»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, May 22nd, 2009


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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]

01 — Intro.     Greetings, listeners. John Derbyshire here, addressing the nation from National Review's lavishly-equipped state-of-the-art sound studio up here on the 95th floor of Buckley Towers, in the heart of Manhattan.

Our teams of technicians are at their consoles, my assistant Candy is standing by with her massage kit in case I need a quick relaxing rub-down, the producer is making finger gestures to me from behind the big glass wall there, and the On Air light is flashing! Time for another session with Radio Derb.


02 — Duelling speeches (1): form.

[Clip: "Dueling Banjos"]

Never really understood why that's called "Dueling Banjos," since what's actually dueling there is one banjo and one guitar. Be that as it may, this was the week of dueling speeches on national security, one by Barack Obama, our President, the other by Dick Cheney, our former Vice President.

So who came off best here? Did anyone end up squealing like a pig?

I can't say I think so. The President and his teleprompter did their oratorical best — which is very good indeed — to wriggle out of the trap Obama had set for himself with his own campaign oratory. Dick Cheney made a sturdy defense of the previous administration's policies on interrogation and detention.

I'd give it to Cheney on points, though I still think the Guantánamo detentions were a dumb idea that nobody at the time properly thought through.

Obama and Cheney are both guys with great political skills, though of very different styles. Obama does uplift, the kind of gassy content-free rhetoric that so many people find inspirational, though when you look closely at it there is very little of substance there. Cheney does gravitas, coming across as the ultimate grown-up, the wise tribal elder.

In their appeal, each of the two men is quintessentially of his party: Obama the perfect Democrat, Cheney the perfect Republican. Mommy and Daddy, poetry and prose.

Both men are less than they seem, though, those wonderfully well-constructed rhetorical facades hiding minds that are capable of entertaining seriously wrong ideas — ideas like limitless government spending, or the democratization of Iraq.

So much for style. What about substance? What did they actually say?


03 — Duelling speeches (2): content.     Well, the President gave us a brisk analysis of the Guantánamo issue. He put the detainees into five categories:

  1. Those who have violated U.S. criminal law: solution — try them in our courts.
  2. Those who have violated the laws of war: solution — try them before military commissions.
  3. Those who've been ordered released by the courts: solution — gotta release 'em.
  4. Those who can be transferred to another country: solution — gonna transfer 'em.
  5. Those who can't be prosecuted but pose a severe threat: solution — [sound of crickets chirping].

So far as I can detect, this is precisely the same policy as that of the Bush administration, so at least we have some continuity here.

The rest of the President's speech was standard liberal gas about how sensitive and principled we should all be, if we are to avoid the unthinkable, unspeakably horrible eventuality of somebody abroad not liking us.

Cheney's speech was pretty gas-free, and made some good debating points, for example on declassifying of intelligence we got from interrogations. Quote:

President Obama has used his declassification power to reveal what happened in the interrogation of terrorists. Now let him use that same power to show Americans what did not happen, thanks to the good work of our intelligence officials.

Good hard punching there from Cheney, who definitely won on points. Unfortunately there's not much effect from landing punches on a hot-air balloon.

And given that Cheney is one of the progenitors of the Guantánamo fiasco, a little contrition wouldn't have been out of place.


04 — Terrorists in the Bronx.     While the President and ex-Vice President were speaking of terrorism past, terrorism present showed up in New York City. A sting operation by city police and the FBI caught four men intending to blow up two Jewish establishments in the Bronx. The men had also been trying to get hold of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles so they could bring down planes at a National Guard air base near the city.

The four men were Muslims, of course, though you had to read about eight thousand words into the New York Times story on the plot before learning that. One member of the group is a Haitian citizen, or at least Haitian-born. The others are U.S. natives. All four were converted to Islam while in jail.

What a great idea that is, isn't it? — I mean, take a religion that is confessed by most of the world's craziest glittery-eyed homicidal maniacs, with large and well-funded extremist sects dedicated to mayhem against Western Civilization, and allow it to be taught to the most violent and depraved of our citizens.

Brilliant! What else do we teach to our prison inmates — how to cultivate the smallpox virus? Nuclear weapons design and manufacture?

Under our present legal regime, with legions of attorneys prowling around looking for "rights" to defend, I don't suppose there's any way to keep Islam out of prisons. We surely could keep the radical Imams out, though. If prisoners want to learn Islam, let them learn it from approved books and sets of DVDs, preferably as dull and scholarly as possible.

If the courts demand that actual Imams be allowed in to the prisons, make them the oldest and most conservative ones — scour the world for them. We want the Islamic equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury in there, not the Islamic equivalent of Ian Paisley. How hard can this be?

Anyway, congratulations to the cops and agents who caught these lunatics, thanks to the informer who ratted on them, and may all our enemies be as stupid as this crew, whose aggregate IQ seems to have barely broken into double digits.


05 — Australia stops immigration.     The recession has hit Australia, with rising unemployment and contracting economic activity. The Australian government has responded by cutting immigration quotas by fifteen percent. Laid-off mine workers returning to their home towns have found local jobs filled by foreigners, and there has been a lot of complaining.

From the news stories about this, you get a picture of how well thought-out Australia's immigration program is. They actually have a government minister in charge of immigration — what a concept! They also slice up the immigration quotas according to the skills their country needs.

Hairdressers and cooks were recently removed from Australia's list of critical occupation shortages. Now they're looking at deleting foreign bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters and electricians from the list, leaving only health occupations, engineering and information technology skills.

Obviously someone needs to go down there and explain to those dumb Aussies all the joys and benefits of mass unskilled immigration. You can't be a true nation of immigrants unless you open up your borders and let everyone in. Don't they understand that?

Perhaps we could send a delegation down there to enlighten them — you know, a few people each from La Raza, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, John McCain's campaign staff, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

We can't let the Aussies languish in darkness and ignorance.


06 — Netanyahu outfoxes Obama.     Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, came calling, and had a long talk with President Obama. The topics were, one, the Israel-Palestine business, and two, Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Obama, like every other President from the Democratic Party, dreams of being the guy who solved the Israel-Palestine problem. Lots of luck with that, Mister President.

Netanyahu's aims were more modest: mainly, to get some linkage between the two issues. If the U.S.A. can succeed in stopping Iran getting nukes, then Obama will be able to turn to Netanyahu and say: "OK, we did our part to remove that threat. Now you fulfill your side of the deal — get those settlers out of the West Bank and hand it over to the Arabs."

That's the linkage I mean, and Netanyahu wants it. Why does he want it? Because he has calculated, surely correctly, that the administration has no hope of success in stopping Iran's nuke program, and so the call on Netanyahu to give up the West Bank will never come.

Netanyahu easily outfoxed Obama, so much so that when he got back to Israel, probably feeling a bit guilty about the ease with which he'd gamed our clueless President, he ordered three dozen West Bank settlers evicted from a hilltop they'd occupied.

The settlers were back a few hours later, of course. I think it's a pretty safe bet that when the next President is sworn in, in January 2013, Iran will have nukes and the West Bank will be in the same condition it's in right now, with perhaps a few thousand more Israeli settlers on it.

Lather, rinse, repeat.


07 — Washington State newspaper bailout.

The Press — the Press — the glorious Press,
What thanks are due to those,
Who all attempts to quench its beams,
Triumphantly oppose;
To them belongs the wreathe of fame!
The garland of renown!
The honour of a deathless name!
A never-fading crown!

The anonymous 19th-century author of that stirring panegyric to the noble profession of journalism might wish us to offer thanks to Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington State.

The newspapers of the Evergreen State are in difficulties, like newspapers elsewhere. One of the biggest of them, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ceased print publication in March, and is now just a website. Well, Governor Gregoire has responded with a 40 percent cut in the state's main business tax for newspaper publishers — a bailout, in other words.

Speaking as an ink-stained wretch myself, I shall not gainsay the noble sentiments of that old poet. However, "the Press" today includes the internet and cable TV, showering the citizenry with information and opinion 24/7. If paper publications can't survive in this market, they should go the way of the buggy whip, the button hook, and the slide rule.

The tax shortfalls Governor Gregoire has just created will have to be made up from elsewhere.

That the newspapers of Washington State will heap praise on the Governor for her wisdom, is beyond doubt. She's a liberal Democrat, after all, and they are, you know, newspapers. The citizens of Washington State, however, including the dwindling number of citizens who continue to read newspapers, will have been made slightly poorer by Governor Gregoire's lousy bailout decision.


08 — Oxford university elects Professor of Poetry.     Speaking of poetry, here is yet more news from the poetry world, a.k.a. the verse universe.

You'll recall that Radio Derb scooped the world a couple of weeks ago with the news that both Britain and the U.S.A. now have Poets Laureate of the lesbian persuasion. Well, here's another official poetry position: the Chair of Poetry at Oxford University.

A new Oxford Professor of Poetry is elected every five years, and they just held the latest election. Winner was a lady poet named Ruth Padel — the first female ever to hold the position, but apparently heterosexual. So all three of the senior positions in English-language poetry are now occupied by women.

The Oxford election was marred somewhat by the withdrawal of Caribbean poet Derek Walcott, a winner of the Nobel Prize for literature and favorite for the Oxford job, until stories started circulating about him having imposed himself on pretty young female students. Whether the stories are true or not, I couldn't tell you; but at least, with ladies in all the senior positions now, there'll be no more danger of that …


09 — The mis-government of California.     The state of California, like New York State, is run for the benefit of public-employee unions, whose interest is to do as little work as possible for as much money as possible, and retire at fifty on lush taxpayer-funded benefits.

So long as they're allowed to keep running this scam, the public-sector unions don't much care what happens to the Golden State. They don't care if it fills up with Mexicans, or brush fires wipe out the occasional town, or environmentalists fence off a couple million acres to protect snail darters, or Gavin Newsom makes homosexuality compulsory in San Francisco.

In fact, they especially don't mind if the state fills up with Mexicans, because that makes more clients for the public-sector unions to represent — for the teachers and school administrators, the police and prison guards, the welfare officers, the Medicaid and public health minions.

Alas, there's a fly in the ointment: California has a system of plebiscites, the people at large voting on propositions placed before them. The particular propositions in a special election this week were for tax and borrowing measures to fix the state's huge budget gap. Five of the six propositions went down to defeat.

The state government has to cut its costs, and of course they don't know how to do that. No government ever knows how to cut costs, though they never have any problem increasing their expenditures. California's hope at the moment seems to be that the federal government will give them a big fat loan on easy terms.

That is such an appallingly bad idea, Obama might do it. He is a natural friend of public sector unions. Remember how, in his autobiography, he described his one brief venture into the private sector as putting him, quote, "behind enemy lines."

And then, it's important to keep all those Mexicans in the state while they raise up the next generation of Democratic voters.

Some observers might suggest that California could do itself a favor by denying all state funds to the four million or so California residents who are in the country illegally. Don't worry, though, you won't hear such foam-flecked extremism — such inhuman, bigoted, cruel, racist, nativist, heartless, mean-spirited, vile, abhorrent, un-American filth — from Radio Derb. No, Siree.

Nor from Barack Obama, either.


10 — Tiananmen Square Anniversary.     The twentieth anniversary of the Chinese student movement is coming up — that's the movement that ended with tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989.

China's communist dictatorship is marking the occasion with silence. Not the bowed-heads two-minute silence of respectful remembrance, but the silence that a wise criminal maintains when the subject of his grossest crimes comes up.

The communists' line on the student movement, to the degree that they permit it to be mentioned at all, is that is was a counter-revolutionary plot fomented by foreign agitators intent on weakening China.

China's real weakness is, that it is trying to run a modern economy and society with political techniques borrowed from Al Capone. If you tick off a powerful person, or try to interfere with the smooth operation of la cosa nostra, you get whacked. As for the inside workings of the organization, the rule of omerta applies — the oath of silence.

Once in a while, though, we get a peek into the machinery of Chinese goverment. We have had one just recently, with the publication of Zhao Ziyang's memoirs.

Zhao was Prime Minister of China in the 1980s, and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party from 1987 on. He was a reformer, who wanted to loosen ideological controls, allow more free discussion, and open up the economy. It was his easy-going approach, in fact, that allowed the protest movement to get airborne.

Then of course things got out of hand and the Party godfathers clamped down. The students were crushed. Zhao was put under house arrest, and remained there till he died in 2005.

Now Zhao's secret memoirs have been published — without, of course, the approval of the communist authorities. The communists are mad as hell in fact. They are venting their anger on anyone who tries to pay respects at Zhao Ziyang's grave. One 75-year-old scholar who tried to do so this week was beaten senseless by a communist goon squad.

That is the level of political civilization in China under communist rule.

Zhao believed that China should try to advance towards consensual government and the rule of law. Twenty years on, the mafiosi are still in charge.


11 — Obama's mustard.     The question came up this week: Is our new President condimentally correct?

On the road in Arlington, Virgina the other day, Obama and Joe Biden stopped at Ray's Hell Burger for a snack. The President spurned the usual ketchup for his burger, though, asking instead for "spicy mustard" or "Dijon mustard." he commentariat were all over this in a trice, with much scoffing by conservatives at the President's trying to have his plebeian burger and eat his patrician mustard too.

I'm afraid I'm not going to get on board with this one. Look, it's not very surprising that Obama has elite tastes. Prep school, liberal-arts college, Columbia University, Harvard Law — hel-lo? The guy's elite from his prefrontal cortex stuffed with postmodernist gobbledegook down to his wing-tip brogues. Who ever doubted it?

And of course, in a nation founded on disdain for aristocratic privilege, there's nothing wrong with jeering at elitist tastes. Is it really the case, though, that preferring tasty, spicy mustard to bland, chemical-loaded, made-in-China ketchup is an elite taste? Has the conservative movement really yielded that far to coarse populism?

I didn't vote for Obama, can't imagine ever voting for him, and I don't believe there's a single point of policy I agree with him on. On this mustard vs. ketchup thing, though, Obama is right, and conservatives should be man enough to admit it.


12 — Signoff.     Oh boy: first I diss Rush, Sean, and Laura, then I stand up for spicy foreign mustard against honest American ketchup. The way I'm going, I'll be getting my license pulled by the FCC. That's the Fellowship of Conformist Conservatives, of course.

Until they prise the microphone from my cold, dead, fingers, though, Radio Derb will be on the air to enlighten, instruct, and inflame, with all the news you need to know. More from us next week.

Here's Franz Joseph Haydn, who enjoyed nothing more after a night at the opera than a dollop of spicy mustard on his Wiener schnitzel.


[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]