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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. That was a fragment from one of Franz Josef Haydn's Derbyshire Marches. This is John Derbyshire, your invincibly genial host for another session of Radio Derb, where you get the week's news with a seasoning of Tory anarchism, a dollop of dark humor, and a side helping of civilizational despair. I note in passing that if you go to the Arts & Letters Daily website — which you should, on a regular basis — you will find a fine review by Andrew Clark of five, count 'em five, recent books about Haydn, the 200th anniversary of whose passing is currently being commemorated by Haydn lovers.
02 — Sotomayor confirmed. Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice by the U.S. Senate on a 68-31 vote. President Obama praised the Senate vote as, quote, "breaking another barrier and moving us yet another step closer to a more perfect union." If the President believes that, he's a bigger fool than I take him for. What "barrier" has been broken here? The barrier of legal disabilities against Americans of Puerto Rican parentage? The barrier of a consensus opinion that such people should be barred from sitting on the Supreme Court? The barrier of Senatorial disapproval of judges with Spanish-speaking parents? Where is the evidence of any such barriers? As for "moving us another step closer to a more perfect union," I think the opposite is true. The Sotomayor appointment moves us another step closer to naked ethnic conflict, to a spoils system in which everyone is looking out not for the good of the country, but for the good of the ethnic group he identifies with — rather like Barack Obama during his years as a community organizer. This appointment moves us another step closer to an open spoils system. No rational person can object to a well-qualified candidate from any background being elevated to the Supreme Court, if that candidate has shown a clear intention to interpret the Constitution and the laws impartially, as an American, without favor or animosity to any group. That's not what we're getting with Judge Sotomayor. Her record makes it clear that what we are getting is an ethnic activist, who, if faced with the choice between advancing the interests of the American people at large, and advancing the interests of her ethny, will go for the latter every time. Judge Sotomayor is not much interested in interpreting the Constitution; she's interested in sticking a finger in the gringo's eye at every opportunity. She comes to us after decades of marinating in all the crazy cult theories of modern far-left legal scholarship: Critical Race Theory, Queer Legal Theory, Feminist Jurisprudence, and all the rest of the crackpot emporium. She has for years been a proud member of an outfit named "The Race." What are we getting here? What do you think? Another damn community organizer.
03 — Town hall tensions. Speaking of community organizing, Saul Alinsky's book Rules for Radicals has been flying off the bookstore shelves recently. This is the bible of community organizers, the book written by a legendary Chicago leftist that tells you how to get people together in solidarity groups to harass and intimidate the powerful. Alinsky's methods are being studied and applied by ordinary citizens opposed to the Democrats' health care spend-o-rama. This has upset our wise congressional patriarchs, who assumed that their plan would be received by the populace with calm gratitude. There was a warning sign out here where I live on Long Island back in June, when one of our local Democratic congresscritters, Tim Bishop, had a meeting disrupted by people protesting against the multi-trillion-dollar free health care scheme. Congressman Bishop promptly canceled all future meetings on the subject, perhaps to give himself time to actually read the bill. Now it's August though, and all the congresscrooks are dispersing to their constituencies to hear from their voters, and rowdiness is breaking out all over. Godwin's law has already kicked in. That's the law that says that in any argument about any political topic, sooner or later one side will accuse the other of being Nazis. Sure enough, a protestor was spotted with a sign showing a swastika, crossed out, I suppose indicating that she thought the healthcare bill was a Nazi-style scheme. At the risk of getting a ticket under Godwin's law myself, I'll point out that this is not such a fantastic stretch. The Nazis did, when they governed Germany, try to impose some centralized organization on the part-public, part-private health system they inherited from the Weimar Republic, with everything controlled by a Reichsgesundheitsführer, a Reich Health Leader. In any case, the swastika was a gift to the Democrats. Nancy Pelosi turned it round to make it sound as though the protestors themselves were all Nazis. See, when Barack Obama and his boys back in Chicago would go and chant slogans to disrupt a meeting of the local hospital board, that was "community activism." When ordinary citizens show up to tell their congressmen they don't want health care run from Washington, that's the Third Reich on the march. [Clip of the Horst Wessel Lied.] Senator Barbara Boxer went even further, accusing the protestors of being "well-dressed." Not that's beyond the pale. But this is how our congressional panjandrums deal with the situation when we peasants get out of hand and start brandishing pitchforks at them. Harry Reid at least tried to add some rhetorical depth to the issue, waving a piece of astroturf at reporters. This was a metaphor too far for me, and I didn't get it until Ol' Harry helpfully explained. These protestors weren't grass roots supporters, he told us. The grass was fake; these were hirelings of the Republican Party and big insurance companies. That's why they were so well-dressed. See, community organizing is a fine and noble profession when leftists do it — suitable training for the U.S. Presidency, in fact. When anyone else does it, though, it's deplorable, bogus, and Nazi.
04 — Tennyson anniversary. As well as being the two hundredth anniversary of Haydn's passing, this is also the two hundredth birthday of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, one of the half-dozen best poets the English language has produced this past twelve hundred years. Tennyson's not much in fashion nowadays, but that just tells you what lousy times we live in. Here is Tennyson at the top of his form. You need to know a bit of background. This is a poem within a poem, a short poem in a very long one. The long one is called "The Princess." A Prince loves a Princess. He is wounded in battle, but the Princess takes him in and nurses him back to health, sitting with him all night. In the middle of the night, the Prince wakes in a semi-delirium and hears the Princess reading out loud to herself from, quote, "a volume of the poets of her land." This is the poem she is reading. The person Danaë it mentions is from Greek mythology. She was shut up in a tower by her Dad so she wouldn't get pregnant, but the god Zeus came to her through the window in a shower of golden rain and impregnated her. All right, here's the poem.
Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.
Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.
Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.
Poetry just doesn't get any better than that.
05 — Cash for clunkers. When I told my wife about Cash for Clunkers, she said: "Great! How much d'you think I'll get for you?" That's not nice, honey. Anyway, we took our own clunker down to the local Toyota dealer, only to find it didn't qualify. Your clunker has to burn a gallon every 18 miles or less; ours got 21. Cash for Clunkers isn't just about boosting the economy, see, it's also about saving the world. The Toyota people gave us a thousand bucks for the old rust heap anyway, and we drove home in a nice new Camry. Now of course we're broke and won't be spending anything for the rest of the year, which is probably not what the government intended. When do government intentions ever work out, though? The strange thing about the program is that they are destroying the clunkers. Why? I'm no economist, but destroying value seems an odd way to pep up the economy. A relative of mine in England used to work as a mechanic for a trucking firm. When the trucks got too old to be worth servicing at an English mechanic's wage, they were sold off to an Indian businessman who shipped them to East Africa, where they were kept on the road for another twenty years at an African mechanic's wage. Seems to me that that is rational economics. Oh, but I forgot: we have to save the world. This isn't about us selfish, beastly Americans; it's about foreigners, who are morally far superior to us. It's about hungry little children in places like, oh, east Africa. You might think those hungry little children would be better off if their Dads had jobs as truck mechanics, but you're wrong. An SUV being driven around at 15 miles per gallon is destroying the planet. An automobile factory churning out new cars to meet the demand raised by the Cash for Clunkers program, is doing no harm to the planet at all. Is that right? Do you get the impression this hasn't really been thought through?
06 — Gym murders. Bizarre crime of the week was Pittsburgh computer techie George Sodini shooting up an aerobics class at his local gym. Three women died and at least ten others were wounded. Then Sodini shot himself. He left behind web diaries in which he wailed about his utter lack of success with women. He hadn't had a proper relationship since 1984, and hadn't had any sex at all since 1990. This is pretty baffling stuff. I think most of us assume that no matter how unsightly you are or how quirky your personality, there is someone out there to suit you. Sodini was not in fact unsightly. He was good-looking and kept himself in shape. His personality was a bit peculiar, but well within the range of everyday oddity for all anyone could see, and to judge from the video tour of his house you can see on the internet. He really tried to connect with women, even attending a dating course. From all I've seen and read, I can think of half a dozen people I know who I would have thought were weirder than George Sodini, yet who have someone to share their lives with and seem reasonably content, and not at all likely to go berserk and commit a vile crime like that — firing off 36 rounds at a room full of harmless women. What a strange business this life is! Strangest of all is that some people are locked out from its pleasures, through no very obvious fault of their own, and for no very clear reason, and at last can think of no solution but to take out their spite on strangers. I've read three or four analyses of Sodini by psychologists commenting after the event, and I don't believe any of them would have identified the guy as a crazy killer if he'd shown up in their offices a month ago. There is just no knowing what goes on in that space behind the eyes. Or, as the old North of England saying goes: "There's nowt so queer as folk."
07 — Bubba and the Norks. If a crazy foreign dictator kidnaps a couple of your citizens to hold as bargaining chips in hope of squeezing some advantage from you, what do you do? That was the question facing the Obama administration when two American journalists were grabbed by North Korean border guards back in March. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were eventually sentenced to 12 years hard labor after a brief trial on charges of having entered the Democratic People's Republic of Korea illegally. It's nice to know that some nation somewhere takes border security seriously, but nobody doubted that Kim Jong Il was just angling for favors, with the two journalists as bait. Well, our Secretary of State stepped up and did that thing she does so well: she apologized to the Norks. Diplomatic maneuvers then got under way. It all came to a climax this week with Bill Clinton descending from the skies over Pyongyang in a golden chariot to whisk the two ladies back to home and family. I thought for one brief moment of joy that Bubba might have offered himself as a substute hostage for the journalists; but alas, no, he came back home with them. Kim is at death's door and the succession struggle has already started up. The photo-op with our ex-president, husband of our Secretary of State, will have presumably bolstered his position some in those struggles; and whatever other benefits he wheedled out of the Obamarrhoids likewise. The Obamarrhoids say there weren't any concessions; but then, they would, wouldn't they? There was an emotional scene when the journalist got home, with everyone weeping and hugging and telling us how wonderful Bill Clinton is and how brilliant our administration's diplomacy is. In fact of course the whole wretched incident was a minor disaster for our country. Kim paid no price for his audacity — indeed, he likely got rewarded for it — the world got yet another set of images of us as a nation of blubbering, girly ninnies, and a loathsome dictatorship probably got a new lease of life. Well done there, guys.
08 — CA must release prisoners. There are currently 150 thousand inmates in the California state prison system. A panel of federal judges has ordered that this number be cut by over a quarter in the next two years to relieve prison overcrowding. Yes, our learned federal justices want California to dump 40,000 convicted criminals on the streets. They say the conditions in California prisons are so bad, there is one unnecessary inmate death per week. Whereas if you put 40,000 jailbirds out on California's streets, everyone will be much safer. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has riposted that 19 thousand of his inmates — that's more than one in eight — is an illegal immigrant, and should really be in a federal lockup anyway. Given California's well-advertised financial problems, it's instructive to learn that 19 thousand Mexican criminals are being given three hots and a cot at California taxpayers' expense. And that 19 thousand is only the number the state authorities know about. Given the restraints on trying to find out a perp's immigration status, the number could be twice as big for all Schwarzenegger knows. And how many other illegal aliens are being housed at public expense nationwide? Is it even legal to ask? We are the fools of the world, opening the borders of our beautiful country for foreign criminals to come in at will, to pillage and loot what we have built. The fools of the world, the great fools of the world, that's us. For people, foreign or home-grown, who don't give a damn about the law, this is truly the land of opportunity.
09 — Miscellany. A few short news items to close with.
Item: Two Russian submarines have been spotted lurking off the east coast just outside our 200-mile zone. Opinions differ as to what they were doing there. Distracting us from something Putin's planning against the Republic of Georgia? Trying to land illegal immigrants? Or, these being rusty old Cold War vintage vessels, possibly hoping to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program … Who knows?
Item: Iraq is going to ban smoking in public. This is a glass half full, glass half empty thing. On the one hand, it's nice to know that our efforts at bribing the various Iraqi factions have succeeded so well that Iraqis can now bother with picayune stuff like this. On the other hand, it's sad to know that the liberty we have exported to them is the liberty to be bossed about by Nanny State scolds like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And really, for all the improvement there, it's still the Middle East. Is death from lung cancer really high on their list of worries? Hard to believe.
Item: 27 million Americans are on antidepressants, it says here. And this is before Obamacare kicks in! When it does, I guess the happy pills will be free. Or maybe they'll just put them in the water supply. Me, I have my own approach to self-medication. [Cork popping] Cheers!
Item: One of the baffling things to me about the President's health-care bill is, how on earth did he get AARP on board with it. For one thing, AARP is an organization for seniors, and it's pretty clear that seniors are going to get shafted by the current bills. For another thing, AARP is basically a huge insurance company, and insurance companies get shafted by the bill, too. So what's up with AARP signing on to Obamacare? A roomful of angry seniors wanted to know the same thing at a meeting called by AARP execs. When they started asking questions, the AARP people took down their mikes and walked out. The only explanation I can think of here is Robert Conquest's Second Law: "Any organization not explicitly right-wing, sooner or later becomes left wing." Conquest gave the Church of England as his example, but it looks to me that AARP will do just as well.
Item: 80 thousand people are allowed to settle in Britain every year because they have married a British citizen. Fair enough; except that a high proportion of that 80 thousand are illiterate teenage girls from peasant villages in Pakistan and Bangladesh, who never see their husband till the wedding day, and who are kept indoors, covered from head to toe in burkas, with no opportunity to assimilate. The social consequences for Britain have been dire, with whole towns like Bradford and Blackburn turned into Muslim ghettoes. As a further annoyance to the British population, these women and their children are entitled to the full range of welfare state benefits from the moment they arrive. Public anger about this has at last, after forty years, reached the ears of the British government. The current socialist government has sworn to do something about it. Quote from an unidentified government source: "We want people who are committed to being British and playing a full part in our society." Nobody believes the Laborites will actually follow through, any more than anyone in the U.S.A. thinks our own socialist government will ever enforce our immigration laws, but it's something that the Brits at least feel obliged to make the right noises.
Item: Some very short headlines. The great war for something or other in Afghanistan will go on for at least another two years, says the top adviser there. A policeman in Columbus, Ohio has been ticketed for going 150 mph on his motor bike. A woman in Greece has been arrested for setting fire to a male British tourist's genitals. Down in Florida, a chap named Keith Griffin has blamed his cat for downloading kiddie porn onto his home computer. And over on www.islam-qa.com, Islamic scholars are having a lively debate on whether or not it is lawful to eat mermaids. And President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan has been resting.
10 — Signoff. That's your news for this week, ladies and gentlemen. I am not going to be so vulgar as to promote my new book over the airwaves, but I would just like to remind you before signing off that you should not buy any green bananas, because WE ARE DOOMED. More evidence of this melancholy truth next week from Radio Derb.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]