[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. I dunno, it seemed like kind of a slow week, didn't it? There was the Super Bowl, to be sure — I'll have words on that later. There was Michael Phelps with his bong — sorry, couldn't think of anything to say about it. Why is it anyone's business? Then there was the stimulus and the tax cheats, we'll definitely be covering them. Otherwise, kind of a snoozer. Perhaps its just this cold weather slowing down my faculties. Well, let's see what we can squeeze out from the week's news.
02 — Treasury auction. Regular Radio Derb listeners will know that our commentary on the government's "bailout" and "stimulus" packages these past few months has been balanced between the "whence" and the "whither"; which is to say, between the matter of where the money's coming from, and where it's going to. Conservatives this past few days have been having fun with the "whither," uncovering the fact that our president's current "stimulus" package is mostly just thank-you payoffs to groups of Democrat tax-eaters and wealth-destroyers: public-sector unions, politically-connected businesses, race and feminism lobbies, the bloated education rackets, and shake-down intimidator organizations like ACORN. That's all good stuff, but while we're having fun with the "whither," let's not lose sight of the "whence." Where's the money coming from? We got a big part of the answer this week with the U.S. Treasury's announcement that they will hold the largest ever bond auction next week, with 67 billion dollars' worth of Treaury securities on the block. The Treasury's also announced that secondary auctions of U.S. government paper will be stepped up, held much more frequently than in the past. The stuff being sold at these auctions is all just basically IOUs. The buyer gets a piece of paper with a written promise on it. The promise is, that he can redeem the bond at some stated future date for a stated sum, and in the meantime will get a regular flow of interest payments. How much will people be willing to pay for that piece of paper? That depends on their own opinions about things like future prospects for the currency of the payments, whether they could do better by buying some other thing, and so on. That's why these sales are auctions: you don't know what the bonds will go for until punters turn up and start bidding. As at any other auction, there is a reserve price: the price below which it's not worth the seller's while to make those commitments on redemption and interest. Might bidders fail to offer that price? They certainly might. In fact this happened to the German government last month. The German Treasury held a bond auction, at the end of which they were left holding a third of the paper, unsold. In high finance circles there is a very technical term for this situation: it's called "a failed auction." Could this happen at one of these bigger-and-more-frequent auctions of U.S. paper? You bet. Not to worry, though. The Financial Times reports that, quote: "The U.S. Federal Reserve said last week it was 'prepared to' buy Treasuries if that would be a 'particularly effective' way of reducing private borrowing costs." So … if private persons, banks, and foreign governments won't buy these securities our government is issuing, heck, the government will just buy them itself! Nothing to worry about, then.
03 — Shoe throwers. Shoe throwing is the new protest fad. This all started of course with Iraqi jornalist Muntadar al-Zeidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush in Baghdad last December. Mr. al-Zeidi was arrested by Iraqi police, who subjected him to a thorough interrogation. He will appear in court when his bones have set and the authorities have located his missing eyeball. He has become a celebrated hero around the Arab world, just as he would have if he'd thrown a shoe at Saddam Hussein, or President Assad of Syria, or Yassir Arafat, or the Saudi King, or Colonel Gaddafi, or Mubarak of Egypt, and so on. Arabs simply have no tolerance for leaders who mistreat their people. Well, shoe throwing took off after that. An anti-war group threw shoes at a Bush effigy outside the White House. French strikers threw shoes at police. A politician campaigning in the Ukraine, who thought he was going to be a shoo-in for office, instead got the shoe-at treatment from a protestor. Strange permutations began to show up. Luiz da Silva, the President of Brazil, threatened to throw his shoes at unfriendly journalists in São Paulo. He unfortunately restrained himself, robbing subeditors everywhere of the opportunity to make puns about the shoe being on the other foot. Then last week a student in Cambridge, England put his best foot forward. This was at an address given at Cambridge University by the very lifelike robot currently being trundled around Europe under the title "Prime Minister of Communist China." Since China hasn't had a free election within living memory, it's hard to see how the place can have a parliament, much less a Prime Minister. However, the pretense of civilized politics must be kept up, so the ChiComs hired some Japanese engineers to put together this android to keep the world distracted while they concentrate on the serious business of shoveling funds into their Swiss bank accounts while torturing Tibetan nuns and Falun Gong meditators. So the golem was wheeled on stage at Cambridge, murmured a few of its pre-programmed phrases into the microphone, and up stood our hero, yelled "We should not prostitute ourselves to this dictator!" and lobbed his loafer in the golem's direction. The mannequin had not been programmed for shoe avoidance, but fortunately the shot went wide. However, the device's circuits were sufficiently disrupted that it went into an endless loop of saying "I'll die if I don't get this recipe … I'll die if I don't get this recipe … I'll die if I don't get this recipe …" and it had to be wheeled off stage for maintenance. The peelers were called in to make an arrest, and London tabloids rushed to print headlines like FLEW MAN'S SHOE and MOO SHOE GUY CANNED. Well, it all adds to the gaiety of nations, I suppose. I'd urge some care with throwing things at spokesmen for the Chinese government, though. Those gadgets are expensive.
04 — NY Times on American Cause. What do you get if you loan 250 million dollars to the New York Times? You could ask Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim, who made the loan three weeks ago. What is he getting for his investment? Well, he's getting lead editorials in the Times like the one on February 1st about, quote: "The relentlessly harsh Republican campaign against immigrants." Oh, tell me about it. This past election season, my immigrant self and my immigrant wife didn't dare step outside the house for fear we'd be surrounded and clubbed to the ground by a posse of McCain-Palin operatives. The main target of the editorial was American Cause, which was founded by Pat Buchanan. Here is the clause on immigration from their website, quote:
We believe assimilation and national unity should be the guiding principles in formulating immigration policy and support initiatives that end illegal immigration, reduce legal immigration to manageable levels, and emphasize integration of immigrants and their communities.
End quote. Outrageous, isn't it? I mean, free speech is all very well, but really! "initiatives that end illegal immigration"? "assimilation and national unity"? These people are obviously a gang of fascists. Well, American Cause had held a conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and this is what had occasioned Carlos Slim's fury — followed very closely, of course, by the New York Times's fury. Look at it from Mr. Slim's point of view. Without illegal immigration into the U.S.A., Mexico has no safety valve for its huge, poor underclass. They might turn revolutionary, and that would be a major inconvenience for Mexican plutocrats like, oh, say, Carlos Slim. Not that your average New York Times editorialist needs much encouragement to throw phrases like "white supremacist" around. They threw that precise phrase at the conference organizer, Marcus Epstein, who is a friend of mine. Marcus is a funny choice of guy to accuse of being a white supremacist: his mother is Korean and his Dad is Jewish. A little thing like that won't stop the Times people when they have the bit between their teeth, though … not to mention a quarter billion dollars worth of Mexican moolah stuffed into their pockets.
05 — Home ownership down. It's a sad fact about life in this fallen world of ours, that if you try to do someone a favor, he often ends up in worse shape than if you'd left him alone. When governments try to do people favors, this can be demonstrated on a heroic scale. Case in point: the plan by George W. Bush and Karl Rove to increase home ownership among minorities. The Bush-Rove plan wasn't disinterested, of course. These two political geniuses figured that if people were helped to own their own homes, they'd become Republican out of gratitude. How'd that work out? Well, as a political strategy, it was a total dud. As Radio Derb reported last week, McCain's share of the Hispanic vote in November, for all his relentless hispandering, was less than George W. Bush's in 2004, even if you discount for the swing against Republicans overall. Now we learn from a Census Bureau report published Tuesday that the rate of home ownership has declined to the level it was at in 2000, and is still dropping. This follows an Associated Press study put out January 18, title "Financial burden of homeownership spread unequally." The study showed that, quote: "The burden is clearly more arduous among minority households," end quote. They're talking about the burden of unaffordable loan payments, mortgage defaults, and foreclosures. Did Bush and Rove believe they were doing good by leaning on banks and regulators to get more minorities buying houses? I'm sure they did. So I guess the moral is: Beware of politicians trying to do you favors, especially politicians deeply invested in the theory that a drywaller making five hundred bucks a week will turn into a web designer making two thousand a week just as soon as he owns his own home. Which is to say, terminally stupid politicians who have zero contact with the real world of work and money. Which is to say, any politician at all.
06 — Tax evasion. There's an old Chinese saying — a real one, not one I made up — that goes like this: "The rulers can burn whole mountains, but the common people dare not light a lantern." Something similar is true in any great imperial-despotic system, where a permanent class of arrogant power-holders enjoying lifetime privilege ride saddled and spurred on the backs of a helpless, powerless, overtaxed peasantry. The U.S.A. is headed in that direction rather fast. Our ruling class have not yet taken to burning mountains, but they definitely seem to have settled into the conviction that, as the late great Leona Helmsley famously observed, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." Trouble is, democracy in the U.S.A. is not completely dead yet, and once in a while the rulers have to step forward and expose their financial affairs to the little people. When that happens it seems that as often as not, the mighty ones have been a tad careless about paying their taxes. This past few days we've learned about Tom Daschle's 128 thousand dollars in unpaid taxes on a limo service he was given as a gift by a lobbyist, Tim Geithners' 34 thousand dollars in unpaid income taxes, the nine hundred dollar lien on Nancy Killefer's house for unemployment taxes she didn't pay on her household help, and the tax lien on Hilda Solis's husband that he'd left outstanding for 16 years. Daschle and Killefer withdrew from consideration as executive officers, but Tim Geithner paid off precisely as much as he had to, left the rest unpaid, and slipped confidently into his new job as Secretary of the Treasury — a job that involves, among other things, making sure that we peons pay our income taxes, and prosecuting us if we don't. I don't know Nancy Killefer's party affiliation, but the other characters in this little drama are of the president's own party, as of course was Bill Richardson, Obama's choice for Commerce Secretary, who had to withdraw for legal reasons. Leader of the pack here, way out in front of these penny-ante chiselers, is Representative Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House committee that actually writes tax laws. Rangel owns a villa in the Dominican Republic which he rents out, but he's never declared the rental income on his tax returns. He's also been renting four apartments in New York City at sweetheart below-market rates and making improper use of congressional storage facilities. Now comes news that Rangel's been doing some major fudging of the numbers in those financial disclosure forms that House members have to submit every year. The fudging goes back 30 years and covers nearly a quarter million dollars in assets. House Republicans are trying to get the egregious Rangel removed from his committee job, but house Democrats are putting up stiff resistance. "These are honest mistakes," they're telling us. "Surely you don't think a member of Congress would do something wrong, do you? And a liberal Democrat, at that? For shame!" Republican Senator Jim DeMint summed up for conservatives everywhere on ABC's "This Week" program last Sunday, quote: "I can see now why liberals don't mind if the tax rate goes up, because they're not going to pay it anyway." Yes, indeed. "The rulers can burn whole mountains, but the common people dare not light a lantern."
07 — How's he doing? So how's young Barry been doing this first two weeks in the new job? Of course, it's a bit unfair to pass judgment at this stage. You know how it is in a new place: Figuring out the controls on the coffee machine and copier, getting your desk drawers organized the way you like them, sketching in the outlines of essential information about your colleagues — who's the office gossip, the office back-stabber, the office freeloader, the office cougar … all that settling-in stuff you need to get straight before you can actually get any work done. Barry's done all right, when you allow for the fact that he had to leave behind most of his friends in Chicago — you know, Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright — and hire in a bunch of strangers to help him get started. Previous charismatic Democratic presidents don't offer much detail for comparison. President Kennedy hired his brother as Attorney General. That option isn't open to Obama, one of whose brothers is prospering as a businessman in South China and doesn't want to be bothered, while the other one lives on a dollar a day in an African slum and has just been arrested on a drugs charge. Franklin Roosevelt went on the radio to tell Americans that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Obama just wrote an Op-Ed for the Washington Post trying to scare us out of our wits. Quote: "This recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse." End quote. Hey, thanks for that, Mister President. We all feel much better now. The object of the exercise here was of course to work up some public support for the stimulus bill — that bill stuffed up to the staples with paybacks to activists and lobbyists, and with pork fat dripping out from between the pages. Lots of luck with this, Mr. President. Hope you got the coffee machine figured out — you'll be needing lots of coffee.
08 — Uighurs. I think Communist China's brutal occupation of Tibet and ruthless campaign to stamp out that country's independence movement is pretty well known. Less well known is the situation in China's other big colony, East Turkestan, which the ChiComs call Xinjiang. Xinjiang means "new territory." The non-Chinese population of the place will tell you bitterly that while it may be new territory to the Chinese, they and their ancestors have lived there for thousands of years. These are the Uighurs, a people quite closely related to the Turks of Turkey, and other Turkic peoples of Central Asia, like the Azerbaijanis, the Khazaks, and the Uzbeks. These are Muslim peoples; but like the Turks of Turkey, they take their Islam decaf, and produce very few terrorists. East Turkestan was actually an independent state for a short time in the 1930s, when Russia and China were both looking the other way. Why should you care about any of this? Well, because 17 of the prisoners still in Guantánamo Bay are Uighurs captured in Afghanistan back in 2001. They were cleared for release five years ago, being non-dangerous, but there's trouble finding any country to take them. What about those brother peoples of the Uighurs — the Khazaks, Azerbaijains, and the rest? What about Turkey, which has been hosting a Free East Turkestan movement for decades? Ah, but you see, the ChiComs have told everybody that taking in these Uighurs would be a very unfriendly act. China wants these guys for itself. They have some experiments they'd like the Uighurs to help them with — seeing how well their eyeballs conduct electricity, stuff like that. China swings enough weight now that nobody wants to incur Chinese hostility, certainly not Central Asian states with China just over the next mountain range. The European states have wimped out of course, with the honorable exception of Albania, which took in five Uighurs in 2006. You can add Canada to the wimp list: a rumor that Canada has agreed to take three Uighurs was angrily denied by the Canadian government. I think it's a pretty good guess that these Uighurs will end up in the U.S.A. I don't have a problem with it myself, but it's a sorry state of affairs when all the other countries of the world are so intimidated by China they won't help a handful of people whose country has been colonized and brutalized by Chinese imperialism.
09 — Miscellany. Our miscellany of brief items to close with.
Item: Nancy Pelosi, asked whether the stimulus package was being pushed through too fast, replied that with 500 million Americans losing their jobs, Congress couldn't go fast enough. Well, you have to make allowances for our politicians. After twenty years of taking turns standing on the southern border waving illegal immigrants through, it's natural for them to overestimate the number of people in the country.
Item: Perhaps Nancy was just trying for an approximation, the way you do when you don't really have a clue but want to have a number to show people. Here's a science story in that vein. It's a report in the International Journal of Astrobiology. Yes, astrobiology — there's a field with a lot of data to work from. Well, some astrobiologists have been running sophisticated simulations of star systems to see how many other intelligent life forms there are likely to be in our galaxy, besides ourselves. The previous best estimate, they tell us, was somewhere between a million, and less than one … which makes Nancy Pelosi look like a stickler for precision. The new estimate these researchers came up with was between 361 and 38,000. Guys, if astrobiology doesn't work out for you, we could use those superlative numerical skills of yours at the U.S. Treasury.
Item: Thing about a recession is, everything takes a hit. My pal Wally organizes the Petroushka Ball, a big charity event for Russians in New York City, in aid of the Russian Children's Welfare Society. For the first time ever, he tells me, he's having trouble selling tickets; so if you're Russian, have five hundred bucks to spare for an excellent charity, and live near New York City, get your checkbook out. In a totally different sphere of public events, the NASCAR season will be opening next week with the Daytona 500. That's in trouble too, as you'll understand if I just mention a couple of names of big sponsors: General Motors, Ford Motor Company. Right. I'm hearing that the teams are cutting down on practice laps to save money. From charity balls to stock car races, everyone's hurting.
Item: Over in England, a cricket club named the Middlesex Crusaders has felt obliged to change its name to the Middlesex Panthers. There had been complaints from Muslim and Jewish persons still smarting from the humiliations and cruelties of nine hundred years ago, apparently having nothing more important to think about. So much for the second part of the club's name. I predict that now they're in the limelight, they will come under pressure from the transgender lobbies to do something about that "Middlesex." It's actually the name of an English county, along with Essex and Sussex; but that won't cut any ice with the PC enforcers.
Item: Also in England, in the pretty little town of Weston-super-Mare, a nurse named Caroline Petrie, who is a Christian, was taking her leave after paying a home visit to 79-year-old May Phippen. As she gathered up her impedimenta, Nurse Petrie asked Mrs. Phippen if she'd like to be prayed for. "No, thank you," replied the irreligious Mrs. Phippen with proper English sang-froid. Later Mrs. Phippen mentioned the incident to another nurse, who alerted her superiors. [Klaxon sound] Political correctness alarms sounded all over Weston-super-mare. A SWAT team from the Sensitivity Police tracked down Nurse Petrie, and she has now been suspended pending disciplinary action for, quote, "breaching her code of conduct on equality and diversity." My advice to her would be, to convert to Islam. Then any objections to her offers of spiritual succour would be hate crimes.
Item: A cat may look at a king, goes the old proverb. Dogs don't show much respect for the mighty, either, at least in France. When Napoleon climbed into bed with Josephine on their wedding night, he found that his bride was not alone. Under the covers with her was her little dog Fortuné. Displeased by the intruder, Fortuné gave Napoleon a nasty bite on the shin. That could dampen one's ardor, I should think. Anyway, history repeated itself, sort of, the other day, when former French President Jacques Chirac was attacked by Sumo, his pet Maltese poodle. Chirac's wife Bernadette explained that Sumo has become increasingly violent in recent years and is being treated with anti-depressant medications. After a few years close acquaintance with the obnoxious Chirac, anyone might be similarly disposed. It was a French lady, I believe, Madame Roland, who made the immortal observation that, quote, "The more I see of men, the more I admire dogs." There are two dogs worthy of our admiration right there.
Item: My producer tells me I should say something about the Super Bowl. All right, I'll give it a try. I'm what they call a sideline Dad. My son plays football, so there I am on the sidelines at games. If it's a home game, I try to get on the chain crew, just because I like to make myself useful. Pretty much all I know about football comes from working on the chain crew. So, here's the Super Bowl commentary from a sideline Dad. I thought the guys in Tampa did a great job. I didn't see an inch of slack in those chains, and the handling of the down boxes was faultless, so far as I could tell. Clement Brooks, the chain crew captain, looks as though he's ready for retirement, though. The important thing about working the chain crew is to drop your pole and get out of the way real fast when a 240-lb wide receiver is headed your way at a full run. For speedy retreat, you need to keep constant tabs on the positions and blocking potential of the coaches, officials, and cameramen a few yards behind you. You have to be always on the lookout for that hole, see? When your reflexes start to slow and you lose your attention, it's time to get out. I'm sure Clement knows that, and I'm sure he'll step aside with grace and dignity, in the spirit of the game. There are some fine young talents coming up in the chain crews, and I look forward to more exciting action on the sidelines in future Super Bowls. There now, that was my first ever Super Bowl commentary. Hope you liked it.
10 — Signoff. That's about it for this week. Not really very much going on, in fact. Even as I speak, though, Radio Derb's diligent and tireless corps of researchers is fanning out across the world for news items to bring you. So tune in again next week for more revelations, ruminations, and retrogradations from Radio Derb!
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]