[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb is on the air! This is your seasonally genial host John Derbyshire with our week's roundup of news from far and wide. Actually from near and narrow, as most of this week's items come from Washington, D.C. Yes, I hate when that happens too, but sometimes it can't be helped. The federal government is like tooth decay: if you ignore it, it just gets worse. Before we get to the Washington stuff, though, let's start off with one iyem from foreign parts: the arrest of the Wikileaker.
02 — Revenge of the Wikileakers. The Wikileaks story is taking some odd turns. Swedish authorities issued an international arrest warrant for the principal in the case, Julian Assange. What is the basis for the warrant? What is Assange suspected of having done?
Well, two attractive Swedish gals had consensual sex with Mr. Assange. Swedish gal A, age 31, had invited him to spend the weekend at her one-bedroom apartment. Nature took its course. The day after it took its course she can be seen on video looking perfectly unruffled, sitting on a platform at a speech Assange is giving. Much later she claimed that Assange's condom split, and she suspected him of having sabotaged it.
Swedish gal B, age 26, became obsessed with Assange after seeing him on TV. When she heard he was coming to Sweden she went to much trouble to put herself in his way, dressing provocatively to attend one of his speeches — the very same speech where Swedish gal A is smiling on the platform — and accosting him afterwards to engage him in conversation.
Mother Nature took over as before. Swedish Gal B noticed no condomic malfunctions, but avers that Assange mounted her the following morning condomless, while she was still asleep. She was so outraged she cooked him breakfast and bought him a train ticket back to Stockholm. Then she kept calling him; but Assange screened out her calls.
It doesn't sound very gentlemanly, but is this really a case for Interpol? My private theory is that Hillary's behind the arrest. She's the one most ticked off by the leaks; she's an ironclad feminist; and it's well known that Sweden is a feminist hell-hole whose men live cowering in terror at the possibility they'll be hit with a rape charge if they look at a girl the wrong way. So the whole thing's a feminist frame-up.
Anyway, Interpol alerted Scotland Yard, the bobbies leapt on their bicycles, and before you could say "It's a fair cop, guv'nor," Assange was an involuntary guest of Her Majesty the Queen.
What happens next is, he gets extradited to Sweden to face the sluts — oh, I'm terribly sorry: I mean the outraged helpless victims of his unspeakable crimes. The U.S.A. may ask for an extradition too here, and then the U.K. authorities would have to choose which extradition order to execute. If we try to extradite him from Sweden after the Brits have shipped him there, it would be more difficult.
Anyway, there are hearings to be held and appeals to be made, so nothing will happen for a while. Mr. Assange is in a London jail cell, having been refused bail.
Also in a jail cell is Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, Assange's collaborator. Pfc. Manning may have access to some consolations not available to Mr. Assange, though, as we learned this week he is gay. What a surprise! Who would have thought it from looking at his picture?
And as lonely as Mr. Assange may be in his jail cell, he has a lot of supporters in the world outside, some high proportion of them computer hackers. They've targeted all the online services that have pulled Wikileaks accounts in recent days, and anyone else involved in the case: MasterCard, VISA, PayPal, Assange's Swiss bank, the Swedish prosecutor's office, and so on. Pretty good friends to have.
Since last week's Radio Derb called for Assange to be sentenced to five years breaking rocks in the Aleutians, you may be wondering if we are a target for those hackers. Rest assured, our software here at Buckley Towers is impregnable. To hack into Radio Derb is impossible. My staff of expert technicians work night and day to … [Crazy Sounds]
03 — Tax cuts deal / no deal. President Bush's tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 will expire on December 31st if Congress doesn't act to extend them. President Obama's official policy, from way back in the '08 campaign, was to ask Congress to extend the cuts only for people earning less than some threshold amount. In other words, the cuts would expire for rich folk, as defined by Obama. However, chastened by the November election results, Obama was in a mood to deal.
For a nightmare moment there, those of us on the restrictionist side of the immigration issue thought he might accede to Republicans' wishes to extend the tax cuts for all in return for Republicans passing the DREAM Act, a deal the Stupid Party might just have been stupid enough to buy. Fortunately that didn't happen; though it might yet — more on that in the next segment.
Instead the deal went like this: Extend the tax cuts for everyone, and even add a one-year cut in the FICA payroll tax. In return for these tax cut goodies, Republicans would agree to extend federal unemployment benefits for a year. (They were also scheduled to expire this month.)
So: continuation of the '01-'03 tax cuts, a payroll tax cut on top of that, and another year — actually 13 months — of federal payouts to the jobless. Notice anything about this scheme? That's right: It's all on the negative side of the government revenue score-sheet. Less taxes coming in: more benefits going out.
In fact the deal is estimated to cost the feds $900 billion over two years. Given the unreliability of forecasting this kind of thing, and the number of parties who have an interest in under-estimating the figure,you can round that to an even trillion. This vexed some conservatives, notably Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, fresh from his stunning upset defeat of the charismatic Alvin Greene. [A-a-a-lvin!] DeMint said he wouldn't vote for the deal. The Club for Growth, which does not advocate growth of the federal deficit by half a trillion dollars a year, was also hostile to the president's plan.
These were mere grumblings, though, compared to the rage on the Left at what they saw as a giveaway to bloated plutocrats. Bernie Sanders, the only self-described socialist in Congress, was apopletic. It wasn't just the loopy Left, in fact. Democratic Semator Mary Landrieu, who has never shown up in the Seante chamber wearing a propellor beanie, sputtered that, quote, "This whole deal is corrupt." Harry Reid just said he'd have to consult with his caucus.
He accordingly did so. So did Nancy Pelosi consult with her caucus down in the House. These consultations were not a big success. Reporters outside the House caucus room could hear chants of "Just say no!" from inside the room.
I wonder if the president is a Marlon Brando fan? His netflix rental for this weekend could be Mutiny on the Bounty.
04 — Broken DREAM. [Everly Brothers: "Dream …"] In other congressional business, the DREAM Act went through the house Wednesday night. Regular listeners will know that DREAM is an acronym for "Democrat Reinforcements Entering America from Mexico."
The idea is to give comp citizenships to the children of foreign scofflaws, the word "children" there meaning pretty much anyone under 40. Once the children are citizens, soon the parents will be too, by the miracle of chain migration. Then the brothers and sisters, the parents' brothers and sisters, the grandparents, and so ad infinitum. It's all part of a grand plan to transform the U.S.A. so that we enjoy the same prosperity, liberty, and stability as all the other nations in Latin America. What's not to like?
The whole thing will be an implementation nightmare, a fraud-o-rama in fact. Our immigration officials are already way overloaded. Here come several million Mexicans clamoring to have their documents inspected so they can get on the gravy train. "Here's my birth certificate, Señor — look, notarized by the Chief of Police himself in Cocomórachico!" Yeah, that'll go well.
Anyway, the DREAM Act passed through the House, with eight Republican congresscritters voting for it and 40 Democrats against it. Now it has to pass the Senate, which general opinion says it can't.
Harry Reid's put off the vote for a week or so while he tries to peel off a Republican Senator or two. Lotsa luck there, Harry. Actually there are two current theories about what Harry's doing. Theory A says he's likely just going through the motions. He held on to his Senate seat in November by promising Hispanics he'd set up the DREAM Act for a vote, so he's doing it. He never promised them he'd get the thing passed, though, did he?
Theory B, much more sinister, says Harry's holding on to the DREAM Act so he can fold it in to a deal with the Republicans over extension of the tax cuts — a new deal, since the one Obama thought he had is falling apart. I very much hope this isn't the case; or if it is, that congressional Republicans will be intelligent enough not to fall for it. [Laughter]
With luck the DREAM Act will die a lingering death, and the U.S.A. will have dodged a demographic bullet. And then next month it'll be the 112th Congress. They won't be able to make our Executive enforce the immigration laws, but at least they won't be passing bills to give us twenty million new citizens with scofflaw parents.
05 — Pigford swill. More legislative news here from Washington, D.C. This is turning into a very legislative broadcast. Apologies to those of you who'd rather hear about Brad and Angelina or Derek Jeeter's contract — there will be full coverage another time.
So what's this one? Well, Wednesday this week President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 4783, which pays compensation to black and Indian farmers who claim the Department of Agriculture discriminated against them back in the 1980s and 1990s. Payment to the black farmers is $1.25 billion, and that's on top of $1 billion paid out in a previous tranche 11 years ago. Payment to the Indians is $3.4 billion.
All this comes under the mellifluous heading of "Pigford," after Timothy Pigford, a black farmer who filed one of the first lawsuits back in 1997. Pigford may be the biggest scam in U.S. history. I don't know why there hasn't been more of a fuss about it.
You can start with Pigford's original case back in 1997. Pigford was a chronic litigator — assisted, of course, by battalions of Civil Rights lawyers. His claims of discrimination had been investigated at least three times, and a previous lawsuit of his had been dismissed "with prejudice," meaning he should never have been allowed to make another claim on the same grounds. He did, though, and the Clinton Department of Agriculture basically gave away the store.
The claims of discrimination are highly suspect. They encompass the whole nation, including counties where the Department of Agriculture staff is entirely black. Black farmers are one percent of the farming population, yet over the period at issue, they were getting over three percent of USDA loans. That looks like discrimination against white farmers, if anything.
Worst of all, the standards for joining these class action lawsuits are laughably low. You are supposed to have been a farmer between 1981 and 1996; you are supposed to have applied for a USDA loan; and you are supposed to have been discriminated against and filed a complaint. Guess what, though: there is essentially no requirement that you prove any of those things! If you can't produce a copy of your complaint, for example, the court will accept an affidavit from a non-family member saying that you did so file a complaint. Basically, to get on the Pigford gravy train, you just have to be black.
The National Black Farmers Association knows of only 18,000 black farmers in the United States. Number of discrimination claims under Pigford II? Ninety-four thousand. I got those numbers from a November 29 statement by Representative Michelle Bachmann, who has waged a lonely battle in Congress to get some light thrown on the Pigford scam-athon.
To no avail: This raid on the Treasury was waved through Congress and signed by the President; though to be fair, Senate Republicans did try to cut down the attorneys' fees in the Indian case from $100 million to $50 million — unsuccessfully, of course.
Now listen to what our President said on signing this monstrous act of theft. Listen, and weep for our republic. Quote: "While I am pleased that this Act reflects important progress, much work remains to be done to address other claims of past discrimination made by women and Hispanic farmers against the Department of Agriculture as well as to address needs of tribal communities." End quote.
Yes, you heard the man right. Pigford is just the beginning! Women farmers and Hispanic farmers have their own Pigfords under way. Then, no doubt, there will be gay Pigfords, Asian-Pacific-Islander Pigfords, Muslim Pigfords, Hmong Pigfords, Wiccan Pigfords, and on and on to the crack of doom, billions of dollars sluicing out of the Treasury into the pockets of anyone who can wave an affidavit signed by his next-door neighbor — anyone, of course, except straight white males.
Pay up, suckers. This is "important progress." The President said so.
06 — The road to fiscal ruin. Meanwhile we're one week further down the road to fiscal ruin. Ben Bernanke is flying over Wall Street in his helicopter dropping $600 billion on the banks — the famous Quantitative Easing 2, or QE2. The complete bankruptcy of California, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada, and other states is a week closer, and the feds will have to bail them out.
Let me say that again for clarity: the feds will have to bail the states out. It's awful, especially for the citizens of well-managed states who will be bailing out the more corrupt and profligate ones, but there will be no alternative. Failure to bail out would lead to melt-down in the pension funds with all the consequences of that for financial markets, followed by another six percent rise in unemployment, i.e. to 16 percent, and a loud rustling sound all over the nation as dollar bills shrink down to the size of postage stamps. Politicians will strive mightily to prevent that happening.
They'll most likely fail anyway. After the bailout of the corrupt states, we'll be back in 2008, but with a way bigger deficit, a far more depressed economy, a comatose housing market, and a couple years' worth of steeply declining confidence among our bondholders. [Phone rings] Hold on … Hello? … What's that? … Oil headed for $100 a barrel? Thanks, that's just what I need. [Hangup.]
This next couple of years promises to be really interesting. As in: "May you live in interesting times."
07 — Bloomberg for President. Just in case you thought there were limits to human vanity and self-deception, here comes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to set you straight.
Yes, Michael Bloomberg: the limousine liberal's limousine liberal, the health fascist with the irritating whiny voice, the mayor who overturned New York's term limits law because he knew how indispensable he was, the guy who's been nagging us for nine years to eat our greens and put ou2 overshoes on, best friend forever to municipal unions, though they had to beat him senseless a couple of times before he got the point, and also to illegal immigrants, of whom he believes we can never have enough.
Now there are strong rumors that Bloomberg is going to run for President in '012. Well, it'll be fun to watch him campaigning in Arkansas, if he can find Arkansas. The last "s" in "Arkansas" is silent, Mike.
08 — 9/11 health bill. Yet more news from our nation's legislature. Another trial lawyers' scam against the public fisc, in fact. It sometimes seems as though the entire business of Washington, D.C. consists of lawyers looting the Treasury. Here they are at it again.
This is the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, advertised as, quote, "giving federal medical benefits to first-responders sick from Ground Zero dust." I think we all know now by instinct that any congressional bill whose title contains a person's name is deeply suspect. This one is a ripoff in so many ways I don't have time to enumerate them all.
You can start with the eponymous James Zadroga. Who he? Well, he was a New York City police detective who spent some time at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan following 9/11. He developed a cough, so in 2004 the Police Department put him on permanent disability status. With Zadroga's twelve years' service, that means benefits around ninety thousand a year, inflation-proofed, all medical expenses covered free of charge. For life, Officer Zadroga being 33 years old at this point. This kind of thing is routine in big-city police departments, one of the reasons that the finances of our states are in such an unholy mess.
That same year, 2004, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund also gave him a cash award. At this point Zadroga was set up very nicely for life, with all the medical attention he could want, all paid for by other people — i.e. by you and me — and a handsome income for doing no work at all. Fair enough, you may say: he was a first responder, and I won't argue the point.
Then in 2006 James Zadroga died. What did he die from? According to an autopsy report signed off on by New York City's two chief medical examiners, he died after injecting himself with ground-up prescription drugs in solution — nothing to do with 9/11 at all.
Once the Trial Lawyers Association see a big pile of taxpayer gold glittering on the horizon, though, there is no stopping them. Obviously they goofed by not stuffing those Chief Examiners' pockets with cash before they wrote their report, but they came back with this James Zadroga Act.
Now look: We should all be grateful to those first responders who showed up at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Flight 93 crash site. Face this fact, though: We live in a nation where any widespread sympathetic emotion will be milked for cold cash by unscrupulous attorneys. These first responders all belong to well-funded public-sector unions with extravagant benefit packages. There are people here in New York City retired on disability from the Fire Department, nothing to do with 9/11, pulling down $200,000 retirement packages in their fities, with full medical coverage on top. Nobody's going short of anything here. The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund added cream on the pie, as James Zadroga's own case illustrates.
The James Zadroga Act is a trial lawyer's scam, just like the Pigford rackets. Oh, would you like to know how many people will get payouts from the James Zadroga Act? Answer: at least 71,000. You didn't know there were that many first responders, did you? That's a major-league baseball stadium full of first responders, all with their hands out. Twenty-four of them are from Wyoming, which is a long way from Ground Zero. We know this because we heard it from Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, who has been leading opposition to this shameful scheme.
Well, on Thursday this week the Senate filibustered down the James Zadroga Bill. Good for them. You can tell it was good by all the lefty scam artists who were bleating about it: Both New York's lefty senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, and the egregious Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and of course New York's whiniest, Michael Bloomberg.
Oh, and James Zadroga's father Joseph. Waking from his dreams of an endless supply of taxpayer money sluicing in through his mailbox, the outraged Mr. Zadroga said the Senate vote made him, quote, "embarrassed for his country." Fiddlesticks. Citizens who do their duty in our police and fire services are already very amply rewarded, so much so their rewards are helping put our nation in fiscal peril.
The real embarrassment here is that a raft of trial lawyers should play on public sympathies to enrich themselves from the public fisc. That's the embarrassment, Mr. Zadroga … and Senator Schumer, and Mayor Bloomberg, and all the rest of you who think our public resources are infinite, or who have been bought and paid for by the Trial Lawyers' Association.
09 — Nobel Peace Prize award. I'll admit to some psychic stress on account of the award this Friday in Oslo of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. On the one hand, the Nobel Peace Prize is a joke, long since devalued by having been given to the likes of Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, and Yasser Arafat. On the other hand, China is my country-in-law. I'd like to see it under rational, consensual government; and I think that with the human capital and civilizational consciousness China has, that is a thing we can reasonably hope for. I have also been personally acquainted with some Chinese dissidents.
On balance I'm willing to forgive past absurdities and praise the Nobel Committee for a commendable action. Also for the quiet dignity of the ceremony, at which neither Mr. Liu nor any representative was present. The Prize diploma and gold medal were placed on an empty chair. The ChiComs are insensate with rage over the whole thing, and have been issuing blustering threats to all the world's diplomats that attending the Nobel ceremony will hurt the feelings of the Chinese poeple and lead to grave consequences for the offending nation. The Communists did everything they could short of stationing goons with pick handles at the entrance to the Nobel hall to stop people going in. They had some success: 22 nations stayed away, notably Russia and our dear friends the Pakistanis.
In a curious little episode the day before the Nobel ceremony, a group in Peking awarded a competing prize, the Confucius Peace Prize, 孔子和平獎. Somebody in China thought this up last week, as a patriotic response to the Nobel Peace Prize. Who was that somebody? That's murky. The ChiComs are claiming it's a group of patriotic citizens; but nothing happens in public in communist China without the Party having signed off on it. Anyway, this Confucius Peace prize is to be awarded to those who have furthered peace as defined by the Chinese Communist Party — starving thirty million peasants to death, perhaps, or driving over students with tanks, or knocking out the brains of Tibetan monks. The world waited eagerly to see who would be the first recipient of the Confucius Peace Prize.
At the award ceremony on Wednesday it turned out to be Lien Chan, a Taiwanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Taiwan in the 1990s. In 2005 Lien had gone on a trip to China, the first such by a senior Taiwanese politician, for a cordial meeting with ChiCom president Hu Jintao. Problem was, the prize committee forgot to tell Mr. Lien. When reporters in Taiwan questioned him about it he was totally baffled.
The Confucius Prize award ceremony went ahead anyway with Lien absent. The prize was awarded to an unidentified little girl, who looked utterly terrified, perhaps having spotted the Public Security goons behind the stage curtains, waiting with automatic weapons at the ready to make sure there were no departures from the script. A brochure was handed round sneering at Norway as a small country with few people which, quote, "can only put forward minority choices for the Nobel Peace Prize," end quote. China by contrast is a big country with lots of people, and therefore will choose more wisely. That's the entire argument, from a nation with a 3,000-year tradition of intellectual activity.
For what it's worth, Radio Derb offers hearty congratulations to Liu Xiaobo, and hopes he will find strength to endure with dignity his current 11-year jail sentence for daring to speak the truth to an arrogant clique of Leninist gangsters.
09 — Miscellany. Here's our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: We got a little glimpse of the future from London this week. Determined to cut public expenditures, the British government has taken an axe to student aid. This got the students out into the streets of London, and there was a vicious riot in which a car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla was assaulted. Ugly stuff; and, as I said, a mere foretaste of what is to come when our governments, as they will have to, start gutting the welfare state.
Item: Sorry: forgot to report last week on the House of Representatives censuring Charlie Rangel December 2nd after ethics hearings that ground on for years — and in which, by the way, Rangel's legal team was apparently paid for out of campaign funds, which is illegal. That would be just one more malfeasance in the case, though, on top of tax evasion, abusing House privileges, filing incomplete financial disclosures, and gaming New York real estate laws. The House censure was too much for Charlie Sleazebag's Democratic colleagues, though: they gave him a standing ovation. Why not? Charlie's been slurping from the public trough for forty years, which is what the other congresscritters all hope to do. Term limits! Term limits!
Item: The immortal Mark Steyn once observed that if you mix pistachio ice cream with even a small quantity of dog poop in a single container, the resulting mixture seems much more like dog poop than ice cream, in apparent defiance of the laws of arithmetic. Just so. And if you mix sober, industrious, rule-of-law populations like the Germans and Dutch with anarchistic, corrupt, favor-trading populations like the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Irish in a single currency, here's what you get: the Spanish air traffic controllers' strike that has been clogging up Europe's airports. Spanish air traffic controllers, we learn from Associated Press, make average annual pay of 350,000 Euros, which is $464,000. This, in a country with 20 percent unemployment and a median annual salary of $27,000. They have a union, you see, and the union had the government in its pocket. Spain's government has to cut, though, if they want the Germans, Dutch, etc. to go on propping up their obese public sector. So they tried to cut the air traffic controllers' pay to a mere 200,000 Euros, and that caused the strike. The government resolved the issue with an emergency order putting the strikers under martial law. I seem to remember one of our governments, some years ago, having trouble with air traffic controllers. That one didn't come to martial law, but … stick around.
Item: And finally a shout-out here to Terri Smith, the world's fattest woman, up there in Cleveland, Ohio. Terri weighs seven hundred pounds and is unable to move. Now she's got headaches, and needs a brain scan. Unfortunately she is not only too big to fit into an MRI machine, she is too big to get in through the hospital doors. Here's my question: The lady has been lying totally immobile on her bed for three years. Who's been feeding her?
10 — Signoff. That's your ration of news for this week, listeners. Chastened by those pictures of poor Terri Smith, I'm going to head up to the gym in Jonah's suite for a half hour on the elliptical before our regular Friday evening party in the grotto. We wish you all a pleasant weekend. Just two weeks to go to Christmas, so deck those halls and light those candles. Then brace yourself for a difficult year, with double-digit unemployment, cratering national finances, and deadlocked government. Bah, humbug …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]