[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. Yes, Radio Derb here, folks, broadcasting to the world from our lavishly-equipped, state-of-the-art sound studio here on the 95th floor of Buckley Towers in the heart of Manhattan. The producer is making finger signals to me through the glass wall — I do wish he wouldn't do that — the OnAir light is flashing, so here we go. This is your hypnopompically genial host John Derbyshire with the week's news.
02 — Campaign notes. The political campaign is of course dominating affairs right now. I confess I'm not as interested as I should be, mainly from a conviction that we are heading into a zone of crisis in which politics won't matter very much.
Politics is about choices: should our governments do this, or do that? In a major crisis such as we're heading into, though, your choices narrow down. When you hit that white water, it's not a matter of whether to steer over to the right bank, steer over to the left bank, or stash your paddle and munch on a power bar: it's a matter of whether you can keep upright and avoid the really big rocks. To switch metaphors: When you're broke, you don't get to choose between the corn beef hash and the lobster bisque. You can't afford the lobster bisque.
In the economic crisis that's coming upon us, our politicians will be swept along by events. What they want to do won't matter much. Politics will degenerate into a lot of pointless ya-booing about whose fault it all was. I have already answered that question for you in my splendid book We Are Doomed. I refer you to page 232 where I tabulate the results of the 2008 presidential election, thus:
Tax and Spend Party — 52.8 percent of the vote.
So there's the answer to the question whose fault it's been. It's been our fault. We voted for these people — yep, I did too — and this is what we got. We lead off from here into a debate about whether representative democracy, as currently instantiated in these United States, is really workable: but I'll leave you to discuss that among yourselves. I would, though, direct your attention to Philip Longman's article on BigQuestionsOnline.com, arguing that without steady, fast population growth, the welfare state is unmasked as a sort of Ponzi scheme. Sample quote:
Perhaps there is an economic system that can preserve prosperity even in the face of an aging, stagnating population, but it has not yet been devised.
My guess is he's right, but we'll find out.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, my man Carl Paladino, running for Governor here in New York, shows signs of imploding. His handlers might want to consider ritalin. The New York Post reporter on state affairs, Fred Dicker, went a couple of rounds with Paladino Wednesday night, challenging the candidate to substantiate charges he'd made that the Democrat, Andrew Cuomo, had been sleeping around. Carl pretty much told Fred he'd be sleeping with the fishes if he wasn't careful. This is not good. Focus, Carl, focus.
Over on the opposite coast, the RINO candidate for Governor of California, Meg Whitman, turns out to have had an illegal immigrant maid for several years. This throws a wrench in the works of Whitman's campaign strategy, which has walked a tightrope between making soothing noises to non-Hispanic voters about how she'll work to seal the border and deport illegals, while simultaneously kissing up to the Hispanic lobbies. That's quite a trick to pull off, but she was managing quite well till this maid business blew up.
I'm not going to shed tears for a RINO, and at this point I think we can pretty much write off California as ready to be ceded back to Mexico in any case, but this flap, and the Paladino one in New York, illustrate that we're hopelessly addicted to trivial politics while the dollar melts away, unemployment starts climbing back up to its eventual target of fifty percent, a couple more planeloads of terrorists fly in from Pakistan on religious visas, a clueless administration spends a billion dollars a week chasing goat-herds round in the Hindu Kush, and China gets ready to put a man on the moon.
The American century is over. If America itself is going to hold together in the storms coming upon us, we're going to need to do some serious concentrating.
03 — North Korea prepares leadership succession. After you've had a Great Leader, followed by a Dear Leader, what do you get next? Answer: a Brilliant Comrade.
Yes, this is North Korea we are talking about. Brief history of North Korea. After Japan's surrender in 1945, the Soviet Army rode into Korea with Kim Il Sung in its baggage train. Stalin had designated Kim as his stooge in Korea, like Gomulka in Poland or Ulbricht in Germany.
In 1948 the country was officially divided, with Kim running the North. In 1950 he invaded the South, starting the Korean War, which ended in a tie.
Kim went on being dictator in the North for 40 years, taking the title Great Leader. When he died in 1994 he was declared Eternal President: North Korea is the only one of the world's nations to have a cadaver as Head of State.
The Great Leader's son Kim Jong Il took over with the title Dear Leader. He's been running the place for 16 years — into the ground mostly, though he does seem to have made a couple of nukes.
Now the Dear Leader is 69 years old and unwell. We're looking at a succession problem here. With one of those mighty leaps of imagination for which the Dear Leader is renowned, he has decided that his youngest son will succeed him. This is Kim Jong Un, the Brilliant Comrade.
Believed to be 27 or 28 years old, educated at a private school in Switzerland, fond of basketball — though as a spectator, not a player, from the well-padded look of him: That's as much as we know about the guy. On the evidence, he's no more ready to run a country than you or I were at age 27.
Likely he won't have to, though. His aunt, the Dear Leader's sister, and her husband, the Communist Party's top bureaucrat, will be running the place in alliance with a bunch of generals, with Brilliant Comrade as a figurehead.
That's our best guess, and it could be totally wrong: when the Great Leader died in 1994, nobody though Dear Leader was ready for prime time, but he's kept the dynasty going pretty well.
If Brilliant Comrade is as youthfully clueless as he looks, and cliques of elders are running the place with him as figurehead, that may not work out well: remember Richard the Second and Edward the Sixth.
China, which does not want a Nork collapse, will be trying to manipulate affairs as a wise uncle, but Koreans don't manipulate easy. This could get interesting.
04 — Colbert in Congress. Let me ask you something, listeners: Do you enjoy being smirked at? Smirked at — have I got the right verb here? Hold on … Here's Webster's dictionary: "smirk: to smile in an affected or conceited manner : smile with affected complaisance." And if you're not sure about "complaisance," it's defined as "ready disposition to please."
So, do you enjoy that? Do you find it entertaining to be smiled at in an affected or conceited manner? Or to be smiled at by someone pretending they are eager to please you?
An awful lot of people apparently do. At least three Americans have attained star status by smirking at us from our TV screens. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher all smirk their way through entire half-hour TV shows. There they are on-screen smirking out at us with that look, that smirk that says: "You and I, viewers and studio audience, you and I are superior people possessed of higher knowledge. Let's have a laugh at the dimwits who make up the rest of the population; and let's have our laugh in such a way that they, in their dim stupidity, won't even know we're laughing at them. Let's mock them with irony, pretending that their dumb fool ideas are really worth taking seriously, though of course we know they're not."
Well, one of the smirkers made it to Congress this week. Stephen Colbert was there in front of the House Immigration Subcommittee, smirking away at the assembled congresscritters. He'd been invited by the subcommittee chairman, Zoe Lofgren. Rep. Lofgren comes from San Francisco, where they teach smirking in the high schools.
The backstory here is that the cheap-labor lobbies, ethnic shills, and hate-America lefties are running a stunt called Take Our Jobs, where they invite Americans to do fruit and vegetable picking — the idea being that Americans won't take up the offer, and this supposedly proves we need lots of illegal immigrants to do the work.
It's all nonsense, of course. For the right wage, I'd pick lettuce. For the right wage, Warren Buffett would pick lettuce. There's no shortage of farm labor. In fact there's no such thing as a shortage, only a clearing price — that's Economics 101.
The farmers have a nice little racket going, though: They pay substandard wages, dump the social costs — healthcare, education, incarceration — on the middle-class taxpayer, and whine that they have no choice but to import Third Worlders to do the work.
So this Take Our Jobs stunt is bogus from beginning to end. The cheap-labor syndicates roped Stephen Colbert in to help promote it, though, and he was glad to oblige, being a leftist nitwit eager to poke a finger in the eye of those dumb bourgeois system-supporting middle-class taxpaying suckers that he and his audience feel so-o-o superior to.
Colbert worked one day on a vegetable farm in New York State, and came to Congress to report on the experience. Instead of giving any kind of coherent report, though, he just smirked. Smirked, sniggered, giggled, hammed, and made colonoscopy jokes.
Not all the congresscritters were happy with this arrangement. If you testify before Congress, you have to submit a written transcript beforehand. Rep. John Conyers, who'd read Colbert's transcript, said it sure was cute, but they didn't need to hear it read out, and perhaps Colbert should excuse himself and leave the hearing room, in the interest of maintaining the dignity of the legislative process.
Conyers is even more of a lefty than Colbert; but he's from the pre-smirk era of leftiness, when being a lefty wasn't just a hobby for spoiled brats with soft hands and a head full of warmed-over ideas from Herbert Marcuse, but serious business that could get you your head cracked open. I disagree with John Conyers about pretty much everything; but he's a lefty I'll respect.
Colbert's just a pampered infantile jerk, a jerk with a smirk. This is 2010, though, and the jerk with a smirk won out over the congressman with combat medals. Colbert was allowed to do his shtick, and those of us who believed the discussion of immigration policy couldn't possibly be debased any more than it has been were left quietly weeping with our hands over our faces.
05 — Carol Swain's testimony. You can watch Colbert's antics on the C-SPAN website, if you have the stomach for it. Just go to www.c-spanvideo.org and search on "immigrant farm workers."
On that same site you can see the speakers who addressed the subcommittee prior to Colbert. I particularly direct your attention to Prof. Carol Swain of Vanderbilt University.
Prof. Swain didn't smirk at all. She's not a lefty smirker, she's a serious scholar, and her testimony was sober and fact-based.
Sample: "America does not have a shortage of agricultural workers. Instead, we have a manufactured crisis by some who would like to ensure a steady supply of cheap labor …"
Sample: "America cannot continue to bring in low-skilled guest workers to compete with its most disadvantaged citizens: poor whites, blacks, and legal Hispanics. …"
Sample: "We do not need additional guest workers until the unemployment rate of native workers approaches zero percent. What we do need is for Democrats and Republicans to join forces in pressing for the enforcement of existing immigration laws."
Prof. Swain spoke such solid good sense, I'm surprised they didn't throw her out of the committee room.
Look: Immigration is a serious topic. It determines the future demography of our country — the country my children and grandchildren will live in, the country we'll bequeath to future generations. Sensible immigration laws, and proper administrative control over who enters the country, how long they stay, who gets to settle permanently, whom those settlers may then sponsor — issues like this matter.
You'd never know it from specimens of our public debate like the one we saw in that committee room on September 24. You can just about discuss illegal immigration, if you don't mind Maxine Waters calling you a Nazi; but legal immigration is totally out of bounds. You may not discuss it.
The 1965 act and its subsequent adjustments are carved on tablets of stone, like the Ten Commandments. You may not question them. The U.S.A. doesn't have an immigration policy, it has an immigration religion: and it's the kind of religion that comes with an Inquisition, an Index of prohibited writings, and stakes for the burning of heretics.
06 — Murdoch and Bloomberg testify. This week the Immigration Subcommittee heard testimony from Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch. Yes, these two billionaires emerged briefly from behind the 20-foot-high, razor-wire-topped walls of their secluded estates to tell us peasants that twenty or thirty million more Mexican immigrants will do us no end of good. Congress-reptile Luis Gutierrez agreed, telling the subcommittee that through mass immigration we, quote, "transform America and make it a vital, energetic economic engine of the future."
Just a few questions on that, Congressman.
Question One: What's wrong with America that it needs "transforming"? At which point did Americans ask to have their nation "transformed"? Are Americans so dissatisfied with their nation in its current state that they want it "transformed"? Where is the evidence for that? Why would leaving the U.S.A. un-transformed — just the way it is — why would that be a bad policy?
Question Two: If mass immigration from the Hispanic nations to our south will transform America into, quote, "a vital, energetic economic engine of the future," why aren't those nations already vital, energetic economic engines of the future? Why is it not reasonable to suppose that if we import tens of millions of Mexicans and Salvadorans, our nation will then more closely resemble Mexico and El Salvador?
Question Three: America in the 1950s was pretty vital and energetic — the most vital and energetic nation in the world at that time. Yet immigration was at very low levels. It had been at very low levels since the 1924 Immigration Act, kept that way by a succession of presidents including FDR, who was well to the right of Tom Tancredo on immigration. How did we pull that off, if mass immigration is so vital for the national energy level? Was the low-immigration America of the 1950s really lacking in energy? The America of Elvis and Little Richard, the America of classic Hollywood musicals, the America of Abbot and Costello and Sergeant Bilko, or early TV and jitterbugging, of Chevys with chrome fins and mass civilian air travel, of nuclear submarines and the conquest of polio? Short of energy? Huh?
Question Four: With Hispanic illegitimacy rates now above fifty percent and Hispanic high school graduation rates below fifty percent, aren't we just importing huge new burdens on the welfare state, a huge new dependent underclass? Can you give me a reason to believe this is not what we're doing?
Question Five … Oh, never mind …
Thursday, as it happens, I had lunch with a local business group who'd invited our town supervisor as guest speaker. Among other things our supervisor talked about the crime situation in our little suburban township.
It's bad: We have Hispanic gangs here, and they're consolidating into a real criminal network, a new Mafia. Quote from him: "It's not the illegal immigrants, they just keep their heads down and work. It's the kids, the ones coming out — dropping out — of town schools …"
Well, isn't that great: we've imported a new Mafia too. If you ask one of the immigration boosters about that, they've got an answer ready for you: We need to fix the schools! That's all we have to do, fix the schools! Fix the schools! Nothing to it, we just have to fix the schools!
07 — Waiting for Superman. Ah, fix the schools. And we all know how to do that, don't we?
We just bus the kids around for racial balance. No, wait a minute, we tried that in the seventies and it was a fiasco. OK, we need to spend scads of money, build super new facilities, no expense spared. No, wait: We tried that in the eighties and that was a fiasco, too. Outcomes Based Education … no, that was the nineties, that didn't work. Accountability, business-based models, No Child Left Behind? Nah, everyone just cooks the books. What else have we got?
Oh yes — charter schools! That's this decade's education fad. Get the kiddies into charter schools, pretty soon they'll all be scholars, pouring out at the other end into the universities, making America the educational wonder of the world.
Someone even made a movie about this wonderful idea: the movie's called Waiting for Superman. I went to see the movie this week. Category-wise, it's sort of a marriage between romantic fantasy and Soviet agitprop.
Sample quote from the movie's hero, education reformer Geoffrey Canada who runs a charter school, quote: "If your child comes to this school, we will guarantee that we will get your child into college. We will be with you, with your child from the moment they enter our school till the moment they graduate from college." End quote.
So not only will all the kids graduate from high school, they'll all graduate from college! Every one! Never mind that a lot of kids can't handle college-level material. Never mind that some kids may not want to go to college. A kid may prefer to go into the military, or learn a trade, or take over Dad's hardware store, or be a jockey, or fix up cars.
Never mind that if every kid goes to college, there's nobody left to be soldiers, carpenters, stonemasons, entrepreneurs, policemen, adventurers, forklift drivers, store assistants, flight attendants, hair stylists, spot welders, newsreaders, pop singers, child-minders, grave-diggers, nuns, farmers, firefighters, steelworkers, bank tellers, yacht crews, piano tuners, models, or genius software hackers. Never mind that. Geoffrey Canada's slogan in respect of college is the same as Saint Augustine's in respect of the medieval church: "Force them to come in!"
But wait: don't charter schools work wonders? Aren't they the key to fixing our schools? Hasn't the first decade of the 21st century been echoing with praise for the accomplishments of charter schools? Well, the early years, yes. Now that the charter-school fad has run to the point where scholars can sift the data and study the results, the luster has dimmed. Take, for example, the June 2009 report from Stanford University's Center for Research on Educational Outcomes. Quote from the Executive Summary of that report, quote:
The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students. Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.
End quote. Ah well. Oh — here in my New York Post this very morning I see yet another news story. Headline: Grade Shock: Regular Schools Top Charters. Lead-in: "Traditional public schools bested the city's charter schools on annual report-card grades for the first time — scoring 10 points higher on average on a 100-point scale, new data shows." So much for the charter-school miracle.
As the charter-school dream fades, you may be sure the education theorists will come up with some new fad. If they didn't they'd be out of a job, wouldn't they?
Oh, and speaking of genius software hackers, here's Mark Zuckerberg, 26 years old and a billionaire, thanks to having founded Facebook. One day recently Mark got through balancing his checkbook and decided he had a hundred million dollars more than he needed. What to do with it? "I know!" said Mark, smacking himself on his genius forehead. "I'll give it to the government!"
He didn't just give it to any old government, either: he gave it to the government of a dysfunctional, run-down city — Newark, New Jersey. For what? Why, to fix the schools! Gotta fix those schools!
Yo, genius: Trying to fix the schools with scads of money was the 1970s solution. You're way behind the times here. You've got to set up a charter and sack lots of teachers. Just be sure you cook the books of the charter in a way the scholars from Stanford won't spot — you're a genius, you should be smart enough to pull that off. Oh, and when sacking those failing teachers, just be careful about the demography of the people you're sacking, if you catch my drift. If you don't, give Michelle Rhee a call.
I am of course going to be accused of being mean-spiritedly destructive here. Why don't you ever make a constructive suggestion, Derb? That's the cry. OK, here's a constructive suggestion.
Newark schools currently spent $22,000 per student. That's 70 percent higher than the average for New Jersey, $13,000. Utah spends less than $6,000, a quarter what Newark spends. So here's my suggestion for how Mark Zuckerberg could use his $100m to improve the education of Newark students: fly them to Utah.
08 — Miscellany. He-e-e-ere's our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: I mentioned up there that China's getting ready to land men on the moon. She certainly is, though the landings are five years or so away. This week, though, the ChiComs launched an unmanned vehicle to map the moon, presumably looking for landing sites. Mostly, though, just to show they can do it: the moon's already been pretty well mapped.
Item: Also in news from space, astronomers have found the most earthlike planet yet orbiting a nearby star. "Nearby" in astronomy means only a few dozen trillion miles away. This one's 120 trillion; so by the fastest means of propulsion we have, it'd take you half a million years to get there, by which time of course your pizza would be cold. The way things are going down here, though, it might seem like it's worth setting out anyway.
Item: In a further sign of the growing links between Western lefties and Islamic terrorists, Osama bin Laden has called for something to be done about global warming. That seems a bit redundant to me. I mean, if the world bin Laden is fighting for comes about, with us all living the lifestyle of the seventh century, that will pretty much take care of global warming, won't it? What kind of carbon footprint does a goat-dung fire have? Still, bin Laden's the terrorist, and I'm sure he knows his job better than I do.
Item: Who's the most successful lobby in Washington, D.C., by a long mile? Israel? Big Pharma? Teacher unions? No way. If you ask a clued-in Washington insider he'll give you the answer without drawing a breath: It's the Trial Lawyers' Association. David Freddoso had a great piece on this in the Washington Examiner, which I urge you to read. Bottom line: With the loss of Congress to the Republicans looming up, the Trial Lawyers are more than ever making sure they have Barack Obama saddled and ready to ride. Obama has no problem with this, and has been slipping out memorandums and executive orders to favor trial attorneys. The rest of us may be hungry and homeless, the dollar may be trading at a billion to the renminbi, but the trial lawyers' trough will be kept nice and full. Obama will see to that. Heck, the guy's going to be unemployed in a couple of years. May as well get that job lined up.
Item: Somebody called Rahm Emanuel did something.
Item: I don't know if you're aware, but along with the Nobel Prizes for scientific endeavors, there are the Ig Nobel prizes, jokily awarded at Harvard University by the Annals of Improbable Research, which bills itself, improbably enough in itself, as "a science humor magazine." The latest Ig Nobel award has gone to Dr. Acevedo-Whitehouse, of the Zoological Society of London for her ingenious technique for collecting whale snot. I'm going to quote this description of the technique from the award notice, and leave you to contemplate it at your leisure. Quote:
Dr. Acevedo-Whitehouse and her colleagues hang petri dishes under a small helicopter and fly the vehicle over a surfacing whale just as it evacuates its blow-hole. The exhaled gases and mucus blast the dishes which are then taken back to the lab to study the disease-causing micro-organisms carried by the animals.
Gotta hand it to those scientists. They may not be able to cure the common cold in humans, but when it comes to analyzing whale snot, no effort is too great. I just hope they wash their hands afterwards.
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. For no particular reason except that I really like it, I'm going to sign out this week with the greatest pop song of WW2, loved and sung by combatants on all sides. It still sounds good today. Here's the 1939 original by Lale Andersen. More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Lili Marleen]