[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. [Mandy] And Radio Derb is on the air! Hello, everybody. This is Mandy, and I'll be your hostess for this week's broadcast. First let me just say …
[Me] Mandy! Come away from that microphone, please! How many times do I have to tell you girls not to mess with the studio equipment? Where are Candy and Brandy? ["Up on the roof sunbathing."] Oh no. Last time they did that there were those satellite photographs going round the internet, and the suits were furious. I dunno, discipline's falling apart here.
All right, ladies and gentlemen: this is Radio Derb on the air, and I am your distractedly genial host John Derbyshire with news of the hour. [Uh, Mandy … is this yours? … Take it away, please …]
02 — Economic white water. We're all sick of hearing the waterfall metaphor — you know, "waterfall" as in "we're heading for the lip of." We are, of course; but things don't happen all at once. What our present situation resembles is more like a nasty stretch of economic white water, with the poor old U.S. economy lurching between the rocks and over the hydraulics, the government paddling furiously to try to keep control.
Main economic news this week: The stock market cratered, and the big stock indices are now lower than they were at the start of the year. Unemployment claims are either up a tick or down a tick, depending on who you believe; but big layoffs were announced in July so there's more unemployment in our future. The latest growth figures are dismal: annualized 1.3 percent the second quarter. From WW2 up to a couple of years ago, we averaged 3.5 percent. There was some slight encouragement in the employment numbers this week, but it's faery gold: everyone knows they'll get adjusted downward in a few days. The Eurozone staggers from crisis to crisis, with the near-certainty that one of the crises will bring down the whole show. Italy's hovering on the edge of a bank run. That's the kind of thing that could break the camel's back.
At times like this I turn to Larry Kudlow, who always puts a happy face on things. Opposites attract, you know? Larry points out that corporate profits are OK, the oil price is down, even gold is down; so is inflation — and hey, we avoided a default on Treasuries!
Yeah, yeah: corporate earnings are being earned overseas and salted away in banks overseas out of reach of the IRS. The oil price is down because demand is down because oil users — industry and consumers — are slowing down or broke; inflation's down because (a) the oil price is a big piece of it, and (b) nobody's spending any money; gold's down because buyers are out of breath with buying the stuff. They'll be back.
As for having maneuvered the canoe round that default rock: is this the condition we've been reduced to? — congratulating ourselves for having avoided sovereign default? Isn't that setting the economic-achievement bar kind of low?
I say it's spinach, Larry, and I say the heck with it. No offense, buddy.
White water, white water. Ben Bernanke's paddling like crazy, Timmy Geithner is weeping quietly in the back of the canoe, and Barack Obama … what's he doing? Holding a fundraiser. That's all he knows how to do. Heaven help us.
03 — Congress cuts a deal. So the congresscritters finally cobbled together a deal on federal government borrowing. What's the deal?
Well, instead of the national debt rising from today's 14 trillion to 23 trillion by the end of the decade, it will only rise to 21 trillion. That is, unless there's some kind of emergency in 2016, or 2014, or 2018. Which of course is unthinkable.
What else? Well, they've added a ton more debt to what the productive citizens of the U.S.A., a/k/a/ "suckers" will have to pay back — 2.4 trillion, or 7 trillion, don't ask me, I can't keep track of these trillions.
Whoa there, Derb, I hear you cry. We do ask you. You're a pundit, aren't you? Give us an opinion, or else hand in your lunch pail and go back to writing computer code for guys trading mortgage-backed securities.
OK, let me explain myself.
Here is a quote from a recent column by my colleague Andy McCarthy, one of the smartest ginks I know. The context here is that Andy, last Tuesday, is chiming in on a minor spat between Rep. Paul Ryan and White House advisor Gene Sperling over what the famous legislation of that day — the Budget Control Act of 2011 — actually requires. Quote from Andy in medias res, quote:
Rep. Ryan appears to be referring instead to Section 401, entitled "Establishment of Joint Select Committee." In subsection 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(I), the Super Committee is directed to vote on "a report that contains a detailed statement of the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the joint committee and the estimate of the Congressional Budget Office required by paragraph (5)(D)(ii)" (emphasis added). Ryan's response to Sperling cited subsection 405(b)(5)(D)(ii), so I am assuming that is the error — i.e., Ryan meant to cite subsection 401(b)(5)(D)(ii).
Did you get that? The bit about subsection 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(I)? Andy's a trained lawyer. To him, parsing out a subsection of a bill with a number and then five levels of parentheses is all in a day's work. To the rest of us, it might as well be Old Church Slavonic.
Most to the point, when Congress is responding to a crisis with legislative minutiae like that, they are not responding.
Responding would be repatriating the 52,440 U.S. troops stationed in Germany and letting the Germans defend themselves against the Soviet menace.
Responding would be closing down the Department of Education, Jimmy Carter's payback to the teacher unions — not just a bad idea, a Jimmy Carter bad idea.
Responding would be means-testing Medicare: a geezer who can afford a golf club subscription can afford to pay for his own embrocation.
Responding would be ending the foreign aid rackets — let Third World dictators feed their own Swiss bank accounts.
Responding would be halving the value of food stamps, unless you can explain to me why the neighborhoods in my city that have the highest numbers of food stamp recipients are also the ones filled with obese people.
Responding would be defunding NPR, the NEA, and PBS: if citizens want leftist propaganda and transgressive art, let 'em buy it in a free market.
Responding … Well, you get my drift. Responding would be any of those things, and a host of others. Whatever is in subsection 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(I) of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is not responding, it's kicking the can down the road and making work for lawyers … some of whom, like Andy, are very nice people, but I believe they have all the work they can handle.
04 — Hysteria on the Left. As frivolous and footling as Tuesday's Budget Control Act was, it drove the left into foam-flecked frenzies of wrath. They couldn't contain themselves.
The two main loci of the Leftist wrath were the New York Times and Democrats in Congress — assuming, I mean, that you think those are two separate loci.
The Times columnists pulled out all the stops.
Tom Friedman took a break from writing love letters to the Chinese Communist Party to describe the dissident Republicans as, quote, "the Hezbollah faction" of the GOP, intent on, quote, "a suicide mission."
Paul Krugman said that, quote: "What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question."
Joe Nocera wrote that, quote: "The Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people," end quote. Later in the same piece he added, quote: "For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests. But rest assured: They'll have them on again soon enough."
Maureen Dowd paused from her customary grumbling about how nobody finds her attractive any more to work up a long parallel between the Tea Party Congressmen and the monsters from classic horror movies. Sample long quote:
They were like cannibals, eating their own party and leaders alive. They were like vampires, draining the country's reputation, credit rating and compassion. They were like zombies, relentlessly and mindlessly coming back again and again to assault their unnerved victims, Boehner and President Obama. They were like the metallic beasts in Alien flashing mouths of teeth inside other mouths of teeth, bursting out of Boehner's stomach every time he came to a bouquet of microphones.
End sample long quote. Maureen rounded off with an H.P. Lovecraft reference to drive her point home.
The congressional Left was just as demented. Emanuel Cleaver, the Democratic congressman from Missouri, called the debt deal, quote, "a sugar-coated Satan sandwich." That didn't even make sense. You can't sugar-coat a sandwich; from the leftist point of view there isn't any metaphorical sugar — i.e. tax hikes — in the Bill; and what the heck is a Satan sandwich anyway? A sandwich made with slices of Lucifer's flesh? Say what? Is it too much to ask that congresscritters make sense when they open their mouths? (That's a rhetorical question.)
Nancy Pelosi said this thing, quote: "What we're trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget. We're trying to save life on this planet as we know it today." End quote. In the leftist cosmology, not a sparrow falls but it's the fault of Tea Party congressmen. Why restrict the scope of your imagination to our own trifling planet, though, Nancy? Won't there be climate change on Venus if federal spending slows down? Won't there be retirees begging for scraps in the canyons of Mars? Won't the schoolkids of the Alpha Centauri system be sitting in unheated classrooms? Won't midnight basketball be shut down in the Virgo Supercluster? Shall we not, in fact, be hastening the Heat Death of the Universe?
Politico reported that Vice President Joe Biden, in a closed-door meeting with other Democrats, said the Tea Party Congressmen had, quote, "acted like terrorists." When this came out, Biden denied it, saying he hadn't used the word "terrorist," only agreed with someone who did. Thanks for clarifying there, Joe. You don't think Tea Partiers are terrorists, you just think that people who say so are saying a true thing. Got it.
Now, these are important people in our national life. They are prestige columnists at a major broadsheet newspaper; one of them is a Nobel Prize winner; another one is minority leader of the House; another is Vice President of the United States. These are not cranks sounding off in some bar or winos mumbling to themselves on park benches, these are people of consequence. And the negotiations they are talking about concerned whether we should allow the national debt to increase by eight billion dollars a day, or only six.
What the congresscritters were dickering about was the precise wording to put into subsection 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(I). And Nancy Pelosi thinks she was, actual verbatim quote, quote: "trying to save life on this planet as we know it today"? And Paul Krugman thinks that it "calls our whole system of government into question"? Good grief.
In these political bunfights I try to take the rhetoric with a grain of salt. I'm not normally one to panic. I'll admit, though, that this week I'm scared. Not by the Tea Partiers, who are just trying — with some modest success, bless them — to slow the rate of increase of the rate of increase of the rate of increase of federal spending; not even by the coming crisis, which we shall weather somehow, and quite possibly emerge from better and stronger as a nation.
What I'm scared about is the possibility that a number of leading people in our national life — Friedman, Krugman, Nocera, Dowd, Cleaver, Pelosi, and Biden, have lost their minds, or at least all sense of proportion.
Suicide vests? Cannibals? Saving life on this planet? Terrorists? Our whole system of government? Metallic beasts bursting out of John Boehner's stomach? What happened to civilized disagreement? I dunno about suicide vests: seems to me that what's called for here is more like straitjackets.
05 — Famine in Africa. There's serious famine in Africa. The United Nations has called for $480 million this year in food, health and humanitarian aid for Zimbabwe. Quote from the Associated Press report:
Alain Noudehou, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the capital, Harare, said Tuesday an estimated 1.4 million people still need food handouts because of crop failures, erratic rain and other economic pressures affecting daily incomes.
End quote. Not to worry, Mr Noudehou, I'm sure China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Brazil, and all those other stalwarts of the United Nations will soon be shipping in the funds.
As for us Americans, we're all tapped out. In any case, a few of us, those with inbuilt resistance to the blue pill, still remember when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia and had a reputation as the breadbasket of southern Africa. That was before the farmers were chased off their farms, or murdered, and their equipment broken up and sold for scrap.
The Zimbabweans wanted their independence from British colonial rule; well, they got it. Let the buggers sit there and enjoy it in the dustbowl they've created.
Similar news from the Horn of Africa, where Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are in the grip of famine. The worst affected area is southern Somalia, where, quote from The Economist, "About 2.8m people are thought to need immediate life-saving help," end quote.
The main problem in southern Somalia is that much of the place is controlled by Shabab, a Taliban-style group of fanatical Islamists who believe that Western aid is anti-Muslim. The United Nations' World Food Program has had 14 staff members killed by Shabab.
So, bottom line here, we have an African country that gleefully murdered or expelled its productive farmers, and another African country so sunk in Muslim fanaticism they murder foreigners who try to help them; and both places have the begging bowl out.
I urge Radio Derb listeners to, on the one hand, respond to these human catastrophes as private citizens, with your own resources, according to your own conscience and beliefs; while on the other hand fighting tooth and nail against any effort by our government to divert any of our dwindling national wealth to famine relief in Africa. The U.S.A. has no national interest there.
06 — Norway massacre follow-up. Just a couple of follow-ups here on the massacre in Norway two weeks ago.
First follow-up: Mass murderer Anders Breivik has been charged with terrorism, which in Norway carries a maximum sentence of 21 years. I don't know what the rules are for parole in Norway, but if he serves the max he'll be 53 years old when he comes out. There's been some talk about a charge of "crimes against humanity," which could get him 30 years, but that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
What will Breivik be doing for those 21 years in the jug? There's speculation that he'll be housed in Norway's most up-to-date correctional facility, the Halden prison near Oslo. What are conditions like in Halden? Treadmills? Breaking rocks? Beatings by sadistic guards? Gang rapes in the shower? Doing solitary in the box, munching on cockroaches?
Not exactly. Quote from Wikipedia, long quote:
Cells include amenities such as flat-screen televisions, refrigerators, unbarred vertical windows that let in more light, and designer furniture. Prisoners share kitchens and living rooms every 10-12 cells, jogging trails, and a sound studio. There are cooking and music classes offered. Half the guards are women and guards are typically unarmed because guns "[create] unnecessary intimidation and social distance." Prisoners receive questionnaires that ask how their prison experience can be improved.
End of long quote. OK, I get the designer furniture bit — this is Scandinavia, after all — but jogging trails? Music classes? How far can bleeding-heart social democracy go?
In a poll reported in the Verdens Gang newspaper, 66 percent of Norwegians want stricter penalties. Only 24 percent thought current penalties were suitable. The people who actually run the country fall pretty solidly into that latter 24 percent. Quote from Knut Storberget, Norway's justice minister, quote: "We must listen and have a debate, while not draw hasty conclusions … it's important that policy isn't shaped in a state of panic." End quote. Translation: "It's important that policy isn't shaped by the actual views of actual citizens, who are fickle, stupid, and coarse. Policy should be shaped by people like me, the wise and the good, who know what's best for everyone." Oh, Eric Holder would be right at home in Oslo.
I am not of the school of thought that says to understand all is to forgive all. Murdering 77 people in peacetime is something no sane person can forgive. If it were up to me, Anders Breivik would be hanged in a public square, the event filmed for prime-time TV.
If you want to have a go at understanding Breivik's actions, though, you could start right there with Knut Storberget.
Second follow-up: To further enlarge your understanding you could take a close look at the Labor Party youth camp through which Anders Breivik wandered, shooting people at random, some of them just barely teenagers.
Blogger Debbie Schlussel, who is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, has given the place good coverage, drawing on Norwegian news sources. Turns out the young people attending this camp were being taught to take the side of terrorists. Islamic terrorists, that is. Among the fun activities at the camp was a re-enactment of last year's HAMAS flotilla in which terrorists tried to murder Israeli soldiers. Debbie posts a picture from a Norwegian website, taken right before the attacks, showing the Norwegian Foreign Minister, no less, visiting the camp and being greeted by campers holding up a big banner that says BOYCOTT ISRAEL.
Worse yet, it turns out the al-Fatah Palestinian terrorist group has a presence at the camp, and has had for 15 years. Fatah actually issued a statement on the Norway massacre, from which, quote: "It is with consternation that we have received the dramatic news of an awful terrorist attack against a summer camp run by our comrades of Norwegian Labor Youth." End quote. Fatah mentioned that their own youth group had taken part in the island summer camp in the past.
So we have a terrorist group condemning a terrorist act. As Debbie Schlussel says, you don't have to feel lightly about the mass killing of teenagers to think that there is some element here of what goes around, comes around. As a parent myself, I feel for the parents of those murdered Norwegian teens; but I'm bound to wonder how much they felt for the Israelis killed by HAMAS rocket attacks or Fatah suicide missions. Plenty of them were teens, too. They have parents too. Terrorism is terrorism is terrorism.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: The 2012 election campaign got under way this week with both the Democratic and Republican National Committees buying air time for ads they have prepared. The Democrats' ad, which will run on TV, has the title "En Quien Confiar." Here's the opening of the Republican ad, which is radio only: [clip].
You may have noticed something about those ads. Yes, both are in Spanish. Why would they not be? Both our big political parties have been striving for years to turn us into a Latin American country. Why would they change direction now? Surely you don't expect them to put out ads in English — a language of colonialist oppression, don't you know, which Spanish never was. What are you, some kind of nativist?
Item: Here's news of another election to take place next year. This will be in Turkmenistan, where President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has announced that voting will take place on February 12. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has magnanimously urged opposition leaders, all of whom are skulking in foreign countries like the worms and cowards that they are, to return to Turkmenistan to contest the elections, promising that voting will be free and fair. To their everlasting shame, the opposition so-called leaders have expressed skepticism about their safety if they return. The repulsive toad-faced traitor Nurmukhammed Khanamov, who heads the opposition Republican Party of Turkmenistan, told Agence France-Presse by phone from Austria, where he lurks in the pay of forces hostile to the people of Turkmenistan, that, quote: "It would be naïve to listen to the promises of the president and to return to the country. We would be thrown in prison." End quote. So much for the slanders about President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov running a one-party state. How can things be otherwise when other parties won't even participate in the democratic process?
Item: The Los Angeles City Council has declared August to be Immigrant Pride Month. Quote from the declaration: "Now, therefore, let it be resolved that the Council of the City of Los Angeles hereby declares the month of August 2011 as 'Immigrant Pride Month' as a positive counter example to the current anti-immigrant policies in many states like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama." End quote. Well, as an immigrant myself, and married to an immigrant, I naturally welcome this. Perhaps I'll fly over to L.A. and get an Immigrant Pride Month bumper sticker, wherewith to show the world my immigrant pride. Funny thing, though: I've been in two of those three states they mentioned quite recently, and I didn't notice any hostility to me as an immigrant. Perhaps I'm just not very observant.
Item: Also on the immigration front, but this time in Italy. Now we all know that Italy is a demographic disaster zone, with a dwindling and aging native population, total fertility rate 1.4 children per woman. It's also an economic disaster, as mentioned above — one of the so-called PIIGS: those European countries whose welfare states are caving in — Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain, the PIIGS. Obviously what Italy needs is lots of immigrants to perk the place up, make it more vibrant, get the economy going with their busy industriousness, and pay for all the old-age pensions.
Sure enough, immigrants is what they're getting, mostly from Africa. Reuters, August 1, quote: "At least 30 people, including 20 policemen, were injured in the southern Italian city of Bari on Monday in clashes between immigrants seeking asylum and police, witnesses said. Immigrants angry at delays in getting asylum set fire to trash cans and tires early in the morning, and threw stones at police who intervened to break up the protest, witnesses said." End quote. Hey, no problem down there in Bari. All you have to do is declare August "Immigrant Pride Month." Your citizens will forget their troubles and flock into the streets to celebrate their wonderful new diversity. Let's all celebrate diversity! Come on, you know the words: [Kumbaya …]
Item: Finally: In Eugene, Oregon a lady was thrown out of a Wal-Mart store for being inappropriately dressed.
08 — Signoff. And there you have it, ladies and gents. Speaking of inappropriately dressed, I see the girls have come down from the roof, still in their bikinis and glistening with sun tan oil. Not really suitable for a working studio; but since we'll all be heading up to join Jonah in the grotto shortly, perhaps I should be lenient. Ah, Candy — your top, honey. I think … yep, there it goes. [Squeal] You really need to fix that clip … Hm, what strange places people get tattooed nowadays …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]