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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your postprandially genial host John Derbyshire with all the news that matters here in mid-November 2012.
Mid-November 2012 comes right before mid-December 2012, when according to the wise men of the Mayan civilization, the world will end. Given that the Mayans didn't really do a bang-up job of keeping their own civilization going — it pretty much collapsed in a cloud of dust twelve hundred years ago, for reasons the scholars are still arguing over — and given furthermore that like every good accountant I do the books on the Going Concern Principle, i.e. on the assumption that the firm will still be around into the indefinite future, notwithstanding last quarter's sales were zero, the share price has collapsed, the directors have resigned, the CFO has absconded to Paraguay in the corporate jet, and creditors are breaking down the door … given all that, I feel justified in presenting you with another broadcast of Radio Derb. Here it is.
02 — Petraeus goes All In. Big news story of the week has been the CIA sex scandal. It started with the revelation that 60-year-old David Petraeus, who for the past year and some has been CIA Director, and who before that was an Army general serving in high-level commands in Afghanistan and Iraq, Petraeus has been playing Kiss the Lizard with 40-year-old Paula Broadwell.
Ms. Broadwell is also ex-Army, in fact like Petraeus a West Point graduate. She co-authored a biography of Petraeus that came out earlier this year. I should say that "co-authored," when you read it in news stories like this, is a euphemism for: "Did at least some of the reportorial and research legwork for the book, but can't write worth a damn, and so paid some poor hack to ghost-write it for her." The poor hacks who are forced to prostitute their literary talents in this way can only be pitied; though if any listeners have contracted to write a high-profile biography but are seriously insecure about their writing skills, I can be reached via Taki's Magazine.
Well, that was the starting revelation: Our Director of Central Intelligence had been dipping his bucket into the broad well of Ms. Broadwell's affections. Next it turned out that there was another lady involved, this one a civilian. Jill Kelley, 37 years old, a society gal down in Tampa, Florida, had some kind of status — I'm not clear if it was official — as Social Liaison to military brass at MacDill Air Force Base down there, home of CENTCOM, which directs our military operations in the Middle East. Ms. Kelley is not military herself and neither is her husband — he's a surgeon — but somehow she got this gig throwing parties for generals and such.
That aroused the suspicions of Ms. Broadwell, who is one suspicious broad. Well, she harassed Ms. Kelley with emails, Ms. Kelley called in the FBI, and the rest is tabloid news stories and late-night comedians' jokes featuring phrases like "embedded with his unit" and making double-entendres on the title of Ms. Broadwell's book, All In.
Among the sidebar stories that emerged was one about 58-year-old General John Allen, who's supposed to be running the war in Afghanistan — you know, that terrifically important war we are fighting in order to [crickets].
Ms. Broadwell's suspicions notwithstanding, General Petraeus seems not to have been behaving inappropriately with Ms. Kelley, but General Allen sure wanted to. Turns out he has sent hundreds — some of the reports say thousands — of flirtatious emails to Ms. Kelley, whom I suppose he met at one of her soirées. Thousands, over a period of just a year or so: that's several per day, every day.
And as this jar of spilled molasses spread across the kitchen floor, it joined up with the previous spillage, the pot of rancid buttermilk named "Benghazi." The result is an unsightly mess.
Petraeus, remember, was head of the CIA until he resigned last Friday on account of the scandal; and the CIA lost two guys in the Benghazi FUBAR back in September. He was scheduled to tell a congressional committee what he knew. We now hear that he will indeed give that testimony on Friday the 16th, behind closed doors as is usual with national-security stuff.
On top of all that is the matter of the administration's timing: Petraeus resigned just three days after the election. Given that there are 1,461 days in a presidential term, the probability of a bombshell like this going off in any particular three-day spell is one in 487. You don't have to be a fan of grassy knolls and black helicopters to find this suspicious.
So much for the news story. Now, what can we learn from all this, comrades?
03 — The Uniform Code of Derb Justice. Here are some random thoughts of mine on the Petraeus and Allen cases.
One: I want some of what these guys are taking. A 60-year-old guy is running a wife, a mistress, and a top government agency? A 58-year-old guy is in charge of a war, but can find time in his day to have lengthy email sex with a society gal? Thousands of emails? I haven't said that many words to Mrs. Derbyshire in 26 years of marriage.
Two: Is it really a good idea to put a military guy in charge of intelligence? It seems to me like a completely different skill set. Military men, bless them all, are not best known for subtlety. For intelligence chief you want some stone-faced poker-player type with a natural talent for ruthless duplicity. Lots of occupations are replete with people like that — auditing, time-share sales, magazine editorship, and the legal profession come to mind, and that's not even to mention politics — but it's not a military specialty.
Three: Is there anyone in the topmost ranks of our military who is not a gutless careerist time-server? Why did nobody — nobody — at the high-command level resign his commission when we put women in submarines, or when we allowed open homosexuals to serve in the ranks, or when the Fort Hood Muslim terrorist, after giving lectures justifying suicide bombings, was rewarded with promotion? Or when that same Muslim terrorist was allowed to game the court-martial process with frivolous appeals — which he is in fact still doing, three years after the atrocity? What the hell is the matter with these people?
Four: Is whatever is the matter with them a cause, or a consequence, of our abandoning real rubble-doesn't-make-trouble war-making for three-cups-of-tea social work and hearts'n'minds "counterinsurgency" missionary endeavors — abandoning Sherman's make-'em-howl for Petraeus's make-'em-love-us?
Five: Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice reads as follows, quote:
Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
End quote. Article 134 of the same Code reads in part as follows, quote:
All disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.
End quote. Shall we be seeing any courts-martial here under articles 133 and 134? Or do they only apply to the little people?
Six: My son is hoping to join the military after high school graduation next summer. His mother and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that his life will be in the hands of politicians with the brains of caterpillars. Should we now further resign ourselves to the fact that his life may be in the hands of generals with the morals of jackrabbits?
Seven: Is the feminist ideal of a gender-neutral workplace really such a terrifically good idea? If you don't know the answer, should you maybe ask Mrs. Petraeus?
04 — A burst of realism on sex. One very interesting feature of our public life this past few days has been a burst of realism about human nature. We have seen this in both the Petraeus scandal and the post-election commentary.
I'll take the Petraeus business first, since I've just been talking about it.
The broad context here is what you might call Human Nature Studies. Nobody ever does use that phrase, but that's not my fault. That's the context.
We Homo sap. have of course been observing each other since the Lower Paleolithic, so there really shouldn't be much left to say about human nature at this point. There is, though, for several reasons: mainly, that human beings are awfully inclined to fantasize about human nature. That inclination seems to have gotten worse across the modern period.
Consider Marxism, for example, which gripped much of the Western intelligentsia through much of the last century. Leszek Kolakowski, who actually taught Marxism in the philosophy department of a major university in communist Poland, later declared in 1976 that, quote, "Marxism has been the greatest fantasy of our century."
Equally preposterous fantasies, with names like Freudianism and Behaviorism, took over psychology. Anthropology is still in the grip of Franz Boas's environmental determinism. The human sciences this past two hundred years have not distinguished themselves by a rigorously empirical objectivity.
That has all changed in the past sixty years, with breakthroughs like the modeling of DNA in 1953, the twin studies of the 1980s, new brain imaging techniques in the 1990s, and accumulated results from paleontology, population genetics, and animal behavior. We are beginning to get a good, scientifically rigorous picture of human nature; and this knowledge is seeping down into widespread common understandings.
One area where the seepage has been particularly noticable is in the area of sex — not surprisingly, I guess, since this is a region of human nature of acute interest to well-nigh everybody. You have probably heard the expressions "alpha male" and "beta male" bandied about. You may have heard or seen the word "hypergamy," more popularly known as "marrying up": the tendency of women to seek a sex partner of the highest possible status in her society. General Petraeus is sixty, kind of homely looking, and by no means mega-rich. If he was a high-school shop teacher, Paula Broadwell wouldn't have looked twice at him; but those general's four stars say "status" in big flashing neon letters.
Did you see that photograph that's been going round of Mr. and Mrs. Petraeus arriving at some Senate hearing last year, with Paula Broadwell gazing worshipfully at him? It makes the point. Or, if you still don't get the point, I refer you to the Chateau Heartiste blog, which explains it all, then explains it all over again, in colorful and surprisingly literate language.
The point here is that these phrases like "alpha male" now in general currency, however inaccurately they may sometimes get thrown around, at least have their origin in real empirical sciences, in this case ethology — that's the study of animal behavior — and neuroscience. The phrases current fifty years ago in talking about human nature, phrases like "Oedipus complex" or "false consciousness," had their origin in evidence-free metaphysical speculations or politicized wish-fulfillment fantasies.
It's an improvement, at least if you believe that fact is better than fantasy and truth better than falsehood. Which some of us actually do believe.
05 — A burst of realism on demography. Even more astonishing, the election has let loose some remarkably frank talk about demography.
I saw one of the talking heads on Fox News the other night — Bill O'Reilly, I think it was — actually use the phrase "the white vote." The white vote was of course what Mitt Romney was falling short on; but in previous election cycles it would have been thought seriously improper to speak of whites as a demographic.
Similarly with the black vote, the Hispanic vote, the Asian vote. I've been hearing and reading these things spoken of with unusual frankness this past few days. It seems to have been slowly dawning on white Americans, including even the hyper-politically-correct media crowd, that the terminally stupid immigration policies of the past forty years have left them with less and less of a political voice.
The fact also seems to be dawning that blacks and Hispanics are never going to vote in great numbers for a small-government party. The great Republican dream of the past few years that if the GOP just does this, or that, or the other thing, black and Hispanic voters will suddenly see the light and start voting for them, is beginning to be seen for the paternalistic flapdoodle it is.
Blogger Tino Sanandaji, who is a post-doc in economics at the University of Chicago, put up a striking post on his blog, Super-Economy, with the heading, quote: Why Hispanics are Natural Democrats and what the GOP can do about it, end quote. His take on the first question is much more persuasive than his take on the second, so that you come away understanding why indeed Hispanics are natural Democrats but doubting whether the GOP can in fact do much about it. Still, this is a major advance on the silly cant put out by cheap labor shills like Linda Chavez about how Hispanics are natural Republicans.
All in all there is a growing awareness, much helped by this past election, that our politics is descending into tribalism, just as Radio Derb has been telling you; and that this follows naturally and inevitably from fundamental invariants of human nature.
It would be too much to call this race realism. We're twenty or thirty years away from anyone being realistic about race in the public square. Still, it's better than the vapid equalitarianism and sub-Marxist economism that has been the default in public commentary for the past half-century.
And even merely demographic realism might do the country some good. It might mean, for example, that it could once again become respectable to talk about legal immigration as a policy issue. Here's a straw in the wind: Senator Rand Paul this week put forward an original kind of trade-off deal: citizenship for illegals but, quote, "not to accept any new legal immigrants while we're assimilating the ones who are here," end quote. In other words, an immigration moratorium. I doubt the United States Congress is going to fall into line behind Rand Paul on this, or on anything … but look: a politician is talking about legal immigration! It's a miracle!
06 — Wheeee! … Over the fiscal cliff. You've heard about the fiscal cliff, right? That's what we come to a nanosecond or two after midnight on December 31st.
This is a consequence of the Budget Control Act, passed in summer last year when the federal government wanted the debt limit raised so they could borrow more money. OK, said Congress, we'll raise the debt limit, on condition that a supercommittee of congresscritters comes up with some real deficit-reduction measures and Congress passes them, and on further condition that if they don't, automatic tax hikes and spending cuts will kick in at 2012 year end. The spending cuts will be major, and in core programs like defense and Medicare — though not Social Security, which is exempt.
Everyone's betting that Congress will come up with something to put off the evil hour. We all know how hostile they are to allowing spending to be cut by any means at all.
The President has to sign legislation, though, and Obama's being difficult. As he told us approximately ten thousand times in the recent campaign, he wants the rich to pay, quote, "a little bit more."
Well, it turns out he doesn't just want it, he's adamant about it. The President's determination to raise tax rates on high earners — over $250,000 a year for couples, $200,000 for singles — is shaping up as a major roadblock to any kind of deal. He has said flatly that he'll veto any deal that doesn't include this. It's absurd, as the amount raised from those high earners would be picayune by comparison with the size of the fiscal gap to be closed, but when you've spent your formative years hanging around with radical leftists, as Obama did, sticking it to the rich is a real psychological imperative.
Congressional Republicans acknowledge the need to raise revenues, but they want to do it by eliminating loopholes in the tax code and killing some of the exemptions and deductions.
So we have this impasse over raising revenue, while nobody much is talking much about cutting spending. As I said, that isn't a thing Congress does. It sure isn't a thing Obama does.
Here's what Radio Derb says: fiat justitia, ruat caelum. That's Latin — you know, the language spoken by Latinos. What it means is: "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall." Let's go over the cliff.
Sure, the economy will nosedive; but look — we'll have spending cuts! If there is ever to be a long-term recovery, we must cut spending, and this is the only way to do it. The congressreptiles are too stupid and cowardly to do it any other way.
Let's take our medicine. Sure, we'll be hard up for a while. We won't be able to buy so much tacky junk from the slave-labor factories in China. We won't be able to drive around in automobiles the size of small houses. We won't be able to afford for our cops, firefighters, prison officers, school superintendents, and railroad motormen to retire at fifty on eighty thousand a year. Perhaps we won't even be able to keep tens of thousands of troops stationed in countries that were dangerous to our great-grandfathers. So what? We're America. We'll pull through, and be better and wiser for the experience.
I say again: There is no other way our government will cut spending, and cutting spending is what we have to do. So … seatbelts fastened, heads between knees, over the cliff! Wheeeeee!
07 — ChiComs get a new something-or-other. So we didn't get a new President last week. Mainland China, however, did get a new leader this week. Xi Jinping assumed office on Thursday as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese leadership system is a bit confusing, as they keep changing it round. China actually has a President, but it's kind of an honorary post. The current President is Hu Jintao; and yes, you remember right, he was the outgoing General Secretary of the Party when Xi Jinping came in this week. China also has a Prime Minister, another new hire, name of Li Keqiang. Mao Tse-tung's old title, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (中國共產黨中央委員會主席, if you want it in Chinese) no longer exists. I told you this is confusing.
So anyway, here's this Xi Jinping bloke emerging at the top of the Chinese power hierarchy. "Xi" is the surname of course, the given name "Jinping" means "near peace," so let's hope that's auspicious, and China stays near to peace and far from war during Mr. Xi's ten-year term of office.
Let's also hope for Mr. Xi's sake that he fares better than some previous holders of his position. I'm thinking of Hu Yaobang, who was purged in 1987 after showing too much sympathy for student protesters, and Zhao Ziyang, ditto ditto in 1989. Being the leader of China is no cake-walk; one of the 19th-century Emperors died after being struck by lightning.
What does this mean for us? Not much. In the first place, none of the professional China-watchers has been able to detect any signs of a change in policy to go with the change in Chinese leaders. In the second place, China is facing some major structural issues that are going to be occupying all their attention for the next few years.
Those issues are economic, political, and environmental. The Chinese economy has pretty much picked all the low-hanging fruit of being a very poor country with a big, docile, and intelligent workforce. They are going to have to step up to the next level of sophistication. There is every sign that they are capable of doing this, and indeed have done so in several areas. Economic development in general, though is going to be constrained by the other two issues: the political and the environmental.
Politically, the country remains terribly backward. If politics were housing, this would be a guy in a thousand-dollar suit, wearing a rolex, driving a Lexus, and dining out on lobster bisque with champagne, but living in a tarpaper shack. Power is way over-centralized, there are no real channels for redress of grievances, corruption is gross and rampant, and legal protections of rights and property are subject to the whims of the rich and powerful. Xi Jinping's extended family controls assets worth at least $700 million according to Bloomberg News; and the family of Wen Jiabao, the outgoing Prime Minister, is worth close to three billion.
Intelligent Chinese know this, but can't see a way out of it. There is serious discontent among peasants and workers, and some of it's percolating up into the educated middle classes. It's been highlighted this past few days as Chinese people have had the opportunity to compare the rowdy and unpredictable U.S. election with their own bogus pre-arranged stage-managed affair. Whatever you may think of the current state of our representative democracy, it looks pretty good to the inmates of a communist dictatorship.
And then there are the environmental issues, which are very basic: Bad air, dire shortages of water. I've been hearing for thirty years that the ChiComs are getting to grips with their environmental problems, but not much actually happens.
Still, let's look for the silver lining here. If China's economy flatlines, at least our spendaholic government won't be able to borrow money from them.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: A spot of bother over there in the Middle East. The fanatical Islamist terrorist group Hamas, which is in charge of the welfare slum known as the Gaza Strip, decided to let off some steam by firing missiles into Israeli towns. The Israelis naturally took exception to this, and whacked one of the Hamas leaders with an air strike on his car. Hamas escalated with more missiles, killing three Israelis, and we're off to the races yet again.
Most likely we're headed for a repeat of the brief war fought four years ago that left a thousand Gazans dead and some major infrastructure damage. That ended with a ceasefire, since when Hamas, rather than concentrating on the welfare of its people, trying to build up some kind of an economy and get off the U.N. aid teat, has concentrated on stockpiling Iranian missiles so the whole stupid exercise can be repeated. The new wild card is the installation of an Islamist government in Egypt, to which Hamas is now appealing for help.
No doubt Israel will do what has to be done. Good luck to them, is Radio Derb's position. The Gazans have it coming to them. The Hamas government was elected by the people of Gaza in 2006. Gazans got the government they wanted, and they've been paying for it ever since. Now they're going to pay for it some more. If the Gazans weren't blinded by Jew-hatred, there might be some hope of ending the cycle of futility; but they are, so there isn't.
Item: A slow but remorseless trend of our times is the automation of low-level service jobs. I haven't been through a regular check-out lane at the supermarket or Home Depot for months.
Now here's a new development in this trend: Burger-making robots. Bloomberg reports that an outfit named Momentum Machines is developing a burger-making robot named, wait for it, … Patty that can assemble a cooked burger and bag it in less than 30 seconds.
Patty, we are told, stands about five feet tall. Whether she is programmed with suitable phrases, like "You want fries with that?" Bloomberg doesn't say. Nor do they say whether she responds to normal across-the-counter repartee, remarks like "Nice buns!" They also don't say what all those redundant fast-food workers will do for a living, nor whether it was really such a great idea to import 40 million low-skilled workers.
Item: You may have read about the British soccer fan who became the object of a major police manhunt after he was filmed making monkey gestures from the stands at a black player. Well, that isn't the half of it.
A little background here. The Wars of Religion are still being fought in a number of British cities, mainly between soccer teams. When I lived in Liverpool in the 1960s, for example, one of the city's two big teams, Everton, was Catholic, while the other, Liverpool City, was Protestant. The joke was that there was a Derby game — that is, when the two teams played each other — which Everton lost. On the buses taking fans away after the game, an Everton fan was overheard saying: "Ah, there'll be some sad faces in the Vatican tonight."
Well, Glasgow is another one of those places. Again there are two big city teams, Celtic and Rangers. Celtic are the Catholics, Rangers are the Protestants.
Now meet Connor McGhie, age 19, of Lanarkshire. Connor is a Rangers supporter. At a Rangers game at Inverness in February — not against Celtic, as it happens, but against a different team — he and some other Rangers supporters engaged in tribal chanting, which included insults to the Pope and the Vatican, and references to Celtic as, quote, "Fenian buggers." ("Fenian" means "rebel Catholic Irish.")
For this, Connor McGhie, who has had no previous encounters with law enforcement, was sentenced to three months in jail. Three months. The sheriff who jailed him extruded the following stream of bilge, quote:
Anybody who participates in this disgusting language should be stopped. In the Highlands, we have many people of different faiths. Inverness in particular has a strong immigrant community, whose religion is the one you were deriding so publicly.
End quote. A number of things go without saying here. To mention just one: Traffic in London is routinely disrupted by demonstrating Muslims demanding death to all infidels, as the British police gaze on benignly.
That, I say, is a country gone mad — stark screaming mad. I am so glad to be out of there.
Item: Finally, spare a thought for the girlfriend — we don't know her name — of Ricardo Salamanca, down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Salamanca desired sexual congress with his lady. The lady refused, there was a brief fracas, and it ended with Mr. Salamanca cutting off the lady's nose.
Now, heaven forbid anyone should think I am lacking in sympathy for the unfortunate lady. No doubt suitable reconstructive surgery will be performed; but still, to find yourself missing a nose has got to be pretty distressing. There is a famous short story by Nikolai Gogol that describes the experience.
Still, I can't help thinking that there is some slight redressing of the balance here: the balance, I mean, against those stories that show up three or four times a year about some angry or jealous woman somewhere lopping off one of her man's body parts — never, so far as I can recall, the nose.
Mr. Salamanca is now in jail on a $75,000 bond. Knowing how women have a way of getting even over these things, I'd advise him to stay there.
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. I can think of no music relevant to the contents of this week's broadcast, so here to see us out is a novelty item from the past that has no relevance to anything at all. More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago"]