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[Music clip: John McCormack, "See Amid the Winter's Snow"]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb here, ladies and gents, and this is your genial host John Derbyshire with our weekly survey of the world's mayhem and madness.
This week's geniality quotient is actually rather low. I don't know, I'm just not in a Ho Ho Ho mood. What's to be cheerful about? The economy's down the tubes, the Arabs are insulting us, a left-wing administration is coming in, and I'm losing another tooth.
[Clip: "Life gets teejus, don't it?"] Thank you, Carson. It certainly does.
So with a full measure of bile, angst, Weltschmerz, toothache, and ill humor, here is a run-down on the week's events.
[The President] shall … nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for …
That's from a tattered little document called the United States Constitution, Article II, Section 2, paragraph 2. So although our President-elect has tapped Mrs. Clinton for Secretary of State, she still has to go through the advice-and-consent business with the Senate.
Why should this present any difficulties? Well, because Hillary is the wife of former President Bill Clinton, and Bubba's pockets are a-bulging with cash given to him by foreign potentates and shady business moguls.
Saudi Arabia, for example, has given something between $15 million and $35 million to Bubba's "foundation" — a shell organization over which Bubba has total control. The governments of Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, and the Sultanate of Brunei each gave between $1 million and $5 million, and a quarter to a half a million came from the Islamic World Conference.
Here's Bubba business in a nutshell: listen and learn.
In 2005 the ex-President went on a trip to Kazakhstan, which is number 146 out of 180 on Transparency International's corruption index, putting it up in the 82nd percentile of corruption worldwide. Bubba took with him a Canadian mining financier named Frank Giustra. They met with the dictator of Kazakhstan.
Shortly after the trip Giustra was awarded a huge contract to mine uranium in Kazakhstan. Shortly after that Giustra pitched in several million dollars — the actual number is somewhere between eleven and thirty million — to Bubba's "foundation."
That's how Billy Boy does business. And we're going to appoint a Secretary of State who's married to this guy?
If we're going to be that kind of country — a country run by an arrogant elite of worthless parasites, none of whom has ever done a day's honest work, and who regard politics as a personal ATM — if we're going to be that kind of country, why not just rename ourselves "Kazakhstan" and have done with it?
When Harry Truman left office he had nothing but his army pension for support. He had to take out a bank loan to make time to write his memoirs. But that was back in the days when we were a modest commercial republic, before we turned into a shoddy imitation of the Ottoman Empire.
Bill Clinton probably thinks Harry Truman was a naive sucker. He probably thinks we, the American people, are naive suckers too, for electing corrupt trash like him and his wife to high office. He's probably right.
03 — State troubles. 平時不燒香: 臨時抱佛腳. So say the Chinese: "In easy times you don't burn incense; when times are bad you hug Buddha's foot."
We're all going to be doing some Buddha-foot-hugging this next couple of years, as the economists argue about whether what we're heading into is another Great Depression, or just a Big Recession.
A lot of Americans are going to be out of work. A lot already are. I've been out of work, and it's no fun at all. Here is a key rule to follow if it should happen to you: do not go and sit in the park. Sitting in the park during working hours is about the most depressing thing in the world, unless you really like pigeons.
Wait a minute, though. Did I say we're all going to be hurting? Not quite all, it seems. Employees of New York State should be OK. See, if you run a state government, the Chinese rule doesn't apply. State governments — and a fortiori the federal government — operate on a different rule, something like: In easy times you spend, borrow, hire, and give in to every demand for improved benefits from your public-employee unions; when times are bad, you do the same, while raising taxes.
That's exactly what's happening in New York State right now, and probably in your state too. Governor Dave Paterson's budget proposal for the coming year increases spending by 1.4 billion. That includes things like 45 million for the State Council on the Arts, to fund all those poetry workshops and opera galas that are so vital to the state economy.
Hiring? The state employee headcount is up three and a half percent this last two years, and is budgeted to grow by nine thousand next year. Standing up to public-sector unions? [Laugh] All this comes with a slew of new fees and taxes on New York residents, while the state is looking at a fifteen billion dollar budget shortfall and the projected loss of a quarter million private-sector jobs in 2009.
Kids, listen to Uncle Derb: Get a government job! The private sector is for saps and fools. Get a government job and join a government union. You'll be set up for life.
Should anything dire befall the national economy, let the saps and fools pay for it.
04 — Madoff scam. Now here's a nice little scam.
You set up an investment firm, promising investors high rates of return. You get a few investors. They give you their money, and sure enough you pay them big dividends. They tell their friends, so more people give you their money. They keep getting great returns, so word spreads. But actually, you're not making payouts from a successful investment strategy; you're just paying out money from your investors' capital, which you can do as long as (a) new investors keep coming in, and (b) not many investors ask to cash out their capital.
That's called a Ponzi scheme … unless it's a government running the show. Then it's called a Social Security System, or a compassionately conservative program to encourage home ownership.
Well, meet Bernie Madoff, who'd be in much better shape if he'd taken my advice and gone to work for the government, where his skill at bare-faced lying could have been put to good use in service of his country. Instead, he set up an investment operation that turned into a Ponzi scheme.
It was nicely done, with lots of psychology. He made lots of charitable donations to Jewish causes, so that his clients — who were all Jewish — would trust him. He turned down some investors, making the others feel they were in an exclusive club. Nice work.
The losses are tremendous. The family of one investor, a co-owner of the New York Mets baseball team, lost 500 million dollars. Of course, nobody feels sorry for people with that much money … nobody except the authorities, who have let Madoff stay in his plush Manhattan apartment even though he wasn't able to meet bail. Try getting that deal when you're arrested for shoplifting from K-Mart.
The thing everybody's asking is, where were the regulators? I worked for a Wall Street firm in the nineties, and the place was crawling with SEC auditors. They had guys come in and read my computer code. Here's Bernie sluicing money through from new investors to old ones, and the SEC doesn't even drop by for a cup of coffee and a cheese blintz. This in spite of the fact that independent analysts looking at Bernie's operation as far back as 2000 were telling everyone, including the SEC, that it was bogus.
Did it help that one of Bernie's nieces married a top SEC official? Like chicken soup, it didn't hurt. The short answer is probably just that Bernie had schmoozed everyone who mattered.
There's also the Hitler principle, though I apologize for introducing it into a segment with a slightly Jewish theme. The Hitler principle is: If you're going to lie, lie big.
Who's going to believe that a fifty billion dollar hedge fund is totally fraudulent? Some hole in the wall investment advisor with a half million dollars on the books — sure, it's easy to believe he's up to something crooked, but fifty billion? Can't be.
So if you're a really skillful liar, and a career in politics doesn't appeal, get yourself a hedge fund.
05 — Caroline Kennedy. Bernie Madoff lives on 64th between Park and Third. Fifteen blocks away, in a modest little pied-à-terre on Park Avenue between 78th and 79th lives Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the 35th President.
Caroline, who is obviously a keen Radio Derb listener, has decided to take my advice and get on the government payroll. She's clearly fed up with her badly-remunerated drudge work as, let's see, "attorney and author," so she's campaigning to be given Hillary Clinton's Senate seat when the Pants Suit Princess takes up her duties at the State Department, assuming she gets through the confirmation hearings.
I suppose it's inevitable. As Radio Derb noted two weeks ago, the U.S.A. has regressed to the political condition of Plantagenet England, with great baronial families jostling for positions at court. Who knows? — perhaps three hundred years on, some modern Shakespeare will show up and write a suite of plays about it all.
Let's provide him with some material, shall we? Caroline seems like a nice person, which is not a thing you often hear said about the likely alternative, former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo. In fact, it's a thing you never hear said about the guy. In fact, the things you do hear said about Cuomo … Well, never mind, this is a family program, and I have to live in the same state as Cuomo, so I'd better button my lip.
Returning to Caroline: She was born into the aristocracy, so she knows the difference between a fish knife and a steak knife, and how much to tip a doorman, and where the ladies rooms are in the U.S. Capitol, and those are the main qualifications for a United States Senator.
How much does it matter, anyway? This is a job where you can take two years off to run for President without anyone noticing. Try running that by your boss.
These grandees live on a different level from us peasants, by different rules. Who are we to judge such godlike beings? I just wish they didn't take so much of our money.
06 — Shoe throwing. You know that bit in the last act of Tosca where the evil police chief has agreed to let Tosca's boyfriend go free if she will submit to his filthy desires, but while he's writing out the safe-conduct pass, Tosca spots a letter-opener on a side table. "Tosca, finalmente mia!" he crows in his triumph, and then she stabs him, saying: "Questo è il bacio di Tosca!" — This is the kiss of Tosca.
You know the bit: it goes like this. [Callas clip.]
Well, an Iraqi journalist named Muntadhar al-Zeidi was inspired by the same kind of hatred towards President Bush when our president gave a news conference in Baghdad the other day. "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!" he screamed as he attacked the president.
Unable to get close enough to do the full Tosca, Mr. al-Zeidi contented himself with throwing a shoe. Then, while screaming: "this is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," he threw the other one. Both shoes missed.
As well as providing a whole week's worth of material to late-night TV comedians, Mr. al-Zeidi made himself a hero in the Middle East, where of course pretty much everybody hates us, everybody who isn't on our payroll anyway.
As an indication of how much Mr. al-Zeidi is admired over there, I note that a little status struggle has broken out for the honor of having made those shoes the guy threw.
Mr. al-Zeidi's brother Uday says the shoes were made in Iraq by a Baghdad cobbler. However, a Turkish newspaper ran a front-page photo of the shoes under the headline "Made in Turkey." Turkish Businessman Ramazan Baydan says he designed the shoes and that since the incident sales have doubled. Referring to the softness of the leather he says, "If it had hit Bush's head it wouldn't have hurt him."
Well, that's nice. And having gone from a shoe bomber to a shoe thrower, I guess there really has been some progress in the War on Terror.
Meanwhile a newspaper in Lebanon ran a front-page photo of the reporter during a recent visit to the country asking, "Did he buy the shoes in Beirut?"
How they love him! How they hate us! Well, they don't all hate us, of course. The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, doesn't hate us, not at least while we keep shoveling money into his Swiss bank account. He probably doesn't like us as much as he likes his pals in Teheran, but he likes us enough to have had Mr. al-Zeidi, the shoe thrower, arrested and beaten up by Iraqi goons.
The latest statement from Mr. al-Zeidi, uttered in between spitting out fragments of his broken teeth, was that he is really, really sorry for throwing those shoes.
Well, thanks, guy. We'd be more impressed if you'd thrown your shoes at Saddam Hussein when he was in charge, but we'll take what we can get, so long as it hastens the day when we can get out of your stinking worthless rat hole of a country for good.
Actress Nicole Kidman, who is herself Australian by parentage, has just made a sappy movie about Australia, a movie that of course includes the now-compulsory multicultural preaching about how much more brave, noble, thoughtful, and humane the Aborigines are than the brutish, cruel, and lustful white Australians who have so shamefully oppressed them. [Kumbaya clip.]
Well, Ms. Kidman has been doing the rounds of the talk shows to promote this movie. On one of these shows, on German TV, she was handed a didgeridoo and invited to play a few notes. The lady obligingly did so. You can imagine the uproar when news of that got back to Australia.
Radio Derb listeners are I know fully clued in to multicultural sensitivities, so you are all aware, as Ms. Kidman sadly wasn't, that the didgeridoo is a male instrument. Women aren't supposed to play it.
She was duly scolded by Aboriginal cultural leader — and excuse me if I need to take a couple of runs at this fellow's name, these Aborigine names are difficult to get right, ah, by Aboriginal cultural leader Ri-chard Gr-een, Richard Green, I think that's right, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, quote:
People are going to see Nicole playing it and think it's all right. But it bastardises our culture. I will guarantee she has no more children. It is not meant to be played by women as it will make them barren.
Yet another Aboriginal spokesman, this one actually a Cultural Officer at Sydney's Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, a gentleman named — and you're going to have to excuse me struggling with these Aboriginal names — Al-an Madd-en, Alan Madden, I hope that's right, this person came up out of his billabong with a jumbuck in his tucker bag and a pet kookaburra perched on his shoulder to tell us that, quote:
I presume she doesn't know, otherwise she wouldn't be playing it …
In fact if Ms. Kidman paid more attention to the news, she would be better attuned to the multicultural niceties of her native land. Earlier this year the book publisher Harper Collins had to apologize to Aborigines for including a section on how to play the didgeridoo in The Daring Book for Girls. They've removed that section from subsequent editions of the book.
There are so many ways to give offense, aren't there? Radio Derb is of course exquisitely sensitive to the feelings of all ethnic and cultural minorities everywhere. Matter of fact, just to make quite sure that we would never say anything to hurt the feelings of our Aborigine listeners down under, I hired an Aborigine learned in the ways of his people to give me some cultural coaching. He was most helpful, and altogether a very warm and wonderful person — name of Waldorf P. Dorchester III, should you ever wish to engage his services. He supplies a full range of Aboriginal artifacts for you to familiarize yourself with … which is nice, but they can be awfully hard to get rid of when you're through. I've been trying for weeks to throw away this boomerang … [Boomerang sound] … Ouch!
08 — Inauguration. The Inauguration of our new president is taking shape.
Some mini-controversies have broken out over the arrangements, notably over the choice of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation. Pastor Warren would like to conserve the idea of marriage as a privileged contractual union between one man and one woman. As a conservative, I agree with him. So, as a matter of fact, does Barack Obama, who said he was against gay marriage, at least when he was trying to get elected; so I don't really see what the fuss is about.
With Billy Graham slipping away, we need a new guy to preside over the "ceremonial deism" that is traditional in our public life, and that only the crankiest and most obnoxious kinds of atheists object to — certainly not me. Pastor Rick is a fine-looking man who I think will do the job well.
Who else are we getting at the inaugural bash? "Musical selections from Aretha Franklin," it says here. I guess Pete Seeger wasn't available.
And — oh no! — we're going to get a poem from Elizabeth Alexander, who is to Maya Angelou as Ms. Angelou is to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. As a poetry lover, I'm going to need to know exactly where in the program this lady shows up, so I can hit the mute button on my remote. I can tell you what her poem will be like anyway. It won't rhyme, scan, or make much sense, and it will contain lots of keening about oppression and injustice along with gassy stuff about striving and uplifting and the soulful wisdom of Apaches. She's that kind of poet.
Anyway, this inauguration will be a huge event. They're expecting two to four million people. What an extravaganza!
I'm trying to imagine what the inauguration of my man Ron Paul would have been like. A quick swearing-in at a notary's office somewhere, a buffet lunch, and a 300-word address to the nation posted on Ron's Facebook page. That'd be it.
That's how things should be in a commercial republic. As I have already pointed out, though, our days as a commercial republic are far behind us. If living in a commercial republic under limited federal government is what you want, move to Switzerland. This is America, headquarters of a grandiose, bloated, world-wide empire of righteousness. Never mind that the economy's in the tank, the border's undefended, and the whole world hates us: the Emperor must have his day of glory.
09 — Miscellany. A wee Christmas miscellany of short items.
Item: Kim Jong-il, North Korea's Dear Leader, has been to the library. So says the North Korean news agency, anyway. To counter rumors that the Dear Leader has been disabled by a stroke, the news service showed pictures of him in the library.
We don't know which books he took out, though I'm guessing that Representative Democracy for Dummies wasn't one of them. I hope his returns weren't overdue, anyway.
Item: Over in the land of my birth, the United Kingdom of Not Giving Offense to Muslims, a householder has been told to take down her Christmas lights because they might upset Muslim neighbors.
The ukase came from an official of the local municipal government. It was apparently delivered in English, since the use of that racist, imperialist language has not yet been banned in Britain — the authorities are still drafting the necessary laws.
Item: Over in Zimbabwe, there is a health crisis, with hundreds dead from cholera, a disease banished from civilized nations in the 19th century, and indeed banished from Zimbabwe when it was Southern Rhodesia, groaning under the heel of white racist oppression.
President-for-Life Robert Mugabe says it's not his fault. It's all a plot by Western powers scheming to take over his prosperous bread basket of a country and run it into the ground.
Item: The Federal Reserve lowered the interbank lending rate to well-nigh zero, so if you want to borrow some money, now's the time to do it.
If you're a bank, I mean. If you're an ordinary citizen, nobody wants to lend money to you for fear you'll lose your job and not be able to meet the loan payments.
That's your problem, however. At least the banks are getting a break.
Item: The U.S.A. deported 212,000 illegal immigrants this year according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That's sort of good news, I guess; though with twenty million illegals here, it will take 94 years to deport them all at this rate.
And whether this rate will continue is of course a function of the Obama administration's willingness that it continue. With Eric Holder at Justice, I'm predicting that the number of illegals deported will fall, the numbers of ICE personnel arrested and prosecuted for heartless cruelty to our undocumented brothers and sisters will rise, and eventually the two numbers will be equal.
Item: Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter is being acted out for real down in Jacksonville, Florida, where a 49-year-old lady is to have her sins publicized by her church. The pastor is miffed that she didn't end a sexual relationship when the church told her to.
Well, Ma'am, among your options there is moving to Chicago to join Trinity United, where they are much more easy-going about that sort of thing. Just make sure you aren't ever alone in a room with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Item: A sad Christmas story here from Afghanistan: a truck carrying a consignment of frozen Christmas turkeys to a contingent of British troops was blown up by the Taliban. We're told that a replacement consignment is being flown in.
Shame on the Taliban, though. As Pat Nixon said to Richard Nixon in a famous cartoon about the Christmas bombing of Hanoi: "It's not a very Christmassy thing to do." But then, as the President replied: "They don't have Christmas."
10 — Signoff. That's it, listeners. I am sorry not to have brought you tidings of comfort and joy this Christmas season, but I encourage you to find your comfort and joy among your own families and friends. There sure isn't much of it out there in the world of news and big events.
But then, there never is. Happiness is private — you can take that to the bank. Just don't ask them to lend you any money.
Now, you want a little more John McCormack? Here he is.
[Music clip: More of John McCormack, "See Amid the Winter's Snow"]