• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb here, ladies and gentlemen. This is your ever-genial host John Derbyshire with the week's news.
I'll confess I'm a little under the weather this morning, this first day of spring. "Oh no!" anguished voices cry from sea to shining sea. "What's wrong with Derb?" Please don't be alarmed. The condition is entirely temporary. By way of explaining it, let me take you on a wee trip through Derbland.
Thursday this week was the third Thursday of the month, and that means a meeting of my gents' dinner club — a very exclusive group, invitation only, whose membership roster is graced by movers and shakers from the worlds of culture, politics, and high finance. We have a guest speaker at each meeting, and sit down to a hearty dinner with him at a discreet restaurant in midtown Manhattan. We eat, talk, drink, and listen, and come away both instructed and refreshed, if not always confidently vertical.
Our speaker this Thursday was Razib Khan, one of the moving spirits of the Gene Expression website, a very brilliant young man with interesting things to say about history, biology, and society from a population-genetic standpoint.
We had a great evening. Club members are allowed to bring guests along, and I brought two this evening: Noah Millman, who blogs at The American Scene, and his colleague Craig Wotherspoon, a fine Scottish fellow of sound opinions.
Well, we had our dinner and listened to Razib talk about Etruscans, Hittites, lactose intolerance, and sundry other matters. Then after dinner — so this is around ten thirty p.m. — Noah Millman and I, and Craig and Razib, decided to continue the conversation at a suitable location. Razib suggested a watering hole downtown, which he said was at Broadway and Lafayette, and gave us the name of the bar.
We went out to the street, Razib and Craig flagged down a cab and sped away, then Noah and I flagged down another cab. "Broadway and Lafayette are parallel," the cabbie pointed out, and he'd never heard of the bar. Oh dear.
Our companions had gone ahead in their cab. We didn't have a cell phone between us, and didn't know the other fellows' numbers anyway. Noah told the cabbie to take us to Lafayette and Canal, as a near approximation. We figured we'd find our way from there. The cabbie accordingly dumped us downtown.
There was no bar in sight with the name Razib had given us. We waylaid two young ladies coming out of a random bar, and asked them. They had no clue, but they did have an iPhone. We spent a fruitless ten minutes fiddling with the iPhone looking for the bar Razib had named.
One of the ladies left. Noah and I went with the other lady to a random bar nearby and drowned our sorrows. The lady, it turned out, was a Republican. In downtown Manhattan! Bless you, Ma'am, and may you never get into a taxi with no clue where you're supposed to be going.
I finally got back to the Derb homestead out in the bosky suburbs of Long Island at 2:30 a.m. Fortunately my station stop is at the end of the railroad line, so it didn't matter that I was fast asleep when the train arrived. I hope Noah got safely back to his home in Brooklyn. I hope the very kind lady with the iPhone, got safely home to wherever she lives in New York City. I am obliged to Razib for having taken the time and trouble to come and address our little club.
I am grateful to the ticket collector for waking me up at my home stop. Returning to consciousness in the gray light of dawn, trapped alone in a railway carriage in a siding in the wilds of Ronkonkoma, is a most unsettling experience. I mean, I imagine it is, it's not the kind of thing that would ever happen to me personally.
I am grateful to the Canarsee tribe for having sold Manhattan to Peter Minuit in 1626, so that the splendid city of New York could be built as a place where middle-aged opinion journalists with three sheets in the wind could strike up random acquaintances in mysterious bars.
The downside of all these Thursday night festivities was, that when I arrived at Buckley Towers this morning and rode my private elevator up to the 95th floor, I was feeling, shall we say, not too tightly wrapped. My production staff was lined up to greet me as usual, but I could only respond to their welcoming cheers and applause with a whispered acknowledgment and a wave of the hand, and was unable to join in singing the Loyalty Song as is my custom.
Fortunately my personal masseuses, Mandy, Candy, and Brandy, were at hand to help me relax. Following their tender ministrations, I am sufficiently restored to bring you your usual weekly diet of dyspeptic diatribe, across the airwaves here from Radio Derb. The show must go on!
[Clip: Ethel Merman, "Let's go on with the show!"]
02 — Obama on Leno. One consequence of Thursday night's jollifications was, that I missed seeing our President's appearance on the Jay Leno show. I could only read the précis of the encounter in Friday morning's New York Post — America's newspaper of record.
Apparently our President bowls a 129 game, is buying a dog for his daughters, and has repealed all of contract law. I look forward to his upcoming appearance on David Letterman's show, when he will tell us about his experiences roller-blading, crack a joke about the drapes his wife has chosen for the White House bedroom, and rip up the Constitution.
A few days after that, the President's round of talk show appearances will culminate on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, when he will share his winning strategy at gin rummy, talk about his family vacation plans, and feed Magna Carta through a shredder.
03 — Treasury buys its own paper. Every time I think I understand fiscal policy I read something that gets my head spinning again, as if it wasn't spinning enough already this particular morning.
OK, try this: Who is the biggest buyer of U.S. government paper — bonds, bills, and notes issued by the United States Treasury?
I'm not absolutely sure here, but it looks like the answer may currently be, not China or Japan, but the U.S. Treasury. Yep, Uncle Sam is buying his own paper — a trillion dollars worth of it, according to the International Herald Tribune. Quote:
Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air.
Not quite out of thin air, surely. More like out of our children's and grandchildren's pockets. But hey, we won't think about that today, we'll think about that tomorrow.
Now forgive my ignorance here, but the whole point of issuing a bond is to raise some cash, isn't it? I need some cash, so I put out a bond — a piece of paper with some promises written on it — at an attractive rate of interest, and you buy it. Now you've got your bond, and I've got your cash.
If I redeem the bond early, giving you your money back and taking my bond back … that can only be because I have all the cash I need, and I want you to have some. So presumably the Treasury won't be issuing any more bonds for a while, since it doesn't need the cash, right?
Wrong! As Radio Derb has been reporting for weeks, the Treasury is stepping up the rate of bond auctions and the amount of paper it's selling.
It beats me. If the feds want more greenbacks sloshing around in the national economy, why don't they just print them? Oh, I see — that's basically what they're doing!
There's even a small political bonus, as buying back Treasury paper reduces the national debt. Watch out for Obama up for re-election telling us that even during a time of economic crisis he lowered the national debt. That'll be a good line in 2012, if you can just put it out of your mind for a moment that a cup of Starbucks coffee in 2012 costs $500.
04 — Vital national statistics. The Centers for Disease Control came out with preliminary birth statistics for the year 2007, covering 98.7 percent of recorded births.
We were a bit broodier than in 2006, with a Total Fertility Rate — TFR in demographers' talk — of 2.113, up from 2.100. Non-Hispanic white Americans had a TFR of 1.871, putting them in the international league tables with Ireland and Iceland. Non-Hispanic African Americans were at 2.135, putting them with New Zealand and Brazil. Hispanic Americans were at 2.995, up there with Malaysia and Bangladesh.
The actual number of newborns in 2007 was a tad over 4.3 million: 54 percent non-Hispanic white, 25 percent Hispanic, 15 percent African American, six percent other.
What got everybody's attention, though, were the figures for out-of-wedlock births, which were up four percent overall from 2006, and up twenty-six percent overall from 2002 — that's up a quarter in five years!
The breakdown by race follows the so-called "Rule of Four" that shows up all over demographic studies in the U.S.A., with Asian Americans at one end of the spectrum, then non-Hispanic whites, then Hispanics, then non-Hispanic African Americans.
The actual percentages for out-of-wedlock births are 16 for Asian Americans, 28 for whites, 51 for Hispanics, 72 for African Americans.
The notion of marriage as a precondition for childbearing is melting away before our eyes; among African American and Hispanic citizens, most babies are now born out of wedlock. Pretty soon the idea of having two parents will seem quaintly old-fashioned, like men's sock suspenders or fiscal restraint.
05 — Sheriff Joe's show trial. How are things going with the show trial of Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
Sheriff Joe and his travails are getting to be a running theme on Radio Derb. Joe Arpaio is the chief law enforcement officer in Maricopa County down in Arizona, and he's made a name for himself by aggressively enforcing our immigration laws. That of course makes him a hate figure to the new administration, and in fact to all Democrats everywhere.
When I see an illegal alien, I see a person who wilfully broke U.S. law, and who is now likely a net recipient of my money via free health care, schooling, policing, incarceration, auto insurance, etc. In the present economic environment, with six hundred thousand Americans losing their jobs every month, I also see an insult to American workers.
When a Democrat sees an illegal immigrant, he sees a future Democratic voter. So Democrats need to bring down patriots like Joe Arpaio, otherwise that swelling tide of future Democratic voters will swell a bit less fulsomely.
Democrats are on the case. The House Judiciary Committee, under Democratic chairman John Conyers of Michigan, is pushing the Justice Department to destroy Sheriff Joe, using their legions of lawyers and bureaucrats to hound him out of business and break his thumbs.
Pushing behind Conyers is every group of leftist race hustlers in the country, including of course La Raza — The Race — and the group I unearthed for you last week, the National Day Laborer Organizer Network — "NaDLON," I shall call them in future.
Well, latest development here: Ten Republican congressmen on the Judiciary Committee have written a letter to Eric Holder urging him to speak up for vigorous immigration enforcement, and to give assurances to law enforcement agencies that they won't face the kind of investigation Sheriff Joe is being put through.
Lots of luck with that, guys. A Democratic administration enforcing immigration law? [Laugh.] We had to hire a team of wild horses to get the last Republican administration to at least pretend they cared about our borders and national sovereignty.
In the eyes of Obama, Holder, and their pals, when a law enforcement officer arrests an illegal alien, the officer is the criminal and the alien is the crime victim.
Anyway, you ten Republican congressmen who had the nerve to challenge Attorney General Holder and his allies, be warned, NaDLON has you marked down for treatment once they've finished feeding Joe Arpaio to the dogs. My advice to you would be, start moving your assets some place the feds can't reach them.
06 — Pelosi's patriots. In fact the Democrats are now getting brazen about their hatred of immigration law enforcement.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addressed a crowd of immigration scofflaws and their enablers in a San Francisco church last Saturday. Referring to work site enforcement actions by ICE, the immigration enforcement branch of Homeland Security, Nancy said, quote:
It must be stopped … What value system is that? I think it's un-American. I think it's un-American.
So the leader of one of the houses of our national legislature, where our country's laws are made, is demanding that those laws not be enforced. Interesting.
Nancy had been invited to the church by far-left Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, from Illinois' 4th congressional district, which is 74.5 percent Hispanic. Gutiérrez is running a movement called United Families, which he explained to a Fox News reporter as follows, quote:
We think that families are the cornerstone of our society and our nation, and an immigration system should preserve those families, not destroy them.
I don't quite understand that, I must say. Our entire immigration system is oriented towards family reunification — too much so, in the opinion of many of us. In fiscal 2007 over 65 percent — nearly two thirds — of immigrant visas were sponsored by family members already settled here. A foreigner who wants to settle in the U.S.A. is at a severe disadvantage if he doesn't have a family member already here, no matter how talented or worthy he is. So what on earth is Gutiérrez talking about?
Nancy gave us a clue when she spoke of ICE agents, quote: "kicking in doors in the middle of the night and sending a parent away from their families." The idea is, you see, that if an illegal immigrant brought his family with him, or acquired one here, then when you arrest him, you are breaking up his family.
Why wouldn't that apply to any arrest of anybody, for any reason? When the New York District Attorney threw Bernie Madoff in the pokey last week, wasn't he breaking up Bernie's family?
Ah yes, but you see, an immigration law-breaker is liable to be deported back to his home country. If his family is left here, then you've really broken up the family.
But surely the answer to that is for the deportee to take his family back with him to his home country. U.S. law doesn't forbid that, does it? What do you say to that, Nancy? Mr. Gutiérrez? What do you say? [Crickets chirp.]
Well, Nancy really worked that crowd of scofflaws. They were whoopin' and hollerin'. Quote:
You are special people. You're here on a Saturday night to take responsibility for our country's future. That makes you very, very patriotic.
Special people! Not like us boring, law-abiding, un-special citizens and legal immigrants. What politician would bother to address us and our concerns?
Nancy's right, though: Illegal immigrants are very patriotic. We saw that a couple of years ago, in the Sí se puede marches. Remember that sea of Mexican flags? Yep, these are patriots, all right. True patriots, doing everything they can to advance the interests of their country. Yep.
07 — The power of Colonel Sanders. Here's a nice light-hearted story from Japan.
Back in 1985 the Hanshin Tigers, a baseball team in Osaka, Japan, won its first Central League championship in 21 years. Well, we all know what strange and incomprehensible customs the Japanese have, and the 1985 victory kicked off one such. By way of celebrating, Tigers fans all made themselves up to look like their favorite team members, then they all jumped off a low bridge into the Dontonburi canal.
Only one problem: they couldn't find anyone who could make up to look like the Tigers' champion power hitter. That's not surprising: The slugger was Randy Bass, a large, fair-haired American guy from Oklahoma, with a beard.
The Tigers fans solved the problem by taking a statue of Colonel Sanders from a nearby KFC franchise and dumping that in the canal in lieu of Randy. Alas, the statue sank deep into the mud at the bottom of the canal.
Well, the Hanshin Tigers haven't won a championship since. Tigers fans have come to believe that the long dry spell is a curse imposed on their team by the late Colonel's spirit for disrespect to his effigy.
Imagine their joy, therefore, when a construction company working on the canal announced they had dredged up the Colonel's statue (minus his left hand and spectacles).
Now Tigers fans are fired up for a winning streak … And so are superstitious speculators: the Tigers victory back in 1985 was followed by a five-year stock market boom.
So you might want to watch the Nikkei this baseball season.
08 — Teamsters, or Mexico? You may have thought, based on the evidence, that the top priority of this administration, as of the last, is to provide jobs for Mexicans.
Well, you were wrong. One consequence of the last mega-spending bill passed by the U.S. Congress was to kill a trial program for allowing Mexican truck drivers to take their rigs anywhere in the U.S.A.
Right now they have to unload their cargoes so they can be re-loaded onto American trucks driven by members of the Teamsters Union, who are of course the ones behind the killing of that trial program.
This is a tough call for the poor commentator. On loathsomeness grounds, which are the ones I usually work from, there isn't a lot to choose between the Teamsters, with their pickaxe handles and cement boots, and the Mexican government, with its ongoing project to recolonize the American Southwest after first converting the population into mumbling, helpless junkies.
I'm going to hesitantly come down on the side of the Teamsters on this one, not because I want to avoid getting fitted up for the concrete boots, but just on the Lyndon Johnson principle — you know, they're s.o.b.s but at least they're our s.o.b.s.
Mexico's retaliated against the ending of the trial program by sticking tariffs on stuff we export to Mexico. Hard for us to re-retaliate against that. The only things Mexico exports to us are illegal drugs and illegal immigrants, and it's hard to get a good tariff regime operating on traffic that isn't even legal.
I say whack a hundred percent tariff on remittances from U.S. banks and post offices into Mexico. That'd tick them off and raise a little revenue too.
Can we get the Teamsters behind this? You know NaDLON's going to be fiercely opposed. The Teamsters versus NaDLON — now that'd be a bout worth watching, better than King Kong versus Godzilla.
09 — AIG bonuses. And then there's those AIG bonuses.
AIG, remember, is the insurance company that found itself with a two trillion dollar overhang after having insured a bunch of trades in securities whose underlying securities were based on underlying securities whose underlying securities were out on reverse repo but hedged with swaps against sorghum futures traded on the Ouagadougou commodities exchange.
Well, it all had to be unwound, and the only people who could unwind it were the same kinds of experts who'd created it all. They cut a deal with AIG that they'd stick around to do that unwinding, on condition they got a nice bonus at the end of it all.
Not having much choice, AIG agreed to the deal: then, when the bailout happened, they passed the deal on to John Q. Taxpayer.
John is mad as hell at having coughed up a trillion or so to a firm that's paying bonuses he himself will never see the like of. Various congresscritters are mad as hell on Joe's behalf, and various commentators have joined the chorus of outrage.
Not this one. A deal's a deal; at any rate, it is if it's legally binding, which this one is. If a legally binding agreement has politically ugly consequences, which prevails — politics or the law?
Since the law is at least coded according to well-tried forms and customs, and mostly administered by people who passed exams and take pride in their independence, while politics is a vanity parade for people who have no marketable skills, and more often than not no principles either, Radio Derb votes for the law, ugly consequences or not.
If you want to see America's future, take a look at California.
Four weeks ago, after heroic struggles, California state legislators passed a budget they said would close the state's forty-two billion dollar deficit. Well, now new numbers have come out showing that the deficit will not in fact be closed by that budget, and is in fact still growing.
There's already an eight billion dollar shortfall looming up, and the legislature's analyst forecasts rapidly growing deficits starting in the 2010-11 fiscal year. The reason, he says, is simple: This recent budget agreement consists of one-time solutions whose effects will drop out over the coming months.
Washington's trying to help, with aid of perhaps as much as fifty billion dollars — nobody is really sure — going to the state from federal taxpayers. That's around three or four hundred bucks of your money going to prop up the California state budget.
Why does it need propping up? Because it spends too much, why do you think?
Peering forward a little further, what will happen when the one-time fixes are exhausted and the federal stimulus is used up? Well, for sure the client groups and interest groups who are sucking up all that money are not going to go away. They're the ones who run the place, just as the National Day Laborer Organizer Network runs the Justice Department. So California will have to raise taxes.
That will drive even more productive citizens out of the Golden State, tilting the demographics even more towards people who need state services. So state government will need to do even more with even less.
It's a feedback loop of corruption and failure, just like the one we've got going in Washington, D.C.
Where will it all end? With some colossal crisis as the swollen monstrosity of government topples over at last, crushing anyone who doesn't get out of the way.
When you're through burying those Krugerrands in the back yard, you might want to go out and buy yourself a survivalist handbook.
11 — Signoff. On that cheery note, ladies and gents, I leave you. I can see Mandy, Candy, and Brandy warming up another tub of massage oil; I'm downgrading my headache and nausea alert to non-critical; and I believe that after a rub-down from the girls, another dose of Alka-Seltzer, and a light quiche lunch with Jonah in the penthouse, followed perhaps by a soothing game or two of écarté, I shall be right as rain.
Tune in again next week for more news of the coming apocalypse from Radio Derb! The closing music clip here is for Craig.
[Music clip: Richard Hayward, "The Sash My Father Wore."]