[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. White rabbits, everybody! Yes, it's the first of the month — April First, actually, so be on the lookout for hoaxers, tricksters, pranksters, and con artists.
None of that here, you may be sure. This is Radio Derb, a fount of irreproachable honesty and sincerity, broadcasting to you from our lavishly-equipped sound studio here on the 95th floor of Buckley Towers in the heart of Manhattan. I am your unimpeachably genial host John Derbyshire, here to bring you the week's headlines.
Before we begin, I'd like to introduce my new research assistant, Alexandra Wallace. Say Hi to the listeners, Alexandra. [Hi.] Alexandra you may recall was the young UCLA student who posted a video of herself complaining about the manners of Asian classmates. That little spot of bother has blown over, I'm glad to say, and Alexandra has come to join us here at Radio Derb as Senior Research Assistant.
Do you have a few more words for the listeners, Alexandra? [Ching chong …] No, no, dear; we broadcast in English, not Chinese. [We know that I'm not the most politically correct person …] Oh, you'll fit in here just fine, honey.
02 — Obama's war. So how is our glamorous new war going? You know, the war we're fighting against Libya in order to [Crickets chirping] and in defense of our vital national interest that [More crickets].
Not well, is the short answer. See, here's a thing about war: If on one side you have a trained force that knows at least the elementary principles of tactics, has some experience with modern weapons, and has a leadership cadre trained at officer academies like Sandhurst and West Point; and on the other side you have a rabble of slum teenagers and college kids who don't know a salient from a sortie and who think that logistics is something to do with syllogisms, well, you should bet on the trained man.
It's true that if the rabble gets some superior air support from outside, that will degrade the trained man's advantage. It's also true that the trained man's advantage will be degraded further by a couple of decades of easy living and favors from a dictator anxious to keep the military on his side. Let's recall that the last time the Libyan Army was involved in any actual fighting was 24 years ago … against the nation of Chad … and Libya lost. To the army of Chad.
It's still true that trained warcraft beats untrained enthusiasm nine times out of ten, so that's the way to bet. And it looks like that's the way it's going in Libya, with the anti-Gadaffy rebels now on the run. Defense Secretary Bob Gates described the situation yesterday as, quote, "a pick-up ball game." Hillary Clinton, one of the three ladies who got us into this fool war — it was two wise Anglas and a wise Africana — Hillary is reluctant to arm the rebels because, she admits, we don't know who they are.
Memo to future Secretaries of State: before committing to an alliance with some faction in some civil war, try to find out who they are.
Our president has not been idle in this regard. he has instructed the CIA to send in operatives to find out about the rebels. You recall the CIA: That's the agency with the classified budget — probably around 50 billion dollars — that so accurately predicted the fall of the Soviet Union and gave us such clear warning of the 9/11 attacks.
And now we've seriously vexed Gaddafy. That's not smart. The last time Gaddafy was vexed, right after he'd lost that war against Chad, the losing of which he blamed on the West giving support to his enemy, the last time we ticked him off there was an aluminum shower over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Gadaffy's crazy as a coot and has enough money to buy anything, or anyone, he wants. It would be real smart to kill him at this point, if we knew how to do it, and if our law-professor president can be persuaded that killing Gadaffy doesn't violate some sub-provision of some provision in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
Meanwhile our country is skinking into bankruptcy, the price of oil is through the roof, and Congress is playing pinochle in the lounge of the S.S. Titanic. Hey ho.
03 — Inflation on the march. Yep, the price of oil is comfortably over $100 a barrel, headed for $120. Stability in the Middle East would bring it down, but lotsa luck with that. Residents of New York City have just been told that from the end of May, their electricity will cost twelve percent more.
New Yorkers who want to console themselves with a chocolate Easter bunny will have to pay more for that, too: the Hershey Corporation is raising prices ten percent across the board on all its candy products. Chocolate's made from cocoa, see; cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast; and the Ivory Coast is having a civil war of its own — one which, with wellnigh superhuman restraint, our administration has so far declined to get involved in, pesumably on the calculation that oil trumps chocolate.
Leaving aside food and energy prices, which inflation analysts treat separately because they're more volatile, what's called "core inflation" — that's everything else — is set to double this year, according to the Federal Reserve bank president in Minneapolis.
The Fed's been printing money like crazy — the so-called "quantitative easing" — in hopes of perking up the economy, so inflation — which just means more money is flying around — is not a staggering surprise, and some economists are blaming the Fed, calling for a premature end to QE (it's supposed to end in June), and higher interest rates to make it more expensive for people to get their hands on money.
Signs are, though, that there are deeper reasons for the inflation we're seeing: rising Third World wages and demand, declining confidence in U.S. fiscal management. Here's Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart stores, talking on Wednesday this week, quote: "We're seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate," end quote. He's predicting higher inflation all round. This is the guy who sells you half the stuff you buy.
The folk that manage the nation's finances are somewhat in the position of field medics putting a tourniquet on a wound. If the thing's too loose, there's a lot of bleeding and the patient gets weaker. Keep it too tight for too long, the limb isn't getting enough blood and tissue necrosis sets in. There's a lot of fine judgment called for here. Let's hope the feds get it right.
Let's hope, in fact, they can get it right, in a political environment where the federal government spends far too much on programs, each one of which will be defended in the last ditch by interest groups that are organized, angry, and — as we saw in Wisconsin and London recently — perfectly willing to resort to civic disruption, even street violence.
Let's hope also that the patient hasn't already bled to death — that the trillion-dollar deficit, the tens-of-trillions national debt, and the hundred-odd trillion of debt plus unfunded entitlements — let's hope we can figure out some way to pay it all off without just hyperinflating it away, or simply defaulting. We have a lot of hoping to do here.
04 — The Middle East's problem: too much diversity. Here's a curious little report from the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel. Title: "Small Homogeneous States Only Solution for Middle East." The author is Mordechai Kedar.
Mr Kedar points out that while Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, and Lebanon are all chronically unstable, on the other hand the gulf states — Qatar and Kuwait, and the seven states of the United Arab Emirates — are as stable as you please, and Saudi Arabia is in pretty good shape too.
What accounts for the difference? Mr Kedar puts it down to diversity. The gulf states don't have any. Each one is basically just a tribe with a flag. The nations that are having all the trouble are the ones who had their borders drawn for them by mid-20th-century bureaucrats in London and Paris, those borders containing within them a host of different tribes, languages, races, and faiths.
What's to be done? Here's Mr Kedar, quote:
Relief to the chronic ailments of the Arab world, immersed as it is in corruption, poverty and violence, will come only through the establishment of homogeneous states which accommodate the traditional Arab social framework; these ailments are all the result of the modern Arab state's failure to become the focal point of individual and collective identity.
I can hear you saying: Is this guy crazy? Doesn't he know that diversity is a strength — our greatest strength here in the U.S.A., according to all our public figures, up to and including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This Mordechai Kedar fellow needs to get out of his ivory tower and start celebrating diversity.
Mr Kedar's total wrong-headedness is all the more amazing when you consider that he lives in Israel, one of the most diverse nations that ever was, that has opened its borders to persons of every race, nationality, and religion. Astonishing. There sure are a lot of stupid people in the world.
05 — Obstetric tourism flourishes. Here's a headline from the March 25 Los Angeles Times, quote: "'Birthing tourism' center in San Gabriel shut down," end quote.
The story below the headline concerns San Gabriel, a northeastern suburb of Los Angeles. Looking up San Gabriel on city-data.com, I see it has a population of 40 thousand; a median household income of 55 thousand; mean price for a detached house 606 thousand. What in England we'd call upper-lower-middle-class. Let's check the demographics: 57 percent Asian, 26 percent Hispanic, 13 percent white, 4 percent other.
OK, that's San Gabriel — excuse me, I just like to know where I am. So what's the news story? Lead-off paragraphs, quote:
From the outside, they looked like other recently built San Gabriel townhouses — two stories, Spanish style, with roofs of red tile.
Yep, we're in the zone here of obstetric tourism. According to the current reading of the Fourteenth Amendment, if you're born in the U.S.A. you're a citizen. So women in other countries get pregnant, wait out the first thirty-odd weeks, then hop on a plane to the U.S.A. to give birth. There are clinics all over the place to meet the demand. This place in San Gabriel was one such.
Not to worry, though. The place has been shut down. Federal authorities don't take kindly to opportunistic foreigners getting drive-by citizenship for their newborns.
Oh, no, wait a minute, that's wrong. The feds are perfectly happy with obstetric tourism. The place was shut down by town authorities for building code violations. Quote from the LA Times story:
The city fined the manager of the property, Dwight Chang of Arcadia, $800. He was cited for illegal construction and ordered to acquire permits and return the buildings to their original condition.
How did the town get to find out about this place? Complaints from neighbors. Quote: "Neighbors had noticed an unusual number of pregnant women going in and out, and some complained about noise." Ah, the noise, yes. [Ching chong …]
So let's be clear on the morality of the situation here. Putting up partition walls without the permission of your town's director of community development: Wrong! Cynically getting citizenship for your baby so you can plug in to U.S. chain migration and welfare benefits: No problem. Everybody clear on that?
06 — Border fence incomplete. The most elementary function of a national government is to secure the nation's coasts and borders. This is apparently beyond the capabilities of our own federal government.
Here's Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, speaking of our southern border earlier this month at a conference on border issues, quote: "In spite of an effort to do more, there does not appear to be a plan in place that actually accomplishes the objectives of a secure border," end quote.
This is pretty amazing when you think about it. Just reflect on all the grandiose projects our government is involved in: the wars, the entitlements, the subsidies and food stamps and housing programs, the interstates, the regulation and lawsuits and tax-gathering. Take a stroll through central Washington D.C. and look up at all the huge building complexes housing untold thousands of federal employees beavering away to make sure Doctor X gets his Medicare reimbursement, Farmer Y gets his mohair subsidy, and Dictator Z gets his bribe so he won't misbehave.
Reflect on all that; and then consider that, by the Depatment of Homeland Security's own admission, only 129 miles of our 1,954-mile border with Mexico is secure.
That's one-fifteenth of the border, less than seven percent. And that's Mexico, a dysfunctional state whose own government is waging a war against drug gangs — a war that's cost 35,000 lives so far — and 40 percent of whose population would mnove to the U.S.A. if they could, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Remember SBInet? That was the so-called "virtual fence" — cameras, sensors, and other gadgets designed to detect illegal border crossing. SBInet was announced in September 2006, frozen in March last year, formally canceled in January this year. Cost: over a billion dollars.
Well, now there's a new plan for a new fence, also virtual. More gadgets, more cameras, more satellite surveillance … and more than a billion dollars this time, you can bet. However, the Government Accountability Office tells us it won't cover the whole border until at best 2021 and maybe not until 2026. That's assuming, of course, that this one isn't a total fiasco like SBInet.
Here's another quote, this one from Bradley Schreiber, vice president for the Applied Science Foundation for Homeland Security. Quote from him: "We don't know what the threat is because we haven't done a thorough assessment. We don't know what's coming across and we don't have a strategy to address it." End quote.
Bottom line here, folks: Our nation's borders are wide open, and the federal government is doing essentially nothing about it. In the Year of Our Lord 2011, after thirty years of uncontrolled illegal immigration. Meanwhile we've got 100,000 troops in Afghanistan trying to secure that country's border with Pakistan — two no-account pseudo-nations of no importance to the U.S.A. Or, to be a bit more precise, of importance to us only because we utterly fail to control who comes into our own country.
How do things go elsewhere? Let's check some news items. Here's one: Cairo, March 29, quote: "Two Eritrean men were shot dead, and three seriously wounded on the Israeli-Egyptian border in an incident that involved more than 50 Eritrean refugees, including six women and a child. The shootings occurred on the 13th of March, when Egyptian soldiers shot at Eritrean refugees crossing the border into Israel." End quote. I'm sorry for the guys who got shot, and even more sorry for the rest of those refugees, now said to be in a jail in the Egyptian city of Suez; but I'm also quietly glad to know that at least some countries in the world think their borders are worth guarding.
07 — Census results. The Census Bureau has been busily crunching away the numbers from the 2010 census, and releasing them to us piecemeal. We got a new batch this week. What do they tell us?
Well, they tell us the country is becoming much more Hispanic. The Hispanic population increased 43 percent this last decade, to around 50 million people. La Raza and the other Hispanic-triumphalist outfits are pleased as punch about this. I guess the rest of us should be too. The more Hispanic we get, the more we'll resemble those prosperous, successful countries to our south — Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and so on. Something to look forward to for our children and grandchildren.
In other census news, there's a modest drift of black Americans back to the southeastern states. Quote from the New York Times: "Among the 25 counties with the biggest increase in black population, three-quarters are in the South," end quote.
There's further depopulation of rural areas in the Midwest, and funny things are happening to cities. Some of them are emptying out: Detroit lost 25 percent of its population in the decade — unprecedented for a city not the victim of a tsunami, earthquake, or nuclear attack. Washington D.C. has lost its black majority: the black population fell 11 percent, the white population rose 32 percent. That's all part of the general growth in wealth and power in the D.C. region, as the federal government takes over more and more of the national life. Joe the black cab driver — out; Brittany the white attorney — in.
Other cities, or at least parts of them, are getting more gentrified. Never mind D.C.'s paltry 32 percent, downtown Portland, Oregon saw its white population increase by 223 percent. Here in New York the area near Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood, is booming with new residential buildings for yuppies. Yuppies with kids at that — they can't build schools fast enough.
Americans have a peculiar attitude to demographics. We regard it as a sort of natural force, like the weather, that no-one can control. We also think it's a bit impolite to discuss demographics, in case someone's feelings might be hurt. Yet in fact a nation can easily control its demographics if it wants to, with sensible border control and immigration policies. Most countries assume they have a right to do this, and aren't apologetic about it. America's different in this regard — exceptional, if you like. At least we have been since the 1960s. Whether our policy is wiser, or those other countries', our descendants will find out.
08 — Miscellany. And now [Zarathustra] our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: If there is one thing that seems to my to fly in the face of every principle of consensual democratic government, it's judges telling public authorities how much money they should spend. Here's one: Judge Peter Doyne of New Jersey, issuing a 96-page ruling on a lawsuit challenging the state's cuts in education spending. The state constitution says the state should provide students with a, quote, "thorough and efficient" education. You'd think New Jersey was doing that: per-student school spending is close to the highest in the nation. Not high enough! says Judge Doyne. Gotta spend more! All our governments should spend more — the federal government, state governments, municipal governments, more! more! more! It's the right thing to do. We know it is, because the judges say so.
Item: House sales dropped nearly ten percent in February, and house prices are doing what you'd expect under the circumstances — going off a cliff. All those years of building homes the country didn't need and jiggering the mortgage market to sell them to people who couldn't afford them, all that foolishness and fakery continues to take its toll. You want more housing bad news, no make that terrible news? I got more. One in four mortgage borrowers is under water — they owe more on their huse than it's worth in the market. Plenty more are on the threshold, and as prices fall further, they'll go under water too. 18.4 million homes are empty all year round. If all the money that's gone into property this last 20 years had gone into businesses, we'd be booming like Singapore. I guess that wasn't what we wanted. We wanted houses. Well, we got 'em. There they stand, 18.4 million of 'em, empty all year.
Item: Stephen Moore has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today telling us that, quote, "Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government." End quote. What a surprise. As Moore points out, there have been huge increases in productivity in manufacturing, farming, extraction, telecoms, and all kinds of private-sector work this past 50 years. Government work has gone the other way, with for example employment in our public schools now double what it was. Negative productivity in the public sector, positive in the private sector. Just one more time, listeners: Get a government job! Though since Stephen Moore has been a loud shill for open borders, I'd like to see him explain how importing tens of millions of high school dropouts has improved the situation. Over to you, Stephen …
Item: As I noted in The Corner, the inventor of Super Glue, Harry Coover, died March 26 in Kingsport, Tennessee. As a modest tribute to Mr Coover, I shall sing you a fine old English ballad. You ready? Ahem:
When Father papered the parlor
09 — Signoff. Right, that's it for this week, listeners. Let's see how Alexandra's getting on over there at the research desk. What you doing over there, Alexandra? [I'm having an epiphany …] Really? Well … er … perhaps when you're through having the epiphay, you might want to go tidy up in the file room? [Are you frigging kidding me?] Oh, never mind. Why don't you go up to 96 and see if Jonah needs help getting the grotto ready for tonight's party, OK? [Have a nice day] You too, Alexandra.
You know, I hate to rush to judgment on anyone, but I'm wondering if this was really a wise hire. Oh well …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]