[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. This is your deliquescently genial host John Derbyshire, speaking to you from the middle of a heatwave. Yes, here in Manhattan the sidewalks are shimmering, the street urchins are cooling themselves at open fire hydrants, the girls are in flimsy summer dresses and halter tops, and even the congresscritters are stripping down to their underwear …
No, I'm going to take that back. This broadcast will be a Weiner-free zone. Let's face it, the Weiner business has been done to death. You've heard every possible joke and double-entendre on Rep. Weiner's name a dozen times, from late night talk show hosts or from your office comedian — or from the front-page headline in this morning's New York Post, quote: Weiner: I'll Stick It Out. Oh boy.
The thing is over and done with. Let's leave Rep. Weiner alone to face his constituents, and just hope that after all the noise and fuss, the congressman will have a soft landing at last. [Groans]
OK, on with the show. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the non-Weiner news.
02 — Unemployment and exports. Bad news and good news on the economy. The bad news is the news we reported last week, the figures for unemployment that came out last Friday: 9.1 percent for May, up from 9.0 in April.
This is pretty awful in itself. The history of this statistic over the last few years is as follows: It wobbled around between four and six percent through the two thousands until 2008. Then it started a steady upward climb into the nine-ten percent zone, where it's been stuck for two years now.
This current recession actually bottomed out at the end of '09. Now, 18 months on from that low point, historically — I mean, if you look at past recessions, and see where we were 18 months after the trough — what's historically happened at this point is a total recovery of job numbers. In the 1981 recession, for example, the economy had lost three percent of its jobs at the trough. The entire three percent had been recovered within ten months.
This recession, by contrast, had lost six percent of the nation's jobs at its trough. Today, eighteen months later, it's recovered barely one percent of them. This is terrible, simply terrible. It's doubly terrible because the orthodox remedy, Keynesian pump-priming, has been exhausted. The evidence that Keynesian pump-priming has ever worked is anyway disputed; but that's academic. There's no more pump to prime. Remember how your Dad's car wouldn't start, and you just kept turning the key anyway, until at last the battery went flat? Yep.
The awful May job figures were awful not just in quantity but also in quality. Of the 54,000 jobs added to the economy, around half — somewhere between 20 and 30 thousand net — were added by MacDonald's staffing up for the summer. As MarketWatch commented, quote: "There's a case to be made for the benefit of fast-food restaurant employment, but it's obviously not the foundation for sustained economic growth." End quote. Roger on that, I guess.
That official 9.1 percent unemployment rate comes with some footnotes, mind. To be included in it you have to be out of work and actively looking for work in the past month. You get a broader picture from a figure called the labor underutilization index, which counts everyone who doesn't have a full-time job but wants to have one, excluding non-economic jobless like the sick or people in training programs. The labor underutilization rate in May was 15.8 percent. In plain English, of all the Americans who want to work full-time, nearly one in six can't find a job. Even allowing for regional disparities, that means that either you are unwillingly jobless, or you know someone who is.
This is a disaster and Americans know it. The percentage of us who think the country's on the wrong track has been climbing steadily for two years now, after taking a hopeful dive when the new administration came in. It's now nudging seventy percent, the highest figure since Obama came in. This number isn't just of academic interest, either: it's an indirect indicator of how much people are willing to spend and invest. Faith in the future isn't just a metaphysical indicator, it's also an economic one, like the figure for "goodwill" on a balance sheet.
So things are bad and no-one seems to think they'll get better any time soon.
Against that we had some good news this week: Exports took an upward tick to a total $176 billion in goods and services, an all-time record. Some of the increase was just the result of a weaker dollar, which makes our exports cheaper but of course our imports more expensive. Still, there seems to have been some real improvement there too, so let's give ourselves a modest pat on the back. We're still a nation that can make things and offer services that people in other nations want to buy, when we're not loading our entrepreneurs down with regulation, taxation, and litigation and wasting our national wealth in futile foreign wars.
03 — Obama no longer cool. Here's a news report from the London Daily Mail, June 7th, headline, quote: "Obama losing the youth vote 'because white students don't think he's cool anymore'," end quote. The youth vote they refer to, it turns out, is 18- to 29-year-olds.
It's dismaying to realize that some significant portion of the electorate will vote for a candidate because they think he's cool. What, after all, is coolness? Isn't it just the triumph of style over substance? From that point of view, yes, Obama is cool. He's made a whole career of learning how to make people think well of him, without there being any substantive reason to do so, from college professors to Chicago power brokers to the Democratic National Convention. Obama's career has been one long kiss-up — one long tale of well-intentioned white people giving an affirmative-action pass to an unthreatening black man with no real accomplishments to his name.
But then, perhaps I'm all wrong about coolth. I'm a fogey: What do I know? I have two teenage kids. If you mentioned me and coolness to them in the same sentence, they'd fall down laughing.
Whatever, there are some good reasons for the 18 to 29-year-olds to lose faith in President Obama's coolth, however they may have perceived it. For one thing, a lot of them are college graduates, and from that point of view Obama's America is not a very welcoming place. The class of 2011 will be entering the job market this summer, staggering into it under great bagloads of student-loan debt in fact. What should they expect to find?
One thing they'll find in considerable quantity is, the class of 2010, almost half of whom — 44 percent — still don't have jobs a year after graduation. Graduates in health care fields or technical support services will likely be OK, but for the rest, repeat after me: "You want fries with that?"
Here's one of those 2010 graduates, Marquis Herring of Detroit, talking to the Detroit News. Mr. Herring graduated from Wayne State University in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism, after a college career that included six unpaid internships. He's applied for fifty different jobs with no luck. Now he's carrying $30,000 in student loans, living with his mother and trying to get by with the same part-time job he had in college, teaching in a youth development program.
To go back to that Daily Mail headline, if white students were voting for Obama in '08 because they thought he was cool, that as I see it is an argument against letting these young fools vote. What do you know about public affairs if you haven't ever had to work for a living or meet a mortgage payment?
Let's raise the voting age to 36. At that age, you've totally lost interest in what is or isn't cool. You're more attentive to who has or doesn't have some proven ability, and to what does or does not advance the interests of married Americans with kids.
Until we can get that through as a constitutional amendment, here's Radio Derb's advice to the youth of America — to all you clueless airhead 17-, 18-, 19-, and 20-somethings contemplating next year's presidential election.
Scrutinize the field of candidates. Rank them in order of coolness. Then vote for whichever one is least cool. An Eisenhower, a Coolidge, a Nixon, a G.H.W. Bush. Whoever strikes you as most lacking in coolth, that's the person you should vote for. Got it? Remember it, please. If you vote for coolth, you'll be sorry.
04 — Romney rolls on. That brings us naturally to Mitt Romney, who at this admittedly early stage of the game is out at the front of the GOP pack, and who is deeply uncool.
Romney is far from my ideal candidate. He's got somewhat too much of that naïve midwestern niceness — that willingness to hand over the store to any shyster, crook, or freeloader who comes asking, just because, gee willikers, what could possibly be worse than for anyone in the world to doubt that we are the nicest, most generous, most hospitable nation that ever was?
Just to answer that rhetorical question before proceeding: What could be worse is, that once you've given away the store, the store belongs to the crooks and the freeloaders, and all your niceness and generosity have been trampled into the mud.
Anyway, I'd be happier with Romney if the geneticists at the Republican National Committee could splice some of Rudy Giuliani's DNA into his — give him a mean streak. You're going to need to be a bit careful with the gene splicing there, guys — we don't want Romney discarding wives all over the landscape and perp-walking securities traders in front of their colleagues. Just enough meanness for him to administer the occasional knee in the groin to some person, lobby, or nation that deserves it.
Still, I'll give Romney the grudging, qualified seal of approval that a female relative of mine gave to her daughter's choice of husband, quote: "He'll do." Romney's sane, energetic, an experienced manager of large enterprises, rich enough not to be in it for the money as the Clintons were, smart enough to have learned from his mistakes in Massachusetts, sober enough not to send our armies out on missionary wars like George W. Bush, conservative enough not to nurse fantasies of social transformation like Obama.
The Los Angeles Times this week reported that between a quarter and a third of voters overall would have a problem voting for a Mormon. I find this hard to believe. If Obama got elected after spending 20 years attending services conducted by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright bellowing for revenge against white people, I can't believe Joseph Smith's golden tablets and magic spectacles are going to sink Romney's candidacy. What he should do is play up the bourgeois side of Mormonism. "We don't drink or smoke, we stay married, we cherish our families and neighbors, we work hard and pay our taxes." All the un-cool stuff. I think we've all had enough of coolness for a while.
All right, that's a lukewarm endorsement. There are candidates I'd vote for with a lot more enthusiasm than I'd vote for Romney. If he's the candidate, though, I'll vote for him — with no qualms at all if it's a Romney-Bachmann or Romney-Pawlenty or Romney-Palin ticket.
Romney? He'll do.
05 — SCOTUS gives illegals a break. Public colleges in California have two scales of fees, one for students who graduated from high schools in the state, the other for out-of-state graduates. The differences are considerable: At the University of California you'll save yourself $23,000 a year by graduating in-state. At California State University it's over eleven thousand; at community colleges in the state, four and a half thousand.
Anyone who's attended three years of high school in the state and graduated gets the benefit, even if they're in the U.S.A. illegally. This irked some out-of-state residents paying the higher fees. So six years ago they sued, on the grounds that California was in violation of U.S. immigration law by preferentially giving public benefits to illegals.
The state Supreme Court upheld the California law in November. This week the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to that ruling. So California, which is as broke as it is possible to be, and then some, is handing out cut-price college degrees to scofflaws with the tacit approval of SCOTUS.
The thing that always surprises me about news stories like this is that they aren't followed by other news stories telling me that U.S. citizens are renouncing their citizenship in droves. What, after all, is the point of U.S. citizenship any more? The main point seems to be, that you have to work till you drop to pay taxes to support all the freeloaders in the world, from illegal alien scofflaws to Afghan warlords to Barney Frank's boyfriends to the Chinese Communist Party's Swiss bank accounts.
Message from our legal and political elites to Joe Citizen: Pay up, sucker; and if you complain, you're a bigot.
06 — Refugee resettlement follies (cont.) Last week I took a swing at the refugee resettlement rackets, with particular reference to the swelling numbers of Iraqi refugees we're taking in, even as we get ready to disengage from Iraq.
My colleague Mark Krikorian directed me to a report his Center for Immigration Studies put out last month, title "Refugee Resettlement: A System Badly in Need of Review." If you think I was being mean-spirited and hard-hearted in my remarks last week, check out this report. I didn't tell the half of it. (You can find the report online at cis.org: go to "Backgrounders and Reports" under the heading "Publications" on the left of the page there.)
Here are some findings from the report. First, who gets to decide who is a genuine refugee? Not you, citizen, and not any person or agency you've chosen to represent you. Mostly who decides is, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And given our foolish policy of chain migration, i.e. that once you're in, you can petition for your relatives to come in, a big piece of U.S. immigration policy is driven by the decisions of U.N. bureaucrats. Whatever your overall view of immigration is, I can't believe you like this.
And then there's the security issue. Quote from the CIS Backgrounder:
Meaningful background checks are difficult to obtain for refugees admitted from countries without reliable government records. Common criminals, war criminals, international fugitives, and terrorists have all used the United States Refugee Admissions Program and its related asylum provisions for entry into the United States. Bribery of U.N. officials is commonly reported among those attempting to secure refugee admission to the United States.
End quote. And then there are the so-called non-profits who are handling these U.N.-selected refugees once they arrive here. These are people like the International Rescue Committee, Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and so on. They all sound very charitable and pious; but in fact the funds they spend come almost entirely from us, the U.S. taxpayers, through government contracts and grants; and the officials of these organizations are paid handsome salaries. Worse yet, after four months or less, the refugees they've sponsored are handed over to welfare agencies and are thenceforth one hundred percent clients of the welfare state. These so-called charities with their appealing churchy names are just middlemen between the U.N. and our own welfare bureaucracies, taking a handsome cut in taxpayer-funded salaries as they pass the refugees along.
The impact of refugee resettlement on small communities is often devastating. Another quote from the CIS Backgrounder: "At no point are these communities consulted. The closed loop of the U.N., the State Department, and NGOs leaves citizens with no voice in events that affect their communities." End quote.
Listeners, this is a simply shameful policy. If your state is involved, lobby your state representatives to get you out of the program. If your church is involved, tell them you will contribute only to programs that take no government money and select deserving refugees themselves. If Senator Patrick Leahy's Refugee Act is introduced into the current session of Congress, lobby your U.S. lawmakers to vote against it. Leahy's act will make it harder to deport refugees who are found to be fake, or dangerous.
At the very least, inform yourself. Go to the CIS website, cis.org, and read the Backgrounder. There's a whole page and a half of footnotes you can follow up on if you're skeptical — state department, NGO, and news service reports. Refugee resettlement is a scandal and a racket, badly in need of clean-up. Don't take it from me: find out for yourself.
07 — Eboo Patel. Meet Eboo Patel, an American-born Muslim of Indian ancestry.
Back in February '09, sortly after he was inaugurated, Barack Obama launched an Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Its purpose is, to quote from the White House website, quote, "to form partnerships between the Federal Government and faith-based and neighborhood organizations to more effectively serve Americans in need," end quote.
Why churches can't minister to needy citizens without federal "partnerships," and how you square all this with the First Amendment, I shall leave you to discuss among yourselves.
The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships of course needs an Advisory Council, or else how could it function? So Obama appointed 25 big-name religious types to form the Advisory Council. Eboo Patel is among them. He is, in other words, one of the President's advisers on matters of religion, giving Obama the Muslim angle, presumably.
Though only 30-something, Patel has accumulated a long paper trail of anti-American remarks. For example, he's compared al-Qaida to what he called, quote, "Christian totalitarians in the U.S.A. and Jewish totalitarians in Israel," end quote. Patel told a National Public Radio interviewer in 2007 that if he'd grown up in the '60s he'd have joined Bill Ayers' terrorist movement, the Weather Underground. Quote, referring to Bill Ayers: "I was kind of taught the same myths about America, a land of freedom and equality and justice, et cetera, et cetera." End quote. Patel is also a big fan of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United church and has written that, quote, "What Obama learned at Trinity will help America."
Now, a person as eminent in the religious sphere as Eboo Patel is obviously in direct communication with the Creator of the Universe, so it would be highly presumptuous of me, a mere lapsed Anglican, to criticize his divinely-inspired words. And Barack Obama, who is even less religious than I am, if that's possible, obviously needs all the advice he can get on matters of faith. Still, I have to ask: Wasn't Louis Farrakhan available?
08 — Lost in Afghanistan. A Pentagon report tells us that by mid-May our operations in Libya had cost $664m, which is to say about two thirds of a billion. Meanwhile we come up to the eleventh year of our war in Afghanistan, total cost so far $421 billion. And then there's Iraq, cost to date $783 billion.
So our war in Libya, that war we are fighting in defense of the vital national interest that [crickets chiping], is chump change by comparison with those big wars. It's even chump change by comparison with the total cost of the military establishments we maintain in Bahrain, Belgium, Djibouti, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Serbia, Spain, Turkey, and the U.K. … just to name countries where we have more than a thousand personnel in place.
Yes, our nation is lurching into a prolonged depression, but that isn't going to stop us keeping 1,300 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in Belgium. After all, you never know what those crazy Belgians might get up to.
And these people are so grateful for our presence. Remember when back in the Clinton administration we went to war against Christian Serbia on behalf of the Muslims of Bosnia? Muslims world-wide have been expressing their gratitude to us ever since in very moving and colorful ways. Their warm regard easily outweighs the fact that we alienated the Russians, who have traditionally regarded Serbs as their younger brothers. I mean, who cares about Russia? It's not as if they have oil or nuclear weapons.
And so America's geostrategic policy flounders on, like a blind mad elephant in a bazaar. What's this here? A news story from the Washington Post, June 7th, headline, quote, Afghan nation-building programs not sustainable, report says. Well, you could knock me down with a feather! You mean to say that nation-building in barbarous tribal regions is all a can of dog poop, as John Derbyshire has been telling us this past seven years?
Yep, that's about it. Body of the story, quote: "The hugely expensive U.S. attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan has had only limited success and may not survive an American withdrawal, according to the findings of a two-year congressional investigation to be released Wednesday."
I don't have the heart to go on. Read the story for yourself, it's on the internet — Google News, search on "afghan nation-building."
Half a trillion dollars, two thousand American lives lost and some unknown larger number ruined, ten years of effort, and — all right, just one more brief quote — "there is little evidence the positive results are sustainable."
It took the congresschimps two years to figure that out. Is there anyone with a pair of eyes in his head, anyone not chasing the dragon through opium dreams of benevolence and omnipotence and the worshipful gratitude of picturesque foreigners, anyone to whom this is not as obvious as the sun in the sky?
There are moments, gentle listener, there are moments, I'll confess, and with no ill will to any fellow citizen, there are moments when I look forward with eager joy to the almighty crash that is coming upon us, just for all the folly and waste it will sweep away. When the dollar's trading at par with the Somali shilling, when you need to work a month to buy a tank of gas, when all the police have been laid off and there are lines of customers around the block at the local gun store, when the Gods of the Copybook Headings have with terror and slaughter returned, at least we won't still feel the need to be defending Belgium.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Some late political news here. Newt Gingrich's campaign staff have resigned en masse, apparently in disgust at Newt's having taken off on a two-week vacation right after shooting himself in both feet in the opening days of his campaign. The foot-shooting was in fact so comprehensive, I was a bit surprised to learn from this story that he still has a campaign.
Item: The German government has announced that they will phase out nuclear power completely from their nation by the year 2022. They just don't want anything to do with it, especially after these recent accidents in Japan. Among the Euro-weenies, the Germans have always been the most self-righteously "green." Self-righteously, and also hypocritically. Germany will now import more energy from neighbors like France, with big nuclear-power installations, and oil suppliers like Iran, which is going gang-busters on its own nuclear program. Germany will also generate more CO2 as it replaces nuclear with coal and gas — an extra 370 million tons of CO2 a year, according to the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, an economics think tank. Well, perhaps the Germans can get their citizens eating more sauerkraut and harvest the methane gas. Just a suggestion.
Item: We lost Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the infamous "Doctor Death," whose enthusiasm for helping people to die got him a 10-to-25 sentence in Michigan for second-degree murder. Listeners, if you're tired of life, there are all sorts of ways out, many of them dignified and not painful. I refer you to the internet for full details. I think the law should be very leery of encouraging people to help you, especially people as keen on the job as Dr. Kevorkian was. Having said that, there are some cases, quadriplegics for instance, for whom there is no easy self-administered way out. If a person in that situation sincerely, lucidly, across a good stretch of time, expresses the wish to die, there should be some way for someone to give them a hand. It ought not be beyond our collective intelligence to devise a legal loophole for these few hard cases. For the rest of us there's the gun, the noose, the ocean, the helium tent, or the trip to the Third World country with lax pharmaceutical laws. Let's leave things like that.
Item: Some news stories you just can't improve on. Here's one such. Quote from Associated Press, June 8th, dateline Hoquiam in Washington State, quote: "Police say a man was carrying a dead weasel when he burst into an apartment and assaulted a man in Washington state. The victim asked, 'Why are you carrying a weasel?' The attacker answered, 'It's not a weasel, it's a marten,' then punched him in the nose and fled." End quote. I'd have to say I'm on the side of the intruder here. It's very important to identify things by their correct names. A marten is a different thing from a weasel; and a stoat, an ermine, a polecat, a mink, or a ferret, is different again. Try to get it right, if someone bursts into your apartment carrying the corpse of a small carnivorous mammal. Even the meanest of God's creatures is entitled to dignity in death.
10 — Signoff. There you are, ladies and gents, from the sweltering heat of Manhattan.
Here's a poem to cool you off. Written around a hundred years ago, this poem is called "The Ice Cart." The poet is Wilfred Gibson, an Englishman who had the misfortune to be writing poetry — real poetry — just as the bogus and pretentious so-called "modernist movement" was distracting everyone's attention, or at least the attention of the academics and poseurs who set the standards for what poets should be read by schoolchildren. Thus Wilfred Gibson is wellnigh forgotten, while plonking charlatans like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound are treated with reverential respect. Pah! As the Russians say: Gold sinks, but poop floats.
Well, here is Wilfred Gibson's poem "The Ice Cart," read by the fine Welsh actor Gareth Armstrong.
[Clip: Gareth Armstrong reading "The Ice Cart"]