[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your transcendentally genial host John Derbyshire, broadcasting from our state-of-the-art sound studio here on Taki Theodoracopulos's private island in the sunny Aegean.
Spring has arrived here in the Mediterranean, and the goddess Persephone has come up from the Underworld to bless us with fertility. No doubt soon the rich soil of our island will be bringing forth its fruits.
Speaking of which, I see Nikki Nicolaides coming up from the village on his donkey with our lunchtime order of goatburgers … Brandy, take care of Nikki, would you, my dear? … Thank you …
02 — Immigration bill boosters showing flop sweat When "comprehensive immigration reform" came up this time around and we heard that the Senate Gang of Eight were working on a bill, my heart sank.
We had been here before, of course. Three weeks from today, in fact, on May 25th, you can celebrate the 7th anniversary of the U.S. Senate passing the Kennedy-McCain Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. Thanks largely to widespread opposition from the American public, that Act died in committee and was buried in a pauper's grave when Congress wound up after the 2006 mid-term elections.
When the globalist elites want something, though, they'll keep pushing till they get it. Our foremost political philosopher, the great P.J. O'Rourke, has observed that the people who get what they want in politics are the ones who keep the meeting going longest. Normal people with lives, hobbies, and kids, get bored and drift off back home at eight or nine o'clock. The ones who are still in the hall at eleven o'clock are the ones who get their resolution voted through.
My local school board does something similar. They make us vote on a budget. We vote it down. They move three or four words around in the budget proposal and make us vote again. Eventually everyone but the activists gets bored with voting and stays home, so the activists get their way at last, or most of it. European Union referendums work the same way. Make Joe Public keep voting till he's sick of the whole business; then Annie Activist, Billy Bureaucrat and Charlie Capitalist get what they want.
I thought Comprehensive Immigration Reform was some similar scheme: just keep bringing it up until voters get bored and it slips through by default.
I am now beginning to get the happy feeling that my pessimism was misplaced. Opposition this time seems even stronger than it was in 2006. It's cruel to say so, but the Boston bombing has helped a lot, highlighting the follies and stupidities of current refugee resettlement policy.
The Bill pushers are starting to look like a vaudeville act that went on the road confidently expecting applause and success, only to be met with half-empty houses and catcalls from the balcony.
Steve Sailer has resurrected the old vaudeville expression "flop sweat" for the unpleasant physiological reaction a stage performer goes into when he realizes his act is bombing. Steve says there is a definite aroma of flop sweat rising from the appearances of the Bill pushers. Marco Rubio has conceded that the Bill won't pass the House of Representatives without some tightening-up in the enforcement aspects. Barack Obama, meeting with Latino race — or if you prefer, "raza" — lobby leaders at the White House this week, told them they're not going to get everything they want.
The problem here is that even the bill as currently written doesn't give the Latinos what they want. They're already grumbling. Quote from a story in the Washington Post, quote:
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, was among a group this week that criticized what members called the excessive hurdles in the bill for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.
End quote. Just to remind you, those "excessive hurdles" include inhuman atrocities like a $500 fee.
So tightening up the Bill to improve its chances in the House is just going to rile up the Latinos even more. Yet even Rubio and Obama concede it's un-passable as it stands. So this thing could die in committee like the last one did. Most encouraging.
As against all this optimism, you have to wonder how much the congresscritters really care about Latinos. The real point of this Bill is to drive down American private-sector wages by flooding the labor market. The real driving force behind the Bill is the great scads of money being shoveled into congressional pockets by the agriculture lobbies, the hotel and casino industries, the big software firms, and so on. The battle isn't over until they give up.
They're not going to give up easy. I see in this week's news that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is financing a big new open-borders lobbying effort. Marco Rubio may be dripping with flop sweat, but the fight isn't over yet, by a long way.
03 — Comprehensively hating Americans For citizens arguing, in private or in public, against the immigration bill, here are a couple of pressure points you should work on.
I hit the first pressure point in conversation with a neighbor while back Stateside recently. I had mentioned the folly of importing twenty million or so new citizens when millions of existing citizens can't find work. In response my neighbor mentioned a relative of his who runs a small business requiring some manual and low-level technical work.
"He has this guy from El Salvador working for him," said my neighbor. "A great worker, conscientious and punctual. He can't get Americans willing to work like that."
"So," I said, "you're telling me Americans are no good."
This stopped him dead. My neighbor's a decent guy, patriotic and ex-military. He was lost for words. "No!" he said at last, rather indignantly, "that's not what I'm saying."
"But you told me your nephew can't find an American worker as good as this Salvadoran guy. Isn't that saying Americans are no good? How isn't it?"
My poor neighbor got all flustered and tongue-tied there. "No, I'm not saying that. Absolutely not! It's just that Americans aren't … they can't … they need training and … education."
By that point he was just babbling nonsense. I started to feel guilty, and changed the subject.
There's probably a nicer and friendlier way to work that pressure point with ordinary decent Americans like my neighbor. My social skills aren't up to much. The pressure point's there, though, and needs working.
Closely related to this widespread notion that immigrants are better workers than Americans, is the idea that immigrants are more entrepreneurial than Americans. That's a big favorite with globalist elitists like Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City.
In fact rates of entrepreneurship overall are lower for immigrants than for natives; and in the biggest immigrant groups they are way lower. Mexican immigrants over age 25, for instance, had a self-employment rate of 7.8 percent as of March 2007, the latest numbers I can find. For Dominicans it was 5.1 percent. For Hispanic immigrants as a whole, 7.5 percent; for all immigrants, 11.3 percent. For natives: 12.6 percent. Those lackluster, non-vibrant, boring and lazy Non-Hispanic White natives: 17.2 percent.
Of course, mere facts aren't going to stir a conceited blockhead like Bloomberg. I wasn't the least bit surprised to see his name on the list of sponsors for a new lobby called The Partnership for a New American Economy. What does this partnership want? Quote: "to raise awareness of the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform."
That wouldn't be anything to do with business moguls wanting cheap labor, would it? Let's see, who else have we got on the sponsorship list? Bill Marriott, as in Marriott hotels. Bob Iger of the Walt Disney Company — amusement parks, hotels, and cruise ships. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft. Ri-i-i-ight.
04 — More vile slanders against a great man. This week has seen further vile conspiracies against our dear friend, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan.
The President is among his many other talents a superb horseman. Last Sunday he rode in a race to showcase a breed of horse he himself has sponsored, the Akhal-Teke. This was in Ashgabat, the splendid capital of Turkmenistan.
Such was the skill and horsemanship of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, he placed first in the race, against competition from the best jockeys in Central Asia.
This was wormwood and gall to the President's enemies, who are legion. They manufactured some bogus video footage of the President being thrown from his horse after crossing the finish line. This fabricated footage has been circulated with much glee by those traitors and saboteurs who seek to denigrate the achievements of this great world leader. They have compounded their crime by putting about the story that this mishap actually occurred, but that news of it was suppressed by Turkmenistan broadcasting authorities.
At Radio Derb's subsidiary in Ashgabat — which, thanks to the generosity of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, is the main, in fact the only radio station broadcasting in Turkmenistan — we have been at pains to quell these evil rumors and to uncover the evil slanderers behind them. They will meet appropriate punishment, never fear.
In other news from Turkmenistan, the final auction of shares in the Karakoram pipeline, bringing natural gas from the nation's deserts to the Persian Gulf ports, was concluded in Ashgabat this week. The auction was held behind closed doors, but it is believed most of the shares went to an unknown investor based in the Aegean.
Long live President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov! Long live the noble republic of Turkmenistan!
[Clip: Turkmen national anthem.]
05 — Human affairs aren't math I have a strong temperamental aversion to watertight and inflexible public policies. In last week's broadcast I argued for a ban on immigration from majority-Muslim nations. A listener emailed in to put the following case to me: A U.S. combat soldier stationed in some Muslim country falls in love with a local girl, a Muslim, and marries her. Then he's badly hurt in an IED explosion and shipped back to the States. Should his wife be allowed to join him?
My answer was: "Of course she should! What do you take me for? Why would anyone think she should not?"
That last question is rhetorical: I don't know why anyone would think we should exclude a Muslim in that situation. The human world is full of oddities, exceptions, and cases that don't fit any grand watertight schema. Laws need to be written with some wiggle room, though of course you can always argue about how much wiggle room is too much. Should that Muslim lass be allowed to sponsor her parents for settlement, or her siblings? I'd say no, but there are fair arguments on the other side. What if she's a widow with teenage Muslim kids; can she bring them in? … Discuss among yourselves.
A great many people do like their policies watertight and inflexible, though, and seek to turn public policy into a kind of Euclidean geometry, in which conclusions follow remorselessly from axioms, with no space for variations or exceptions.
Those people should always be resisted. Not that I've got anything against mathematics: I have a degree in the subject, and I've written two books about it. It's just that human affairs aren't like that. The watertight-and-inflexible people are committing a category error.
There is probably no area of public policy where this category error is more rampant than in the matter of abortion.
On both sides of the abortion issue there are people — lots of people — committing the category error, trying to reduce the human world and all its smelly muddle to geometry.
On the right-to-life side you have the argument that as soon as sperm has fused with ovum you have a unique individual, a person, the destruction of whom is a form of murder, or at least manslaughter. On the right-to-choose side you hear that control over one's own body is an absolute and fundamental human right, so that up to the snipping of the umbilical cord, decisions about zygotes, embryos, fetuses, and newborn babies are the mother's alone, and anyone who wishes to interfere is committing a hateful act of patriarchal oppression.
Radio Derb's position is that early abortion is so commonly desired, and so easily accomplished, there are no strong reasons to oppose it; while late abortion is offensive to common sensibilities and ought to be severely restricted; and that the legal line dividing "early" from "late" should be something we can arrive at by general consensus, as we do with things like drinking age.
Not only is that Radio Derb's position, it is also the position that all states of the Union, and most nations of the world, adopt, though there are differences in the details. In more liberal jurisdictions, that line between early and late is put at the point of viability, the point in a pregnancy where the child could survive outside the womb, most commonly set in law at 24 weeks, though there are cases of babies surviving earlier than that.
Children that do survive outside the womb are of course entitled to all the care we can give them, and killing them is homicide. Practically nobody disagrees with that. Certainly no civilized law code disagrees with it.
Other jurisdictions have tried to push the line back. Nine American states have banned most abortions beyond 20 weeks. Two states have recently gone further: Arkansas has banned abortion after 12 weeks and North Dakota beyond the point where fetal heartbeat is detectable, which is usually around six weeks. Pro-abortionists are challenging these statutes, though; and given the disposition and previous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, the challenges will likely win.
Just for a check on current stats, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 92 percent of current abortions are performed before 14 weeks, with 1.3 percent beyond 20 weeks.
Be all that as it may, nobody but right-to-life purists are much disturbed about 8-week abortions; and nobody but right-to-choose purists are not disturbed about 28-week abortions. Euclidean geometry doesn't work here: we are in the zone of human sensibilities — of empathy and pity, of disgust and shame, of argued compromises and arbitrary lines.
Policy and law here are driven by common feelings; and, to borrow a sentiment from David Hume, so they should be.
For example: There are now some remarkable techniques for imaging fetuses in the womb. I'll hazard a guess that as these techniques get even better, and more widely known, public opinion will push that line between early and late back to earlier, down below 20 weeks everywhere. We won't have any more knowledge than we had before; we won't have been persuaded by arguments we never heard before; it will only be that having clearer images of that fetus in the womb will change our feelings about it, and that will change laws and policies; and that, in my opinion, is as it should be.
That's just an orientational preamble to the next segment, on the case of Kermit Gosnell.
06 — Dr. Gosnell's house of horrors Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72 years old, is an abortionist who was practicing in Philadelphia until his license was suspended three years ago. A year after that he was arrested and charged with several counts of murder.
Gosnell went on trial seven weeks ago. Arguments have now been heard, and the jury is deliberating as Radio Derb goes to tape. The most serious of the charges they're deliberating are four of first-degree murder for killing living infants and one of third-degree murder for overdosing a mother with Demerol, causing her death.
The court testimony was gruesome. You need a pretty strong stomach to read much about this case. I'll just give a brief sample from the testimony of Kareema Cross, who worked at Gosnell's clinic for four years. This is from an April 18th court report on CNS News. Long quote:
"Did you ever see those babies move?" asked Prosecutor Joanne Pescatore.
Grisly stuff. They have the death penalty in Pennsylvania, though they haven't used it since 1999. If Dr. Gosnell goes to the gurney, I sure won't be shedding any tears for him; although the way death penalty cases drag through the courts nowadays, the rat will be in his nineties before he gets the needle.
This is one of those stories, though, where the sidebar issues have generated as much talk as the crime itself.
There have been two sidebar issues. One: Was this case under-reported because most reporters are liberals and liberals are big fans of abortion? Two: Was this case under-reported because Gosnell and most of his staff and patients were, as you may have divined from the names there, black, and reporters go easy on blacks?
On the first one, I have to register agnostic. If somebody wants to give me some money to do a thorough statistical study of the reportage and compare it with similar cases, after giving me a good robust definition of "similar," I'll take your money and give you a solid answer. Based on half an hour's googling, I don't see it.
For example: A Google search on the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer with key "Gosnell" returned, quote, "about 3,000 results," with dates going back at least — I confess I didn't check all 3,000 — at least to 2010, before Gosnell was arrested. The New York Times covered the opening of the trial March 18, and they'd covered Gosnell's indictment back in 2011. True, they didn't front-page it; but murders of any kind are rarely front page copy.
And I see that when conservatives began complaining that there wasn't enough reportage, liberals pushed back by noting that conservative outlets hadn't exactly been all over the story. A Fox News reporter first showed up in the courtroom four weeks into the trial, actually the same day as an MSNBC reporter first appeared. By mid-trial the Washington Times, our leading conservative broadsheet newspaper, had run just one story on it that I could find, and that depended on a wire service report.
On the second, I do rather strongly suspect that if this had been a white doctor killing black babies, or a white doctor killing white babies, or even a black doctor killing white babies, we'd have heard more about it.
Gosnell's attorney, reaching for the race card in his closing arguments for the defense, took the opposite tack. He said that the Philadelphia district attorney's office was pursuing a, quote, "elitist, racist prosecution." Further quote: "Dr. Gosnell is not the only one doing abortions in Philadelphia, but he was an African American singled out for prosecution," end quote.
Again, though, as a cold empiricist, I'd like to see a careful comparative study. Why don't the big media firms, with all their resources, do one? Why doesn't Fox? Why doesn't the New York Times?
So I'll stand agnostic on both sidebars here. I can't resist noting one little detail on that second sidebar, though. It's a little snapshot of race and class in America today.
Gosnell had a white employee named Eileen O'Neill, who presented herself as a licensed doctor, even though she wasn't one. He also had a black employee, Tina Baldwin, completely untrained in medicine or nursing and originally hired as a receptionist. Both these women administered medications, helped with procedures, and wrote prescriptions.
Tina Baldwin, that's the black one, testified in court that Ms. O'Neill, that's the white one, kept her office neat, in contrast with the rest of the clinic, which was filthy and disorderly. She further testified that Gosnell steered wealthy or white patients to O'Neill's office. Quote from Tina: "Nine out of 10 times, if the patient was white … he didn't want me to [give the medications], because he wanted to meet with them himself," end quote. Tina said that Gosnell told his staff, quote, "that's the way it is," end quote.
Yep, that's the way it is.
07 — Fat boy jerks our chain. Kenneth Bae, an American citizen of Korean ancestry, has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea for hostile acts against the state.
Mr. Bae was arrested last fall after entering North Korea as a tourist. South Korean activists say he was trying to photograph starving North Korean children. Mr. Bae is a Christian who has done charity work on behalf of North Koreans.
What's going on here is that North Korea is looking for some respect, preferably a high-profile visitor. They've done this before in recent years, kidnapping visitors and giving them bogus sentences, then freeing them after a visit from Jimmy Carter in one case, Bill Clinton in another. Perhaps they're hoping for George W. Bush this time.
The newspapers are saying that the Norks are mad as hell over (a) the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise held recently, and (b) the recent tightening of U.N. sanctions against them.
Maybe. The North Korean ruling classes, though, when you see them on TV, don't look as though sanctions are causing them much distress; and I'm sure they have our measure well enough to know there is zero chance we will attack them.
In a dictatorship like that, everything is internal. Kim Jong-un needs to keep showing his people what a big man he is. Copping a visit from a U.S. ex-president is a good way to do that. Look, it says to the North Korean masses, your president's a PLAYER! It makes the masses proud, and those it doesn't make proud it makes fearful. Who'd even think of going against a guy who swings that much weight in world affairs?
Mr. Bae was very foolish to go into North Korea, knowing they have done this kind of thing before. It's almost impossible to stop our citizens committing this kind of folly, though we should certainly try. Our national interest is to stay well out of these annoying situations, and patriotic citizens should try to help us do that. So my sympathy for Mr. Bae is considerably limited.
Still, we are the U.S.A., with a status to uphold among the nations of the world. We should try hard to think of something we might do to vex the Norks, really tick them off. Something undercover would be best: A mysterious explosion in some oil terminal, something of that sort.
My fantasy solution here, for future reference by U.S. administrations: Space needles. What you do is, put up a satellite loaded with long javelin-like rods of some heavy metal — space needles. You have a mechanism to kill the orbital velocity of one needle, or a group of needles, so that it or they just drop right down through the atmosphere under gravity. You could aim them with great accuracy. The kinetic energy when they reach the ground would be terrific, easily enough to destroy one of Kim's villas … or an oil terminal. No fallout, no bomb-casing fragments, easy deniability.
In my dreams the Pentagon, under highest-level secrecy, already has such a satellite in orbit. In practice, of course, I know that this administration would never be that imaginative.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: It's been a while since I rode my hobby-horse about how you should get a government job if you know what's good for you. Well, Bryan Caplan at econlog has dug up some numbers from early last year that make the point yet again. And these numbers are from the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office.
The CBO also found that overcompensation is highest for the least-educated federal workers — 36 percent higher than the private sector if you've got a high school diploma or less. So if you're an educational failure, you should especially get a government job!
Item: The story goes that when P.T. Barnum told his assistant that there's a sucker born every minute, the assistant responded: "OK, but where do all the others come from?"
That assistant's wisdom was verified last week in Epsom, New Hampshire, when 30-year-old Henry Gribbohm of that place attended a traveling carnival show. There was one of those games where you throw balls into a tub and win prizes — ultimately an Xbox Kinect. Mr. Gribbohm kept throwing those balls until he'd thrown $300 worth. Then he went home and got his life savings, $2,300, from under the mattress and played some more, till he was broke.
Never let it be said that carny barkers have no heart. When Mr. Gribbohm grumbled about having lost all his money, the barker took pity and gave him a prize. No, not the Xbox: he gave him a 6-foot stuffed banana with dreadlocks and a Rastafarian bonnet. He also gave Mr. Gribbohm $600 back, leaving him only $2,000 out of pocket … mattress, whatever.
The Xbox Kinect sells for $231 on Amazon.
Item: A couple of animal stories to round off the news. Everyone likes animal stories.
The Russians have launched a satellite into orbit containing forty-five mice, eight Mongolian gerbils, fish, snails, plant seedlings, and an unspecified number of geckos. One of the project scientists, Pavel Soldatov of the Institute of Biomedical Problems, tells us that, quote, "They go through selection stages no less stringent than the astronauts … The animals selected must be social animals, used to living with others." End quote. They must also be ready to die with others; on return to earth the animals are euthanized for detailed study. I just hope that irritating gecko from the insurance ad is among the astro-critters.
One more animal story: The President of Botswana has been wounded by a cheetah. A government spokesman said it was a freak accident and there were, quote, "no real security implications." So I guess the secrets of Botswana's nuclear program are safe for the time being.
09 — Signoff. There you have it, ladies and gents.
I do apologize for that little spasm of optimism there. Out of character, I know. It did bring something to mind, though. Here is the great New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa dis-proving the notion that opera singers are no good at singing anything that isn't opera.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Kiri Te Kanawa, "Cockeyed Optimist"]