[Music clip: Flanagan & Allen Run, Rabbit, Run]
01 — Intro. Did you like that? I thought I'd switch the intro to something topical this week. The most topical thing happening has been the Democrat legislators in Wisconsin and Indiana fleeing out of state so that their legislatures can't curtail the power of the public-sector unions who feed them — with money contributed by their members, public-sector workers, out of their salaries, which of course are paid by you and me through our taxes.
I went looking for some piece of music titled "Flight of the Tax Eaters," but all I could find was "Flight of the Bumblebee" [clip] and "Flight of the Valkyries" [clip] which, please don't email in to tell me, is actually "Ride of the Valkyries," Walkürenritt, but is mis-named all over the web, and Flight of the Intruder, but that was a movie. Or for those of you with long TV memories, there was the theme music of … [clip: "The Fugitive"]
None of them was really what I was looking for, though, so I figured Flanagan & Allen filled the bill, and anyway they bring back misty recollections of my earliest childhood.
OK, this is of course Radio Derb, and this is your nostalgically genial host John Derbyshire with all the week's news. First let's cover those fugitive legislators … assuming they haven't finally tracked down the one-armed man by the time we go to podcast.
02 — Flight of the Tax-Eaters. This entire imbroglio in Wisconsin, and now in Indiana, illustrates a thing I've been harping on for years: the folly of permitting public-sector employees to unionize. Here I was in February 2003, eight years ago. Long quote:
Why do public-sector workers need unions? The purpose of unions is to protect employees against unscrupulous bosses, who might seek to maximize profits by taking advantage of those who work for them. In the public sector, however, there are no profits to be maximized, no shareholders to appease. The work that is being done is being done in the public interest — against which, as Calvin Coolidge quite correctly declared, there is no right to strike. So what do government workers need unions for? If public-sector workers don't like their pay and conditions, they can appeal to the tax-paying public, who are their ultimate employers. If that doesn't work, they can go get jobs in the private sector, and take their chances with capitalism, like free citizens of a free nation.
End of long quote. To this day, eight years later, I still haven't heard a reasonable explanation of why public-sector workers need unions.
I understand the political dynamics of course. Public-sector unions stuff benjamins into the pockets of corrupt pols. The pols pass laws to tax citizens and businesses. Tax revenue flows in. Pols use it to hire more gummint workers, paying their salaries and benefits out of those taxes. A slice of these taxpayer-funded salaries is creamed off by the unions, who now have more benjamins to stuff into pols' pockets. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's the perfect racket. I just don't understand how we let it happen.
We're stuck with these public-sector unions, though, unfortunately; and they've taken over one of our big political parties, so it's not likely we'll get rid of them. The proverbial toothpaste is out of the proverbial tube. The political appeal we can make, and that Governor Walker is making, is that benefits for public-sector workers can't be as extravagantly out of line with the private sector as, in many states and cities, they have become.
Nor should we allow the left to get away with the sleight of hand they're pulling, pretending that they're standing up for union rights. Nobody, well hardly anybody, has any argument with union rights. The issue is public-sector unions. They are not at all in the same relation to the economy as private-sector unions.
In fact, by distorting state revenues with their gold-plated benefit packages, public-sector unions are forcing tax increases on the rest of us, making life more difficult for people in private-sector unions. Public-sector unions aren't in comradely solidarity with private-sector unions, the two groups are actually antagonistic. If public workers are sucking all the wealth from a state, businesses won't locate there, and there will be no private-sector jobs. How is that good for private-sector unions?
03 — Eliminationist on Gaddafy. It's hard to think of anything that would give so much innocent pleasure to so many people in the civilized portion of the world than a YouTube video of Muammar Gaddafy being strung up from a lamp-post in Tripoli after first being riddled with bullets. No: make that before being riddled with bullets.
Alas, it's not very likely that this satisfaction will be vouchsafed to us. Presumably Gaddafy has a private jet fueled up and ready to take him off to wherever democracy-hating tyrants stripped of their power flee to nowadays — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Illinois …
Some of my colleagues are consoling themselves with the thought that even though we may not get to see Colonel Loony Tunes dancing on the end of a rope, what comes after him will surely be better. I don't believe this for a minute. Libya has no tradition of rational government, and it's not a thing you can buy for $16.95 at WalMart. It takes nine months to have a baby, you can't hurry the process. Likewise, it takes a millennium or so of political progress to get to rational government, and the Arabs have barely started.
Drastic interventions can sometimes kick-start the process, to be sure. Having two of their cities nuked did it for Japan. Absent interventions on that scale, we just have to wait out the few centuries it's going to take the Arabs to advance from barbarism to civilization. The ideal would be to fence them off in the meantime and let them get on with it. Unfortunately they have all that oil, so we have to pretend that they are real countries with real governments, and smile through clenched teeth at their crazy dictators, fat potentates, and strutting military men who haven't won a war since the twelfth century. Well, we don't all have to: we have diplomats to do the dirty work for us, and a president to bow and grovel to the head bag-man in charge.
Even in this depressing context, though, Gaddafy was a nasty piece of work, and while whatever follows him will be no better, and quite possibly worse, we should rejoice in his humiliation. This is the guy who gave the order to blow up Pan Am 103 over Scotland 23 years ago, killing 270 people, 41 of them college students from my home state here, New York.
Everybody knows this; as they say in Ireland, even the dogs in the street know it; certainly the national leaders of the West have all known it pretty much since it happened. Once we knew it, we would have been entirely justified in obliterating Libya's three or four significant cities, reducing the population to the nomadic beggary of their grandfathers, and occupying the Libyan oilfields. That would have put an end to terrorism against the West for a hundred years.
Of course no Western government has the stones to behave like that, so the repulsive Gaddafy was allowed to go on for another twenty years making incomprehensible speeches, roasting his political enemies over slow fires, and being serviced by his harem of blonde East European bunnies.
Now the game's up for Gaddafy. Let's hope that wherever the bastard ends up, his enemies find him and subject him to a death at least as slow and terrible as that he delivered to the passengers and crew of Pan Am Flight 103. Then, wrap his corpse in a pig-skin and leave it on a garbage dump somewhere.
Too "eliminationist" for you? Wake up. This is a guy who's needed eliminating for the last five U.S. presidencies. It can't happen too soon.
04 — Saudi ingrate. If our federal government practiced sane policies, an important component of our attitude to barbarous regions would be to keep their people firmly excluded from the U.S.A. This could easily be done via stringent immigration policies, good border security, and vigilance at our ports of entry.
That would be if we practiced sane policies. Our actual policies are in-sane. Consider, for example, the granting of visas to Saudis. In the brief spell of common sense that followed the 9/11 attacks — in which, let it be remembered, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals — the number of Saudis entering the U.S.A. to study at our colleges fell from 4,000 a year to just 1,000 in the year 2005.
That was very distressing to George W. Bush, constantly plagued as he was by the thought that there are far too many Americans in America. He accordingly made a deal with the Saudis, as a result of which the numbers of visas granted rapidly increased. More than ten thousand Saudi students came here in 2006. The goal, said the Saudi ambassador, was to get twenty thousand a year coming in. What a great idea! What could possibly go wrong?
Fast forward to Thursday of this week. On that day the U.S. Justice Department issued a press release, title, quote, "Texas Resident Arrested on Charge of Attempted Use of Weapon of Mass Destruction." "Texas resident," eh? Who was this good ol' boy, this Texas resident, this bow-legged cowboy with jingling spurs, a ten-gallon hat, and a wad of tobacco in his cheek? Let the Justice Department tell us, quote:
Khalid Ali Aldawsari, age 20, a citizen of Saudi Arabia and resident of Lubbock, Texas, was arrested late yesterday by FBI agents in Texas on a federal charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his alleged purchase of chemicals and equipment necessary to make an improvised explosive device (IED) and his research of potential U.S. targets.
End quote. Reading down the Justice Department press release, we learn that among the targets on Mr Aldawsari's list was the Dallas residence of former President George W. Bush.
Come now, Mr Aldawsari — where's your sense of gratitude?
05 — New Zealand earthquake. I couldn't care less if the inhabitants of Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and all the other Middle Eastern rat-holes kill, cook, and eat each other; but I was very distressed to read about the earthquake in New Zealand.
The city of Christchurch, in the southern island of New Zealand, suffered particularly badly, with over a hundred people killed, including about twenty in the city's cathedral — which is Anglican, of course.
My connection to Christchurch is indirect: My father spent the happiest years of his young adulthood there, back in the late 1920s, and always spoke very nostalgically of the place. My half-brother was born there, to a mother name of Goddard, and I know there are many Goddards in the neighborhood still. I hope they are all safe; I hope the good people of Christchurch will rebuild their city, as I'm sure they will.
06 — Refugees flooding Europe. As Radio Derb pointed out last week, one unfortunate side-effect of the troubles in the Arab world has been a flood of refugees heading across the Mediterranean for Europe.
The Europeans, of course, are being complete pussies about the whole business. Quote from the BBC news website:
Italy, Spain, France, Cyprus, Malta and Greece presented joint proposals at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday … The six Mediterranean countries … demanded a programme for relocation — that is, spreading asylum seekers around Europe if they arrive in large numbers.
That qualifies as multicultural idiocy of the week. But what is the meaning of "large numbers" in that last sentence? Further quote from the Beeb, quote:
At least one million migrants, many of them from sub-Saharan Africa, are believed to be in Libya, hoping to reach Europe.
Just what Europe needs: another million sub-Saharan Africans. Subsistence farmers from Chad; goat-herds from the Sudan; Camel-drivers from Mali; these are just the people likely to perk up Europe's 20-percent-unemployment economies.
And after that initial million, what? Another million, and another, and another. Sub-Saharan Africa has a population over 800 million, with a growth rate of 2.3 percent, which is to say close to twenty million a year. The average woman in Niger has 7.2 children in her lifetime. Burundi 6.8, the Congo 6.7, Mali 6.5 … You get the idea. By comparison, the rate for Mexico is 2.3.
With Libya a major transit point for people from sub-Saharan Africa trying to get to Europe, Gaddafy, for all his grotesque faults, has, when suitably bribed of course, been an ally to the Europeans in helping to stem the tide. With Gaddafy gone, things will get worse, way worse.
All the countries along the North African shore — Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco — have plunging birth-rates and dysfunctional governments. They can't stop the tide of desperate people moving up from the south. I read recently an account by a traveler in the interior of Algeria who'd known the country well for 30 years. He said that villages down there that had once been entirely Arab were now entirely sub-Saharan African.
These are the great demographic tides roiling the Old World. The Europeans need a firm, firmly ethnocentric policy for coping with them, if they're not to become minorities in their own countries. "Kumbaya" isn't going to cut it.
07 — Antepenultimate Shuttle flight. As a long-time enemy of government space programs in general, and manned space programs in particular, I am happy to report the approaching end of the stupid and wasteful Space Shuttle program.
The U.S.A. has three space shuttles: Discovery, Endeavor, and Atlantis. Thursday afternoon this week, Discovery was launched into orbit on an 11-day mission to deliver stuff to the International Space Station, whose purpose is to give the Shuttle something to do.
Two more flights will follow: Endeavor in April and Atlantis in June. After that, praise the Lord!, the U.S. government will be out of the manned space flight business, which it never ought to have been in in the first place. The main idea for the future is, that we'll rely on the Russians to get us into orbit for a few years; then commercial firms will take up the slack, with some pump-priming from federal funds to help them.
It sounds nice, and I have no objection to private firms putting Americans into space, if they can make a profit from doing so. I still don't see why federal funds are necessary, since the man-in-space business will be entirely recreational for the foreseeable future, with no practical applications and no scientific returns that couldn't be got at a hundredth the cost with automated systems.
Still I wish Discovery well on this antepenultimate shuttle mission, and I hope she gets back safely to earth. A fatality rate of two crews lost in, I think, 127 flights is bad enough — 1.6 percent — please let it not get any worse. And let's hope that by the end of this year, Discovery, Endeavor, and Atlantis will be what they always should have been: theme park attractions.
08 — U.S. debt payments to quadruple … at least. The national debt seems like a kind of an abstract thing to most of us, but in fact it has a direct impact on our taxes. Servicing the national debt — paying interest on the Treasury Bonds held by people like, oh, say, the Chinese Communist Party [clip: "沒有共產黨 …"] is a big national expense, which comes out of our taxes.
Big, and soon to get a whole lot bigger. Quote from the Washington Post, February 17, quote:
Interest payments on the national debt will quadruple in the next decade and every man, woman and child in the United States will be paying more than $2,500 a year to cover for the nation's past profligacy, according to figures in President Obama's new budget plan.
That strikes me as optimistic. Obama's plan rests on wildly unrealistic forecasts of economic growth.
Forget about the president's stupid happy talk. What is most likely to happen in the near future is that the present feeble recovery will stall and we shall slip into another recession, with the deficit still unsustainably huge. There will then be no prospect of stimulus or bail-outs. The U.S. government will perforce respond to that next recession not by increasing spending, but by cutting it.
That's the right thing to do for long-term improvement; but in the short term, with the debt overhang already humongous, it will leave the economy dead in the water. Even the feeble, unconvincing recovery we've gotten as a result of the last two years' spend-o-rama won't be possible.
In that situation, investor confidence will at last collapse. The markets will dump our sovereign debt, and the only way — absolutely the only way — for the feds to meet their domestic obligations will be by massive and sustained inflation. Your savings will become worthless, a gallon of gasoline will cost $500, and your city police and fire services will be laid off.
Bottom line: Get in lots of canned food, bottled water, and ammo. It's going to be very bad. I don't see any way out. This is serious; I'm not kidding. We have sown the wind; now we get to reap the whirlwind.
And stop blaming people — this group, that group, politicians, businessmen. We've done this to ourselves. Stupidity, said the great Robert A. Heinlein, is the only universal capital crime. I sincerely hope the punishment our country is in for will not be capital; but make no mistake, whatever it is, we have it coming.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Steve Sailer raises the very interesting question of Tony Rezko, Illinois real-estate developer, and friend and backer and, ah, real-estate adviser to Barack Obama in his Illinois days. You may recall that Rezko was convicted back in June 2008 on sixteen counts of fraud, corruption, and money laundering. So what was his sentence? Strangely — very strangely — there hasn't been one. Close to three years after conviction, Rezko still awaits sentencing. Three years. Steve has learned that Rezko is serving his time, whatever it turns out to be, at a secret location, a county jail in Wisconsin — we don't know which county. What a strange business.
Item: At least Tony Rezko got a trial. Here are two perps, Samuel Lee Conway and Jeremy Pickney. They are two of the three guys who murdered five people in Pearcy, Arkansas back in November 2009. That's fifteen months ago. The third perp died in a shoot-out with police trying to arrest the three. Conway and Pickney were formally charged with the five murders on March 5 last year. The latest news we have is that Conway will go to trial in April, Pickney in June. That'll be thirteen months and fifteen months after they were charged. Conway may in fact never go to trial. His attorney is pressing for an insanity ruling. If he gets it, Conway — who seems to be a serial killer: last September he was indicted in another, unrelated, murder case — Conway will hang out at a state mental-health facility until either he escapes or some shrink declares him "cured." Even if not, what takes so long with these cases? And this is a high-profile one, since Conway and Pickney are white and the five people they murdered were all black. No, wait a minute, that's not right … Conway and Pickney are straight and the five people they murdered were all gay, that's why it's high profile. No wait, still wrong: Conway and Pickney are black and the five people they murdered were all white. That's it. That's why it's so high-profile; that's why it's been all over the news this past few months … Thank goodness for the fearless reporters of our mainstream media, keeping our attention fixed on Tony Rezko, the Pearcy massacre, and all the other deplorable things happening in our country. Thanks, guys!
Item: In our December 3rd broadcast we reported on a group of Columbia University students who'd managed to get a flag-raising ceremony approved. Not the Vietcong flag or the Cuban flag or the Palestinian flag either: this was Old Glory, being raised in a formal ceremony every Monday morning at seven at the southwest corner of Low Library. In the most liberal college in the most liberal city in the republic's most liberal state, this is amazing. Well, one step forward, two steps back at Columbia. Last week former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Maschek showed up at Columbia to participate in a campus meeting about reinstating ROTC at the school. Sgt. Anthony Maschek came in his wheelchair — he is partially disabled after taking multiple wounds and losing a leg during a firefight in Iraq three years ago. As he tried to speak, students opposed to ROTC heckled and jeered him, and called him a racist. Let's just file this one away in the Civility folder, shall we?
Item: Finally, our First Lady has put the breast-feeding of infants in the news. She favors it; Sarah Palin, who also favors it, none the less mocked Mrs Obama's promotional efforts, quote: "You better breast-feed your baby. Yeah, you better — because the price of milk is so high right now!" That caused outrage among the kinds of people who enjoy being outraged, Michelle Bachmann joined in, and pretty soon there was a food fight going on, or a milk fight, or a … Well, never mind. Anyway, here's a recommendation for the First Lady: An ice-cream parlor in central London is serving up breast milk ice cream at $23 a portion starting this weekend. Quote from one of the suppliers: "What could be more natural than fresh, free-range mother's milk in an ice cream?" So this is free-range mother's milk — none of that inferior stuff you get from battery-farmed mothers. I've always thought it was cruel, keeping them penned up in cages like that while they lactate. So there you are, Michelle: ice cream made from free range breast milk, at the Icecreamists restaurant there in Covent Garden, next to the Opera House. But no, sorry, they don't serve ribs with it.
10 — Signoff. There you have it, listeners. We have Tony Rezko at an undisclosed location in Wisconsin, Wisconsin legislators at undisclosed locations in Illinois, and Illinois residents rejoicing at the election of Rahm Emanuel as Mayor of Chicago, confident that now at last the windy city will have clean, competent, respectful government. Altogether a bracing week in the nation's affairs.
And to top it off, we have the Oscars coming up on Sunday. I naturally have hopes that my own venture into independent movie-making will win some recognition, so look out for a mention of Mandy, Candy, and Brandy Do Ashgabat, financed by our good friends over there in Turkmenistan. My media empire grows and flourishes — Rupert Murdoch, check your rear-view mirror …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]