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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. That was one of Franz Josef Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, and this is your eternally genial host John Derbyshire with another edition of Radio Derb. I'm on the road Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday this week so Radio Derb is going to tape early. My factotum, Pepé, is hard at work here packing several large steamer trunks with my impedimenta — how's it going there, Pepé? — [Pepé sounds] — excellent … and I am looking forward to encounters with the honest yeomen of the hinterland: to be precise, of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. No doubt I shall come home to New York filled with valuable insights into the hardscrabble life of those territories beyond the Hudson. Meantime, on with the motley! [Vesti la giubba clip] … Yes, yes, thank you, Pepé. Just make sure you pack the herringbone tweed and the Prince of Wales check … and don't forget the cravats …
02 — U.N. Housing Rapporteur. Greetings to Ms. Raquel Rolnik. Or rather, anti-greetings: my hope is, should you learn that Ms. Rolnik has been spotted in your neck of the woods, you will pelt her with rotten fruit.
You see, Ms. Rolnik is a rapporteur. Which is to say, she is one of those people assigned by the United Nations to poke her nose into every nation's business looking for violations of human rights. A rapporteur.
My Cassell's French Dictionary gives the translation for rapporteur as … "reporter." So why can't we just say "reporter"? I suppose that would violate some multiculti ordinance, like calling someone an Oriental.
I don't think I could face another spell in re-education camp, so I'm going to toe the line here and say rapporteur. So here's Raquel Rolnik, and I'll give her her full title here, ahem: Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing As a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, and on the Right to Non-Discrimination in This Context. That's her title.
What's she doing prowling around New York City? Let the New York Times tell us, quote: "The rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, is to tour the city for the next three days with housing advocates and city officials to 'hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground,' she said."
Ms. Rolnik's day job is as a professor of urban planning in Brazil. If she's looking for, quote, "those who are suffering on the ground," you'd think she'd have her work cut out back there in Brazil, a nation famous for nuts, coffee, and favelas — those shanty towns around cities like Rio where millions of Brazilians subsist in uttermost squalor.
The Rio favelas were briefly in the news last week when the drug-trafficking gangs that own them managed to shoot down a police helicopter. Ms. Rolnik doesn't want to go investigate that, though. Heavens, she might break a fingernail.
No, it's the deprivation and discrimination plaguing the New York housing market that is the focus of her attention. Just as I said, New Yorkers: stock up on rotten fruit. It doesn't look as though we can get the pestiferous United Nations out of our city, certainly not under our current Apologizer-in-Chief; but at least we can let the buggers know how we feel about them.
03 — New York mayoral election. We have a mayoral election coming up in New York City. The candidates are Michael Bloomberg, a tax-and-spend liberal, and Bill Thompson, a tax-and-spend liberal. Whichever one wins, taxes and spending in New York will go up, personal liberty will go down, and more productive people will just give up on the whole mess and move elsewhere. They've already been doing that at a fair clip, actually. Here's a report from the conservative Manhattan Institute saying that 1.1 million people left New York City between 2000 and 2008. Of course, other people moved in to replace them; but the bad news is, the ones who moved out earned average 13 percent more than the ones who moved in — a money difference of 20 thousand dollars. That, says the report, is, quote, "a staggering loss of taxable income." It's the same for New York State, which is even more badly governed than New York City, though you wouldn't think it possible. During just 2006 and 2007, the "migration flow" out of New York to other states amounted to a loss of 4.3 billion dollars. Nobody thinks Wall Street is ever going to be the productive power house it once was, and New York doesn't have much else going for it. So whoever wins next month's mayoral election will be faced with the task of squeezing blood from a stone. Lots of luck, guy.
04 — Welfare for illegals. Here's a depressing little story from the Las Vegas Sun. Headline: More Welfare Going To Parents Here Illegally. See, the deal is, if you've settled illegally in this country and had a baby born here, that baby is a U.S. citizen. If you then fall on hard times, you can apply for welfare in the child's name. You don't even have to show your own, probably stolen, Social Security Number. The welfare here is courtesy of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, known to its friends as TANF, a program run by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The fastest-growing category of recipients is one called "non-qualified non-citizens," which means non-citizen parents of citizen children. Some proportion of that category are illegal immigrants. Nobody knows what the proportion is, but the Las Vegas Sun tells us that the children of illegals were poorly served by TANF until recently, their parents being afraid to apply for fear of deportation. However, quote, "In the past few years there has been a push to better inform these parents, by social service agencies and nonprofits," end quote. To better inform them, presumably, that there is no chance of their being deported, so they should come get their welfare benefits. Why don't those "social service agencies and nonprofits" expand their informational activities — running ads on TV in Third World countries so that more people are informed about the advantages of anchor babies, the ease of getting welfare from Uncle Sam, and the terminal stupidity of U.S. immigration policy?
05 — Harry Reid. Sometimes there's more to people than meets the eye. Did you know this stuff about Harry Reid? Reid is of course the Senate majority leader, currently struggling to herd his filibuster-proof 60 Democratic colleagues into the corral for a debate on the health care bill. Having watched Reid in action a few times on TV, I'd assumed he was a low-level political drone of the modern type, born in a law-school parking lot and weaned on fundraiser hors d'oeuvres. Well, he's a career pol all right, never having had a job in the productive economy during his adult life, but his early years were … colorful. I was just reading about them in the Economist. Quote: "His first home was a shack made of wooden railway sleepers, soaked in creosote to keep the termites out. (Predictably, it burned down.) His home town, Searchlight, Nevada, had 13 brothels but no church … Mr Reid's father was a hard-drinking gold miner. His mother took in laundry for the bordellos. His father sometimes beat her, until the 14-year-old Harry and his younger brother jumped him to make him stop. Young Harry hitchhiked 45 miles to high school and did countless odd jobs, from mucking out cattle to digging graves …" End quote. Hey, that's some résumé. It doesn't leave me any better disposed to the Obama spend-o-rama health care bill, but it's nice to know the Senate majority leader isn't the cyborg I thought he was. The Economist does warn us that, quote, "Mr. Reid is not a deep thinker," but since he's in the U.S. Senate, and a Democrat, we sort of knew that anyway. The magazine also tells us that Ol' Harry could be in trouble when up for election next year, with Nevada's economic growth in reverse, house prices cratering, and the state's numerous old people looking askance at the bleeding of Medicare the Obama plan seems to require. Republicans are hoping to do to Reid next year what they did to Tom Daschle in '04. I hope they do; but as Harry rides that bus out of Washington, D.C., at least he has some interesting childhood memories to reflect on. Even when you don't like these guys, it's humanizing and to some degree empathizing to know they once tasted dirt. I couldn't stand Warren Christopher either, but check out the picture of his home town, Scranton, North Dakota, on Wikipedia. What a country this is! What a people!
06 — Nervous on Iraq. A lot of people, or at any rate a lot of reporters, seem to be getting nervous about Iraq. Over 150 people were killed in two humongous car bomb attacks in Baghdad Sunday, and hundreds more wounded. One British correspondent on the spot claims that Baghdad is now more dangerous than Kabul. That may be so, but it's a whole lot less dangerous than it was three years ago. Since 2007, when the minority Sunni Arabs turned against Al Qaeda and threw their support behind the Iraqi government, the insurgency has dwindled down to these acts of terrorism — which are horrible, but isolated. The nervousness arises from the possibility that this peace may not hold. For one thing, there's an election coming up in January. Insurgents will do all they can to disrupt it, and to push voters back into their sectarian ghettos, Sunni and Shia and Kurd. For another thing, all U.S. combat troops are to be out by next August, and the rest by a year and a half later. Our guys were out there patrolling the streets as recently as three months ago. Now they're confined to barracks, insurgents will get bolder. Last week they blew up a big bridge in Anbar province. The Kurds are an issue again, too. They don't seem any more inclined to trust their Arab compatriots in quiet times than they were at the height of the insurrection. A system of joint Kurdish-Arab military patrols we promoted has broken down. There may be interesting times ahead in Iraq. Let's hope Obama sticks to the withdrawal timetable. We've wasted enough lives and money in that sinkhole.
07 — Afghanistan. More bad news from Afghanistan, too. We've lost 55 soldiers there this month so far. That compares with 137 in the worst month of the Iraq war, November '04. The administration promises us they're near to a decision about what the heck to do in Afghanistan. If you listen to Radio Derb, you know what I think; but just to point out that I have some company in the military and ex-military, here are two other voices. First, Ralph Peters. I'd better warn you here that I'm finding Peters more and more addictive, so I may not be able to restrain myself from quoting him at great length. Quote from the Colonel, quote:
Afghanistan isn't completely hopeless, just useless. It's a strategic joke with a bloody punch line.
Even if everything went perfectly in Afghanistan — which it won't — the results would be virtually meaningless: Our mortal enemies (above all, al Qaeda) have dug in elsewhere, from Pakistan to Somalia.
Now we are warned that, unless we send another 40,000 US troops to convince Afghans we're their friends, unspecified woes will fall upon us like biblical plagues.
Apart from the curious notion that sending more Infantrymen is the way to win hearts and minds, the hearts and minds of Afghans not only can't be won, but aren't worth winning.
Our soldiers are dying for a fad, not for a strategy. Our vaunted counterinsurgency doctrine is the military equivalent of hula hoops, pet rocks and Beanie Babies: an oddity that caught the Zeitgeist. The embrace of this suicidal fad by ambitious senior generals has created the most profound rift between frontline soldiers on one side and top generals on the other that I've encountered in 22 years of military service and another 11 years covering our troops …
Stop me before I quote the whole column. That thump, thump you hear is Ralph hitting nails square on the
And then, Matthew Hoh, 36 years old, former Marine Captain, decorated Iraq veteran, hired by the State Department last year as a Foreign Service official in Afghanistan. He was assigned to figure out why no progress had been made after years of fighting in one of the border provinces with Pakistan. Last month Matthew Hoh became the first Foreign Service officer to resign in protest at our futile Afghanistan policy, saying, in his resignation letter, that the war, quote, "has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency." Captain Hoh said at the end of his letter that, quote, "American families must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can be made any more."
08 — Doomed. Once again, a brief reading from the definitive text on the U.S.A.'s social, military, religious, economic, sexual, political, and cultural prospects — We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. This week's reading is from Chapter Four, which deals with the state of our culture. After covering TV, movies, literature, poetry, and music, I turn my attention to the pictorial arts.
Pictorial art? Let's see. Art is an old word for "skill." The first meaning given in the Oxford English Dictionary under "art" is: "Skill in doing anything as the result of knowledge and practice." Doctor Johnson's dictionary gives: "science, skill, dexterity, cunning."
Cunning has pretty much taken over the pictorial arts, while science, skill, and dexterity have gone by the board (or canvas). The tale of Piero Manzoni's fecal exhibits, which I told above, illustrates the state of affairs. It would be comforting if I could tell you that that was the furthest extreme of bogus-art folly, and that since the 1960s there has been a road back to real art — to skill in making beautiful things that appeal to us as we are, not as the artist wishes us to be, or as some intellectual cult has told him we can be. Alas, I can't tell you that.
The art event of 2008 was a two-day September auction in London of works by Damien Hirst. The 223 items on auction earned two hundred million dollars for Hirst and the auctioneer (Sotheby's), average $900,000 per item.
Hirst made his name with "installations." These were mainly large animals preserved in glass tanks filled with formaldehyde. His 1991 work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was a 14-foot tiger shark thus preserved. It sold in 2004 for eight million dollars, though not before it had had to be replaced, as the original was visibly rotting. Perhaps Hirst could have used some science, skill, and dexterity. Or just possibly the shark's deterioration was a "statement" of some kind: Hirst's earlier work, A Thousand Years, consisted of a large glass case containing maggots and flies feeding off a rotting cow's head.
At this 2008 auction, the biggest sale was of The Golden Calf, a white bullock pickled in formaldehyde, with hoofs and horns made of 18-carat gold and a gold disc crowning the head. This item went for $19 million after some ferocious bidding. Not everybody was happy about the artistic validity of the thing, and the word "bull" was bandied about in a rather disrespectful way by many commentators. Noted the New York Times: "The reaction to the auction and its contents has run the gamut from doomsday end-of-civilization laments and serves-you-right righteousness directed at the art world, to the crowning of Mr. Hirst as superartist and speaker of deep truths …"
Here, you understand, I'm on board with the doomsday end-of-civilization lamenters.
09 — Miscellany. Here's our traditional closing medley of one-liners.
Item: The barriers of political correctness close in ever narrower. Here is ESPN broadcaster Bob Griese, suspended from work for a week of intensive diversity re-education because of a comment he made about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who comes from Colombia. Montoya's name was unexpectedly missing from a list of top NASCAR drivers shown on-screen during a football game. "Where's Montoya?" asked Griese's on-air colleague. Said Griese: "He's out having a taco." [Scream] [Klaxon] [Etc.]
Item: Over there in Geneva, Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider is working its way through a series of tests. You may remember that the device was supposed to go online last September, but an accident stopped everything. Well, they just fired some particles through key sections of the 17-mile ring, and hope to get stuff shooting all the way round next month. You should have mixed feelings about this. There's a school of thought that says once the collider is fully operational, it will rip open the fabric of spacetime and reduce us all to our component quarks at the speed of light. I'd be sorry to see that happen personally, having half a bottle of Old Crow to finish, but right now my main worry is just that I might mis-read or mis-write the word "hadron." It's hadron. Hadron. Gotta practice …
Item: Some news from China. A big problem over there is kidnapping. Literally kid-napping: criminal gangs seize little kids for sale to childless couples. This week some book salesmen promoting their wares at an elementary school in East China were taken for kidnappers by mistake, and one of them was lynched by a mob of parents. Count your blessings, America. Our own elementary schools may occasionally be rocked by the horror of some third grader bringing a pen-knife in to peel his lunchtime apple with, but I've heard not reports of book salesmen being lynched yet.
Item: Chair-thing of the National Endowment for the Arts, Rocco Landesman — what kind of name is that? — Rocco Corleone I could figure, or Kurt Landesman, but … never mind — anyway, this Rocco Landesman uttered the most fatuous remark of the week, quote: "If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists." End quote. Well, Mr. Landesman — or may I call you Rocco? … Well, Rocco, in colloquial American English, you know, the word "artist" has more than one meaning.
Item: Terror suspects of the week: David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana of Chicago, charged with, quote, "conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming," in cahoots with an unnamed terrorist outfit based in Pakistan. You might be heaving a sigh of relief here, saying to yourself, "Well, that first name sure doesn't sound Muslim. Perhaps this is a Mormon terrorist, or a Christian Scientist. So much for that relentless profiling Derb goes in for!" Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but Mr. Headley was Daood Gilani until he changed his name in 2006. Chalk up two more who wouldn't have been able to do what they did, and wouldn't have consumed vast resources of FBI time and trouble, if they hadn't been let into our country in the first place.
Item: A perp in San Diego, up before a judge on charges of robbery and residential burglary, showed his opinion of the court proceedings by flinging feces at the jurors, and then smearing some on his lawyer. Well, we all understand how he felt about the lawyer, but it's a bit rough on the jurors. Jury duty has been compared with mushroom cultivation: you're kept in the dark and have manure dumped on you. The manure thing is not supposed to happen literally, though. Two assault charges were added for the poop toss, the defendant was found guilty on all counts, and he's been sent down for 31 years in the slammer. The jurors are still in the shower.
Item: Another jury story here. In federal court here in Manhattan, just a stone's throw from Buckley Towers, John Gotti Junior is being tried on racketeering charges. Turns out one of the jurors is having the time of her life. A fellow-juror wrote to the judge, complaining about her. The lady, juror no. 7, who must have a truly strong spirit of citizenship, is quoted as saying that she, quote, "intends to take her time and is not going to allow any [Bleep]ing body to rush her to a decision." The letter writer goes on to say, quote: "Apparently she is looking forward to being put up in a hotel. She has made numerous remarks about how much she loves being on jury duty because it keeps her away from her job. She loves being escorted for her cigarette breaks, feels like a movie star and loves the attention." End quote. Hmm, I never looked at jury duty that way before. What kind of work does this lady do? Let's see … oh, she's a postal worker. Ah.
Item: Microsoft Windows Seven is out, to a nationwide chorus of groans. This should kill computer sales stone dead, since everybody you talk to says "I may make the switch in a year or so, when the worst of the bugs are out." For the record, Radio Derb is still on XP. I waited to hear people tell me that Vista was ready for prime time … and waited … and waited … Thank goodness Congress gave Bill Gates all those H-1B visas.
Item: What's left? Let's see … Courtroom dung throw, did that, Large … H-a-d-r-o-n Collider, did that … Oh yes, somebody killed somebody in Honduras. It's a really important story, but I gotta go catch a train for D.C. I'll give a full report on the critical situation in Honduras next week.
10 — Signoff. That's it, folks. As I said, I am off to our nation's capital for some socializing with the cream of the paleocon world at the H.L. Mencken Club annual bash. I shall sell books, give a talk, sit on a panel, and soak in the reactionary atmosphere, recharging my batteries from close encounters with Paul Gottfried, Pat Buchanan, Steve Sailer, Richard Spencer, the Brimelow brothers, Tom Piatak, and a host of others from the conservative dark side. If a bomb goes off at the BWI Holiday Inn this weekend, which wouldn't surprise me in the least, there'll be nothing but neo-conservatism on the Right, and you'll have to get your news from Commentary and the AEI.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]