[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your eternally genial host John Derbyshire with news from far and wide, brought to you courtesy of Taki's Magazine from Taki's private island in the sunny Aegean.
If you tuned in last week you'll recall that we had to end the broadcast prematurely as a mob from the village was besieging the studio here, blaming us for Mayor Papakonstantinou's outrageous insult to the island's virgins. Well, we had a miraculous deliverance from the wrath of the mob. We were in fact saved by politics — a most unusual occurrence in my experience.
You see, just as I was herding all my employees into the safe room, villagers with iPhones got the news about the government in Athens arresting Golden Dawn leaders.
Golden Dawn, I should explain, is the nationalist party here in Greece. It's a serious party, with 18 seats in the Greek parliament and support polling around 15 percent recently. Here in the Aegean, where we see a lot of illegal immigrants coming over from Turkey and North Africa, there are many Golden Dawn voters.
So when the villagers got the news about the government arresting Golden Dawn MPs, they turned around and headed back to the village where the government party has an office, to vent their rage on that. A narrow escape for us, and not much harm done, I'm glad to say.
There are some big international issues behind the Golden Dawn arrests, so let me take a look at those before I get on to other news.
02 — Camp of the saints. A big part of the problem here is illegal immigration. Yes, I know it's an issue back in the States; but it's an even bigger one here in Greece. Here's a little-known fact: 90 percent of illegal immigrants in the European Union entered the continent via Greece. Ninety percent. Obviously a lot of that ninety percent keep right on going, to Britain, Germany, France. A lot don't, though; and the ones who do, are in Greece long enough to be a problem just in transit.
The illegals are pretty much all either Muslims or black Africans. The Muslims come from the Arab countries or from West Asia — Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan. The Africans are from all over sub-Saharan Africa, but mainly from the eastern part — Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan.
They enter mostly from Turkey; either by sea across the Aegean, like the Iraqi hero of Derek Turner's excellent novel Sea Changes, or else across Greece's 125-mile land border with Turkey, up in the far northeast of Greece.
It doesn't help a bit that there's bad blood between Turkey and Greece going all the way back into the days of the Ottoman Empire — you may recall Lord Byron had words to say about that. Nor does it help that Turkey is miffed at the European Union, to which Greece belongs, for not letting Turkey in. Turkey's turn towards the east and towards Islam in recent years adds another layer of unhelpfulness: the Turks have been relaxing visa rules for Muslim countries and encouraging cheap flights into Istanbul.
So Muslims and Africans have been pouring into Greece for years, tens of thousands every year just across the land border. And they are coming into a nation in dire economic straits. Unemployment in Greece is 28 percent; youth unemployment — ages 15 to 24 — is 62 percent. It's not surprising that there's resentment against the illegals. What's surprising is, that there isn't more resentment.
This is a huge and swelling problem for Europe, most especially for nations like Italy and Greece, those closest to the Third World regions east and south of Europe. Just take a look at the numbers. I get mine from the CIA World Factbook.
Take for example per capita annual GDP, which in the U.S.A. is $51,000, near enough a thousand bucks a week. In Eritrea, the source for a lot of these illegals, it's $800. That's 17 bucks a week. In Somalia, another big source, it's $600; in Afghanistan, $1,100 — almost up to 25 bucks a week. Greece, for all that it's in such dire economic straits, posts $25,000. That doesn't look so dire to a guy from Somalia.
And things will get a lot worse before they get better. Check out the age structure in these countries. In Eritrea, 41 percent of the population is younger than 15. Forty-one percent. In the U.S.A. it's twenty percent. In Somalia, another big source, 44 percent of the people are younger than 15. In Afghanistan, 43 percent. The number for Greece is 14 percent.
So let 'em in, you might say. If you work for The Economist or the Wall Street Journal, that's what you will say. Plainly Europe needs more young people, while Africa and West Asia have surpluses. What could possibly go wrong?
What could go wrong is that the numbers wishing to come are so great, and their cultural connection to Europe so slight, and the failure of their home countries to develop rational govenment so total, the smart money would have to bet on major social disruption, cultural conflict, and political collapse.
03 — Europe's nationalists. Hence nationalist outfits like Golden Dawn. Most European countries have them. (I haven't checked Luxembourg or Andorra.)
In style, these nationalist parties fall on a spectrum, from sober middle-class suit'n'tie outfits like Britain's UKIP and Geert Wilders' Freedom Party in the Netherlands, through France's National Front and Austria's Freedom Party, to the somewhat more rambunctious Sweden Democrats, out to the street-fighting extremes of Jobbik in Hungary.
To the liberal media they are all "far right," if not "Neo-Nazi," but these designations don't often make much sense. The economic programs of these parties are protectionist, sometimes frankly socialist, which isn't what you'd expect on the right wing.
As for "Neo-Nazi"; well, the 1930s just don't map well onto the 2010s, and personally I think it would clarify our thinking if we could all forget about the damn Nazis. None of these parties is planning to invade Poland. There is antisemitism in some of them, especially Jobbik; but while Israel is independent, prosperous, and bristling with nuclear weapons, I'm not going to worry too much about the welfare of European Jews. In this age, the Jews can take care of themselves.
As much as I hate to give an inch to the leftist media, however, some of these parties practically beg to have the "neo-Nazi" label stuck on them. Golden Dawn is a case in point. The party emblem is a twisty-S symbol that you can't help thinking was designed to bring swastikas to mind. Nikos Mihaloliakos, the Golden Dawn party leader, is on record as a holocaust denier.
Golden Dawn is somewhat to the wilder end of that spectrum of European nationalists, in fact, with a street-fighting element among its supporters — though it has to be pointed out in that context that Greece's innumerable leftist factions are by no means averse to a spot of street fighting themselves.
Our revered proprietor, Taki Theodoracopulos, summed it up very succinctly: Golden Dawn is, he said, quote, "not house-trained."
There are a few things to bear in mind here, though. A big one is, that Greece was occupied by the Wehrmacht in World War Two. Patriotic Greeks, including Taki's father, maintained a heroic resistance, and many of them died in Gestapo torture chambers. Taki tells the story of one such patriot in his 1991 memoir Nothing to Declare, pages 46 and 47. So Greek nationalism and Nazi sympathies don't travel comfortably together, whatever Mr. Mihaloliakos thinks.
Another thing is, that Greek politics is rougher than the average. Forty years ago, remember, Greece was ruled by a military junta who'd seized power in a coup. When contemplating Greek politics, you need to be more in a Latin American frame of mind than a European one.
So, what happened last month was that a Golden Dawn supporter, described in some outlets as a party member, stabbed a leftist activist to death in a street brawl. The lefties took to the streets in a big way, burning cars and attacking police, and the government, a coalition of center-right and center-left, blamed Golden Dawn for the trouble. Last weekend they arrested Mr. Mihaloliakos and four other Members of Parliament and several party activists.
The goverment's tactic may have worked. This may be the beginning of the end for Golden Dawn. Polling since the arrests shows a big drop-off in public support, and after an initial spell of anger, pro-Golden Dawn demonstrations have been scattered and feeble.
Be that as it may, the government is stomping on the symptom, not addressing the problem. Greece in particular, and the European Union in general, needs to get a grip on illegal immigration into the continent. If they don't, the public feeling that put Mr. Mihaloliakos and his colleagues into parliament will find some other outlet, perhaps one even less house-trained than Golden Dawn.
04 — Obamacare — not unpopular enough. OK, over to the U.S.A., where the week has been dominated by two big news stories: the rollout of Obamacare and the shutdown of the federal government. Let's take them in turn.
October 1st, the first day of fiscal year 2014, was supposed to be the day that Americans signed up to these federally regulated and subsidized health care exchanges. How'd that go?
Not well. Neil Munro at the Daily Caller reports that on the first day in California, which has exceptionally high levels of poor and uninsured people, not one person registered at the exchanges, though half a million visited the registration website. Likewise in Kansas, according to Rep. Tim Huelskamp of that state. Kansas has 365,000 uninsured residents; not one signed up.
Connecticut did a little better: 167 applicants registered for insurance. I don't have data for other states yet, but it doesn't look very good.
Now, speaking as an old systems analyst, I know things don't always go well on a first roll-out. On the other hand, I also know that they rarely go this badly. This thing is in trouble.
Americans don't much like Obamacare, and never have. Its passage, without a single Republican vote in either the House or Senate, was one reason the Democrats lost the House in 2010. Americans just don't like their politics that partisan.
Americans still don't much like it, but they don't much like the idea of defunding it, either, and for the same reason. It's a paradox, but those are the numbers: 54 percent of voters in a Fox News poll want to see all or part of Obamacare repealed; yet voters are against defunding the law by 53 to 41 percent. Defunding is just too partisan.
Here's a prediction. If the registration glitches can be sorted out, the American public will come to a grumbling, complaining acceptance of Obamacare. The wonks who write the blogs tend to forget that not many ordinary citizens care about politics. They just want the crowd in Washington D.C. to get on with things, keep things running. They don't expect high standards: the expression "good enough for government work" is understood by everybody. They just don't want paralysis and breakdown.
If Obamacare doesn't go into a total technological brain freeze, or implode from too many healthy people choosing the tax penalty rather than the insurance premiums — a thing the feds can easily fix by jacking up the penalties — Americans will sigh and put up with it.
Pushing unpopular measures through the legislature just because you can, because your party controls the legislature, is bad statecraft. In fact it's dangerous: that's how the Spanish Civil War got started. Unfortunately Obamacare just wasn't that unpopular.
We should curse the Obama administration for what it did — arrogant and undemocratic as it was — but face the fact that it wasn't unpopular enough to lose Democrats the Senate in 2010 or the Presidency in 2012.
I hate it, but that's how it is. My guess is, we're stuck with the damn thing.
05 — Republicans putting up a fight! That's my guess. I could be wrong, though. I was wrong last week about the government shutdown. Quote from me, quote: "Congressional Republicans do not want to be the guys who shut down the government. They remember the last time they tried that, with Bill Clinton in 1995. It didn't end well for them."
End quote. Well, apparently congressional Republicans do want to be those guys. OK, just hold on while I scrape this egg off my face … there.
It's gutsy, and you don't often get to say that about anything the congressional GOP does. The President's being gutsy too, though, in his own way, flatly refusing any revision of Obamacare, letting the GOP take it right to the cliff edge — to the upcoming debt limit negotiations, that is.
The President and his Senate backers have a lot going for them. Controlling the executive branch, they have some leeway about which parts of the federal government are shut down. They can work it to make the shutdown as ugly and painful as possible, and as much to their own advantage.
They can, and they have. Most famously, they decided the WW2 memorial in Washington should close. So we got pictures of elderly veterans who'd flown across the country to pay respects to fallen comrades, not being able to get into the park. You're supposed to think: "Those heartless Republicans, shutting down the government!" If you don't think that, the administration's shills in the media will prompt you to think it.
Less famously, but more revealing of the administration's mentality, employers trying to use the E-Verify system to check that a job applicant is legally resident in the U.S., found this week that E-Verify is a victim of the shutdown. E-Verify makes it harder for illegal aliens to get work. Naturally that causes the administration to hate it.
And the President can say things that give the stock market the jitters. Could Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling, putting the nation in default? someone asked him. Sure they could, said the President, and the Dow fell 140 points.
So all credit to House Republicans for battling on into these headwinds. I doubt this will end with the defunding of Obamacare, but we might yet win some concessions from this cynical, arrogant administration. If we do, I'll be glad to have been proved wrong.
06 — Errata: Putin, possums, and precincts. Speaking about being proved wrong, I need to set up some kind of system for dealing with errata.
Errata are things you get wrong. Not general opinions like that last one, but points of simple fact. Radio Derb's superb staff of highly-trained professional researchers do a terrific job of assembling our news stories here, but sometimes Homer nods, or Mandy imbibes one glass of ouzo too many, and a correction is in order.
For example, in last week's broadcast I said some unkind things about Vladimir Putin, who started out in life as a KGB operative in the old Soviet Union. He has blood on his hands, I said, actual blood on his actual hands. I referred to him as a, quote, "leg-breaker."
That brought a response from a gentleman with a Hungarian name, who emailed in as follows.
He never did anything like that. The KGB, which means "Committee for State Security," was a huge organization, including border guards, political police (but not ordinary police), foreign intelligence, counter-intelligence, and a few similar areas. It even had some military units (which were so secret that even the army high command knew nothing about their whereabouts). You have to understand that secret (or political) police work was a small part of this huge organization.
Well, thank you, Sir — or should I say köszönöm szépen? I am willing to take your word for it. Indeed, as has been noted many times by many observers, much of the evil in the world is done by desk jockeys with PowerPoint presentations. Probably Kim Jong-un is watching a PowerPoint presentation even as I speak. As a friend of mine likes to say: Power corrupts, and PowerPoint corrupts absoutely.
And then, in the previous week's broadcast, I reported on the new Australian Prime Minister being unable to move into his official residence begause it was infested with possums. A possum, I explained, is a little marsupial, found only in Australia and New Zealand. That brought in a lot of email. Sample:
There's possums in my back yard in California. Gotch'ya.
We do so have marsupials in Texas. In fact, a possum frequents my back yard. He sneaks indoors to eat my dry cat food. I've eaten the little buggers at a barbecue. Grilled armadillo with a black pepper rub ain't bad neither.
Well, it's nice to hear from different parts of the country, but here's what my Merriam-Webster's says, quote:
possum noun Any of several species (family Phalangeridae) of nocturnal, arboreal marsupials of Australia and New Guinea. See also opossum.
When I go to "opossum" I get this, quote:
Any of about 66 species (family Didelphidae) of New World, mostly arboreal, nocturnal marsupials.
End quote. So it seems that what you have in the states there is o-possums; not merely a different species, nor even a different genus, but actually a different family. You may call them "possums," leaving out the initial "o," just as you may, if you want to be disrespectful, call the President "Bama," but you are committing a solecism.
I am therefore going to claim victory in this little controversy, henceforth to be known as Possumgate.
One more: Listing off America's wealthiest counties last week, to show you how depressingly many of them belong in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area or thereabouts, I said that Loudon County, Virginia is, quote, "right next to Arlington County."
An indignant resident of the Old Dominion emailed in to expostulate, thus: "Loudoun County is not contiguous to Arlington County. They are separated by Fairfax County. See attached map." And my kind listener actually attached a map.
My sniveling apologies to the residents of Northern Virginia. Let's hope that will stop Robert E. Lee's spinning in his grave …
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: One activity of the federal government that the administration will absolutely not shut down is nuisance lawsuits by the Department of Justice against states and municipalities for infractions against political correctnness.
Two such cases have recently been announced. In the first, Eric Holder is suing the Fire Department of Austin, Texas for racial discrimination. What's happened is, the Fire Department selects recruits using a test of firefighting knowledge and general knowledge. Blacks and Hispanics pass the test at lower rates than whites. Ergo someone must be discriminating.
Yeah, yeah, it's an old story. What we need here is for someone to come up with a test relevant to firefighting that blacks and Hispanics, in the generality, pass at the same or higher rates than whites. How hard can it be? There must be lots of black firefighters around the country by now, after all these lawsuits. Let them write the test. They won't discriminate, will they?
Some years ago I recall reading about a psychology professor who was convinced that written tests were all biased against black Americans. He devised a test oriented towards black culture, with questions like "In what year was Martin Luther King born?" and "Who led the great slave rebellion of 1831 in Virginia?" He gave the test to mixed groups of black and white students. Alas, the whites outscored the blacks.
Item: Eric Holder's other excellent adventure, announced on Monday, is to launch a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina to block that state's stringent new laws on early voting and voter i.d.
I can't help noticing that North Carolina is a swing state. Mitt Romney won it by 50 percent to 48 percent in 2012.
This business about voter i.d. laws being racist is obviously bogus in a country where you have to show i.d. to buy beer or get on a plane. Is this just political, to give Democrats the chance to flip swing states? Are any solid red or solid blue states being sued? I'm just wondering.
Item: A 40-year-old male and a 30-something female were walking home from a party together in the Ukrainian city of Zaporozhye on Saturday morning when they were overcome by lust. Not just ordinary lust either, but the kind of lust that wants some spice, some danger to intensify it.
The couple accordingly lay down on nearby railroad tracks and commenced an act of sexual congress.
Unfortunately they had not thought to consult a railroad timetable. While they were in medias res, a train came … I mean, came along. I don't know why the train didn't stop. Perhaps there wasn't time; or perhaps the driver heard the lady shouting "Don't stop! Don't stop!" and obeyed her command. I don't know. Anyway, the lady was killed and the gentleman lost both his legs … as well as, I'm guessing, his rhythm.
Now the poor fellow has to get his life back on track. [Boo, hiss.]
Item: Microaggression of the week: The British supermarket chain Tesco has an online store. One of the items in that store was an inflatable gay best friend. Yep, it's a life-size inflatable doll that … looks gay. No, I don't really get the point, either. Quote from the product description:
Ready with an inflatable bunch of roses to cheer you up after any break-up or bad day, your new g*y best friend will be at your side whenever you need a hug.
End quote. Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Is it anatomically correct?" I really, really don't want to know.
Anyway, here was the microaggression: That product description and all the accompanying material spelt "gay" as g-asterisk-y. That had all the homosexual spokes-poofs flapping their arms in protest. Screeched one, quote: "It's a shame that Tesco have chosen to represent gay men in such a narrow-minded way, ignoring the true diversity of the gay community. What is more disappointing is that their website censored the word 'gay', when the term is neither offensive nor risqué."
Squealed another one, quote: "Clearly, some people still subscribe to stereotypical views of gay people and these views continue to have negative consequences for gay people," end quote.
Oh, surely not. I find it hard to believe that after all these years those tired old stereotypes are still current. Boy, there must be some real Neanderthals out there.
08 — Signoff. And that's it, ladies and gentlemen. October is upon us, and the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness … especially for those of us with an inflatable gay best friend. I hope all my Stateside listeners are busy carving pumpkins and erecting scarecrows. I'm afraid there are no pumpkins on the island here; only olives, which are really difficult to carve.
In keeping with the season, here to see us out is Yves Montand singing about les feuilles mortes, the dead leaves.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Yves Montand, "Les feuilles mortes"]