo driving, arugula-munching white liberals. He hasn't been polling so well among us horny-handed, sons of toil — the ones with blue-collars and pasty, pink skins.
I include myself in the category — fairly, I think. My hands aren't actually that horny, only a little callused from climbing up and down the rope ladder to my work space up there in the family tree house. I am pasty, though, and my cars are a Ford and a Chevy. I mow my own lawn, I do my own home repairs, I own two hand guns and I am pretty sure I have never in my life eaten arugula.
Well, to bolster up his cred with the beer and bowling crowd, young Paddy has now enlisted the help of people's tribune, champion of the common man, comforter of the afflicted and afflicter of the comfortable, John Edwards.
Yes, the boyish former senator and vice-presidential candidate, took a break from his regular day job — you know, driving doctors out of his state and pushing medical insurance costs through the stratosphere — he took a break to endorse Paddy at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Wednesday. Edwards said that Senator Obama quote, "Stands with me in a fight to cut poverty in half within ten years."
Oh yeah, that'll happen. Remember those bumper stickers saying, "I fight poverty. I work"? Well, in the promised land of Edwards and Obama, you won't need to work. The government will give you all the stuff you need and they will do all the poverty fighting on your behalf.
Of course if you want to work, you will be allowed to. Just don't let Mrs Obama know that you're working for one of those "evil corporations." "Community Organizer" is a safer bet; or "Hospital Diversity Consultant."
Or if you want to keep your hands authentically horny, you could apply for a job on the gardening crew at John Edwards' hundred-acre estate up there in Chapel Hill.
03 — Would a Black President Improve Race Relations? Here's a question for you to ponder. Just suppose, as a hypothetical, that Al Gore cannot assume the presidency for some reason, and our next president is Barack Obama instead. Senator Obama is, by the common definition, a black guy.
Now here's the question: What, if anything, would be the effect of an Obama Presidency on race relations in the USA?
My guess would be, it would make them much worse.
People of my generation — early boomer — have this lingering vision of an America where race doesn't matter, where we're all just citizens.
Our corresponding nightmare is an America where the races separate out, where we just go our own ways, having as little as possible to do with each other … Leading at last — inevitably I should think — to the nation just breaking up like Cyprus or Yugoslavia. I think an Obama Presidency would make that more likely.
To begin with, consider white Americans. An Obama Presidency would be an absolution for us. Whatever remaining sentiment there is among white Americans — and I must say my impression is there's not much — but whatever there is that we should, you know, do something to help our black fellow citizens — Affirmative Action or stuff like that — that sentiment will be washed away.
What more could we possibly have to do? We elected a black president. What more could they possibly want from us?
That would be a final turning away from any interest in black Americans and their problems on the part of whites.
Now consider black Americans. The things that vex them about being black in America would not change under an Obama Presidency. Who thinks they would?
For instance, black Americans are about 13 percent of our population, and yet they are 37.5 percent of all state and federal prisoners. How exactly would Barack Obama change that number? Of course he couldn't.
How could he close the persistent black/white gap in academic and occupational testing? He couldn't. Educators and administrators have been trying for decades to shift those numbers, with very little to show for it.
Do black Americans suffer from inequities in American society? Sure they do; but the causes are much deeper and far more intractable than any of us imagined forty years ago. Having a black guy in the White House for four or eight years, isn't going to fix them.
So for black Americans — who tend to have much more faith than the rest of us do that government can change things and fix things — for black Americans, an Obama Presidency will probably be a huge disappointment, reinforced by that awareness that whites feel themselves absolved from any further responsibility for the collective problems of black America.
And then there's the immigration issue. It has always seemed possible to me that black Americans and white Americans might have worked out their differences and achieved some kind of national harmony if the 1965 immigration act had not ended our forty-year pause in mass immigration.
Now we have a huge sub-population of Hispanics who have developed their own racial conciousness and racial strategy. Their main lobbying organization is actually called La Raza, which means "The Race." Obama in turn will look back at Hispanics with a warm smile and say, "Come on in! Bring your brothers! Bring your cousins!" Obama is an amnesty and open borders guy, big time.
So we shall become even more definitely and even more self-consciously, a tri-racial country … with Hispanics looking at an Obama Presidency and saying, "Our turn next!"
So in my opinion, far from being a healer, Barack Obama as president would make our racial divisions even deeper and more rancorous.
Would this necessarily be true of any black president? No, certainly not. A black president coming into office with a Bill Cosby kind of message — to stop whining and stop blaming white people for everything and just practice bourgeois norms — a guy coming into office with a message like that might really improve things, especially if he also took a firm line on mass immigration.
Barack Obama however, is not that guy.
04 — Palestinian Arabs: The Eternal Refugees. If you go to the BBC News website and click on "Middle East" you'll find yourself looking at a lot of stories about the 60th Anniversary of Israel's independence.
Several of those stories cover the dispossession of Palestinian Arabs and the poor lives they have in refugee camps. Here's one story, quote:
Sixty years ago, the Diab family swapped the simple life of Palestinian peasants in western Galilee for an existence of displacement, dispossession and exile.
These people have been refugees for sixty years, living in UN camps in Lebanon.
Here's another story. Actually it's sort of picture slide show, a tour of the crammed and slummy Shatilia refugee camp, which is also in Lebanon.
Here's another one, headline: Clinging to dream of Palestine Village, about some Arab Christians forced from their home village. These Arabs are actually Israeli citizens but the Israeli government won't let them rebuild their old village for some reason.
Well, that's all very interesting, I have a question though.
Couldn't the BBC have posted just one story about the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were driven from their ancient homes in Arab countries during the 1940s and 1950s? Not even one story?
If it had posted such a story, it might have mentioned the fact that none of those dispossessed Jews — most of whom fled penniless, in terror of their lives — none of them now considers himself a refugee. Nor, come to think of it, do any of the descendants of those millions of stateless people who were milling helplessly around Europe in 1945.
The permanent refugee — indeed even worse: the multi-generational refugee — family seems to be a strictly Arab phenomenon. Why is that, I wonder?
05 — Government Protects Charismatic Megafauna. Here's a phrase to roll around your tongue: "charismatic megafauna."
Charismatic megafauna. Megafauna are big animals. Charisma is that quality in a creature that grabs and holds your attention. So, charismatic megafauna are attention-grabbing big animals: tigers, elephants, sharks, kangaroos and so on.
And … polar bears! Which have just been put on the endangered species list by our interior secretary, a gentleman named — I'm sure I don't need to remind you — Dirk Kempthorne.
Polar bears are in trouble because they walk across sea ice to get to their dens on shore. And sea ice is said to be thinning out, up there in the Arctic.
Wait a minute, are there any polar bears in the USA, for our government to protect? Well yes, there are a few up there on the Alaska North Shore. [I meant "North Slope," of course — JD.] Oh yes, Alaska North Shore. Not much goes on up there, does it?
Well yes, actually, something does go on up there. It's a thriving area for oil and natural gas exploration. So … doesn't the need to protect the bears conflict with the need to go digging for oil and gas?
Well, it might but clever Mr. Kempthorne has written some stipulations into his protection order to make sure that exploration won't be affected.
So the whole thing is just a cosmetic exercise then? Well, of course it is. This is the federal government: three quarters of everything they do is cosmetic.
Personally, I'm not going to lose sleep over the polar bears. In the grand sweep of geological time, which of course is where my thoughts do most of their roaming, charismatic megafauna come and go. Tyrannosaurus Rex, the mastodon, the sabre-tooth tiger, they all had their brief day. They came and they went.
The real survivors in evolutions ruthless game are creatures we never think about — un-charismatic fauna. Ants, jellyfish, sea slugs, worms, creatures like that.
The polar bear's only been with us for a quarter million years or so. In fact, some geneticists don't even think it's a separate species. Ants, by contrast, have been around for tens of millions of years and jellyfish have been around for hundreds of millions of years.
Charisma doesn't last, you see, and on the cosmic scale, any kind of charismatic megafauna is just a flash in the pan.
So, don't weep for the polar bear. If you want to weep, weep about the possibility that the most charismatic megafauna of all may be Homo sapiens.
06 — Earthquake in China. The earthquake in Southwest China may have killed fifty thousand people. Whole towns with thousands of inhabitants have been flattened.
Many schools collapsed, burying their students; and this is a particular tragedy in China where the government enforces a one child policy. Countless Chinese people lost their only child last week. There is a heart-breaking story of one such couple in Thursday's New York Times.
China's corruption doesn't help. The country is ranked 72nd least corrupt in Transparency International's Corruption Index, down there with Senegal, Brazil and … oh Lord, Mexico.
So suppose the authorities in some Chinese province decide to build a school. They hand off the project to a construction firm whose director, it so happens, is the brother-in-law of the provincial party secretary. You know that contractor will be sure to use top quality construction materials, don't you? And when a quality control inspector shows up on site, you know there could never be any possibility of him being sent away with a thick brown envelope in the pocket of his jeans, right?
Everybody in China knows how it works and there is a lot of anger. You won't hear much about that anger any more than you've been hearing about the mass arrests, beatings and killings being carried out by the communist secret police all over the Tibetan areas of China following those March disturbances in Lhasa.
Corruption, natural disasters, and a gangster government. Poor China, poor China. If freedom's morning ever breaks over China, that will be one of the greatest days in the history of humanity.
07 — Congratulations on killing your daughter, Sir! You might have heard of the case of Ali Abdel-Qader but if you haven't, or if you have but can bear to hear it again, here it is.
Mr. Abdel-Qader is a modest, middle-class Iraqi: forty-six years old, an employee in the government health department. He lives in a pleasant house in the city of Basra, in southern Iraq.
Mr. Abdel-Qader had a daughter named Rand: seventeen years old and studying English at a local college. As well as being a student, young Rand also did volunteer work helping displaced families. The British Army in Iraq also helps out with this kind of work.
Well Rand met one of the British soldiers, a 22-year-old named Paul. They had several conversations over a period of four months. Mr. Abdel-Qader got to hear about this. Outraged that his daughter had been seen in public talking to an infidel — an invader, a Christian — Mr. Abdel stomped, suffocated, and then stabbed his daughter to death.
Mrs Abdel-Qader, the girl's mother, called Rand's two brothers, 23-year-old Hassan and 21-year-old Haydar, to restrain Mr Abdel-Qader as he was stomping on his daughter's throat to break her windpipe. The two brothers however, joined in, helping their dad to dispose of their wayward sister. When she was dead, Rand's shrouded corpse was tossed into a makeshift grave without any ceremony and her uncles spat on it in disgust.
Mr. Abdel-Qader was subsequently arrested, but he left the police station a free man just an hour or so later with the praise and congratulation of the police ringing in his ears. As Mr. Abdel-Qader explained to the London Guardian, quote:
Everyone knows that honor killings sometimes are impossible not to commit. The police officers were by my side during all the time that I was at the station, congratulating me on what I had done.
Mr Abdel-Qader is now a local hero. He has no remorse, and the Guardian reports that his voice was swelling with pride here, quote:
I have only two boys from now on. That girl was a mistake in my life. I know God is blessing me for what I did. My sons are by my side, and they were men enough to help me finish the life of someone who just brought shame to ours.
And so we proceed into our sixth year of helping the brave, long-suffering and grateful Iraqi people to rebuild their country.
08 — Miscellany. OK, here's the handful of short items to see us out.
Item: The University of Colorado may endow a visiting chair in conservative thought and policy.
A visiting chair in conservative thought and policy. The suggested nine million dollar endowment is meeting stiff opposition though. There is a widespread feeling at the university that the presence of a conservative on campus might rip open the fabric of space time with incalculable consequences.
Should the university nonetheless decide to go ahead with this new chair, I'd like them to know that I am available. As an added inducement, I have my own mountain bike and a brand new pair of Birkenstocks.
Item: One more thing to worry about: a rogue fungus.
Yes, a rogue fungus. The United Nations is warning about a new strain of wheat fungus that destroys … wheat. The name of the thing is Ug-99 or possibly that's U-G-99.
Quote from the United Nations:
Scientists and international organizations focused on controlling wheat stem rust have said that 90 percent of world wheat lines are susceptible to Ug-99. The situation is particularly critical in light of the existing worldwide wheat shortage.
End quote. You see, it's one darn thing after another.
Item: John Hagee — I hope that's the right pronunciation. H, A, G, double E — John Hagee, a televangelist down there in Texas, and a recent endorser of John McCain, has apologized to Catholics for some remarks he made associating the Catholic Church with anti-Semitism.
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for civil and religious rights, has accepted Hagee's apology and plans to meet with him in New York. I just hope we can get through to Ramesh in time with a mission abort command.
Item: The Pentagon is considering the idea of issuing Purple Hearts for post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychological affliction brought on by the stress of combat.
I'm not sure what to think of that, but I have a pretty good idea what George Patton would have thought of it. I can just see Old Blood and Guts up there on the stage now with that humongous stars and stripes behind him. [Patton voice] "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by succumbing to post-traumatic stress disorder for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb bastard succumb to post-traumatic stress disorder for his country …"
Item: Here's the most delicate quote of the week. Quote: "The sculpture has departed somewhat from what was depicted in the concept design and the Commission of Fine Arts has raised some concerns."
That was Thomas Luebke, secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts which is a federal government advisory body on matters artistic. The statue they're talking about is one of Martin Luther King to be placed on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Our government commissioned the statue from Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin back in 2006. They wanted a, quote: "Dynamic, meditative figure of the late civil rights leader." What they got instead was socialist realism, probably just an old Mao Tse-tong statue sprayed over with brown paint.
Why did they commission a Chinese artist in the first place? I guess it was because, like the rest of us, they've just got used to the fact that everything is made in China and comes cheaper that way.
You get what you pay for, guys. I just hope the paint is non-toxic at least.
Item: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra performed, "The Impossible Dream" while being conducted by a robot.
Several robot jokes and impossible dream jokes come to mind here but I shall refrain, having been on Mrs Clinton's case far too much lately.
09 — Signoff. Well there you have it: another week we could have done without.
One that China for sure could really have done without. My heartfelt thanks to all those readers who emailed in to ask if my Chinese in-laws are okay. To the best of my knowledge they are.
And so far I haven't heard any fool politician blame the earthquake on global warming; so let's at least be thankful for small mercies.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches.]