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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is your onomastically genial host John Derbyshire with a summary of the week's news, brought to you courtesy of Taki's Magazine.
Several listeners were impressed with my command of the noble Greek language last week. Yes, I have been applying myself. Though very far from fluent, I have mastered a few key phrases that come in useful when dealing with the villagers. Just basic stuff: "Good morning" … "Thank you" … "How much is the feta cheese today?" … and, "It's my turn next with the goat." Just the basics. It all helps oil the wheels of social exchange.
OK, let's see what fresh hell is brewing out there in reality-land.
02 — The Middle East still has nations. I don't think it's controversial of me to say that the Middle East is one seriously messed-up place.
In some respects, though, they're less messed up than we are. Some of the nations out there are actual nations, inhabited by people who regard their territory as not merely a place where people happen to live for the purpose of making money, but as a homeland for them and their kin and for what the Preamble to the United States Constitution calls their Posterity.
Nations with that frame of mind can be welcoming to foreigners, but they reserve the rights to allow or not allow entry, to determine length of stay, to allow or not allow permanent settlement, and to expel unwanted intruders. Foreigners are of course free to exercise those same rights in their home countries.
"Aha," I hear you muttering to yourselves, "Derb is going to do some more cheerleading for Israel!" Well, it's true, I do like taking showers with Jews, and this brand-new Lamborghini that suddenly appeared in my driveway with Hebrew lettering on the dash sure does drive a treat. Thanks, Bibi!
I'm not actually talking about Israel here, though. The subject of this segment is Saudi Arabia, in particular a story from the Guardian, November 29th, headline Saudi Arabia's foreign labour crackdown drives out 2m migrants.
The story is that Saudi Arabia is trying to break its 40-year addiction to cheap foreign labor. It seemed like a good idea 40 years ago, with all the oil wealth flowing in. Saudis could just enjoy themselves while hiring in foreigners to do all the drudge work.
During the First Gulf War twenty years ago, the joke among Western journalists was (according to P.J. O'Rourke) to open a book on who would be first to see a Saudi lift anything heavier than his billfold.
Now the Saudis are wiser. A generation has grown up in luxury, thinking that idleness is a natural state. Meanwhile the foreign workers hired in — over half the workforce today — have settled into ghettos with problems of crime, drunkenness, prostitution, and gang warfare spilling out into Saudi society at large. Ethiopians are a particular problem.
When the crackdown started earlier this year, nine million of Saudi Arabia's thirty million residents were foreigners: Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Europeans, and Africans. Three-quarters of new jobs created were going to foreigners. Saudis meanwhile are reproducing at above replacement, with hundreds of thousands attaining working age every year.
In the background here is the mystery of Saudi oil reserves, which may be lower than the Saudis let on. If so, Saudis of the next generation are going to have to get used to working for a living. It's the social problems of having masses of foreigners in your country that's really driving the crackdown, though.
Of that nine million foreigners, a million have already gone, and another million will be gone by next year. I can't say I'm a great fan of the Saudis, or their culture, or their religion; but it's nice to see a people take its nation back, assuming they really can do it.
And yes, since you mention it, I do like Israel's immigration policy too. A nation should safeguard its territory, welcome the foreigners it wants, keep out the ones it doesn't want, expel uninvited intruders, and always put its own citizens first. You'd think that would be elementary statecraft; nowadays in the West, it's revolutionary.
03 — Waiting for cyberdildonics. There is a pleasant little town in the state of Maine named Bangor. There is another, even more pleasant, seaside town in Northern Ireland named Bangor. One result of this is that the following old vaudeville gag works equally well on both sides of the Atlantic, except that on the British side it was a music-hall gag. "Music Hall" was the British term for Vaudeville.
OK, so the gag is: The comic says: "It's our wedding anniversary next week so we're going away for a few days. I'm taking my wife to the little town in Northern Ireland where we first met, to Bangor." [Laughter.]
All right, it's not the funniest joke in the world; but that was in the days before we had Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi to entertain us, remember. People didn't have a lot to laugh at. The comics were doing their best, I'm sure.
And now it seems they were on to something. A survey was done over in Britain to see how much money people in different regions spend on sex products — you know: dildoes, fancy lingerie, penis pumps, bondage gear, that sort of thing. The survey was carried out by the online adult store LoveHoney.com, so you can be sure this is good, scientifically-rigorous research.
And yes, that little Irish town of Bangor came out on top (so to speak) in the survey. The good people of Bangor spend $72 dollars a year per head on these products, against a Britain-wide average of only $11 per head. I'm assuming here that "per head" is the correct terminology.
You can read this a number of ways, of course. Possibly the people of Bangor are just extremely creative and anxious to please each other in matters of intimate congress. On the other hand, perhaps they are so lonely and feeble they need all the artificial stimulation they can get in order to perform the procreative act. Let's not speculate.
And for the curious among you who are reaching for your gazeteers, let me save you the trouble. I just pulled down my Times Atlas of the World and no, there is no place listed with the name Bangim. There are, however, places named Bangaan, Bangall, Bångbro, Bangem, Bangemall, Bang Fay, Banggai, Bangjang, Bango-Bango, Bangu, Banguru, and of course Bangkok.
Well, this is of strictly transient interest. Cyberdildonics will soon liberate us from these petty geographical constraints.
04 — The logic that leads to war. I'll admit I'm getting a bit worried about China.
I first trod on Chinese soil in July of 1971, and I've been keeping a wary eye on the place ever since. I think I have a fair idea as to how the Chinese Communists see the world. Their view is of course nothing much to do with Marxism-Leninism. They have no intention or ambition to establish a world-wide Dictatorship of the Proleteriat.
Or a world-wide anything, though they'll take business opportunities wherever they can find them. What they want is to be dominant in their region, in East Asia and the western Pacific. They want to be over there what the U.S.A. is in the Americas, with something approximately equivalent to the Monroe Doctrine governing their neighbors' relations with more distant powers.
How do they get there, though? There are obstacles in their way bigger than any James Monroe could have dreamed of. Keeping the Europeans out of the New World was one thing; the U.S.A. is already in China's sphere of influence, allied with key nations there — Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia. Japan itself, for all its fiscal woes, is a consequential power currently under unapologetically nationalist leadership. India is even more consequential, a nuclear power with a chronic suspicion of Chinese intentions.
If China plays her cards wrong, she could alienate all her neighbors and find herself ringed with unfriendly nations, confident that the U.S.A. would come to their aid if China struck. That's not optimal. Optimal would be a ring of nations who, while not necessarily loving China, fear it enough not to act against China's interests, and with not much confidence that the U.S.A. would ride to the rescue if push came to shove.
How does China get to that warm and happy place? By probing and prodding, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating American strength.
That's what China's declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone over the western Pacific two weeks ago was all about. It was a probe, a prod, to see what the U.S.A. would do. What we did was, fly two B-52s through the zone in defiance of the Chinese. That gave them information about our strength of will and capabilities, and they are factoring that information into their plans.
It's a dangerous game, though, and a lot of observers, including this one, are not sure the Chinese leadership has the sense and understanding to play it right. They may even try a military strike to weaken the U.S. presence in the western Pacific. That's the premise of a November 23rd paper by geopolicy wonk David Archibald in the Australian magazine Quadrant that's been generating some buzz.
I don't myself think there's a high probability of that, but I don't think the probability is zero, either. With 2014 just around the corner, we're all thinking about World War One and its causes. On that, at least, I think David Archibald gets it right. Longish quote from him:
With the Chinese economy expanding at a rate in the high single digits of percentage annual growth and defence expenditure growing in double digits, the Chinese perception of their power to compel would be rising strongly. A high proportion of that economic expansion though is in the form of non-productive fixed asset investment. This credit-fuelled boom could end at any time with attendant social dislocation. If the Chinese perceive that their relative position to Japan and the United States had stalled and was likely to recede with ongoing Japanese re-armament, then that might prompt them to bring forward their attack. The timing of Germany's initiation of World War 1 was driven by similar logic.
End quote [my italics].
Yes it was. I wish I was confident that the players here were wiser than their counterparts in 1914 Europe.
05 — Onomastic adventures. This segment is going to be about onomastics — that is, the science of names. It's also going to be a cop-out on my part, because I'm going to hand you off to someone else for most of the segment.
The topic here is the off-the-wall names that black Americans give to their kids. This has been going on for ever. H.L. Mencken had a long and funny passage on it in his book The American Language eighty years ago.
It would of course be unspeakably racist of me to comment on this topic, but that's why I'm handing you off to someone else: the black comedian David Alan Grier. You know how it works: They can say things about blacks that we can't say. In this case the things are very funny and really not offensive in any way that I can see, so relax and have a good chuckle.
The premise here is that a lot of the fancy names that pharmaceutical companies give to drugs sound a lot like the wacky names that blacks give to their kids.
This segment was aired on the syndicated radio show Loveline. While Loveline doesn't have the intellectual depth, scrupulous research, and moral authority of Radio Derb, it's often a pretty funny show — as here.
[Clip: Loveline segment.]
06 — Improbable aliens. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has been holding hearings on the locating of aliens.
No, no, this is not about identifying and deporting illegal immigrants. No way the GOP weenies would do that! For one thing it would tick off the cheap-labor-hungry business interests who keep their campaign accounts stuffed with cash. For another, it would cause Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews to denounce them as "racists," which is the worst thing in the world that can happen to anybody next to being eaten alive by raccoons.
No, no, that's impossible. What the hearings were about was space aliens. This was the House Science Committee, teeing up the budget for NASA. Should we spend public money looking for signs of life in other solar systems?
I'd say no. Hey, I'm an old sci-fi fan from way back. I'd love to know if there's life out there. I just recently reviewed a book on the topic: Lee Billings' Five Billion Years of Solitude. It's a very fascinating topic that stirs the imagination.
I just don't think it's a function of government to cater to my imagination.
And we should face the possibility that on present evidence, the answer to the question "Is there life out there?" is "No."
The biggest stumbling block, it seems to me, is biogenesis. We now know that there are Earth-like planets out there, but we have no clue how life gets started on them. As I said in my book review, we're very little wiser about the origin of life than we were sixty years ago when Stanley Miller and Harold Urey fired simulated lightning through a simulation of the Earth's primeval atmosphere and found organic compounds being formed.
Unfortunately it's a long way from organic compounds to life. Miller-Urey-type experiments can turn up amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, and even nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA. To get from building blocks to actual buildings, though — in scientific terminology, from monomers to polymers — the blocks have to be assembled in the right order, and so far we know of only one way that could happen naturally.
The one way is: It could happen by sheer chance. The odds are terrifically long: so long that not one galaxy in a trillion would bring forth life on an earthlike planet.
Well, there are likely many trillions of galaxies. We have actually observed close to a trillion; and many very respectable cosmologists think the number of galaxies may be infinite, in which case infinitely many galaxies will have life, since infinity divided by a trillion is still infinity.
The downside of course is that if only one galaxy in a trillion has life, then the nearest such one to us is an awful long way away — tens of billions of light years. That's okay if you can get your starship up to the speed of light, and have tens of billions of years to spare, but not otherwise. Since neither applies, we are effectively alone.
Unless, that is, there is some way to get from monomer to polymer that we just haven't figured out yet. If Congress wants to spend money on figuring out whether there's life somewhere reasonably nearby, perhaps they should stop listening to astronomers, who tend to have hyperactive imaginations, and call in some organic chemists.
07 — Golliwog jurisprudence. I promised to keep the golliwog thread alive, and with the assistance of the news media, am having no difficulty in doing so.
This week's golliwog story is from the London Daily Telegraph, December 2nd, headline: Black chef suing employers after boss used word 'golliwog' during conversation about Robertson's jam. End headline.
There's a little backstory here. Robertson's is a very popular brand of jam in England. For most of the lifetime of any person older than 24 — to be precise, from 1910 to 2001 — the label on a jar of Robertson's jam carried a picture of a golliwog. It was the firm's emblem. When I was a kid you collected labels from the jars, and when you had a certain number you could mail them in to Robertson's and get a golliwog lapel pin.
Robertson's dropped the golliwog in 2001 after hecatombs of black people had killed themselves in despair at being so cruelly caricatured.
Well, this week's story concerns 45-year-old Denise Lindsay, who was working as a chef at the London School of Economics student refectory when the newsworthy outrage took place. This was back in February 2009, nearly five years ago, but Ms Lindsay, who is black, is still in acute distress from the incident.
So what was the incident? Someone called her a golliwog? Good grief no! If anything of that magnitude had happened, the Earth would have veered off its orbit and crashed into the sun, and we'd all be dead.
No, what happened was that Ms Lindsay's manager at the time, a chap named Mark McAleese, had mentioned the dropping of the golliwog emblem from the labels on Robertson's jam.
That was it. Ms Lindsay isn't even claiming that Mr. McAleese called her a golliwog. Everyone agrees that he just used the word in conversation, within her hearing.
The mighty engine of British justice roared into action. An Employment Tribunal was convened. After long and deep ruminations they concluded that an act of harassment had indeed occurred. Quote from their 8,000-page ruling, quote:
We have concluded that, for a white manager to use the words "golliwog" and "golliwog jam" in the course of a conversation with a black Afro-Caribbean colleague is unwanted conduct.
However, before Mr McAleese could be dragged away to the Tower of London to be hanged, drawn and quartered for his vile offense, the Employment Tribunal further ruled that Ms Lindsay had waited too long before filing her complaint, so that the case was moot.
"Golly!" said Ms Lindsay, "that is so unfair! No justice, no peace!" She thereupon filed an appeal, and that was what was being heard this week at the Appeals Court in London before three of Britain's finest minds kept warm by horsehair wigs.
Lord Justice Moore-Bick, Lord Justice Floyd, and Lord Justice Christopher Clarke listened to the arguments of plaintiff and defendant with solemn concern, announcing at last that they will reserve their decision on the case until a later date.
These things happened in Britain, an island in the north Atlantic which was once home to a serious nation.
08 — Miscellany. And now, here she comes: Miss Ellany.
Imprimis: In case anyone still thinks we have a government of laws, not of men, here comes Onyango Obama to disabuse you.
Onyango is the uncle of Barack Obama, current President of the United States. He came to the U.S.A. in 1963 to attend school at the encouragement of Barack Obama Senior, the President's father. His student visa expired some years later and he was ordered deported more than once, but ignored the orders. Now 69 years old, he manages a liquor store for $20 thousand a year.
Tuesday this week a federal immigration judge ruled that Onyango can stay in the United States and apply for a green card.
Three years ago, Onyango was arrested for drunk driving, as reported by Radio Derb at the time. That aside, he doesn't seem like a bad sort. At least he works for a living and pays rent in private lodgings, unlike Obama's obnoxious welfare queen of an aunt, Zeituni Onyango. If he wasn't the President's uncle, I wouldn't much care that he'd been given a break.
He is the President's uncle, though, so I do care. Not because it's this particular President, but because the law should be applied with special rigor to relatives of high officials, as a demonstration to citizens and foreign observers that in this Republic, we watch our power-holders like hawks, and don't grant them, or their relatives, any favors.
That's how things should be, in a republic of laws. Did we have one once? We sure don't any more.
Item: We all know what tongue-twisters are. "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper." "The Leith police dismisseth us." "She sells sea shells by the sea shore, and I'm sure she sells sea shore shells."
Every language has tongue twisters. If you want a Chinese one: 四十四隻石獅子. That means "Forty-four stone lions."
The main challenge with tongue twisters is not to say the thing just once, but to repeat it ten times fast. Even quite simple phrases will trip you up. Try "toy boat" ten times fast, or "red leather, yellow leather."
Well, here's the news item. Researchers at MIT have come up with the worst tongue-twister in English, and last week it was presented to the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Francisco by lead researcher Dr Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel
Dr Shattuck-Hufnagel's winning tongue-twister is: "pad kid poured curd pulled cold." Try it ten times fast.
I dunno, I thought they had a winner there already with Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel. Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, … You try it.
Item: Nelson Mandela died as we were going to tape.
My first reaction was nostalgia. When I went up to university in 1963, the very first meeting of the college student union that I attended was given over to a motion to make Nelson Mandela, who had just been put in jail, our honorary President. The motion passed. So Mandela's been shuffling around in the background of the news for my entire adult life.
He mellowed with age, of course. I'm not a huge fan of Marxist revolutionaries who want to blow up white people, but I'll cut Mandela some slack: When he at last had the power to be vindictive, he wasn't.
That aside, I can't say I care much; and I look forward with weary resignation to all the gushing from the liberal media. A black African leader who's not a crook or a thug — Mandela was a white liberal's wet dream.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum, though. Mandela had the opportunity to be vengeful, cruel, corrupt, and triumphally arrogant … and he passed it up. That's pretty good as human beings go. As Africa goes, it's sensational.
09 — Signoff. And there you have it, ladies and gents. The world turns, the Sun rises and sets, and Western Civilization continues to consume its own flesh.
It's occurred to me that in telling the golliwog story back there, I actually used the word "golliwog," and may thereby have caused that word to fall on the ears of persons as sensitive as Ms Lindsay, the plaintiff in the case. That would then put me in the same position as Mr McAleese, the defendant; in which case, should Their Lordships in their majestic jurisprudential wisdom decide that he is guilty as charged, so shall I be.
I therefore stand in peril of being dragged from my bed by agents of the Crown to stand trial at the Old Bailey on charges of racial harassment. I'm not sure what kind of extradition agreements exist between Greece and Britain, but if my voice disappears from the airwaves, that will be what's happened. Pray for my soul, dear listeners.
To see us out, let's try some avant-garde music. I have for some time had the idea to play John Cage's famous piano work "4-33" as a closer. It consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of perfect silence. However, I'm afraid some listeners might not stay to the end of the performance. And besides, I haven't been able to find a really good recording.
Instead, here's a piece a tad less avant-garde. Warning: You either like this kind of thing or you hate it. Some people are driven to a blind fury by it. If you're one of them, I apologize. For the others: Keep an open mind.
Here then is the lovely Laura Catrani singing, muttering, whispering, humming, laughing, coughing, and gasping Sequenza III by Luciano Berio. Oh: Put away your stemware.
More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: From Berio's "Sequenza III."]