[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. [Water sounds, mood music.] Greetings, listeners. Radio Derb on the air here, conducting a little experiment. We thought we'd do a broadcast from the grotto this week, up here in Jonah's suite on the 96th floor at Buckley Towers. So I'm sitting here in a very pleasant pool of warm scented water with some mood music playing in the background — just to show you that, you know, we conservatives are not all stone-faced, starched-collar old fuddy-duddies. We know how to relax and have a good time. Jonah himself is in an adjacent nook of the grotto, where my research assistants Mandy, Candy, and Brandy are helping him analyze some economic data. [Girls laughing.] That seems to be going well. OK, on with the show. This is your sybaritically genial host John Derbyshire with the news of the hour. Er, Jonah, are you done with the loofah …?
02 — Buried Dems. The nation's attention has been fixed this last few days on the effort to rescue those poor souls trapped deep underground. When they first came to our attention, not so long ago, we were filled with pity for them, stuck down there in the airless darkness, waiting for a miracle to restore them to the bright happy lives they'd know before. It seemed that there was no hope for them; that their annihilation could only be a matter of time, leaving their loved ones to mourn the crushing of all their joys and hopes. Could nothing be done to save them?
Well, various rescue operations have been under way. I have to report though that the prospects for those poor trapped souls remain doubtful. As more time passes, the likelihood of rescue dwindles, and those who have been clinging to hope on their behalf should prepare for the worst.
I am speaking of course of Democrats, in Congress and nationwide, currently suffocating deep beneath the rubble of Barack Obama's presidency. Efforts to rescue them are starting to have an air of futility, as for example with the president's latest claim that Republican campaigns are drawing on money from foreign business interests. Not only is there no evidence for this; and not only is it breathtakingly audacious coming from the party that hired Johnny Chung to tote bags full of money from his pals among China's Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Clinton White House; it's also illogical. We Republicans are supposed to be the party that hates foreigners, the party of people who are filled with … what's the phrase? oh yes: "antipathy to people who aren't like them." Why would we be scamming those repulsive foreigners for cash?
With the failure of these latest efforts, the future of those unfortunate Democrats down there in the cold and dark look bleak indeed. The only hope for their supporters now lies in prayer. We need a clergyman here. Are there any Democratic clergymen, though? ["God damn America!"] Oh yes, of course there are.
03 — Mortgage mess. As if it wasn't bad enough that your house is now worth less than you paid for the last power-wash of your front stoop, we now learn that if you fall behind on your mortgage payments and have to go into foreclosure, that's likely to be just as big a mess as everything else with the word "housing" in front of it.
I've been getting some interesting flashbacks here. Twenty years ago I bought my first ever house in the U.S.A. I recall being amazed at the pettifogging complexity of the process: all the reams of paper I had to sign and meetings I had to attend, all the strange people who showed up to collect their fees as we went along.
"What am I signing here?" "This is to transfer the tax liability." "Who's that guy?" "Oh, that's Joe from the title insurance company." "What am I paying for here?" "It's just the FedEx charge for the surveyor's report" …
On and on and on to the crack of doom, and all done as if the Information Age had never happened: Bartleby the Scrivener types scratching away in ledger books, self-important lawyers in thousand-dollar suits mumbling about easements and appurtenances like so many witch doctors cooking up a brew, notaries and registrars and municipal functionaries out of the pages of Dickens and Hawthorne, all wreathed in clouds of jargon.
Meanwhile, as it happened, I was working for a Wall Street bond brokerage, writing computer code to sift and sort thousands of mortgages into neat little bundles labeled "GNMA 8s" or "FHLMC 7¾s," processes triggered by some halfwit trader tapping a few keys on his computer, thereby disposing of billions of dollars worth of bonds with brisk automatic efficiency. The phrase "cognitive dissonance" had powerful meaning for me there for a while.
Well, the foreclosure crisis has been illustrating for us once again the ancient truth that old wine into new bottles won't go. What happened was, that as the number of foreclosures surged this past couple of years, the hand-cranked mechanism for dealing with foreclosures couldn't keep up. Meanwhile, at the other end, the fully computerized system of selling and reselling mortgage loans, and bundling them into bonds, and servicing the coupons on those bonds, was screaming at Bartleby to hurry the heck up as his antiquated procedures were losing money to all 120 parties in the chain from homeowner to bond-holder.
It goes without saying that the Obama administration made everything worse, urging — via their Home Affordable Modification Program, known to its friends as HAMP — that the mortgage servicers at the Bartleby end of the foreclosure process should carefully consider the circumstances of each loan before foreclosing on it, to see if the homeowner could be rescued somehow.
HAMP violates a fundamental rule of commercial life: That customer gets just as much of vendor's time and attention as vendor estimates customer is able to pay for. If you want the full white-glove detailing job on your car, with floor mats shampooed and every crevice of the wheel rims polished, you can get it done for a price. If you're broke, the line for the six dollar drive-through wash is over there. By definition, a homeowner in foreclosure is broke, and shouldn't expect a full detailing job from his mortgage servicer. If the government orders the mortgage servicer to give him the white-gloves treatment regardless, the market mechanism breaks down, just as it does when the government orders a health insurance company to offer healthy-people policies to sick people.
So government policy is pouring molasses into the machinery at the slow end, while the wheels are spinning at ten thousand revs per minute at the fast end, leading to high levels of friction, heat, flames, and general destruction.
Not to worry though, I'm sure the congressional geniuses overseeing the housing market will soon have things in order. Over to you, Barney.
04 — Li'l Squinty in Lebanon. OK, let's go spanning the world. Let's go to … Lebanon.
Lebanon — no, it's not a twelve-step program for people who can't stay off the Leb, it's a country in the Middle East, hang a right at Turkey. More importantly for this story, Lebanon shares a border with northern Israel, a fact that's caused no end of trouble for, oh, about 62 years.
Quote from a random news story: "In August, two Lebanese soldiers, a Lebanese journalist and a senior Israeli army officer were killed in a clash sparked by the trimming of a tree on the Israeli side of the frontier." End quote.
Well, Li'l Squinty, the poison dwarf of Teheran, has been visiting Lebanon. He flew into Beirut Wednesday, paid his respects to the president and government, then headed down to the Israeli border to stir up some trouble. Also to check on Iran's investments down there: they've been shoveling money and weapons into the border region, which is largely controlled by Iran's cat's paw, the terrorist group Hezbollah.
See, Lebanon is that saddest of all entities, an Arab country with no oil. Lacking oil, the Lebanese have a choice of either (a) living by their wits, or (b) cozying up to some big rich friend.
Given a free choice in a calm world, the Lebanese would prefer to live by their wits, of which they have a lot. They have a strong commercial culture, a flair for deal-making and entrepreneurship. That's the plus of Lebanon. The minus is large-scale diversity — big groups of different peoples with different cultures struggling for advantage against each other. That is always a big minus, everywhere.
Lebanon's diversity has proven even more disastrous than the average. The Lebanese are all ethnic Arabs, but around 40 percent of them are Christian and 60 percent Muslim. The diversity only starts there, though. The Christians are divided into many sects: Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, and a dozen others. The Muslims likewise, with a big Shia-Sunni split, and further splits within that — native Sunni versus Palestinian-refugee Sunni, for example. It's a mess; so much so, even the numbers are uncertain, as the whole topic of demographics is so inflammable, the Lebanese authorities haven't dared carry out a national census since 1932.
So the Lebanese have a great nation-builder in their commercial acumen and a great nation-killer in their chronic diversity. In modern times the bad has mostly won out over the good. Talented and capable Lebanese have taken their wits abroad with them and prospered in other people's countries. Carlos Slim, for example, the richest man in Mexico, is of Lebanese-immigrant parentage.
Well, remember I said that the Lebanese, having no oil, could either live by their wits or find a big, rich friend to cozy up to. Having killed or driven out most of their wits, they are left with Option Two. Hence Li'l Squinty's visit and his rapturous welcome. Iran is the big rich friend.
Not that the people of Lebanon have been unanimously enthusiastic about Squinty's visit. They have never, in fact, been known to be unanimous about anything. Squinty is of course a hero to those Lebanese who are, like him, Shia Muslims; but to the Sunni Muslims, somewhat less so, and to the Christians, way less.
The Iran relationship adds some extra ethnic spice to Lebanon's multitudinous divisions. Persians like Squinty have traditionally looked down on Arabs like the Lebanese. One of the longest and most vicious wars of the last thirty years was fought between Arab Iraq and Persian Iran. Ah, the blessings of diversity!
So anyway, there was Squinty this week in southern Lebanon, looking over at Israel — or as he would say, "occupied Palestine" — and telling the swooning crowds of Squinty-admirers that Israel will soon disappear. Quote: "The occupying Zionists today have no choice but to accept reality and go back to their countries of origin."
By the time you hear this, Squinty will be back home in his own country of origin, Hezbollah will be further encouraged, Lebanon will be less stable, and the Israeli cabinet will be having another meeting on whether to nuke the bejasus out of Iran while they still can.
Peace in the Middle East, any day now …
05 — Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Let Anything Happen Till After November 3rd. Gayness has been much in the news recently. First off, in the public policy zone, we got the Tuesday ruling by federal district judge Virginia Phillips in a case filed by Log Cabin Republicans, ordering the military to abandon their Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. Judge Phillips also ordered the military to stop all pending disciplinary actions against service members facing dismissal for violating the Don't Tell portion of the policy.
As I understand the correlation of forces here, from friends recently serving in the military, it breaks down something like this: The idea of male homosexuals serving in tough combat units is deeply unpopular with members of those units and their commanders. In the more sedentary branches of the armed forces — administrators, cooks, transport, logistics, computer specialists, and so on — it's not such a big deal, but there's still a balance of feeling against it among male servicepeople. Where there are a lot of women serving, the idea that you can have a functioning female component in your military without a high proportion of them being lesbians, is greeted with open mirth.
Since the combat units at the sharp end of the military are the ones who win or lose wars, I'd go with their opinion myself, but of course this administration thinks differently.
Obama has spoken openly about his desire to see Don't Ask Don't Tell reversed on his watch, but he wants it done by Congress, not the courts, so conservatives have one less propaganda point about liberal activist judges to deploy. Given the prospects for Democrats in the coming mid-terms, the last chance to get Congress to do the reversal will be in the "lame duck" session after the elections.
Now, the administration has sixty days to appeal Judge Phillips' ruling, which takes us to December 11, well past the election date. Ergo, putting on a show of pondering whether to appeal or not allows the administration to punt into the lame duck zone, when they can say to conservative Democrats: "Hey, you may as well vote with the party on legislation here, or the judge's order will just go into effect anyway."
So the Obama Justice Department has asked for a stay of the judge's ruling while it considers whether to appeal it — to appeal this ruling that Obama himself, and Holder, and all the rabid leftists they've planted in key posts through the Justice Department, heartily agree with. Funny business, politics.
06 — Carl, the Rabbi, and the gays. That was gayness in the public policy zone. There's also been news about gayness in the showbiz zone.
New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino spoke to a group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Brooklyn last Sunday, and said, inter alia, the following thing: [Clip of Carl: "I didn't march in the gay parade parade this year … My opponent did. And that's not the example that we should be showing our children, certainly not in our schools … And don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way; that would be a dastardly lie. My approach is live and let live. I just think my children, and your children, will be much better off, and much more successful getting married and raising a family. And I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option. It isn't."]
Radio Derb agrees with every word of that, and every punctuation mark too. Radio Derb is, however, known throughout the length and breadth of the land as a hate-filled mouthpiece of hateful reactionary bigoted hatefulness; so was Carl when that speech became known.
Carl did not know, though I could have told him if he'd asked me, that "live and let live" is utter anathema to the homosexual militants. Like Islamist militants, like Lenin hating social democrats much more than he hated the Tsar, the homo-fanatics are not interested in any milk-and-water "tolerance" or "acceptance": they demand total, abject surrender.
Once Carl's speech got out and he realised this, he surrendered, issuing a grovelling apology to the homosexualists, and promising that as soon as he could take time from the campaign trail he would grow a mustache, buy a Mini Cooper convertible, and open an antique store.
Hearing that, Yehuda Levin, the head of the Orthodox Jewish group that had applauded Paladino on Sunday, withdrew his endorsement of the candidate. Rabbi Levin confused everyone by announcing this on the steps of St. Patrick's cathedral in New York City. Perhaps he thought the steps of the Ground Zero Mosque would be too controversial. Anyway, at about the same time Rabbi Levin's refudiation was going on-air, someone turned up the fact that property-developer Paladino has been the landlord of two gay bars in his home town of Buffalo. Gay bars in Buffalo — who knew?
Those of you who shook your heads at my cynicism when I opened this segment by declaring it to be about show business, tell me how I was wrong
07 — Delaware debate. Christine O'Donnell faced off with Chris Coons in a televised debate Wednesday night. Coons is a 47-year-old lawyer and county executive; O'Donnell is … well, it's not easy to say what she is. "Political commentator" is about as close as you can get — not by any means a bad thing to be …
The two candidates are running for Joe Biden's Senate seat in the state of Delaware. Polls have Coons around twenty points ahead of O'Donnell.
I must say I thought the debate was a bit of a snoozer. Coons came across as a standard-issue wonkish modern Democrat: pro-welfare, pro-taxes, pro-Obamacare, against Don't Ask Don't Tell, and of course indignantly opposed to the innumerable varieties of "hate" that stalk the land.
O'Donnell seemed livelier and more interesting. More intelligent, too — actually aware of what a fiscal mess the country is in and how every single policy Democrats are proposing is guaranteed to make matters worse.
She could have done with more preparation, though. One of the lefty moderators asked her to name a recent Supreme Court decision she disagreed with and Christine couldn't come up with one. There's a certain selection of stuff a candidate just needs to have memorized if she's not going to get Palined like that, and Christine and her handlers ought to have known it. O'Donnell's campaign isn't short of cash: see seems to have raised $4 million since the primary last month, and Delaware's a tiny state. Get yourself some better consultants, Christine.
There was some class warfare in the debate, in the peculiar contemporary style. O'Donnell was asked about her non-belief in the evolution of species by natural selection, and said, quote, "What I believe is irrelevant," which it surely is, though the raising of the topic gave every hack journalist in America the excuse to file copy under the heading "Survival of the fittest." Then Coons was challenged about having described himself as a "bearded Marxist" in his college days, and he similarly shrugged that off. Who wasn't a bearded Marxist in college?
This kind of stuff is just irritating when the economy's going belly up. Evolution, creationism, and bearded college Marxism are just class markers. Neither candidate could quote you three consecutive words from Marx or Darwin. If you were to ask Chris Coons about fitness landscapes or the Fisher-Kolmogorov equation, he'd fall off his chair; and similarly if you were to question Christine O'Donnell about historical dialectic or the labor theory of value. They're just sneering at each other: "You're a trailer park loser!" "Well, you're a pantywaist elitist, nyah-nyah."
Hm, on reflection, I'm going to take a little of that back. At the debate level, yes, these issues are just being deployed as markers of social class. They are not entirely without content, though, and the content does make a difference. Christine O'Donnell's belief that species were created by puffs of orange smoke is wrong but harmless. On the other hand, Chris Coons' belief that wise social engineers can cure all the ills that mortal man endures by manipulating environmental variables, has been the motivation for monstrous tyrannies this past hundred years, and continues to inspire bad, wasteful, harmful policies in the U.S.A. today. Christine's creationism and Chris's existentialism are both wrong-headed, but the first is no threat to the Republic, while the second is the source of many of our ills.
I came away from the debate thinking O'Donnell was the better candidate; but then I though that going in, so I guess watching the debate was a waste of my time. [Sigh] Will this thing be over soon?
08 — Jet Ski murder (cont.) Last week Radio Derb reported on the curious case of David Hartley, who set off with his wife on jet skis to cross Falcon Lake, one shore of which is in Texas and the other in our friendly neighbor to the south, Mexico. That was on September 30th.
Mrs. Hartley came back but her husband didn't. She said he had been murdered by the Mexican gangsters who control the Mexican shore of Falcon Lake — shot in the head while riding his jet ski. It was easily believable: there had been previous instances of boaters being waylaid and robbed on the lake by these Mexican pirates.
Radio Derb reported this as Mrs. Hartley told it, and blamed Mexico. Why turn down a chance to blame Mexico for something? Then we blamed the Obama administration for failing to send the Mexican ambassador packing and carpet-bomb the Mexican shore of Falcon Lake.
Some other commentators were more skeptical of Mrs. Hartley's story; notably Michelle Malkin, who thought the whole thing was a bit fishy. Michelle's a smart observer and diligent researcher, who watches all thos boring TV news programs that send me to sleep, so her opinion is worth a lot and should be kept in mind.
Right now though my blame-Mexico approach is looking better. Stung into action by criticism from Radio Derb, the Obama administration finally got something going. They pressured Mexico into launching an investigation, threatening that if the Mexicans didn't comply, the administration would think very seriously about enforcing U.S. immigration laws.
The Mexican authorities put Rolando Armando Flores Villegas on the case, the police chief of the Mexican state containing their slice of Falcon Lake. Chief Villegas got a team together and they had a meeting Tuesday night.
Alas, Chief Villegas never made it home from the meeting. He soon turned up, though — or at least, a key part of him did. Chief Villegas's head was left in a suitcase outside a Mexican military base near Falcon Lake.
Now, as to what happened or didn't happen to Mr. Hartley, this can't be taken as dispositive. Being Chief of Police in a Mexican state can be very hazardous to your health for all sorts of reasons. The decapitation of Chief Villegas seems to me, though, to provide strong circumstantial evidence for Mr. Hartley having been murdered by Mexican gangsters.
As Henry David Thoreau pointed out, circumstantial evidence can be very persuasive, as when you find a trout in your milk. Or a policeman's head in your suitcase.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Congratulations to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It's a pity the Peace Prize has been so devalued by having been awarded to terrorists like Sean MacBride and Yasser Arafat, and worthless gasbags like Al Gore and Barack Obama, but to someone like Liu, currently serving an 11-year sentence for having the wrong opinions, it really means something. The ChiComs are of course furious, and that alone makes this an event to celebrate.
Item: Engineers at Google have revealed that they have for some time been testing fully automatic driverless cars on the roads of California. The self-driven automobiles have so far covered 140,000 miles on the road, much of it on the city streets of San Francisco. They've crossed the Golden Gate bridge and made it around Lake Tahoe without mishap. All right, guys, time for the supreme test: Get that automobile out on the road when Lindsay Lohan is coming home after a night of clubbing.
Item: ["Aaaal-viiiin!"] Yes, it's everybody's favorite Democratic candidate, Alvin Greene. Listener, have you been wondering how the country got to be in such a mess? Alvin knows: It's all been the fault of his opponent, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. ["DeMint started the recession …"] Well, I'm glad we got to the bottom of that. But why should the people of South Carolina vote for you, Alvin? I mean, aside from your opponent having started the recession. ["I'm the best candidate that defines where we are at right now in this country …"] You know, as a Republican I hate to say it, but there's a sense in which I think Alvin may be right about that.
Item: Finally, news here from the Emerald Isle: Back in September 2007 the mayor of Belfast, wearing his mayoral chain, attempted to leap over a young woman who was dressed as a tomato. Unfortunately the mayor's knee hit the young lady's head. She sued, and has just been awarded $40,000 damages. That's the news from Ireland. Hey, it's an improvement from when they were blowing each other up.
10 — Signoff. There you have it, listeners. All human life is there: foreclosed homeowners, Persian midgets, off-the-wall candidates, angry rabbis, heads in suitcases, and Irish mayors leaping over women dressed as tomatoes. Really, I ask you, where else can you get this stuff? More from the inimitable Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]