• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. Greetings, ladies and gentlemen. That was one of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches and this is John Derbyshire, your perspicaciously genial host for half an hour of news and views here at Radio Derb, broadcasting world-wide from our studio here in the sunny Aegean.
Listeners have been asking me whether, when not researching or preparing scripts for the show, I and my staff take advantage of the surroundings here — catch a little beach time, some snorkeling or yachting. Well, I do try to maintain a strong work ethic, with no play until the work is done, but I'll admit that here under the Mediterranean sun, it's not always easy.
It's especially difficult to keep the girls indoors. And once outside on the beach of course they are making constant demands to have me come and rub sunscreen on them. Fortunately I've found a young fellow from the village, name of Dmitry, who is willing to rub oil into the bikini-clad bodies of Mandy, Candy, and Brandy for a very modest emolument, so that's another tiresome chore disposed of. To the man of ingenuity, there is always a way.
OK, on with the show. What's been happening this week?
02 — Obama's too white. Well, we do of course have a Presidential election coming up this fall. Radio Derb has been somewhat remiss in reporting on the campaign, because … well, because it's really boring, but there have been one or two noteworthy happenings.
Noteworthiest recently have been the Democratic primary results. With all the knockabout fun of the Republican primary races, everyone had forgotten that the Democrats have primaries too. Then primaries in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Alabama earlier this year turned up sizable minorities of Democrats, fifteen to twenty percent, voting for anyone but the President.
And then, as Radio Derb reported two weeks ago, an inmate in federal penitentiary got himself on the ballot in the West Virginia Democratic primary and won 41 percent of the vote against Barack Obama.
Well, the sorry saga continues. This week we had Democratic primaries in Kentucky and Arkansas. In both states, forty percent of the vote went to anyone but Obama.
This isn't actually tremendous news. We pundits all learn in pundit school to memorize the critical swing states and not bother much about the others. This election there are nine swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. What happens in the rest doesn't merit more than a passing glance. No offense to the fine people of Arkansas and Kentucky, but they're not going to turn the election.
The Dems seem to be worried, though. There's been a lot of clucking and scratching about why the President isn't getting better support from his own registered party voters.
Guess what is the favored explanation from the deep original thinkers of the Left. Yep, you got it: RACISM! Those snaggle-tooth hillbillies up in the mountains there can't abide the thought of voting for a black man.
This strikes me as a complete misapprehension. I'd go so far as to say that it's not Obama's blackness that repels a lot of working-class white Democrats, it's his whiteness.
I'm using "whiteness" there in a rather particular sense — the sense made famous by Christian Lander on his blog, which in 2008 became a book, titled Stuff White People Like.
You remember that: It made fun of the over-educated white yuppie middle classes with lists of all the things that, according to Lander, they like. A few samples: Farmer's markets, bicycles, irony, not having a TV, avoiding confrontation, cheese, religions their parents don't belong to, natural childbirth, Portland, Oregon, … and so on.
Actually I just pulled down my copy of the book, and noticed that there is a checklist at the back where you can add up your own whiteness score. I scored a poor 31 out of 150, making me only 21 percent white.
Well, I feel certain Barack Obama would score much higher than that. I bet he could tick a lot of the boxes I didn't. I bet he uses Apple products, for instance, and likes Indie music, eats Asian fusion food, whatever that is, and knows who Sarah Silverman is, which I don't.
Barack and Michelle are, in fact, very white indeed, in the Christian Lander sense.
In the Charles Murray sense, too. Recall Murray's recent book, Coming Apart, where Murray tells us how these upper-class yuppie types live an almost Victorian lifestyle: getting married and staying monogamous, having two kids and pushing them to good colleges, practicing moderation in personal habits, doing good works and supporting worthy causes, and so on.
Down at the other end of society it's all teen pregnancy, dropping out of high school, binge drinking, and obesity.
On this scale — the one that both perceptive commentators like Christian Lander and serious analytical sociologists like Charles Murray tell us is the real one, the one that counts, on this scale the Obamas are white as can be.
Just as Bill Clinton, scarfing down Big Macs while goosing the waitresses and tuning up his saxophone, was our first black President, Barack Obama may be … well, if not our first white President, surely one of the whitest.
And that's the real gulf separating him from the horny-handed sons of toil in Kentucky and Arkansas. Out there they don't go much for the items on Christian Landers' list: Public Radio, writers' workshops, the Sunday New York Times, and all the rest. Obama is too white for them. That's his problem.
03 — Mitt Romney's edu-cant. What about the issues, though, the issues — all those vital matters of policy that will determine the future of the nation if this guy gets in rather than the other guy?
Well, forgive my cynicism, but since the last candidate who ever in his life had an original thought about policy has now dropped out — that would be Ron Paul, of course — we're down to politicobabble. That's the stuff that mainstream politicians talk to make your eyes glaze over while they pick your pockets.
An important subset of politicobabble is edu-cant. Just to remind you of the very useful word "cant," C-A-N-T, defined in Dr Johnson's great dictionary thus:
Edu-cant is somewhere in between the second and third meanings there: a particular form of speaking about something, in this case education, characterized by "a whining pretension to goodness, in formal and affected terms."
The main thing to be said about K-12 education in the U.S.A. is that it's pretty darn good — as it should be, considering the stupendous sums of money we shovel into it. We have a good objective measure of this fact: the PISA scores. That's P-I-S-A, the Programme for International Student Assessment, which runs comparative tests on student achievement across different countries.
The PISA results show that the U.S.A. educates kids at least as well as any other country, and in fact better than most.
You have to disaggregate by race of course, as not all races are equally educable. Once you've done that, it turns out that American Asian kids score better than most Asian kids in Asia, American Hispanic kids out-score Hispanic kids in Latin America, American white kids perform better than white kids in Europe, except I think for Finland, and American black kids do better than black kids in Trinidad, the only country I can find in the PISA lists with lots of blacks.
So, nothing to worry about. Our schools are fine, doing a great job, though probably at unnecessarily great expense.
Of course, no American politician could ever say that. We're supposed to have problems with our schools, and every politician will give you two thousand words of edu-cant on how to solve the problems.
If it's a Democratic politician, the edu-cant of course comes down to spending even more money. If it's a Republican, it's a load of blather about the excessive influence of teacher unions and the need for more choice.
So here was Mitt Romney on Wednesday gassing about how he would, quote, "expand parental choice in an unprecedented way." How you gonna do that, Mittens? Well, he said he would give students vouchers to pay for the school their families choose.
This is tired, empty stuff. Voucher proposals always fail when they're brought to the electorate, because, to quote from Peter Brimelow's book on education, The Worm in the Apple, quote:
Government schools in wealthy suburbs are already de facto private schools, and they are de facto segregated, by class if not completely by race …
And that's just how suburban parents want to keep it, thanks very much.
Romney also emitted some edu-cant about charter schools. Voters are supposed to perk up when they hear the phrase "charter schools." It's a magic phrase, suggesting something so much better, more professional and businesslike and cool, than those boring old public schools.
Yet in fact the most comprehensive study of charter schools, published by Stanford University in 2009, and which you can read for yourself on the internet, was quite withering about charter schools. Some were better than comparable public schools in the same state, some were worse, some were simply terrible.
Another bit of edu-cant from Mittens, quote:
Too many of our kids are trapped in schools that are failing or simply don't meet their needs.
Hogwash. When a politician tells you that some school is "failing," what he means is, it's failing to make silk purses out of pigs' ears. Read Bob Weissberg's book Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, which lays it all out in detail.
Among our nation's 60 million school-age kids, there is a proportion who have not much interest in being educated. Any politician who thinks he can fix that is just looking to waste even more of your money.
The schools are fine. Vote for the candidate who says he'll just leave them the heck alone … If you can find one.
04 — Michael Bloomberg hates you. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wins the palm for the stupidest suggestion of the week.
Bloomberg's suggestion was in fact somewhat over the line from stupid into gibbering insanity. I know serious, thoughtful people who do indeed think Bloomberg is nuts. I've been reluctant to go along with them; but after this one, I'm not so sure.
Here is what the man said, at a public meeting in midtown Manhattan to mark the release of a study titled "Not Coming to America: Why the US is Falling Behind in the Global Race for Talent." Bloomie, quote:
There's no reason why you have to have a common immigration policy for all of America. You could let each state do it differently. I would argue the federal government should go one step further. They should deliberately force some places that don't want immigrants to take them, because that's the only solution for these big, hollowed-out cities where industry has left and is never going to come back unless you get some people to move there.
I hardly know where to start with this, it's so monumentally, astronomically stupid. Bloomie has apparently not noticed that one of the most charged, most rancorous debates in our public life right now is over how much jurisdiction, if any, states can have over supervising and enforcing federal immigration law.
The Obama administration's position is, basically, none at all. So Bloomie's notion that, quote, "You could let each state do it differently" is facing a sheer cliff face right away.
And then, where in the Constitution does the federal government have the power to, quote, "force some places that don't want immigrants to take them"? If the good people of, say, Detroit don't want ten thousand Indonesians or Guatemalans settled in their city, how exactly do the feds override them?
And just look at the underlying mentality there. This is a nation of 320 million people, with every kind of talent and skill well represented among the citizenry. That's nothing to Bloomberg, though. Only immigrants have talents, skills, and entrepreneurial zest. Only immigrants can revitalize our nation with the energy and courage and vibrancy. Citizens? They're no better than vegetables. That's how the man thinks, actually.
There are all kinds of reasonable positions you can take on immigration. Bloomberg's position is not reasonable, it's barking mad. It's also profoundly insulting — basically saying that U.S. citizens are useless for anything, and that only floods of immigrants can save us.
Immigrants have a magical quality that citizens don't have. They're a sort of superior being, like angels.
Oh, did I mention that the study Bloomberg was promoting was funded by Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas? Now why would a Mexican billionaire be interested in flooding the U.S.A. with immigrants? See if you can figure it out.
05 — Rutgers spycam sentencing. In the most outrageous miscarriage of justice this side of the George Zimmerman prosecution, former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail and three years' probation for having bad thoughts. Or, as the charge sheet expresses it, "bias intimidation." He was also ordered to pay $10,000 to a homosexualist organization to help them promote buggery and more bogus prosecutions. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers have said they'll appeal.
Once again, here's what the defendant did. He used a webcam to secretly watch his roommate kissing a young man the roommate had picked up. After watching the video, Ravi gossiped about it on Twitter, quote: "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
For this, we've had nearly two years of legal proceedings, with all the authority of a major state brought to bear on Ravi and untold millions of dollars of public money spent. There has been endless commentary, and thousands of words of courtroom testimony, about whether Ravi nursed "hate" or "bias" towards his roommate, as if this is of any importance to the state and people of New Jersey.
I used to have a really objectionable next-door neighbor. I hated the guy, I really did. So did his neighbor on the other side; so did everyone who tried to interact with him. The guy was a major jerk. I yelled insults at him once, which I guess could be construed as intimidation.
"Bias intimidation" — yep, guilty, your honor.
This is American jurisprudence in the 21st century, while 20 million illegal immigrants laugh at our laws, the New Black Panthers openly threaten citizens with murder, and leftist thugs decide when law-abiding citizens may or may not peaceably assemble.
We can't enforce the most basic constitutional rights, but we can break a butterfly on a wheel.
06 — Tinley Park fracas. The fracas in Chicago's upscale Tinley Park last Saturday tells you something interesting about the current temperature of fringe politics in the U.S.A.
What happened was, a group of 12 to 15 people were having a meeting inside the restaurant when another, larger group — 15 to 18 people, says the Chicago Tribune — their faces masked and wearing hooded black jackets, attacked them and trashed the restaurant with baseball bats, metal batons, and hammers. Five people were later arrested, three people were hurt badly enough to need hospital attention, and the restaurant suffered ten to fifteen thousand dollars in damages.
It turns out that the people meeting in the restaurant were some kind of "European Heritage" group. I haven't been able to get to the bottom of this: Some of the reports say "Irish Heritage," some say it was a meeting of Stormfront, which is a neo-Nazi outfit.
The Tribune just says "white supremacist organization," which nowadays could mean anything to the right of Grover Norquist. ABC News says, with some confidence, that they are the Illinois European Heritage Association, so I'll go with that.
It seems clear at any rate that this outfit, whatever it was, organized itself via the internet, that leftists picked up on that and decided on this violent attack, smashing up a perfectly nice suburban restaurant and injuring people who had assembled to discuss matters of common interest.
This is the state of play in fringe politics today: On the fringe right, people in suits and ties, with no hoodies and no masks over their faces, trying to organize meetings in hotels and restaurants. On the fringe left, baseball bats and hammers, face masks and scary black outfits — a group actually called the "Anti-Racist Action Network."
Now, you might take the point of view that there's nothing to choose between a louse and a flea; that if cranky left-wingers and cranky right-wingers start fighting, honest citizens should just keep out of the way.
Unfortunately for that idea, these leftist thugs are not very discriminating. A "racist," to them, is anyone to their right. If the bats and face-masks are out for the Illinois European Heritage Association this week, next week it'll be the Rotary Club or the GOP.
The Left is evil, barbarous, and unprincipled, and they have powerful support from the media, local politics, billionaire leftists like George Soros, and lesser money rackets like the so-called Southern Poverty Law Center. Their aim is to shut down freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and they'll stop at nothing to do it.
You don't have to like the Illinois European Heritage Association, let alone Stormfront, but you do have to like liberty, and recognize the enemies of liberty. There they were in Tinley Park on Saturday, storming into a peaceful restaurant with their faces covered, filled with a conviction of their own righteousness.
After all, they're "anti-racist." How could anyone oppose that?
07 — Immigration riots in Israel. Another immigration story, this one from Israel.
Israel's a small country, seven and a half million people in an area the size of New Jersey, much of it desert. It's also a prosperous and advanced country, within trekking distance of some of the world's poorest and most chaotic places — places like Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and North and South Sudan.
So Israel's been getting a lot of what are politely called "asylum seekers" from these places — basically, illegal immigrants. The incomers have been making a lot of trouble: committing crimes, harassing passers-by, fouling public places, and so on. The South Sudanese seem to be particularly resented.
Well, Wednesday night over a thousand Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv, calling on the government to expel the illegals. Several Members of Parliament joined the demo, including the Likud Party's Miri Regev, who called the illegals a, quote, "cancer in our body," and promised to do everything to, quote, "bring them back to where they belong."
The government is responding. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman this week called the illegal migration to Israel a, quote, "national plague" and said Israel was holding diplomatic talks to return them to their home country or a third state.
So-called human rights organizations are trying to stall the deportations, and they've got a temporary injunction. Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will be in Jerusalem District Court next week arguing that there is no legal obstacle to deportations since these are just economic refugees who face no threat to their lives in South Sudan.
With Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu at the height of his authority and fully on side with the deportations — he told Parliament that the illegals, quote, "threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state" — I'm betting this problem will be solved in pretty short order.
The only thing I don't understand is, where's Mike Bloomberg? Shouldn't he be over there in Tel Aviv explaining to the Israelis how enriched and vibrant their country will be by these industrious, entrepreneurial immigrants, how their decaying cities will be revitalized, how, with all those eager new workers flowing in, Israel will no longer … what's the phrase? oh yeah … will no longer be "Falling Behind in the Global Race for Talent"?
Come on, Mike. You have the advantage that you can actually speak some Hebrew. Get over there and start persuading the Israelis of the benefits of unlimited immigration. It's the right thing to do!
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items. First, though, a reader comment, quote:
Mr Derbyshire: As you may know, item in Latin means "moreover" and its adoption into English as a noun comes from the practice of putting it before each succeeding entry in a list. Note, each succeeding entry. The first entry in a list is properly and traditionally prefaced by Imprimis (which means, "first of all"). May I suggest you help keep alive this good usage, with the anglicized pronunciation "im-PRIME-iss"). "Item" at the beginning of a list makes me wince. Perhaps it does others too.
Now, this kind of thing always poses a dilemma for me. My basic approach is that when a foreign word, from Latin or anywhere else, comes into our language, we can do what the heck we please with it. The word "agenda," for example, is a plural in Latin; but if anyone said "the agenda of the meeting are published," we'd think he was insufferably pedantic.
On the other hand, we're actually losing a word here when we drop "imprimis," and I think we ought to preserve words when we can.
So I'm going to accept my reader's suggestion and start saying "imprimis" for my first, er, item. The only thing is, I had Latin pronunciation hammered into my head at an early age, and can't manage "im-PRIME-iss" without too high a level of self-consciousness. It's going to be "im-PREEM-iss," I'm afraid. Look, I'm printing it in italics in the transcript to make up.
Imprimis: The much-heralded Facebook IPO was a bit of a bust. The initial offering price was $38, but private investors were paying up to $42 a share when the thing went public last Friday. At last night's close they were looking at 32 dollars a share.
As the old Wall Street saying goes: when the little guy gets in, make sure you're out.
Whether the stock will recover and pay a profit to all those investors, I could not tell you. As I confessed last week, I have no clue what Facebook is, why people use it, or why anyone thinks it's worth so much money.
I'm going to admit, in fact, that based on my extremely sketchy knowledge of what the thing is, I rather frown on it. It carries a whiff of kumbaya about it — of carefree hedonistic young liberals joining hands and dancing around a maypole together.
Yay for capitalism and so on, but I kind of preferred it when capitalists and their shareholders got rich by pounding things out of metal, digging them out of the ground, or building media empires full of actors, dancers, singers, comedians, and scriptwriters.
These light-as-air internet firms with seventeen employees worth a billion dollars each that make it a tad easier to tell our friends what we're eating for breakfast, strike me as frivolous.
Perhaps that's curmudgeonly, though. If it helps the wheels of commerce go round, I guess I'm OK with it. Good luck to all you Facebook investors! When I want to know what you're eating for breakfast, maybe I'll join Facebook and be your friend.
Now I can say "item."
Item: Hamid Karzai, the CEO of Afghanistan, Inc., came to Washington for a NATO summit, and, oh my God, thanked us for, quote,
the support that your taxpayers' money has provided Afghanistan over the past decade and for the difference that it has made to the well-being of the Afghan people.
I don't know about the well-being of the Afghan people, but our taxes have sure made a mighty contribution to the well-being of Hamid Karzai and his relatives, to judge from the stories we've heard about Afghan levels of official corruption.
Further from that news story, quote:
Karzai, who aims to secure billions of dollars in long-term aid for his country's military and economy …
So after eleven years of shoveling money into Karzai's bank accounts in Dubai, we're still in for a few billion dollars more.
I still have no idea what we're even doing there. If we pull out next Tuesday, let the Taliban take over, and let Karzai retire to his palace in the Gulf, how would any American be worse off? What's it got to do with NATO, anyway? NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Afghanistan is nowhere near the North Atlantic.
It's nowhere near anywhere, and nothing that happens there is of any importance to anyone except Afghans.
I guess there's something about geostrategy I just don't understand.
Item: Congratulations to Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, who married his fourth current wife on April 20th — sorry, I'm a bit late with this. Congratulations anyway to President Zuma and the lucky lady, Ms Bongi Ngema.
The groom is 70, the bride's age is not given; but we are told that she is a businesswoman and long-time fiancée, and that the couple already have a seven-year-old son, one of Zuma's 21 children from altogether six wives, though only four are current.
Item: Here's another guy who's obeyed the Biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply: 33-year-old Desmond Hatchett of Knoxville, Tennessee. Mr Hatchett has 30 children with 11 women, none of whom he has ever married. "I had four kids in the same year," boasts Mr Hatchett, "Twice."
Unfortunately for the children, and for the taxpayers of Tennessee, Mr Hatchett is not the president of any country. He has, in fact, only a minimum-wage job, when he's working. The law requires him to turn over 50 percent of his wages for child support. What this means in practice is, that some of Mr Hatchett's baby mommas get only $1.49 a month. Now he's in court asking for a break even on those meager payments.
Hey, look, it makes a break from all those stories about cratering fertility rates and aging populations, right?
Item: And another wedding, though this time a civilized one.
Mark Zuckerberg, the principal in the Facebook IPO, took the opportunity to marry his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, in a low-key ceremony, the very day after the issue.
Speaking as a big fan of monogamy and fidelity, I think it's kind of heart-warming that Zuck, with all his stupendous wealth, has stayed true to this smart and pretty but otherwise not extraordinary woman, and finally tied the knot with her. Priscilla doesn't plan to be merely decorative, either: She graduated from medical school the week before.
There's been heavy speculation about whether or not the couple has a prenup, with the balance of opinion being that Zuck would be some kind of crazy not to.
I'm not going to get into such sordid territory. I do hear that Zuck has been learning some Chinese so he can converse with Priscilla's family.
So here are my best wishes to the happy couple, from the heart: 祝願你們
09 — Signoff. That's it for this week, ladies and gents.
It would be a shameful omission, though, for a person of my generation to sign off without noting the passing of Bee Gee Robin Gibb, at the much too young age of 62. Now I guess you're assuming I'm going to play a Saturday Night Fever clip, seeing that I wrote a much-praised article about that movie. The Bee Gees and I go back further than that, though: Not quite to the morning of my life, but at least to 1971, when they seized and colonized a tiny part of my soul.
Rest in peace, Robin Gibb.
[Music clip: Bee Gees, "In the Morning."]