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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 intrepidly genial host John Derbyshire, reporting to you from our state-of-the-art sound studio here on Taki's private island in the balmy Aegean Sea.
It's been a slow week for news, listeners. My diligent, very professional, and extremely agile research assistants comb through the newspapers and wire service reports looking for items to excite your enthusiasm, but sometimes the well is dry.
Big stories this week were: A star of major league baseball has been suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs, a French politician is in trouble after the discovery he has a secret mistress; and there's a nasty tribal war going on in Africa.
I feel like adding that in related news, the sun set last night and rose this morning, birds sang and dogs barked, a bear peed in the woods, and Barack Obama played a round of golf.
You see my point: slow news week. The girls have done their best with it, though, bless them, and to reward their hard work I'm having some of the young lads from the village come over to show the girls their Kariotikos. It's quite a sight, let me tell you.
So, let's see if we can squeeze some blood out of this stone.
02 — Juicing for dollars. Let's start with that baseball player.
I'd better confess here a near-total lack of interest in professional sports. I did follow baseball quite keenly back in my youth; but when my hero died in that plane crash, that was the day the music died for me. I refer of course to the immortal Thurman Munson, who left this vale of tears on August 2nd, 1979. Since then my only contact with organized sports has consisted of working on the chain crew at my son's football games, and watching the World Series on TV. The latter I feel, as a naturalized American, is a patriotic obligation.
That's by way of apologizing for the absence of sport stories on Radio Derb. Please don't think I disdain sports or sport enthusiasts: I'm just the sport equivalent of tone deaf. If you are an athlete or an athletic supporter, I wish you joy of it.
OK, so there's this baseball player, Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees. He seems to be a very good player. In his 20-year career he has hit 654 home runs — an average of 33 a year, better than one a week. The contract he signed with the New York Yankees in 2007, a ten-year contract, promised him $275 million. That's just dinner and a movie to Michael Bloomberg or Warren Buffet, but it makes Rodriguez the most expensive player ever. Just to put that in perspective, the CIA World Factbook lists twelve sovereign nations with annual GDP less than $275 million.
Now Rodriguez has been found out juicing, and suspended from play for a year. He's filed a retaliatory lawsuit against Major League Baseball and the Players' Association, for no reason I can understand other than, he can afford to.
I'm not really clear why people object to athletes juicing. Presumably people go to the stadiums to see sensational athletic ability. Well, juicing makes it more sensational. What's not to like?
I guess the argument is, that if they were allowed to juice up freely, there's be an arms race, with athletes taking more and more drugs until there were overdoses, health problems, and deaths, and the public would be outraged.
As I started out saying, though, it's hardly news that athletes juice up as much as they can get away with, and are not very embarrassed about it. Rodriguez is said to have been popping testosterone gummie bears in the dugout while waiting for his turn at bat.
Just how much can be done about it is also an open question: Rodriguez was getting Human Growth Hormone from a Florida clinic, and ordinary drug tests can't detect that.
I'm just wondering how long it'll be before $275 million will buy you a very lifelike robot that doesn't need drugs and won't file retaliatory lawsuits.
03 — Sex scandal in France! And then we have the French politician's mistress scandal. The politician here is François Hollande, who is no less than the President of France.
M. Hollande is a socialist. Socialism is of course all about sharing, and Hollande has been dutifully sharing himself between two ladies: his official First Lady, journalist Valérie Trierweiler, who is 48, and movie actress Julie Gayet, who is 41. Hollande himself is 59. Zut alors!
Note please that the President and First Lady are not married. In matters related to personal intimacy, the French are of course ahead of us. France's First Lady is in point of fact merely the First Girlfriend. She has an establishment at the Élysée Palace none the less, and a personal staff paid for by the French taxpayer.
Rather a lot is paid for by the French taxpayer. The average single French wage-earner pays more than 50 percent of his salary to the state. Hollande came in last May with policies that would make things even worse. Socialism, however, as Margaret Thatcher liked to say, only works until you run out of other people's money. With Jacques Citoyen forking over half his income to L'état, that point has already been reached. To his credit, President Hollande quickly grasped this fact, and has been promoting cuts in government spending.
That's the political background. The personal issue is, that the President was discovered sneaking out of the palace to trysts with Mlle. Gayet, leaving Mlle. Trierweiler at home with nothing for company but some warmed-over crêpe suzettes and a bottle of absinthe.
To make things worse, Hollande is scheduled to make a state visit to Washington, D.C. on February 11th, so the question now arises: Which Mlle. will accompany him? The prospect that Mlle. Trierweiler would miss dinner with Barack Obama was so distressing to her that she has been hospitalized with a nervous breakdown. I wouldn't take it that hard myself, but you know how those progressive Europeans feel about Obama — pretty much the way Héloïse felt about Abelard.
The remedy for this mess is for French politicians, like the rest of us, to get married and stay married. Those of us in the senior demographic savor fond memories of President Charles de Gaulle's consort, Yvonne, a lady of such impeccable rectitude her countrymen referred to her as Tante Yvonne — which is to say, Aunt Yvonne.
Those days are gone, of course, and I'm just whistling into the wind here. The French are ahead of us, but not by much. Stick around: there'll be a First Girlfriend in the White House before long, not necessarily of opposite sex to the President.
Anyway, French conservatives are hoping that weathering this little personal storm will give Hollande the confidence to do what he needs to do for his nation's economy: Reduce the deficit, chop government spending, and give entrepreneurs a break. We shall see. We shall also, I'm betting, see Hollande's new main squeeze, Julie Gayet, sitting down to dinner with the Obamas.
04 — The African horrors. Fifty years ago when I was a college student just beginning to engage with the world and its news, I assumed, as pretty much everyone did, that once European Empires had been dismantled and the subject peoples given their freedom, all those territories would develop into normal countries with laws and judges, police and armies, legislatures and executives, national flags and soccer teams, and so on.
Some of them did: Singapore's a nice place. Malaysia's not bad. India's doing well. Others didn't work out so well: Pakistan's a mess, some of the Caribbean nations don't bear close inspection. And then there's Africa.
At any given time there seems to be something horrible happening somewhere in Africa. Right now there are two sets of horrors going on: one in the Central African Republic, one next door in South Sudan.
The CAR has been staggering along in poverty, corruption, and tribal violence pretty continuously since getting independence from France in 1960. The personality everyone remembers is Jean-Bédel Bokassa, dictator of the place through the 1970s, who had himself crowned Emperor in a ceremony that consumed one-third of the country's annual budget, or about one year's salary for a major-league baseball player.
This latest fighting seems to be ethnic, tribal, and religious, with mostly-Muslim nomads and mostly-Christian farmers attacking each other — the oldest cultural conflict in human history. The conflict was given some graphic immediacy when footage surfaced of a Muslim being dragged from a bus, set on fire, then eaten by Christians. I think perhaps these Christians need to do a little Bible study.
South Sudan next door is a much newer country. It seceded from Sudan in 2011, Sudan itself having been independent since 1956. It's been a miserable two and a half years, with continuous tribal fighting, though here not so much nomad v. farmer as nomad v. nomad, purely tribal. The latest round of killings began with cattle raids. It's now escalated to a first-order "humanitarian crisis," according to the U.N.
Looking back over these decades of misery and death, it's hard to feel any hope for these places. They have proved, over half a century and more, their complete incapacity for self-government. They're both wretchedly poor: per capita GDP around a thousand dollars — twenty bucks a week. South Sudan has some oil, but not much — analysts think the oil won't last much beyond this decade. And of course the populations are increasing fast: total fertility rates 4½, 5½.
A return of colonialism might help, but Western countries no longer have any interest. China is heavily invested in South Sudan's oil, and it would be nice to think that they might have a go at colonial rule. China has her own demographic problems, though, and no manpower to spare. With the oil probably going to be exhausted in a few years, there's no real motivation. In any case, to judge from Tibet, Chinese colonialism is not a thing we should wish on anyone. The CAR is even less of a prospect: the country has nothing worth anyone going in there for.
American involvement in these messes has so far been limited to our U.N. ambassadress Samantha Power expressing, quote, "deep concern" over the communal violence. Longtime Radio Derb listeners will remember Ms. Power as one of the three horsegirls of the Libyan apocalypse: always there when mayhem is going on, wringing her hands and furrowing her brow, and always somehow ending up making it worse.
In this case her expressions of deep concern seem to have had no effect. I wish I could believe that she'll leave it at that, and not get the U.S.A. involved in these intractable conflicts in places of no concern to our national interests, and especially not start lobbying for tens of thousands of refugees from these places to be settled in American towns. I wish I could believe that, but I can't.
05 — A treaty about nothing. On Sunday last the six-nation talks with Iran finally reached the point where an agreement could be signed.
It's actually not so much an agreement as an agreement to come to an agreement. The agreement they've agreed to come to will happen six months from now. That's when there'll be a final agreement, with the six nations dropping sanctions in return for Iran abandoning nuclear-weapons development.
The whole thing is perfectly bogus, and it's hard to believe our diplomats don't know it. For one thing, the sanctions are already cracking up, with Russia and Turkey negotiating deals to trade oil for goods. The bogosity is right there in plain sight: Russia is one of the six countries Iran's been negotiating with!
And the Iranians are working like gangbusters on long-range missile development, which is pointless unless you have nukes to put on the missiles. Hel-lo? And the Iranians themselves have been boasting about having put one over on the allies.
This is pure cosmetic diplomacy. The Europeans want to trade with Iran, so does China, and sanctions were breaking down anyway. May as well put a polite face on it. Iran wants nukes, and the only way to stop them getting nukes is by invasion and occupation, which everyone knows is absolutely not going to happen. So: sanctions crumbling, nukes advancing, nothing to be done about either thing, let's just dress it up to look nice.
The Israelis are mad, and you can't blame them, given Iran's often-expressed intentions towards them. The Saudis are also mad, though they haven't been so loud about it. They see Iran as their main power rival, and were perfectly happy to see the place shut off behind a sanctions wall.
You can add to the list of people who are mad several U.S. Senators, who have put together a bill to pile on more sanctions if the agreement we've agreed to come to in six months time doesn't work out. That's made Barack Obama mad; he's threatened to veto the bill. A lot of people are mad here.
Radio Derb is not mad. We think the Israelis can look after themselves, and that Iran, with its cratering demographics and feeble economy, is probably best dealt with as a normal nation.
The really bad news is not the deal itself, but the cosmetic diplomacy that got us to it. It's left the West — especially the U.S.A. — looking weak and dishonest. That could come back and bite us in our dealings with real threats from, for example, China.
The deal with Iran is about nothing, a paper confirmation of what was happening anyway — a surrender to reality. The way it was done, though, may have malign effects, reinforcing the view of the West as a paper tiger, weak and irresponsible.
06 — A job Americans can't do? Possibly by way of trying to appease Israel, President Obama has nominated Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel, to be Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve, under new Chairman — "Chairperson," whatever — Janet Yellen. Mr. Fischer holds dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship.
I personally think the concept of dual citizenship is an abomination. Patriotism can have only one object. When a British person becomes a naturalized American, there is a way to finesse the situation so that you remain a British citizen, holding dual British and American citizenship. I know people who did that. I myself didn't. Taking the Naturalization Oath, I declared before a judge that, quote, "I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen," end quote. Taking an oath is a serious matter, or ought to be.
Well, that's personal. I'm sure Mr. Fischer has his reasons. I do find it hard to believe, though, that for such a senior post, with such power over the U.S. economy, it wasn't possible to find someone among the 300 million-odd non-dual citizens of the U.S.A.
And the Fed has got their work cut out for them. The December jobs numbers were terrible: a wretched 74,000 jobs created, which is just about what you get when stores stock up with temporary Christmas greeters. The labor participation rate — that's persons over 16 who have a job or are seeking one — is 63 percent, the lowest since 1980. The economy is just bumping along the bottom.
That contradicts the narrative we've been getting from the Fed, who've been telling us that things are looking up, so that they can wind down the "quantitative easing" (QE) we've been engaged in for five years. The Fed's job is to keep the money supply reasonably stable, avoiding excesses of both deflation and inflation. The danger after the 2008 crisis was de-flation, and the Fed used QE to counter the threat.
Nobody thinks that QE can go on for ever, though. The point of it is to give a temporary boost to the economy. Five years is stretching the meaning of "temporary" awfully thin, and continuing QE now could bring on in-flation.
Lots of luck with this, Janet and — what's his name? — Stanley. Meanwhile, with the labor participation rate stubbornly low, might it not be a good idea to stop importing a million-plus people a year into the labor market via legal immigration?
We're determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted. The Chamber will pull out all the stops — through grassroots lobbying, communications, politics and partnerships with unions, faith organizations, law enforcement and others — to get it done.
End quote. The interest of the Chamber of Commerce is of course to get cheap labor for its members. And let's be clear about the meaning of the phrase "cheap labor." What it means is, cheap for the employer, or in other words, low wages. The other costs of that imported labor — healthcare, education, housing, policing — are to be borne by the rest of us. The name of this game is: privatize profits, socialize costs.
That's what the Chamber of Commerce wants, though, and when Tom Donahue says "Jump!" the congressional Republican Party responds in unison: "How high?" In fact chief Chamber of Commerce sock puppets John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan have already declared their intention to put before the house a bill giving amnesty to illegal aliens and a big increase in permits for legal immigrants.
Incredibly, sixteen House Republicans have gone against their party bosses and the Chamber of Commerce paymasters and sent a letter to President Obama urging him to attend to the problems of American workers before importing more foreign ones.
After spelling out the plight of the, quote, "21 million Americans who can't find a full time job," the congressmen go on to say, long quote:
Yet, despite this jobs crisis for American workers, the White House continues to advocate that CEOs and business executives seek lower cost labor. The White House has entertained a parade of high-powered business executives to discuss immigration policy, all while shutting out the concerns of everyday wage-earners who overwhelmingly oppose these measures. You even released an economic report saying that the "hospitality and leisure industry" needs "legislation that would legalize workers in the U.S. and facilitate the lawful employment of future foreign-born workers."
End quote. This is stirring stuff: Republican congressmen defying their party's paymasters and asking a left-wing President to stand up for American workers against big corporations.
The congressmen cover their rear ends by playing the "minorities hardest hit!" card, quote:
So-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform … is an awful deal for US workers — including African-American and Hispanic communities enduring chronically high unemployment.
I'll forgive them that little sleight of hand, though, and cheer them for standing up against the open-borders racketeers. Let's hear it for representatives Brooks, Bentivolio, Barletta, Cotton, Jones, Gingrey, Bachmann, Fleming, King, Yoho, Wilson, Stockman, Smith, Palazzo, Rogers, and Duncan. [Applause.]
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Just a follow-up on the Chris Christie story from last week. The New Jersey Governor held a two-hour presser January 9th declaring he'd been, quotes: "blindsided … betrayed … humiliated … embarrassed" by his subordinates in the George Washington Bridge scandal.
It was a pretty good performance, and showed that Christie is a formidable politician, whatever I think of his national policies. Unless he was lying at the presser, which is well-nigh inconceivable, Christie is a viable candidate for President in 2016.
The interesting story here, as numerous commentators have observed, is actually the story about the story. How did this get so big, when all the Obama administration's many scandals stay down on page 14 of your newspaper? Answer: Democrats are much, much better at politics than Republicans, and they have the media on their side. Any further questions?
Item: Ron Unz is getting some traction over in California with his campaign for a $12-an-hour minimum wage, up from the current $8. Among other things, Ron argues, this would solve the problem of illegal immigration, as American workers would flock into low-paid jobs if "low-paid" meant twelve bucks an hour.
Leaving those other things aside, as a measure against illegal immigration, I think this is a cop-out, a surrender. It's saying: "We can't control our borders and ports of entry as a sovereign nation should, so we'll do this instead." I think we can control population inflows, and we darn well ought to.
I stick with my proposal for "Libertarianism in one country": maximum security at our borders, maximum liberty within them — including the liberty of people freely to enter into commercial dealings at prices agreeable to both of them.
Ron is a smart and energetic campaigner, though. I watched him argue his case at a debate in New York last fall, and he did so to great effect. I wish him good luck: but I'd still prefer proper border security.
Item: A high school in Long Island has elected a lesbian student as Homecoming King. Lesbian student Faith Shepherd tells the local TV channel, quote: "I made it very clear I wanted to run for king not queen."
The depressing thing here is that she won by a landslide vote among her classmates. Honked the principal: "It speaks to the student body that they are so progressive here in Central Islip."
That's what "progressive" means nowadays: Elevating the strange, the abnormal, the transgressive, the freakish, to the detriment of the ordinary and conventional, by, among other things, destroying the meaning of words. A king is male by definition. Ms. Shepherd is not male. A word has been gutted.
Why couldn't she run for Queen? There must have been lesbian queens in history. I have my doubts about Queen Anne, for instance. Or why didn't the school finesse the issue by changing the title to "Homecoming Monarch"?
The answer of course is that the progressive cause would not thereby have been advanced. To advance it, you have to smash things — in this case, words. Everything conventional, everything understood, everything normal must be shattered and insulted.
And the kids, the good little progressive kids of Central Islip, agree! We are doomed.
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. As I said, a thin week for news, but we do our best.
The news story about President Hollande put me in a Francophile mood — a most unusual occurrence — so lets have something in French to see us out. French: the language of love, food, and diplomacy — all of which, if you were paying attention, featured in this week's Radio Derb. See how everything hangs together? Here's Georgia Brown.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Georgia Brown, "La route est dure."]