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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your ho-ho-holly-and-ivily genial host John Derbyshire here to cast a pall of gloom over your holiday weekend … but genially, I promise.
I shall be heading back to the U.S.A. right after this broadcast, to be with Mrs. Derbyshire at the family estates on Long Island. We are expecting a very special visitor, on leave from the U.S. military for a couple of weeks, and I want to be there to greet him. I'm looking forward to a very happy and festive family holiday.
Now I shall lower my eyes from that pleasant prospect for half an hour, and contemplate the sordid goings-on in the mud-wrestling pit we call public affairs.
02 — The labor-electoral complex. Dwight Eisenhower did a great service to rhetoricians in the televised speech he gave when vacating the office of President in 1961. Quote from that speech: [Clip of Ike: "In the counsels of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."]
That gave later writers and speakers a template to work with. I have heard or seen references to the Wall Street-Washington complex, the media-higher education complex, the showbiz-fundraising complex, and I'm sure others I've forgotten.
The template is particularly apt for executive politicians making exit speeches as they step down from office, because that was exactly how Ike used it. Michael Bloomberg, who will cease to be Mayor of New York City next week, employed it thus in an exit speech he gave Wednesday to the Economic Club of New York. He actually filled in the template with the phrase "the labor-electoral complex." Quote from him:
Right now our country appears to be in the early stages of a growing fiscal crisis that, if nothing is done, will extract a terrible toll on the next generation. It is one of the biggest threats facing cities because it is forcing government into a fiscal straight jacket that severely limits its ability to provide an effective social safety net and to invest in the next generation.
End quote. Bloomie went on to say that over the past 12 years, New York City's pension costs have risen from $1.5 billion to $8.2 billion. That's an increase of 450 percent in 12 years, 15 percent a year compounded. I don't know about you, listener, but no revenue item in my budget has increased 15 percent a year for twelve steady years.
Bloomberg was slightly disingenuous in using the word "labor" to fill that template. We're not talking here about horny-handed sons of toil sweating away in mines, steel mills, and shipyards. We're talking about public-sector workers: cops, firefighters, prison officers, garbage men, schoolteachers, the DMV lady. All good and necessary work, to be sure; but the rest of us pay too much for it.
The reason we pay too much for it is, that public-sector labor unions swing a lot of political weight by urging their members to block-vote. That's what Bloomie meant by "the labor-electoral complex."
People take offense so easily nowadays, I feel I'd better insert a brief disclaimer here, although the thing it disclaims seems perfectly obvious to me. Disclaimer: I am not saying public employees are bad people. I know several. A good friend of mine is an ex-New York City cop, who was shot in the line of duty. Another is a Los Angeles police detective. Excellent people, who are doing the best they can for themselves and their loved ones under the laws, just as you or I would in their position.
It's the laws that are bad, not the people. Public-sector workers' organizations are not unions, and shouldn't be allowed to call themselves unions. A union bargains for better wages and conditions from an employer; and when the union wins something, it comes out of the employer's profits and shareholder dividends. That's a union. Public-sector workers' organizations are really lobbies, using political pressure to extract money from the public fisc. If we stopped calling them "unions" and started calling them "lobbies," it would clarify our thinking.
The 20th century generated a lot of really bad ideas. Some of them, like fascism, communism, and militant Islam, were catastrophic on a civilizational scale. Others, like cold-call telemarketing or rap music, were just annoying. In between there were some that were civilizationally serious but not fatal: no-fault divorce, free verse, television, de-institutionalization of the insane.
Up at the top of that middle zone, I'd put public-sector unionization. It was a really, really terrible idea. "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time," said Calvin Coolidge at the time of the Boston police strike. We've thrown that principle out of the window.
When private-sector unions negotiate with their employers, their implicit threat is to the company's profits and share price. When public-sector unions negotiate with their employers, their implicit threat is to the general welfare. The costs of settling a private-sector dispute are borne by company shareholders; the costs of settling a public-sector dispute are borne by the citizenry at large. The two things are quite different, and we really shouldn't use the same word — the word "union" — in both contexts.
I'd like to tell you that the solution here is either to ban public-sector unions or to withdraw the franchise from public-sector workers, but there is of course not the slightest chance of either thing happening.
I can tell you, though, that in the particular case of New York City, the matter will soon be put to a reality test. Bloomberg was, as I said, making an exit speech. As that 15 percent a year increase in pension costs tells you, he wasn't particularly good at putting his money — I mean, of course, his citizens' money — where his mouth now is; but at least he was a billionaire who could keep some distance from the city political apparatus and just buy people off when necessary.
The incoming Mayor, Bill de Blasio, doesn't have that advantage. He doesn't even want it. An extreme leftist who sees city employees in terms of the toiling 19th-century mill workers that Marx and Engels wrote about, de Blasio is a complete willing tool of the so-called unions. His four years in office are going to be very interesting.
03 — Everything old is new again. Last Friday that very same Bill de Blasio, Mayor-Elect of New York, attended a conference of mayors from all over the U.S.A. The conference was held in the White House, and President Obama of course presided.
Astonishingly, Bill de Blasio — a clueless unreconstructed leftist, who believes everything that the 19-year-old lefties I hung around with at college in the 1960s believed, a guy for whom the second half of the 20th century might as well not have happened — incredibly, Bill de Blasio was the belle of the ball, sitting front and center when the President spoke. At the highest levels of public policy, Bill de Blasio apparently represents the intellectual cutting edge. Heaven help us!
Did we get any specifics about the policies the mayors discussed? We certainly did. There was a lot of talk about inequality, rising levels of poverty, and the struggling middle class. Yo, guys: You're waving in over a million legal immigrants a year and God only knows how many illegals, to keep the campaign contributions coming in from Tyson Foods, Sheldon Adelson, and the software billionaires. Of course there's downward pressure on wages. ARE YOU STUPID?
And then we heard a lot about universal pre-K, a big talking point of de Blasio's in his mayoral campaign, and in fact flavor of the month, if not of the last five years, among big-government lefties. There are a couple of things going on here.
One of the things that's going on relates to the previous segment. Pre-K daycare right now is largely private. It would be much better for the Democrats if the child-minders were government employees organized in one of those pseudo-unions to lobby for more government money in return for block votes.
And then, because pre-K daycare is mostly private, a lot of it is provided by churches. Churches educating kids — how evil is that? With the thing under government control, the churches would be out of it.
Then there's the feminist angle. Nothing horrifies a leftist more than the thought of a woman staying at home while her man goes out to work. Gotta stamp that out! But if the lady goes out to work, the kids need some daycare; and who better to provide it than Nanny Government?
Not quite squaring with the feminist angle is the Nice White Lady fantasy. The notion here, propagandized in movies like The Blind Side and Freedom Writers, is that we wouldn't have so many black kids turning out so badly if we could get them into the care of Nice White Ladies at an early age. No, I don't believe it either, but this idea has a powerful grip on the imaginations of liberals, especially liberal women, and universal pre-K is seen as one incarnation of it.
And then there's the related matter of those test-score gaps. White and East Asian kids just keep on scoring higher than black and Hispanic kids. Of course this must be due to lack of educational interventions in early childhood. What else could it possibly be? No Child Left Behind was a flop, and as Radio Derb has been reporting for years, Head Start has had no measurable effect. Hope springs eternal, though, so let's try universal pre-K.
That these threadbare leftist nostrums should have the attention of the White House, and that Bill de Blasio, as the flag-bearer for them, is highly esteemed by our policy-makers and by his fellow mayors, is dismaying and depressing.
Here's some common sense, if our President or any of our mayors want it.
To address inequality we should begin with a moratorium on legal immigration and compulsory E-Verify to put illegals out of work.
On education, our kids have all they need — probably more than most of them need. We should drop the fads and the no-hope fantasies of all races coming out equal, and just give every child the best education we can.
Did I say "common sense"? There's no market for that in the Western world today.
04 — North Korea: a modest proposal. My column at Taki's Magazine this week concerns North Korea, and the strange goings-on over there recently. As I say in the column, I've been a North Korea-watcher for thirty years, and the place just gets weirder. The first derivative — the gradient of increasing weirdness — seems to have gotten steeper lately, too.
There isn't much we can do about any of it, other than pull our 30-something thousand troops out of South Korea, which of course is unthinkably impossible, as the 50 million South Koreans and their two trillion dollar economy would then be helplessly at the mercy of the half-as-many North Koreans and their fifty-times-smaller economy.
Depending which analyst you read, this new young leader Kim Jong Un is either crazy as a coot, or a Machiavellian genius of geopolitical strategy. My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that the first rule of North Korean politics should be: Don't tick off China. Since Kim already has ticked off China — badly enough for them to vote with us on sanctions earlier this year — he doesn't look like much of a genius to me. That's an amateur opinion, though.
Plainly the world would be a better place without Kim and his regime, but that's up to the Koreans themselves to sort out. It's not our business, and if it was, there isn't much we can do.
So here's a thought: Let's try to think of ways to take advantage of Kim's nastiness, to put it to some good use.
For example: Kim's labor camps, which hold about 200,000 political prisoners in addition to ordinary criminals, are known to be really dreadful places. He seems to be expanding them, though.
Our own prisons, meanwhile, are overcrowded. In California they've had to release prisoners under a judicial order.
So here's my suggestion: Let's cut a deal with Kim. We'll send him our felons and pay him to incarcerate them. We'd save a ton of money, and I bet the recidivism rate would drop like a stone.
05 — Robert E. Lee: hero or bandit? Here's one of those stories that trail off into never-ending arguments where nobody's going to get his mind changed, and where I might end up mumbling "On the one hand … On the other …" Let's see.
The story is that the U.S. Army War College, out there in Pennsylvania, is conducting an inventory of all its paintings and photographs with an eye to rehanging them in some different order to tell a historical story.
Among those pictures are several portraits of Confederate military men, including Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. While the pictures were being inventoried for re-hanging, a faculty member at the college, name not known, asked why a military college of the U.S.A. would honor men who fought to break up the U.S.A.
It's not a trivial question. On one side of it you can argue like this: No nation should honor rebels against its duly constituted government. In resigning his commission out of loyalty to Virginia, Lee violated his oath of service and deserted his country in time of war. Why honor such a man?
On the other side, the argument is: The legality of secession was undecided in 1861. Some very honorable Americans believed secession was lawful, and that Lincoln's determination to oppose it was as much an act of oppression as George the Third's opposition to American independence. Probably the only way to test the issue was on the field of battle. Might made right. If the Confederacy had won, nobody would now doubt that secession was legitimate. And it was in the spirit of understanding this, of acknowledging the ambiguity of secession, that Lee and other Southern leaders were treated with restraint, instead of being hanged, as some radical Republicans wanted.
My own view, after a few months of desultory reading about the Civil War, is that it would have been best to let the South go peacefully. North America would then have had three English-speaking nations instead of two; I can't see how that would have been a disastrously bad thing. Race slavery would have gone on for a while, but probably only a couple of decades. Even Brazil, where there were far more slaves and slavery was economically important, abolished it in 1888. Twenty or thirty more years of slavery, set against 600,000 young men dead and great swathes of the country devastated, doesn't seem to me too bad an exchange.
That's counterfactual, though. The war happened; the South lost. Are the commanders of those losing armies worthy of honor? Given the ambiguity of the casus belli, I'd say yes. They thought their government was oppressively wrong on a major point of principle — the rightness or wrongness of secession. So they took up arms against it. I don't see any dishonor.
What I do see, all over, is America's Cultural Marxists itching to take up what they see as unfinished business — to take up where the Radical Republicans of 1865 left off. They want to repudiate the loose magnanimity of the century and a half that followed the Civil War, to ban the Confederate flag, to take down the portraits and rename the schools, to stomp on the faces of the defeated all over again.
That's vindictive, and evil, and totalitarian. I liked the old loose magnanimity. From what I have read and heard, Robert E. Lee was a man of courage, intelligence, and strong principle. His opinion on the legality of secession was not defeated by logic or law, but by superior military force.
The old Chinese saying about civil wars, of which China's had many, is 勝者為皇, 敗者為賊 — "If you win, you're the Emperor; if you lose, you're a bandit." That kind of thinking didn't get China very far towards liberty under consensual, constitutional government, and I'd hate to see it triumphant in the U.S.A.
06 — Illegals Sí, veterans No! Speaking of things military, the United States Senate shocked me the other day. I'm not much shocked by anything that happens in Congress nowadays. Those reptiles are capable of anything. This one still shocked me, though.
What happened was, the Senate was wrangling over the proverbial "a billion here, a billion there" in a debate over the budget deal Tuesday evening. That's the deal Radio Derb hyperventilated about in last week's broadcast, the deal that basically deep-sixes the 2011 Budget Control Act and gets Congress back to spend, spend, spend. Which is where Congress likes to be.
Well, so the Senators were wrangling over a clause in the deal that would cut military pensions by $6 billion over ten years. You could argue that we are back in the segment I opened today's broadcast with, since military people are, after all, public-sector workers. That's not really fair, though, as they don't pose as a union the way schoolteachers and sanitation men do, they don't play the political games civilian public-sector workers play, and they can't strike.
Are they overpaid? I wouldn't say so, though it's hard to make comparisons as military pay structure is complicated, and service members get free a lot of things civilians have to pay for. Just going by base pay: a Colonel with ten years service is getting ninety thousand a year base pay, which is not a lot for that level of responsibility and that length of service. I was earning more than that twenty years ago as a computer programmer.
Whatever you think of that, what the Senate did was still shocking. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who has my vote for President any time he cares to run, put forward an amendment to restore the 6 billion of cuts to military pensions by making the savings elsewhere.
Where is "elsewhere"? This is where it gets shocking. "Elsewhere," in Jeff Sessions' amendment, was to close a loophole that allows illegal aliens to get child tax credits even though they don't have social security numbers. The IRS inspectors have calculated that this loophole costs Uncle Sam $4.2 billion a year. Remember that that $6 billion of cuts to military pensions was spread over ten years, so this is surely worth doing.
Well, Jeff Sessions' amendment was voted down, 46 to 54, with just one Democrat among the 46. That's the mood of the U.S. Senate: Border jumpers, Sí, veterans No! Shameful.
07 — Barbara's Messiah A recurring theme on Radio Derb is the attitude of wellnigh religious worship that white liberals bring to unthreatening blacks — to blacks who flatter them, that is, not blacks who spit in their eyes like Louis Farrakhan. I enlarged upon this last week in my commentary on the Nelson Mandela memorial service.
The canonical statement here was made by the late Larry Auster, who wrote that to white liberals, blacks are sacred objects, and any criticism of them is a kind of blasphemy.
When I first read that on Larry's blog a year and a half ago, I thought it was a bit over the top. "Oh, come on," I thought, "Liberals may be a bit silly about blacks, but they don't actually worship them." As time goes by, though, I more and more find myself thinking Larry was right.
Case in point this week. On Tuesday some Brit guy on CNN was interviewing longtime TV talking head Barbara Walters. Here's a clip from the interview.
[Clip: Brit guy — Let me ask you this. You have interviewed every president of my lifetime. Why is Obama facing so much opposition now? Why is he struggling so much to really fulfill the great flame of ambition and excitement that he was elected on originally in 2009? Walters — Well, you've touched on it to a degree. He made so many promises. We thought that he was going to be — I shouldn't say this at Christmastime, but — the next messiah.]
Notice that "we." We — Me and people like me, because, you know, who else matters? We — All right-thinking people. We — the Inner Party. We — Everyone but hillbillies and rednecks.
Barbara Walters' "we" thought that Obama was going to be the next messiah. What were their evidentiary grounds for thinking this? Obama's lackluster seven years in the Illinois state legislature? His undistinguished two years in the U.S. Senate? (I'm not going to count the following two years, which he mainly spent running for President.) His gassy, narcissistic, and partly fictional autobiography — really, just an extended college-application essay? His ineffectual "community organizing" in Chicago, when he rode from the tony university neighborhood where he lived to strike poses for an hour or two with church ladies in the ghetto? His editorship of the Harvard Law Review, which left no trace on that periodical? His short and deeply average career as a lawyer?
It's hard to believe it was any of those things. In this nation of three hundred million souls, there are thousands more distinguished than Obama in every sphere he's been active in. Yet listen again to the lady, edited. [Clip: Walters — We thought that he was going to be … the next messiah.] Why? Why did you — I mean, you-plural, youse, you-all — why did you think he was going to be the next messiah? If it wasn't his track record, what was it?
I don't think there can be any doubt about the answer. What suggested messiah-hood to these gaping, gullible liberals was Obama's wonderful, ineffable, incomparable blackness. Larry Auster was right. To the Barbara Walters of the world, well-behaved blacks are divine. Literally. [Clip: Walters — We thought that he was going to be … the next messiah.]
08 — Errata. I mentioned back in October that I shall do an occasional errata segment, "in which I shall offer either a snivelling apology or an indignant denial of errors I am alleged to have made in previous broadcasts or columns."
Well, here are a couple of errata pointed out by readers. Both of these come under the "snivelling apology" heading.
The first erratum concerns my December 12th column at Taki's Magazine, where I discussed the appalling case of Royal Marine Sergeant Alexander Blackman, who was given a life sentence for killing a wounded Taliban. I identified Sgt. Blackman's unit as 3 Commando.
A reader chides me for that. Quote:
As an ex Royal Marine subaltern I am in a position to inform you that there is no British military unit by the name of "3 Commando." That was an Army Commando unit disbanded at the end of WW2.
End quote. So it's not 3 Commando, it's 42 Commando within 3 Commando Brigade. I know, it sounds kind of nit-picky, but I'm rather keen to get my military nomenclature exactly right just now, so thanks for the correction, Sir.
The second erratum concerns my having referred to "President George W. Bush" in last week's segment about Nelson Mandela's funeral. An indignant listener sent in the following, quote:
According to Merriam Webster's 2nd Int'l (still valid, I believe, on points of high protocol), an ex-Senator may be addressed in courtesy as "Senator" but the only correct form of address for an ex-President is "Mr."
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Our villain of the week is 86-year-old Frank Barbaro, a retired judge from the Brooklyn Supreme Court in New York City. Fourteen years ago Judge Barbaro sentenced 25-year-old Donald Kagan, who is white, to life imprisonment for shooting dead a black mugger who was trying to steal a gold chain Kagan was wearing.
It was a bench trial, with no jury. Kagan's fate was solely in Judge Barbaro's hands. That was a reasonable play on the part of Kagan's attorneys, as Brooklyn juries are heavily black and Hispanic, and will convict a white man who kills a black man regardless of evidence or circumstances. What Kagan's attorneys failed to research was that Judge Barbaro is an old lefty and civil rights camp follower who believes blacks can do no wrong.
Well, Judge Barbaro's conscience has been troubling him. This week he told Brooklyn Supreme Court that he'd failed properly to consider Kagan's defense because of his own, quote, "reverse racism."
Further quotes from Judge Barbaro. Quote: "I believe now that I was seeing this young white fellow as a bigot, as someone who assassinated an African-American … I was prejudiced during the trial … I realized I made a terrible mistake and there was a man in jail because of my mistake." End quote.
Fourteen years in jail for a man who defended himself from a mugger, because of the judge's "reverse racism." Tack that on to the Barbara Walters story. These are the practical consequences of liberal lunacy.
Item: One theory you sometimes see aired on Dissident Right websites is that American white liberals are playing a double game. With their mouths they are talking up their affection for minorities and promising to do wonderful thing for minorities. Meanwhile their hands, hidden under the desk, are crafting policies to drive minorities out of our more desirable cities.
It's not totally implausible. Washington, D.C.'s black population has been declining since 2000 at least. Similarly with New York and other yuppie metropolises. There may be a real phenomenon here: Call it "liberal ethnic cleansing."
How about Berkeley, California? You can't get any more liberal than that! And yes, Berkeley has been losing blacks: ten percent of the city was black in the 2010 census, down from 14 percent in 2000.
In the case of Berkeley, the blacks are starting to notice. December 8th the NAACP organized a town hall meeting to, quote, "address a range of issues." The news report adds that, quote: "Attendees also expressed concerns about Berkeley's shrinking black population."
Proposals to fix the problem ran along predictable lines: more Section 8 housing, more black cops, more government money, and so on. So far none of the Berkeley liberals has mentioned Bantustans, but I bet they're quietly thinking about it.
Item: Here's one for the folder labeled Researchers Discover Something We've All Known For Ever.
The researchers here were from King's College, London. They did a twin study, comparing identical to fraternal twins, covering 11,000 students who took the standard British high school exams. They found that, quote: "Differences in children's exam results at secondary school owe more to genetics than teachers, schools or the family environment," end quote.
Well, who woulda thunk it. Just about anybody, that's who. Remember when you first went to school at age five, and quickly noticed that some kids were real dumb and others were real smart? And ten years later, the dumb kids were still dumb, and the smart kids still smart? And how there were dumb rich kids and smart poor ones? Well, the eggheads at King's College have just figured out what you figured out back in the day. Well done, guys.
In completely unrelated news, the Detroit News reports that, quote, "Students in Detroit Public Schools scored the lowest in the nation among big-city districts in math and tied for lowest in reading, according to national test results released Wednesday." End quote. No comment, absolutely no comment.
Item: Finally, for origami fans: 33-year-old Sipho Magona of Switzerland is creating a life-size elephant from a single piece of paper measuring 50 feet square.
Dr. Johnson said that the Pyramids were, quote, "monuments to the insufficiency of human pleasures." I think he would have said the same about Mr. Magona's paper elephant. Still, we never had an origami item on Radio Derb before, so that's another box ticked off.
10 — Signoff. And there we have it, ladies and gents.
As I said at the beginning of the broadcast, I'm off to the U.S.A. I have my airline ticket right here on the desk; my bags are packed and ready to go, out there in the hallway; and I've enlisted the help of the village schoolmaster, Spyros Apostolopoulos, who in his spare time runs a taxi service to the ferry dock. Spyros should be here with the donkey and cart any moment now. My staff will disperse to their own homes, and Radio Derb will take a holiday break, returning to the airwaves on January 4th.
We wish you all a very merry Christmas, and look forward to serving you in 2014 — when, by the way, Radio Derb will celebrate our tenth anniversary on the air. Our dear friend and supporter President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan has promised to loan us one of his palaces for the occasion, so we're all looking forward to that. In the meantime, here's Gracie.
[Music clip: Gracie Fields I'm sending a letter to Santa Claus]