»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, November 18, 2011

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]

01 — Intro.     [Singing] Oh, a life on the ocean wave / A home on the rolling sea / Cruising with National Review / There's Rich and Jay and Jonah and Kathryn and Ramesh and VDH and Kevin and Mona and Charlie and Bob and Andy and Jim and Deroy and O'Sullivan and P-J and Miller and me.

There's actually a lot more conservative talent than that out here on the balmy Caribbean, including Tim Pawlenty (of whom more a little later), Fred Thompson, John Yoo, Ralph Reed … Oh, too many to list, and apologies to those unmentioned. Also, of course, and the real point of the whole thing, close to five hundred National Review readers and supporters, including it seems wellnigh the entire population of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Bless every one of them, and heartfelt thanks for the many compliments and kindnesses received and books purchased.

I am ensconced in my customary modest 8-room suite amidships with my research assistants Mandy, Candy, and Brandy. I have just finished leading them through our morning Tai Chi exercises, and they are now busy preparing the jacuzzi and stocking the bar for our party this evening.

Prior to the party, this afternoon I am scheduled to give a talk in the ship's main auditorium on doubly-periodic functions of a complex variable — I anticipate a good turnout for that. Better, I hope, anyway, than Jonah got yesterday for his rendering of Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony on the kazoo, which I thought fell somewhat flat with the audience. We are very competitive here with our presentations!

02 — GOP candidate chaos: Perry.     One good thing about being out of the U.S.A. right now is that we are safe from being struck by Republican presidential candidates falling from the sky to crash and burn all over the landscape. It's getting to be quite a hazard.

First to auger in was Rick Perry — first, second and third, in fact, with dismal campaign performances. Remember when Perry was the anti-Romney, pulling in donor money like a Jerry Lewis telethon? Well, those days are over. Now Perry's struggling to raise enough to be competitive in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In mid-September Perry was polling 32 percent among likely Republican voters: this week he's down in single digits. Bloomberg News quotes an anonymous Perry fundraiser saying he'd gotten back 15 RSVPs for a recent event, that's 15 potential donors saying they'd attend. Then there was yet another debate in which Perry took off his left shoe and chewed on it, and when the event took place, none of the fifteen showed up. Poor Rick Perry must be feeling like that Elizabethan poet who wrote the line "They flee from me that some time me did seek."

Things got worse this week when the Texas governor, having already ticked off us immigration restrictionists by telling us we have no heart if we don't favor government benefits for illegals, managed to offend immigration promoters by excluding non-citizens from one of his Town Hall meetings in New Hampshire. The meeting was at a facility belonging to a company named Granite State Manufacturing, which does some contract work for the Defense Department. Because of that, claimed the company, federal regulations forbid them allowing non-citizens into events they're hosting.

I have no idea if federal regs actually do say that, but there was a company employee at the door of the hall among the Perry staffers, demanding proof of citizenship from the people coming in. That seems fair enough to me. It's an election event, for crying out loud, and non-citizens can't vote. So why would they want to attend a campaign event anyway?

The open-borders shills of course don't see it that way. To them, the whole notion of citizenship is just a racist plot against their human rights. For a defense contractor to bar non-citizens from company premises is pretty much equivalent to burning crosses on people's lawns. Here's someone named Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, quote: "It's disturbing. I find that discriminatory." End quote. Heaven forbid anyone should ever, in any way whatsoever, discriminate between citizens and non-citizens — except, of course, when giving benefits to non-citizens that aren't available to citizens, as Rick Perry has done.

It's quite an achievement, ticking off both sides of the immigration issue, but somehow Rick Perry's pulled it off. For his next trick the governor will alienate both NARAL and the Right To Life movement both in the same day, before lunch.

So there goes Rick Perry. Let's see if I have a crash-and-burn sound clip. [Explosion] Yeah, that'll do. So who else have we got?

03 — GOP candidate chaos: Cain.     Well, we've got Herman Cain, though for how much longer is a bit of an open question. Herb's been having his own gaffe-o-rama.

A couple of weeks ago there was that business with charges of so-called "sexual harassment" from women Cain worked with 15 years ago. That was all squashed when Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, and President Obama himself all denounced the charges as motivated by racist stereotypes of successful black males. Following those denunciations, nobody dared even mention the sexual harassment charges …

Oh, wait a minute … Sorry, that all happened in the bizarro world into which I occasionally slip through a crack in the space-time continuum unfortunately located right next to my liquor cabinet. In the actual world the "sexual harassment" charges are still in play, and there have been a total of zero recorded comments from Jesse, Al, Eric and Barry. We here at Radio Derb will continue to pooh-pooh the charges until we run out of pooh-pooh.

The main issue this last few days, though, has been Herb's ignorance of anything that has ever happened, is happening, or might happen beyond the borders (if you'll excuse such a politically incorrect word) of the U.S.A.

In the matter of presidential ignorance about this or that, I'm easy-going. Nobody knows everything about everything; and in fact, in my experience, very few of us know much about much. When Dwight Eisenhower ascended to the presidency in 1953 he knew everything it is possible to know about organizing a huge army to invade and take back an occupied continent from a determined enemy. That's a heck of a skill set to have. However, Ike didn't know any more about economics, or diplomacy, or education, or transportation, than John Q. Public; and during the eight years he was president, that tremendous army-organizing skill set was not called upon. Those eight years were, though, pretty good years for the U.S.A. — a kind of golden age, in fact, to hear older Americans talk about them, before all the disruptions of the sixties. So, comprehensive knowledge about absolutely everything is not on my list of presidential qualifications.

There are limits to the degree of candidate ignorance I'm willing to tolerate, though, and I think Herb's breached those limits. Among the qualities a president needs I'd include a certain level of imagination, so that the Chief Executive can project himself into situations that might occur and figure out in advance what kinds of options he might have. To arrive at your mid sixties without ever having paid a moment's attention to what's happening in China, or Africa, or Europe, as is plainly the case with Herb, bespeaks a quite astonishing lack of imagination.

Then, fresh from revealing that he thought Libya was the brand name of a bathroom disinfectant, Herb went off to Florida and made two more gaffes back to back. Gaffe One: Quote from Herb, addressing a rally in Palm Beach County, quote: "When the American people begin to ignite that American spirit, they make things happen, just like they made things happen in 2008 when the Republicans took back control of the House." Sorry, Herb, that was 2010.

Gaffe Two: Chasing the Cuban-exile vote in Miami, he accepted a cup of coffee from a vendor. He thought it was delicious and wanted to say so; so he asked the vendor: "How do you say 'delicious' in Cuban?"

Somewhat similar to how you'd say it in Austrian, would be my guess. But look: you can get away with an occasional one of these gaffes — especially, of course, if you're a Democrat who the media are desperately trying to help get elected. Herb's gaffes are piling up, though, and are reaching some sort of critical mass. Sorry, Herb. You're a nice guy, and I hate to see a fellow math geek crash and burn, but that's what you're doing. [Explosion.]

04 — GOP candidate chaos: Gingrich.     And then, Newt Gingrich. With the air going out of the Perry and Cain campaigns, and Mitt Romney bumping his head up against the 26 percent ceiling of Republicans who can bear the thought of voting for him without a prior shot of novocaine, Newt was having a boom, or at least a boomlet, in the polls.

Then came the Big Mac attack. That's Freddie Mac, more properly the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, which is about as close to being a genuine, actual corporation as the People's Liberation Army, and just about as likely to go out of business. Freddie Mac buys up mortgage loans, bundles them into bonds, and sells them to investors. As the mortgage holders pay off their mortgages, the money flows through to the bonds' coupon payments. The loans are bundled up in such a way that even if some statistical proportion of mortgages default, there's enough sound ones to keep the funds flowing; and in any case, the whole game is backed with government guarantees. What could possibly go wrong?

A major housing crash, that's what. Freddie Mac lost billions in the 2008 crisis, and it's now run by federal regulators. In other words, nobody any longer pretends that this is a genuine corporation. It's just another federal welfare agency, and also a luxury retirement home for well-connected Washington insiders, who get sinecure positions worth millions with Freddie Mac working two hours a month as bogus "executives" and "consultants."

And now we know that that latter category included Newt Gingrich. Newt, we've just learned, was hired in as a consultant by Freddie Mac in 1999, and stayed one for nine years, until the whole shebang lost the farm and was put under federal regulators. During that time Newt was paid a sum of money somewhere between 1.6 and 1.8 million dollars, depending who's doing the estimating. Newt himself says he doesn't remember. You know how a couple of million dollars can slip your mind.

It's not hard to figure why Freddie Mac would want to hire Gingrich. The guy is well connected with Republicans, and with Republican-friendly media outlets like Fox News. By the late nineties, congressional Republicans were already beginning to figure out that governnment involvement in mortgage lending could only lead to disaster, as it eventually did. There were moves to cut back or even shut down the activities of Freddie Mac. The Freddie Mac executives naturally wanted someone with credibility in the GOP to swing opinion their way a bit.

Newt's trying to ju-jitsu the thing, telling us that his experience as a shill for Freddie Mac gave him valuable insider understanding of governmental affairs. Isn't that what we want in a candidate, valuable insider understanding of governmental affairs? Quote from Newt, on the campaign trail in Iowa Wednesday, quote: "It reminds people that I know a great deal about Washington. We just tried four years of amateur ignorance, and it didn't work very well. So having someone who actually knows Washington might be a really good thing."

That's a bit like a rabbit applying for a management position on a lettuce farm. Why not? He knows all there is to know about lettuce.

Newt's chutzpah knows no bounds, though. Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, he told a Fox News interviewer that then-Senator Obama ought to return contributions he had received from Freddie Mac and its sister racket, Fannie Mae. Just last year Newt brought out a campaign book in which he argued for getting rid of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Now here he is in Iowa this week defending Freddie Mac. Quote: "Every American should be interested in expanding housing opportunities."

As a conservative Republican, I'd reply that every American should be interested in getting government out of activities where it has no legitimate function, and that would include mortgage lending to home buyers. The phrase "expanding housing opportunities" is pure Democrat-speak, the kind of phrase that drops naturally from the lips of a Pelosi or a Barney Frank. It has no place in the vocabulary of a Republican. An American has a "housing opportunity" when he's saved up enough for a deposit, and has a good enough credit record to ask a bank for a loan under proper, objective credit criteria, undistorted by political interference.

Mortgage lending has been utterly corrupted by government manipulation, by administrations from Jimmy Carter's to George W. Bush's, to the immense detriment of our economy at large. We now know that Newt Gingrich was a willing agent of that corruption. If he can survive our knowing that, the anti-Romney sentiment must be mighty indeed.

I don't believe it is that mighty. I say Newt's toast. [Explosion.]

05 — GOP candidate chaos: the result.     So who does that leave us with? Well, if you lift your eyes from the fireballs and smoke plumes of GOP candidates crashing and burning at all points of the compass, there, floating serenely high above it all, is the Romney blimp.

Come the general next fall, I and all the conservative Republicans I know will be voting for anyone against Obama. I think it's fair to say, though, that among the people we might be voting for, Mitt Romney is the one that inspires the least enthusiasm.

Is there any way out of this? Michele Bachmann seems to be dead in the water, for reasons I don't understand — I'd be happy to vote for her in the general. Ron Paul remains Ron Paul: brilliantly right about most things, but old, cranky, an outsider to the GOP establishment, and as unattractive as it's possible to be to Mr and Mrs Independent. Rick Santorum? Too easy a target for the lefty media assassins.

And what if Mitt Romney isn't around next fall? There could be a major gaffe, or a scandal. He could fall off a stage or get hit by a truck. Mitt's a nice guy, and heaven forfend any of the foregoing, but stuff happens. Then we're going to need some last-minute rescue by an outsider. Who, though? Rudy? Chris Christie? There are negatives all over.

Paging Tim Pawlenty, paging Tim Pawlenty. …

06 — The gathering crisis.     Meanwhile the nation's fiscal crisis continues on its way to the lip of Niagara. Tuesday this week, federal government debt exceeded 15 trillion dollars for the first time ever.

Who's the biggest holder of all that debt? The Federal Reserve, that's who. And if you think there must be some subtle, deep financial wisdom in Uncle Sam owing trillions of dollars to himself, you're mistaken: it's just exactly as crazy as it sounds, if not more so.

If you break down the 15 trillion, near to five trillion of it is what is politely called "intragovernmental debt." That's when the Treasury pulls money out of, for instance, the Social Security trust fund, replacing all those nice crisp dollars with a slip of paper bearing the letters I.O.U.

Of the remaining ten trillion and change, 1.7 trillion is held by the Fed, 1.1 trillion is held by our dear friends in Peking, three and a half trillion is held by other governments, and roughly the same by non-governments, which means banks, investment funds, and actual persons.

If those static numbers made your eyes glaze over, the really interesting thing to look at is what we math folk call the first derivative — which is to say, the rate of change. Remember I said the Fed holds 1.7 trillion of Treasury debt? That's more than twice what they held last year.

Contrariwise, Chinese holdings of U.S. debt declined a tad since one year ago — down by 36 billion. So look for the silver lining here: we may owe a ton more money to ourselves, but we owe a wee bit less to the ChiComs. If that's a comfort to you … it really shouldn't be.

07 — Marines to Australia.     The political temperature went up a degree or two in the Western Pacific this week, with Barack Obama announcing deployment of 2,500 Marines to Australia, and the ChiComs snarling about encirclement and provocation.

I dunno, I'm getting deja vu here. I grew up in a country that had been Top Dog in the world for a century or so, and couldn't forget it. The British newspapers of my childhood were full of debates about how much of a role Britain should have in policing the world, the idea that we should have some role being assumed by almost everyone. You heard the phrase "East of Suez" a lot. How many troops should we maintain East of Suez? One of our Prime Ministers, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, said that Britain should always, quote, "punch above our weight" in international affairs.

The fact that Britain had been bankrupted by World War Two, and had deep systemic social and economic problems no-one was willing to face up to, make it look all very unrealistic in retrospect. At the time, though, nobody could see that.

And here I am in the U.S.A. fifty years later, and our president is sending troops to Uganda and Australia.

I have no clue why anyone thinks we have any national interest in Uganda. In the matter of Australia, I can pass on this from the news report. The Marine deployment there is intended to, quote, "shore up our alliances in the region," says the White House.

Alliances against whom? Oh right, against China … which holds one and one-seventh trillion dollars of our debt, and whose economy, and political stability, depends on selling stuff to us.

Meanwhile the Federal Reserve, in a single year, took 850 billion dollars out of one national trouser pocket and moved it to the other one.

Like I said, it's deja vu. Or am I trapped in the Pathetic Fallacy? I'm not sure; but if you ask me to rank possible threats to the peace and order of the world, I'd rank a Chinese invasion of Australia down somewhere below a plague of frogs.

08 — Wall Street de-occupied.     Quote of the week from back in New York, quote: "On the 17th, we're going to burn New York City to the ground! No more talking. They've got guns, we've got bottles. They've got bricks, we've got rocks … in a few days you're going to see what a Molotov cocktail can do to Macy's." End quote.

That was a chap named Nkrumah Tinsley. I assume Mr Tinsley's forename honors Kwame Nkrumah, the flamboyant socialist president of Ghana back in the 1960s, whose grandiose schemes set back the development of that country for years. Mr Tinsley belongs of course to the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose camp in downtown Manhattan was dispersed by police on Tuesday (though not, as Radio Derb has been urging, with high-pressure water hoses and five-thousand-gallon helicopter drops of ammonia disinfectant).

I hope Mr Tinsley won't take it amiss if I offer him a word or two of advice. Just this, Nkrumah. When, quote from you, "They've got guns, we've got bottles," you're facing a problem in what military analysts call "correlation of forces." Just something for you to think about.

Meanwhile, as Radio Derb goes to tape, the Occupy Wall Street rabble are promising new demonstrations. They say they're going to occupy the subway system. So the New York subway is going to fill up with smelly obnoxious riders jumping the turnstiles and yelling abuse at the tops of their voices? Who will notice?

Quote from the Occupy Wall Street website, quote: "We will no longer tolerate the oppression of the one percent who do not want to see a creative movement, based on inclusiveness and tolerance, triumph over a system deeply rooted in social inequality." End quote.

So this movement is "creative"? Can anyone name a single thing they have created? And since "inclusiveness and tolerance" invariably end up needing lots and lots of government revenue to support them, and since the operations of Wall Street make up wellnigh New York City's entire tax base, and a major chunk of New York State's, just tell me again how closing down Wall Street promotes your socialist project?

And if social inequality is the one great evil, how is it that every attempt to erase it, all through human history, from the Spartacus rebellion to modern Cuba and North Korea, ends up with a heap of corpses and a living population of listless peasants in rags?

I do my best to be charitable towards those with opinions different from my own, but I have to confess, in regard to the Occupy Wall Street crowd, I no longer feel that fire hoses and air drops of ammonia really meet the case.

How about we let them occupy the subway? Then, when they're all down there, just seal off all the stations and let them ride round and round for a couple of weeks among the rats, and the stinky winos, and the sour-faced unresponsive token-booth clerks? At least it'd give them some experience of what people who have to go to work for a living put up with.

09 — Miscellany.     And now, Radio Derb's closing miscellany of brief items.

Item:  Watch where you're walking. The current fad for stealing metal to sell to scrap merchants has reached the drain and manhole covers that adorn our streets. At least in Britain it has: In West Sussex a woman fell 20 feet into a sewer via a manhole, the metal cover of which had been taken by thieves. Fortunately she was not badly hurt and managed to call police, who extricated her. In related news from across the pond, 42-year-old Darren Wayne Law served very briefly as ground connection to 6,600-volt electric cable he was attempting to steal. Having apparently paid insufficient attention in his school science classes, Mr Law used, for access to the cable he wanted to steal, an aluminum ladder. He is now the late Mr Law. And to add to those two incidents, one stinking and one shocking, here's a batch that are just sickening: In the run-up to Remembrance Day, which is what November 11th is called in Britain, a number of war memorials across the UK have had their metal plaques stolen. Usually made of bronze, these plaques bear the names of local people who died in the world wars.

Item:  Remember the "supercommittee" of six Republican and six Democrat congresscritters that was set up to resolve the nation's debt problem? Guess what: with four days to go to their deadline, they just can't agree. What. A. Surprise. Quote from Associated Press, quote: "A sense of deep pessimism has gripped the supercommittee, and judging from the limited public statement by panel members, a debt bargain could be out of reach." End quote. Well, you could knock me down with a feather. The Democrats want more taxation and increased benefit programs; the Republicans want tax reform and benefit cuts. Most of the give has been from the GOP side, with John Boehner endorsing a 300 billion tax hike over ten years. Conservative Republicans are balking at that, though, and anyway the Democrats want a trillion. So that's the quarrel that's going on in the canoe. The canoe that's heading for the lip of the waterfall.

Item:  Here's a sort of mathematical news item. Afghan President Hamid Karzai — oh, sorry, I forgot to include his middle name: here it is: [ker-ching] — Karzai summoned a meeting of Afghan tribal elders, a loya jirga. Unfortunately the number of elders he summoned was 39. That's a problem, because Afghans consider 39 to be a shameful number, associated with pimps. No-one really knows the reason for this, though a common theory is that a famous pimp had the number 39 on his vehicle license plate. Anyway, elders were refusing to show up at the meeting, saying they'd be insulted when they got back home to their tribal areas for having participated in a party of 39. This strikes me as the weirdest story of the week. I mean, who even knew they had pimps in Afghanistan? How many goats does an Afghan pimp typically have on the street at one time? Thirty-nine, perhaps. Look, I just report these stories.

10 — Signoff.     OK, folks. That's it from the sunny Caribbean, from the cruise ship Eurodam, stateroom number, let me see, oh yes: 69. Nothing salacious about that, anyway, thank goodness. I wouldn't want the girls to feel embarrassed.

We'll be back on shore next week with more news and views post-cruise from Radio Derb!

[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]