• Play the sound file (duration 28m28s).
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb is on the air! — the show you're waiting for when you listen to Rush and Hannity to kill the time. Yes, folks, this is your preternaturally genial host John Derbyshire with another week of news and comment. Just before we start, let me clear up a point I get asked about a lot. Why is this Radio Derb, not Radio Derbyshire or Radio Darb? The answer, my friends, can be found in Cassell's German-English dictionary. Look up the German word "derb" and this is what you find, quote: "derb, adjective. firm, solid, strong, powerful, robust, hardy, sturdy, stout; coarse, blunt, rough, rude, uncouth …" er, obviously some mistake there … Never mind, on with the show.
02 — Obama and the Brits. What's up with Obama and the Brits? First our President sent back that Oval Office bust of Winston Churchill. Then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown comes calling, and doesn't even get a banquet, nor even a joint press conference on the White House lawn. What's going on here? The London newspapers have any number of theories, not all of them kind to the President. One of them, for example, speculated that Obama's avoiding public speaking because every time he says anything, the Dow drops another 300 points. Well, possibly, possibly. I don't think you have to dig too deep here, though. Fact is, Obama's anti-British. If you read his autobiography, he's anti-European in a general way. In 1988 he took a trip to Kenya, where his father was born. He stopped off for a three-week European tour on the way. Quote from Dreams from my Father, page 301, quote: "By the end of the first week or so, I realized that I'd made a mistake. It wasn't that Europe wasn't beautiful; everything was just as I'd imagined it. It just wasn't mine." End quote. If European civilization sets Obama's teeth on edge, though, with Britain there is double resentment. The Brits used to run Kenya, you see; and, as Obama tells us in his book, quote again: "My grandfather was a cook, a domestic servant to the British." Oh dear. James Delingpole, writing in the London Daily Telegraph, takes a different tack, following the maxim cherchez la femme. La femme in this case, says Delingpole, is our First Lady. Quote, speaking of the low-key reception for Brown: "It was a move calculated to please his Lady Macbeth," end quote. The American press is still writing up Mrs. Obama as the new Jackie Kennedy — you know, all "style" and "poise" and "taste," laying out a new Rose Garden and ripping up Mamie Eisenhower's linoleum. Across the pond, however, they've moved on to the Lady Macbeth paradigm, the ruthlessly ambitious woman egging her husband on to extremes of ambition himself. So which is it: Is Michelle a Jackie Kennedy, or a Lady Macbeth? Don't ask me: I have no experience of high-maintenance women, never having had enough money to attract the attention of one. I don't think it's outrageous to speculate, though, that the President bears a grudge against the Brits for having colonized his Dad's country; and Michelle probably thinks they ran the slave trade. Hey, lady: It was a white Englishman, William Wilberforce, who got the slave trade abolished, and it was the British Navy that chased the slavers out of business, sometimes losing ships and men in the process. You're welcome.
03 — Obama and Rush. And then there's this business with Rush Limbaugh. I'd better be a little careful what I say here. For one thing, Radio Derb is in the same business as Rush, though of course he doesn't have anything like our ratings. For another, I did a cover story in the February 23rd issue of The American Conservative arguing that while Rush, Hannity, and the rest are, quote, "energizing and fun," conservatism could use a more thoughtful, more middlebrow presence on the airwaves, too: kind of like, oh, say, Radio Derb. Rush, in his speech at the CPAC conference the other day, didn't pick up the gauntlet I'd tossed down there — too scared of the power of Radio Derb, probably, and I don't blame him. All right, seriously, though, let's take this a step at a time. Step One: Any big political movement has many components — some lowbrow, some middlebrow, some highbrow. Everybody has a part to play, and we should all get on together as best we can. You don't necessarily have to love the other guy, but you have to co-operate with him to get anything done. Step Two: The U.S.A. is what Florence King calls it — the Republic of Nice. Some Americans like strong opinions. I'm partial to them myself. Most Americans don't though, and that's a fact of life. Rush is a man of strong opinions, and he turns off a lot of middle Americans who might otherwise be open to conservative ideas. It is therefore to the political advantage of the Left to tell the nation that Rush Limbaugh is the defining voice of conservatism. He isn't, and I'm sure he knows he isn't. He's one instrument in a symphony — a bit louder than the others at times like this, when the rest of the orchestra's trying to regroup, but there are other ideas and opinions out here on the Right. That's the thing the Left doesn't want middle America to know. Don't fall for it. Good luck to you, Rush. Hey, guy — you're welcome on my show any time, I'm sure you know that. Just have your people talk to my people, OK?
04 — Reductio ad Hitlerum. Now here comes Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, with his own opinion about Rush. This was on a CNN show with black commentator D.L. Hughley. Hughley said that Rush Limbaugh is the head of the Republican party. Steele said no, he's the head of the Republican Party. Rush is just a, quote, "entertainer." Then he said that what Rush does is, quote, "incendiary," and, quote, "ugly." Seems a bit cowardly to me, dumping on the small fry like that. If he'd taken on Radio Derb you could have some respect for the guy. Then this Hughley guy pulled a reductio ad Hitlerum out of nowhere. Speaking about the Republican national convention last year, Hughley said, quote: "It literally looked like Nazi Germany," end quote. "Literally"! Not metaphorically, literally! What a moron. What are the qualifications for getting your own show on CNN nowadays? You just have to pull out the Hitler card and wave it at people you disagree with? If Michael Steele had a spine, he'd have torn off his Mike and walked away from the set right there. You don't get to be RNC chairman on the strength of your spine, though — more like the opposite. So Steele smiled and nodded along with the Hitler stuff. Way to defend your party, Mike. Actually, if you want to see a stadium full of crazy ideologues whipped up into a frenzy at the sight of their beloved leader, the Democratic convention would have been more to your taste. Remember Obama's acceptance speech? [Hitler clip] No, wait a minute … got my sound clips mixed up here … Oh, never mind. Anyway, Steele called up Rush and apologized for the "incendiary" and the "ugly." Now he just has to call up the other twenty million registered Republicans and apologize to us.
05 — Stock slide. Meanwhile the stock market slides. Wednesday I was reading that the Dow's down at levels not seen since 1997. Thursday it was in 1996 territory. I'm starting to feel like the Time Traveler in H.G. Wells' story, watching the dials run backward. Perhaps we should dress up to match the Dow, you know, like in those theme parties. See, when the Dow reaches 2,000 we'll be back to the '87 crash. We can all wear red suspenders, smoke cigars, say "run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes," and carry copies of Bonfire of the Vanities around with us. When the Dow hits 500 it'll be 1958 again: we can wear skinny ties and jitterbug to old Bill Haley records. No, wait, that's not quite right. The heck with it. Does anybody actually know what's going on here? There's a theory going round that it's all deliberate on the President's part. See, you let the middle class watch its investments disappear. Then, when they're panicking, you push through huge spending bills. To pay for those, you inflate the currency. That wipes out the savings of people who've saved, but it also wipes out the debt of people who've borrowed. Since it's the thrifty bourgeoisie who've been saving and the feckless poor who've been borrowing, you just got social equality without breaking a sweat. Well, I'd just taken all that on board when someone told me, nah, we're looking at de-flation. Quote: "For inflation to occur, you need willing lenders and willing borrowers. In the current climate, you've got neither. My belief is that deflation is going to set in during the next 2-3 years as such an overwhelming force that there is nothing the government can do to stop it." End quote. So that means I should cash everything in, right? It's at times like this you realize how little you understand about economics. The only consolation is, nobody else understands much, either. The guy who told me "inflation!" and the guy who told me "deflation!" are both accredited financial experts. So who knows anything here? Not me, for sure. The administration looks pretty clueless, too. Here's 14-year-old wunderkind Tim Geithner, the guy who doesn't pay his income taxes, currently in charge of the U.S. Treasury. What's he got to say? He wants oil and natural gas companies to stop contributing to global warming, it says here. Wow, that goes right to the heart of the nation's financial concerns, Tim. How about the President? He's telling us to buy stocks. With what, Mr. President? We're broke — don't you get it? No, they don't get it. They don't have a clue. We're on a ship without a rudder here.
06 — Mugabe's birthday. Still, at least we're not in Zimbabwe. Last week was Robert Mugabe's 85th birthday, and naturally he had a celebration. The celebration lasted a week and cost a quarter million dollars. The climax came last Saturday with a lavish banquet. On the menu: 2,000 bottles of champagne, 8,000 lobsters, 3,000 ducks, 4,000 portions of caviar, 8,000 boxes of Ferrero Rocha chocolates, and assorted other extravagancies. The birthday cake weighed 85 pounds, which is probably more than the average adult Zimbabwean weighs after years of food shortages and plagues of AIDS and cholera untreated for want of medicines. Cap'n Bob's sticking to his priorities, though. His first priority is, as it has always been, to get whitey. He made a speech at his birthday bash warning the few dozen white farmers still left in his country that, quote, "They must vacate those farms." Watching news clips of the birthday events, I must say, Cap'n Bob looks pretty good for an 85-year-old. That's really bad news for Zimbabweans, and not just white ones.
07 — DC vouchers. Radio Derb listeners hardly need me to tell them that liberals are liars, thieves, and hypocrites. In fact, to judge from news stories this past few weeks, you can add "tax scofflaws" to that list. Still, it's always nice to see confirmation of what we know. Case in point: The current flap over Washington DC school vouchers. The story here concerns striving kids in the Washington DC school system. Those kids don't stand much of a chance in the public school system, where most students are more interested in fashion, status games, and relationships, than in academic achievement. If you're a bright, studious kid with parents who want to help you, the average DC public-school classroom is about as much use to you as five hours a day spent at a frat party. Well, back in January 2004 the Republican Congress passed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act, setting up a five-year pilot program of vouchers for D.C. kids to attend private and parochial schools. Note the dates there, though: passed in January '04 as a five-year pilot program. That means the program is up for reauthorization right now. Of course, we no longer have a Republican Congress, nor a Republican President. The federal legislature and executive are in the hands of the Democratic Party. When the teacher unions say "jump," the Dems all shout back in unison: "How high?" So whaddya think are the chances of the voucher program being reauthorized? Quote from the New York Post: "President Obama has repeatedly said that he opposes a voucher program, but he has remained silent on the plight of the Washington program's current participants. The office of Sen. Ted Kennedy, who chairs the Senate committee that oversees education and who fought hard against the original vouchers pilot program, refused to respond to requests for comment." End quote. A nice twist here is that Sidwell Friends, the tony private school that the Obama girls attend, has some of these voucher students also attending. I hope Malia and Sasha didn't strike up any friendships with them. If they did, there'll be some tearful goodbyes pretty soon.
08 — Miscellany. The miscellany — a few short items to see us off to bed.
Item: Remember how Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders was banned from Britain a couple of weeks ago? This is the guy who made that movie Fitna, portraying Islam as a religion of violence and intolerance. Well, latest opinion polls show that Wilders' Freedom Party is now the most popular in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is one of those countries with a lot of parties, where every government is a coalition government. Still, the head of the biggest party gets to be Prime Minister. If an election were held tomorrow, that would be Mr. Wilders. So then the British government would be in the position of banning the elected Prime Minister of a fellow EU member state. They would, I'm sure. There aren't any lengths the Brits won't go to to appease their Muslims. Still, you have to think that even they would feel a twinge of embarrassment about frog-marching the Dutch Prime Minister on to a plane at Heathrow.
Item: In the Pakistani city of Lahore, where Rudyard Kipling started his writing career 130 years ago, a bus carrying the Sri Lanka cricket team to a stadium to play a match against the Pakistan team was attacked by terrorists. Seven players and a coach were wounded, six policemen were killed, the terrorists all got away. Who done it? "Islamic extremists," we are told, though one Pakistani government minister blamed India, saying it was retaliation for the Bombay attacks. Wonder what Kipling would have said. He didn't care much for cricket — he called cricketers "the flanneled fools at the wicket" — but he had a warning for liberal hedonists, quote: "When they were fullest of wine and most flagrant in error / Out of the sea rose a sign — out of Heaven a terror. / Then they saw, then they heard, then they knew — for none troubled to hide it, / An host had prepared their destruction, but still they denied it."
Item: Yes, denial's in the air. Take the FBI field office in Manhattan, one of the biggest in the country, workplace of over 1,000 agents and 800 support staff. This is the FBI I'm talking about — New Yorker's first line of defence against terrorists, mobsters, and people who tear the labels of mattresses without Commerce Department authorization. Well, Monday this week we had a snow storm in New York. The FBI field office declared a snow day, and texted their officers in the field not to show up. The office was closed all day. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms followed. So did the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. Postal workers did their rounds, city agencies were all open, and even the naked cowboy, who strums the guitar in Times Square wearing nothing but his BVDs, was out there. For the federal government, though, it was just too cold. Your tax dollars not at work, folks.
Item: When I was a kid in England, if you wanted to use a cubicle in a public convenience, you had to put a penny in a slot to open the cubicle door. The expression "spend a penny" was in current use as a synonym for "go to the bathroom." Those were the big old pennies, too, the ones that had a picture of Britannia on and weighed as much as a roofing tile, not the flimsy contemptible Made in China counterfeits they use today. Yes, times have changed, and prices have gone up. If you fly on the Irish airline Ryanair in future, you'll have to pay to use the airplane bathroom in flight. Not just a penny, either, but a full English pound — that's a dollar forty. I don't know if "spend a pound" will catch on in everyday speech. "Spend a trillion" is getting to be common parlance around the halls of Congress, so I suppose it might.
Item: Never let it be said that the wellsprings of American ingenuity and inventiveness have dried up. A man in Omaha, Nebraska has invented a cat bong. Yes, this 20-year-old Thomas Edison put together a box-like contraption that he could smoke weed through, and that was also big enough to put his cat in when the creature got antsy. The cat's name is Shadow. We don't know the gentleman's name, though future generations will undoubtedly build statues to him. Quote from the AP report: "The cat was taken to the Capital Humane Society, where she appeared to be in good condition," end quote. I hope they had a couple of supersize bags of Friskies on hand.
Item: We all know about the man who killed his parents, then threw himself on the court's mercy pleading that he was an orphan. Well, here's a case from Manhattan Supreme Court. A 23-year-old Hasidic Jew named David Silverman is charged with statutory rape and child pornography. It's alleged that he and two friends lured three girls, ages 14 to 15, into an apartment, got them drunk, and raped them, taking pictures of the whole event. Silverman is pleading that he can't assist in the case because he's too devout to look at the photographic evidence. Now that is chutzpah!
Item: Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Mugabe scarfs down lobster and champagne while his people eat grass, and in the White House there are conga lines. Yep, while we proles huddle shivering around makeshift braziers waiting for the soup kitchen to open, feeding our stock certificates into the flames to keep warm, Barack and Michelle are partying the night away. Private movie screenings, rock bands, Stevie Wonder … and the other night there was a black tie event for governors that ended with a conga line. I guess I'm all right with it governors-wise; but if they do this at the next black tie for senators, I really wouldn't want to be in the conga line ahead of Larry Craig.
Item: Some linguists at Reading University in England have been running computer simulations of language change. Along the way, they claim to have identified the oldest words in the English language. "I," "we," "two," and "three" are the specimens given in the news story. The researchers also claim they can predict which words are likely soon to become extinct: "squeeze," "guts," "stick," and "bad" are likely prospects. I dunno about this. At this time of year, with the IRS squeezing the guts out of us, it's hard to resist the thought that the oldest word in the English language must be "tax." As for words soon to become extinct, I'm rooting for "Obamamania."
09 — Signoff. Lady Macbeth, huh? Well, here she is. She just got hubby's letter telling her about his promotion to district sales manager for western Scotland. "Hurry on home," she says, "I want to light your fire. L'audace impresa a compiere / Io ti darò valore" — I'll give you courage to fulfill the bold enterpise. See, this is a class operation here. You don't get this stuff on Rush Limbaugh.
[Music clip: From from Verdi's Macbeth — Vieni! T'affretta! …]