»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, August 21, 2009

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]

01 — Intro.     [Bimbo noises] Oh, we're on the air. Off you go, girls. Wait for me in the grotto, I'll be through here in half an hour or so. [Bimbo noises]. Sorry, folks. Those were my personal assistants Mandy, Candy, and Brandy. Our editorial conference just ran slightly over time there. See you later, girls! OK, here we are with another edition of Radio Derb. This is your insouciantly genial host John Derbyshire bringing you the news of the hour. Let's see what's been happening.

02 — Get a government job.     We all have our little hobby horses here at NRO. Andy McCarthy keeps us up to date on the jihadis, Mark Steyn crunches the demographic numbers for us, Jonah shows us where the liberals are hiding, and so on. My own hobby horse is … well, you know what it is: GET A GOVERNMENT JOB! Capitalism's finished, unless you can get an internship at Goldman Sachs; and half of them are really working for the government now, if you look closely. So make sure you tell your kids, if you want them to have any kind of a future. GET A GOVERNMENT JOB! Well, here comes more confirmation. I personally don't need it, but as part of the service we provide, I'll direct the attention of any doubters to Thursday's New York Times, page A14, quote: "While the private sector has shed 6.9 million jobs since the beginning of the recession, state and local governments have expanded their payrolls and added 110,000 jobs, according to a report issued Thursday by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government." End quote. Yes siree bob, while you're selling off the family silver, your neighbor the bureaucrat is buying his maid a Lexus. But surely this is only a blue state thing, right? This wouldn't be happening in a solid red state like, oh say, Idaho, would it? With a Republican Governor and two Republican Senators? Sorry, listeners. You know how I hate to burst your bubbles, but the Times story tells us that, quote: "The Boise area lost 20,000 jobs in the year ending in June, the Idaho Labor Department said, and saw real gains only in government, which had an increase of 1,400 jobs, mostly in the public schools." Now, I've been taking some lessons in Microsoft Excel from Mark Steyn, so I can do some demographic number-crunching of my own. Based on my calculations, the last private-sector worker in the U.S.A. will be laid off round about October 24th, 2018, just as my kids are entering the workforce. The lay-off will come as a relief to that worker, as his income taxes will have been supporting the other three hundred million of us. So once again, folks, be sure to tell the kiddies: GET A GOVERNMENT JOB!

03 — Iraq booming.     Iraq is booming. [Explosion] Yep, there goes another one. In accordance with administration strategy to get out of the bad war ASAP while keeping the good war going, U.S. troops — I beg your pardon, I mean Coalition troops, we mustn't forget the Romanians and Mongolians — Coalition troops withdrew from police duties at the end of June, leaving Iraq's cities to Iraqi security forces, who have the situation well in hand [Explosion]. Unfortunately the phrase "well in hand" translates into Arabic as: "Hey, I have a government job! Now I get paid for doing nothing! And I can collect bribes for doing people the favor of not beating them up and smashing their car windows!" [Explosion] Hence the situation this week, when two colossal truck bombs went off in the most heavily fortified area of central Baghdad, coordinated with mortar attacks on government targets. Ninety-five Iraqis were killed, nearly six hundred injured. One of the truck bombs left a crater ten feet deep and thirty feet in diameter. Some of the mortars fell inside the super-safe Green Zone. Radical Sunni groups, including Al Qaeda, are generally supposed to be behind these atrocities, as they were behind the bombing in Kirkuk at the end of June, when 25 people were killed by a truck bomb in a marketplace. People are still arguing — well, a few people are — about whether the Iraq war was a good idea or not. Wherever you come down on that question, it's hard not to think that the real, fundamental problem here is that Iraq was a bad idea. Well, Dear Leader says that we'll be out of there completely by end of 2011. Can't be soon enough for me. How on earth did a perfectly routine piece of gunboat diplomacy turn into a nine-year occupation? Let's leave the Iraqis to blow each other up in peace. [Explosions]

04 — Rezko still not sentenced.     Here's a wee history pop quiz, listeners: What major political event happened 36 years ago this October? Give up? Yeah, these things are easily forgotten. Well, what happened was, for the one and only time in U.S. history, a Vice President of the United States resigned because of criminal charges against him. That was Spiro Agnew, of course. The charges related to bribes he had taken when a county and state executive in Maryland. For an ambitious rising young politician in a city like Baltimore, with an easygoing attitude to the relationship between power and money, there are many temptations. Baltimore isn't the only city that applies to of course. If I sit down and think real hard, I bet I can come up with another one. [Clip of "Chicago"] Right! Chicago, that toddlin' town. One interesting feature of downtown Chicago is a building with an odd triangular shape at the intersection of Clark and Van Buren streets. This is the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal remand facility. Amongst other occupants, it houses Tony Rezko, the Chicago developer found guilty last June on sixteen charges arising from corruption and kickback schemes with power players in his city and state. But now hold on there a minute: if this guy was convicted over a year ago, what's he doing in a remand facility? Hasn't he been sentenced yet? No, he hasn't. A sentencing date was originally set for last September, then it was pushed forward to October, then it was pushed forward again … See, the federal prosecutors want Rezko to finger more of the people he was trading favors with. Rezko of course wants to know what he'll get in return, and I guess what he's been offered so far doesn't meet his expectations. What's this got to do with big names in Washington D.C. having to resign? Nothing, nothing whatsoever. Especially nothing to do with whoever it was that was chairman of the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services committee back in 2003, when Tony Rezko wanted approval for hospital construction that he had an interest in. I don't even know who that committee chairman was — some state senator, that's all, no idea what happened to him. I bet he didn't know Tony Rezko, anyway. I bet reorganizing that committee had nothing whatsoever to do with Rezko's hospital construction interests. I don't even know why I raised the subject in fact. Let's just forget the whole thing. [Nixon clip] Wha? What the heck was that?

05 — Store owner shoots robbers.     Hero of the week is Charles Augusto of Harlem, New York. Mr. Augusto should actually have been our hero last week, since his act of heroism occurred last Thursday afternoon, but we didn't get the full news story till Radio Derb had been put to bed. Mr. Augusto runs a restaurant supply business up there in Harlem, and last Thursday four men came into the place and tried to rob it. They pistol-whipped one of Mr. Augusto's employees. Mr. Augusto tried to reason with them, but they ignored him, so he went to his desk, took out a shotgun, and fired off three rounds. Two of the robbers were killed, including the one who was pistol-whipping the employee, the other two staggered out of the shop and collapsed. Mr. Augusto has not been charged with anything, and in fact the city's top cop, police commissioner Raymond Kelly, has praised him. We get the usual sad little sidebar story of people who knew the thugs telling us what fine citizens they were. The mother of the pistol-whipper told the New York Daily News that he was, quote, "a good man and a wonderful son." He worked hard as a construction worker, she said, and described Mr. Augusto's act as "murder." Then the other dead thug's brother showed up to explain that the deceased was, quote, "a decent man," who, quote, "was loved and loved a lot of people." I guess our mothers and brothers see us differently from the rest of the world. As my Guv'nor used to say: "Where are all the bad people buried?" The follow-up story I really liked here, though, came from the following day. The employee who'd been pistol-whipped was back at work. He saw a passer-by place a votive candle on the sidewalk where one of the perps had died. Our man walked outside and angrily kicked the candle away. "Have a heart," said the lady who'd placed and lit the candle. Mr. Augusto's employee replied with two one-syllable words suggesting a certain act be performed on the deceased. Not very charitable, but surely understandable when you've been smacked in the face with a gun. I hope Mr. Augusto's business continues to prosper, and I hope his employee will start a business of his own one day and likewise be successful. And I hope the lady who lit the votive candle will go and do it in the proper place, which would be a church.

06 — Coping with Islam.     A news story in the London Daily Telegraph last Saturday pointed up the difference between British and French attitudes to the demands of their Muslim populations. In the town of Emerainville, east of Paris, a woman was ejected from a public swimming pool for wearing a burqini. That's the full-body-covering outfit that Muslim women are supposed to wear when they take to the water. In England meanwhile the trend is towards setting aside special times when Muslims can use public pools. Any infidels who want to use the pools at those times must wear Muslim-style swimming costumes, the burqini and its male equivalent, whatever it's called — burqino? Muslim men, in case you're wondering, have to cover themselves from the navel to the knee. Non-Muslims are sometimes turned away from public pools in England. The Telegraph tells us about 39-year-old Englishmen David Toube and his five year old son Harry, who were refused entry to a municipal "leisure center" — funded by their property taxes, mind you — in Hackney, east London, after being told the Sunday morning swimming session was for Muslim men only. The French have been fools to let so many Muslims settle in their country, but at least they are taking some sort of a stand against Muslim demands that the national culture be reorganized to spare them any offense. In fact there's serious discussion in France of banning the burqa. Not just the burqini, the actual burqa. Italy's taking a stand, too: in the northern Piedmont town of Varallo Sesia, the mayor has banned the burqini. Women caught wearing it at public pools or the riverside will face a fine of 500 Euros, which is 850 dollars. The British response has basically been to bend over and squeal like a pig … or a camel, since pigs are unclean to Muslims. Meanwhile, how are we doing here in the States? To find out, go to YouTube and search on "Arab Festival 2009." This is a ten-minute video shot by some young men who went to the Arab street festival in Dearborn, Michigan, and politely tried to engage with the staff of a Muslim information desk. Watch it and weep. Bottom line: We're squealing right there along with the Brits. What on earth is the matter with Anglo-Saxon-Celtic civilization?

07 — The coming great underclass.     Gregory Clark is a historian, a quantitative historian — one of those guys who combs through old records looking for significant trends in the numbers. He wrote a book called A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, arguing that some basic biology — patterns of mating and breeding — helps decide where stable and prosperous societies can form. Well, here was Gregory Clark last week in a Washington Post op-ed warning us that we shall soon be hosting a huge, unemployable underclass. Increasingly smart machines, he says, will leave less and less for low-skilled people to do. Quote from him: "In … recent decades, when average U.S. incomes roughly doubled, there has been little gain in the real earnings of the un-skilled. And, more darkly, computer advances suggest these redoubts of human skill will sooner or later fall to machines. We may have already reached the historical peak in the earning power of low-skilled workers, and may look back on the mid-20th century as the great era of the common man." End quote. The only way to prevent this huge, useless underclass from sinking into dire poverty, says Clark, will be to massively increase taxation. Those who have useful work to do will have to support those who don't. Clark doesn't say, but I'll say it for him, that it might help some if we stopped importing unskilled workers. I just confirmed airline reservations and rented two cars, sitting here at my desk, without talking to a human being. My local Home Depot used to have five or six checkout lanes, each one manned. Now there's generally one manned, and a guy supervising the four self-checkout stations. Unskilled workers? We've got all we need, and probably far more than our kids' generation will need.

08 — Akaka Bill.     The Derbs are off on vacation next week to Hawaii: five days on Maui, three on the big island, two in Honolulu. We shall attend a luau, climb a volcano, and disport ourselves on various beaches, Mrs. Derb of course wearing the burqini I bought her to make absolutely sure we are multiculturally compliant. Dad will also seek out the place where Captain Cook died, as Cook is a personal hero of mine. I shan't be bothering much with politics for a few days; although, doing some news scans on "Hawaii," perhaps I should. Senator Daniel Akaka is having another try with his Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which is basically an attempt to get native Hawaiians recognized for special federal treatment, the way Indian tribes are on the mainland. It's logical if you think that special treatment for Indians is logical. I don't. It certainly is a shame what 19th-century Americans did to the Indians. This, however, is the 21st century, and there isn't anything we can do about it now. For their sake and ours, the best thing we can do is to void all laws recognizing Indian tribes as legal entities, tell them they are all full citizens of the U.S.A. with the same rights and responsibilities as the rest of us, and divvy up federally-held or federally-protected Indian land and sell it, or just give it, to the people that live on it. We shouldn't have different classes of citizenship by race. Do I really need to say that? And in fact the natives of Hawaii — persons with Hawaiian ancestry — already have legal privileges under affirmative action. Two lawyers, Thomas J. Macdonald and H. William Burgess, arguing against the Akaka Bill in an op-ed in the Honolulu Advertiser last Tuesday, actually say the following thing, quote: "Since the avowed purpose of the bill's promoters is to protect existing race-based entitlements from attack under the U.S. Constitution, it is not likely that the new government's charter will include due process or equal protection clauses," end quote. The disturbing thing about the Akaka Bill is that it's just an extension of race-based citizenship categories we've already established. Strike down separate treatment for American Indians! Strike down affirmative action! Strike down the Akaka Bill! Let's have just one kind of citizenship for all citizens. What would be wrong with that?

09 — Miscellany.     Our closing miscellany of brief items.

Item:  Thinking of buying a house? Hold off a while. The Mortgage Bankers Association, and just about everyone else in the business, expects house prices to keep falling for at least a couple more years. After that, assuming they stabilize, they'll flatline for several years more. The house market is in real bad shape. One firm of analysts, First American CoreLogic, has calculated that a third — one in three — of American homes were "underwater" at the end of June. That is, the mortgage holders owed more than the house would fetch if sold. This has dire implications for the banking system. As a personal matter, though, if you're going to need to sell in the next couple of years, sell now; and if you'll be needing to buy, hold off. And yes, I do know the implications of what I just said.

Item:  More than More than 1,000 young Libyans gathered at an airport in Tripoli, the capital of Libya to welcome their hero when his plane arrived. They cheered and waved flags as the great man emerged from the plane and was sped away in a waiting official limousine. Who was this person, and what had he done to make himself worthy of such adulation? Did he glorify his nation with triumph in some sporting event? Is he a beloved star of music or the movies, expressing the feelings of millions? Did he find a cure for cancer or crack the Riemann Hypothesis? No, this was Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the mass murder of 270 innocent people over Lockerbie, Scotland 21 years ago. A deed like that will get you hero status in the Arab world. Along with noting the degraded and barbarous state of Arab society, though, let's also note the suicidal folly of the Scottish judge who set Mr. al-Megrahi free on compassionate grounds — the guy has terminal cancer — and the folly of the West in general for abandoning capital punishment, the only and proper way to deal with beasts like al-Megrahi.

Item:  Wednesday saw the final of the women's 800 meters footrace at the World Athletics championships in Berlin. The gold medal winner was a young South African lady named Caster Semenya. There's a slight problem, though: Ms. Semenya looks like a guy, sounds like a guy, and moves like a guy. Is she really a gal? The IAAF, that is the International Association of Athletic Federations, has ordered her to take some tests. They say it could be months before we know Ms. Semenya's true sex. Months, to figure out if someone's a guy or a gal? I refer them to Chapter 10 of Huckleberry Finn for a speedier solution.

Item:  They've had an election in Afghanistan — you know, that real important country over there near India some place, where we're fighting that terrifically important war to … to … oh you know, to ensure that  [Crickets chirp] and to make the world safe for  [more crickets]. That's the place. Well, it's been a cliff-hanger election, with the ballot-stuffing party neck and neck with the voter-intimidating party. The outcome of this election is vitally important because, er, [more crickets] so we'll be sure to keep you posted.

Item:  Also in that neck of the woods, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan is reported to have had a phone conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. President Berdymukhamedov, as the whole world knows, originally trained as a dentist, so perhaps Medvedev wanted to consult with him about an impacted molar. The two world leaders I'd really like to see together are President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who trained as an ophthalmologist. Can you imagine the conversation? "Greetings, Mr. President! And by the way, nice bridge work!"  "Thank you, Mr. President! But you know, we can correct that squint …"

Item:  The cost of a funeral starts at around $2,000. For a decent send-off, you really need to spend at least $5,000 disposing of your loved one. That's too much for a lot of people in these hard times, so more and more are opting for funerals at the town's expense — what used to be called a pauper's funeral. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office reports a 97 percent increase in pauper's funerals this past year and a half. The Cash for Clunkers program surely isn't helping. It must have put into a lot of people's heads the thought that if the government will give me a check for my 1988 Chevy, why wouldn't they do the same for my 1933 spouse? So to my advice of five minutes ago, not to buy a house right now, I'll add another: Try not to die for a couple of years. This is really not a good time.

Item:  Hard not to feel a twinge of pleasant schadenfreude at the deepening fiscal woes of California. Here's the chief actuary for CALPERS, that's the California Public Employees Retirement System, telling a seminar in Sacramento last week that the state's public-employee pension costs are, quote, "unsustainable." Future pension payouts will need, further quote: "between 25 percent of pay for a miscellaneous plan and 40 to 50 percent of pay for a safety plan (police and firefighters). We've got to find some other solutions." End quote. I don't see the problem. If California public employees need to contribute 50 percent of their pay to support the pension system, then they should contribute that. You get what you pay for. At least they have jobs. Government jobs. And don't you know, don't you just surely know, that whatever fiscal cataclysm is about to strike the Golden State, somehow or other the government workers will come out smelling like roses? One more time, kids: GET A GOVERNMENT JOB.

10 — Signoff.     There you go, listeners. I don't see how you could ask for more useful advice packed into half an hour. Housing, employment, even death — do we cover all bases here at Radio Derb, or what? We're trying to book President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan so we can offer our listeners the latest advice on dental health, but so far his people haven't gotten back to my people. We'll keep you informed, though. Now I'm going to unwind in the grotto for an hour or so with Jonah and Andy and the girls, then it's off home to pack my bags for Hawaii. I tell you, it's a strenuous life here in the commentary business. Tune in next week for a special Radio Derb from the Paradise of the Pacific.

[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]