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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. I think Radio Derb is being targeted, you know. We have powerful enemies out there, persons fearful of our growing influence and prestige. They seem to have discovered that our show is taped on a Thursday evening, and so they hold off on their more dramatic news announcements until Friday, just too late for us to report on them. So it was the week before last with the Olympic Committee's announcement that Chicago would not, after all, be the venue for the 2016 Summer Games, in defiance of all the efforts and sacrifices of our President and First Lady to bring colossal construction contracts to their pals in the Chicago property-development community. Then last week, same deal: Another bunch of pale, smug, hygienic Scandiavian types awarded Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize just as we were sealing the Radio Derb tape in its can. Mysterious, huh? Don't worry, though, Radio Derb fans, they won't stop us reporting the news. Here come the gems from this past week.
02 — Obama's Nobel Prize. Everybody's had a week to air their theories about why our President got the Nobel Peace Prize, with leading theories being (1) to poke a finger in George W. Bush's eye, (2) a shot across the President's bows from what newspapers call "the international community" regarding troop escalation in Afghanistan, (3) affirmative action — only one black person has ever got a Nobel in the four categories that recognize actual quantifiable achievement. (That would be Arthur Lewis, who shared the prize in Economics in 1979). My own theory is more metaphysical, as follows. It seems to me that there are certain people to whom, for unfathomable reasons, things happen. We all know, for example, that you can be accident-prone. Barack Obama possesses one of these ineffable attributes. Instead of being accident-prone, he's award-prone. I mean, he has some indefinable quality that makes people want to reward him. Look at his career: Fulbright Scholarship, President of the Harvard Law Review, Senate seat, convention keynote address, nomination, Presidency — and at each step, if you asked someone why Obama was more deserving than A, B, or C, you'd get a puzzled silence. Obama's just a guy people want to give things to. Why this is so, is just one of those mysteries about human nature. There are seriously stupid people who get rich; there are beautiful women who can't get dates; there are people who smoke, drink, and cook every meal in lard, yet who live to be 120; there are gifted writers who are witty, talented, and handsome, full of brilliant insights, who have to eke out a paltry living on obscure conservative websites … It's all part of the general unfairness built into the world. That's my explanation, and I'm sticking with it.
03 — Gay moment. The nation seems to be going through one of its gay moments. There was the so-called "National Equality March" in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, thousands of homosexuals and their supporters demonstrating for what they call "equal rights," which of course in practice means particular privileges, set-asides, and federal funds and jobs as a protected minority. This followed President Obama's assertion, the day before, that he intends to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals in the armed services, though the President was careful not to say when he will end it. Right after he's closed the Guantánamo Bay facility, perhaps. To listeners who want to remind themselves why the military has such a policy, I recommend reading Tom Wolfe's novella Ambush at Fort Bragg, which you can find in Tom's book Hooking Up. And then, we are promised that this week will see passage of a new federal hate crimes law, adding homosexuals to the list of designated victims on whose behalf the Justice Department can swing into action when not satisfied with proceedings in state courts — what used to be called "double jeopardy" back in the days when it was thought unfair to try a person twice for the same crime. Last week the House of Representatives passed a bill making it a hate crime to target the differently-oriented. With the flawless logic for which our federal legislators are so well known, they actually attached this hate crime provision as an amendment to the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill, the one that allocates federal money to the armed forces. Anyway, it's expected that the U.S. Senate will also pass this thing, and send it up to the President, who will undoubtedly sign it, since he's a double jeopardy sort of guy. Hate crime laws are a terrible idea even at the state level, adding extra penalties on to the convictions of persons who hold unpopular opinions. Hate crimes laws are, in fact, as close as the totalitarian Left can come to criminalizing opinions. They'd like to go further, but the First Amendment, which of course they detest, won't let them. At the federal level, though, hate crimes add the prepostrous to the deplorable. Federal legislation is supposed to rest solidly on the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution. Since the Constitution does not mention homosexuality, laws granting special favors to homosexuals are unconstitutional. This of course assumes that when the matter comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will be judged on no other grounds but constitutionality; and that assumes that the court will contain no more soft-headed liberal judges than it contains now, able to find "penumbras" and "emanations" in the Constitution.
04 — Lying about Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh's been dropped from a consortium of businessfolk trying to buy the St. Louis Rams football team. This follows various complaints from within the NFL, which turns out to be so exquisitely race-shy, it makes the Republican National Committee look like George Wallace. Or should I say Jeremiah Wright? Whatever. Limbaugh had actually learned about the NFL's hypersensitivity back in 2003, when, as an ESPN commentator, he offered the opinion that Philadelphia Eagle's quarterback Donovan McNabb was being overrated by the media because he is black. Quote from Rush: "The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." Everyone shrieked, clutched their skirts, and jumped up on chairs, and Rush had to resign from ESPN. In this latest controversy, fuel has been added to the fire by Wikipedia. Now, Wikipedia is not a bad resource for matters of historical or scientific fact. The articles are riddled with errors; but if you cross-check from the links they provide, and cross-check further by googling other sources, you can squeeze some truth out of Wikipedia. I use it myself on those terms, and the concept is not a bad one. When it comes to living people, though, most especially anyone of a conservative inclination, Wikipedia is basically a left-wing gossip shop. I've written about this elsewhere: google my article titled "Gossipedia." Articles on living persons are carefully patrolled by an army of left-wing editors, to make sure they conform to the party line. In my article I suggested to the Wiki folk that they adopt a rule like the one used by the U.S. Postal Service, which doesn't put living persons on postage stamps. Perhaps, I said, Wikipedia should just not have any articles on living people. They don't seem to have followed my suggestion. At any rate, some Wiki editor — anonymous, of course — posted some fake Rush Limbaugh quotes, praising Martin Luther King's killer and saying that American streets were safer under slavery. He probably thought he'd done a clever thing, but it is in fact very often possible to track down these anonymous Wikipedia editors, and I'm willing to bet Rush has a team on it. The Wikicreep may very well spend the rest of his life paying punitive damages to Rush; and that should be fine by anyone who thinks these anonymous Wikipedia slanderers need to be taught a lesson.
05 — Pensions over the cliff. Get ready for the biggest domestic policy issue of the next few years: pensions. It used to be that you worked 30 or 40 years for a firm, then retired with a guaranteed pension check every month — a defined-benefit pension. Then, to cut costs, companies switched to 401(K) plans, where you put in a fixed amount of your salary for that 30 or 40 years, and retire with whatever the market returns on your contributions. Last year's market crash showed what a poor deal this is. From December '07 to March '09, the average 401(K) balance fell 31 percent — nearly one-third. Hmm, well, that's tough on the poor private-sector saps who bought into the 401(K) scam. What about those pockets of the economy where defined-benefit pensions are still going strong, though? That would be mainly the public sector. Your local cop, teacher, or bureaucrat is cushioned by guarantees from the public fisc, isn't he? Don't be so sure. Last Sunday's Washington Post ran a story on the looming crisis in public-sector pensions. Sample quotes, quote: "Within 15 years, public systems on average will have less than half the money they need to pay pension benefits." Quote: "After losing about $1 trillion in the markets, state and local governments are facing a devil's choice: Either slash retirement benefits or pursue high-return investments that come with high risk." Quote: "Some pension experts say the funding gap has become so great that no investment strategy can close it and that taxpayers will have to cover the massive bill." So, let's see: We investing our own money for retirement isn't working out too well; and the professional fund managers who look after state and municipal retirement systems haven't been doing too well either. Of course, all these problems will become moot when the economy starts booming again. That's not a terrifically good bet either, though. Sure, the market was up nicely this week, with the Dow crossing the ten thousand mark for the first time in a year. The Dow first passed 10,000 in 1999; or to put it another way, if your investments performed as well as the Dow, your return over the last ten years has been zero percent. Will the Dow keep going up? Depends who you ask. With vast deficits stretching to the horizon, big-player national economies fleeing from the dollar, and Peak Oil somewhere on the other side of the hill, a booming U.S. economy is not something you'd want to bet your retirement on. Which is unfortunate, because there's nothing else you can bet your retirement on. Of course, there's always Social Security. It's not much, but at least the system is sound as a bell, right? Right. Sure. Of course. Nothing to worry about there …
06 — Terrorism and immigration. Yet further evidence, if any were needed, that our public discourse is rooted in stupidity and insanity. Here is Janet Napolitano, our Secretary for Homeland Security. "The threat of attack is always with us," the secretary told Bloomberg news. "There are individuals in the United States who ascribe to al-Qaeda-type beliefs." I am sure there are; but the obvious question is, why? And the obvious answer is: Because we let those individuals in. And the obvious follow-up question is another why? And the obvious follow-up answer is: Because our policies on immigration and settlement are terminally stupid. You can take that word "terminally" in its actual and literal sense, in the case of the few thousand Americans who will die in the next terrorist atrocity. After 9/11 a certain female conservative commentator suggested that Congress should amend immigration law to suspend issuance of visas to persons from a list of obvious countries, and ask resident aliens from those countries to leave the U.S.A. at their earliest convenience, and that if Congress did not take this simple precaution, the deaths of the people killed in the next terrorist attack would be on Congress's head. The lady was right. This other lady, however — our Secretary for Homeland Security, disagrees. Quote from Ms. Napolitano: "Intelligence tips on terror suspects are more important than a system to track visitors leaving the country … Better border enforcement will help make the case for immigration legislation." The two halves of that remark don't fit together. If we can't track visitors coming and going, what border enforcement do we have? Why would we need intelligence tips on terror suspects if we had not granted them visas, or let them slip across our border, in the first place? Can you remember, listeners, how just a few short years ago it was possible to stroll through an airport right up to the departure gate, without let or hindrance? How you could carry a backpack on the New York subway without people edging away from you in fear? How you could drive around our nation's capital without having your view repeatedly blocked by huge concrete blast walls? In pursuit of a stupid multicultural fantasy, a dogma that everyone in the world has an equal right to come settle in our country, we have trashed our liberties and given up our birthright. To avoid hurting the feelings of people who hate us, and to allow liberal elites to pose and preen in imagined moral superiority, we have turned ourselves into a fearful, snooping, suspicious security state. The costs of multiculturalist immigration policies are plain to see in all their hideous enormity. What have been the benefits?
07 — Are we stimulated yet? Are you feeling stimulated yet, gentle listener? You should be. The federal government has been hosing stimulus money around like a drunken fire truck crew. I can't speak for the rest of the country, parochial little Babbitt that I am, but here in New York the stimulus has stimulated nothing, nada, zip, zilch, squat, diddley, and in fact even diddley-squat. How do I know? Because the government admits it. Figures released Thursday by the White House tell us that the ten largest stimulus contracts in my neck of the woods — New York city and Long Island — total tab half a billion dollars, have created 54 jobs. That's nine million dollars per job. In individual instances, the cost was higher. A 53 million dollar contract to fix a Brooklyn post office created just a third of a job, so that pro ratas at 159 million dollars per job. A five and a half million dollar plumbing contract for a federal courthouse created no jobs at all. I can't pro rata that because math doesn't permit division by zero.
Has the stimulus program stimulated anything anywhere? Well, the government claims it has. A lot of stimulus money — over two billion dollars — was allocated to every liberal's favorite program, Head Start. Started in 1965, Head Start is not known to have accomplished anything at all — other than make liberals feel good, which is of course the goal of most social policy. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, in their 2003 book No Excuses, subjected Head Start to careful analysis, and concluded that after four decades, at a cost to the federal taxpayers of 60 billion dollars, there was no clear evidence that the program had improved educational achievement in any way. The thing goes lumbering on, though, utter failure not being any reason to cancel a social program, and here it is getting two billion extra smackers from Uncle Sam to stimulate job creation. The White House boasts, for example, of having created fifty Head Start jobs in Danville, Va. When the New York Post went asking in Danville, though, they found that no jobs had been created at all. The money had gone to, quote, "staff training, pay raises, and playground repair." The bookkeeper for that local Head Start declared that, quote, "It hasn't created jobs, but it's helped improve fifty jobs." Well, yes, for sure, nothing improves a job like a pay raise, even a job in a line of work with a 44-year record of accomplishing nothing at all. I could use a little of that improvement myself. Where do I apply for my stimulus funds?
08 — Doomed. As I did last week, this week I shall give a brief reading from the 2009 Christmas blockbuster best-seller We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism. I am going to continue this practice until YOU HAVE ALL BOUGHT A COPY. Come on, I have children to feed. This week's reading is from Chapter Three, whose topic is politics.
To anyone of a republican (small "r" please, Mr. Editor) sensibility, American politics frequently throws up disgusting spectacles. It throws up one most years in January: the State of the Union speech.
You know how it goes. We're shown the House chamber, where the nation's highest civilian and military officials wait in gathering expectation. The Sergeant at Arms announces the President's arrival. The great man appears at last. In his progress through the chamber, legislators jostle and maneuver to catch his eye and receive the favor of a presidential greeting.
On the podium at last, the President offers up preposterously grandiose assurances of protection, provision, and moral guidance from his government, these declarations of benevolent omnipotence punctuated by standing ovations and cheers from legislators of his own party, and often from the others too, after every declarative clause. This Stalinesque extravaganza has sprouted from a tiny seed: the requirement in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution that the President "shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Practically all of the development from acorn to mighty oak occurred during the twentieth century, with the most objectionable trends accelerating during the last quarter of that century.
The "annual message" (as it was called until 1945) was not in fact a speech at all for most of the republic's history. Washington and John Adams made a speech of it, but Jefferson — correctly, of course — thought this too monarchical. The annual message was thereafter delivered in writing to Congress until Woodrow Wilson reverted to speech mode in 1913. There was partial re-reversion to the written presentation by the more modest presidents of the immediate post-Wilson era (Harding, Coolidge, Hoover), and then occasionally since (Truman's first and last, Eisenhower's last, Carter's last, and Nixon's 4th), but for most of this past three-quarters of a century the President has delivered a speech.
Both in style and in substance the presidency has drifted far from the Founders' intentions. As the State of the Union speeches show, the President is no longer merely chief administrator of one of the three branches of our federal government. He is a pontiff, in touch with Divinity, to be addressed like the Almighty in Robert Grant's fine old hymn:
Our Shield and Defender,
The Ancient of days,
Pavilion'd in splendour,
And girded with praise.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: A wee story here from Albany. Not Albany, New York, home of the nation's most stupid, corrupt, and dysfunctional state legislature; this is Albany, Oregon, just off the interstate there between Eugene and Salem in the Beaver State. There's an apartment building there named Oaks Apartments, and the owners of the place banned the flying of flags anywhere on the premises. Tenants were told that if they showed Old Glory in their windows, or flew it from their vehicles, they would be evicted. When one tenant ventured to ask the reason, she was told, quote: "Somebody might be offended." A patriotic citizen will of course be deeply offended by the ban itself; but this seems not to have occurred to the building owners, who must belong to that class of people who regard patriotism as a form of mental illness.
Item: Thousands of Detroit residents mobbed a city office last week when they heard that checks for $3,000 were being handed out as part of a federal homelessness relief program. Given that the average listing price for homes in central Detroit for the week ended October 7 is less than $20,000, you have to wonder why anyone is homeless there, but I'll explore that issue another time.
Item: Here's a crimespeak story from Austin, Texas. Crimespeak is of course what you do when you utter in public some words that will hurt the feelings of one of the fifty million or so Americans who spend every waking hour looking out for opportunities to claim that their feelings have been hurt. Well, down in Austin they have a radio show named the Jason and Deb morning show. One morning this week the co-hosts, Jason Alvarez and Deb O'Keefe, got to discussing wet vacs. You know, those big industrial-strength vacuum cleaners you use for your basement and garage. Well, they got into a little play on words, on the words "wet vac," something about going down to Home Depot to hire some wet vacs, and now Jason and Deb are off the air. Here comes the truly horrifying part, though, if you can stomach it. I'll just read this quote from a station executive, quote: "In the wake of the comments, all on-air employees of parent company Emmis Austin Radio and its six local stations will be required to take cultural sensitivity and diversity training." [Scream]
Item: How d'you feel about rabbits? Cute little fluffy, cuddly things with twitching noses? Well, if you're fond of rabbits, stay away from Sweden. They have a rabbit problem in Stockholm, so they've been having a cull. As a result, they have several thousand fluffy little rabbit corpses to dispose of. What's their solution? They are using them for fuel. They ship the dead rabbits off to a heating plant in central Sweden, where the cute fluffy little cadavers and their delightful fluffy little bobtails and twitching pink noses are fed into a furnace so Swedes can warm their homes. Sounds pretty sensible to me. [Bugs Bunny sounds, followed by gunshot.] Burn, bunny, burn. Any chance we could get a similar energy-saving project going here, based on Canada geese?
Item: Speaking of bunnies, the TV cartoon character Marge Simpson is being featured on the cover of Playboy magazine, and they are running an interview with the lady inside. The surprise here is not so much that Playboy would give so much space to a person who doesn't exist, as that Playboy magazine is still around. It's like finding out that there are still Albigensians somewhere, or that your next-door neighbor works for the Hanseatic League. Well, I guess if they're going to do porn spreads on cartoon characters, better it should be Marge Simpson than Olive Oyl … though Brits of a certain age would much prefer they'd used Jane.
Item: In one of those one-day-wonder news stories, a six-year-old boy in Colorado went soaring up to eight thousand feet in a home-made helium balloon with a wooden passenger compartment attached. Except that he didn't; it turned out the compartment was empty, the kid hiding in the family garage. With all the hot air being emitted by our government and its media shills nowadays, the kid's dad could have spared himself the cost of the helium, I should have thought. Still, the incident got me thinking about Lawn Chair Larry. Remember him, back in 1982? Lawn Chair Larry is not to be confused with Leisure Suit Larry, who was later in that decade. Lawn Chair Larry tied down his lawn chair, affixed several large helium balloons to it, equipped himself with an air pistol to pop a couple balloons for descent, and let loose the mooring. He finally leveled out at 16 thousand feet, in the approach corridors to Los Angeles airport. Pilots were radioing in sightings of him. "Ah, control tower? I am coming in at 16 thousand feet and at two o'clock, range a thousand feet, I see a guy in a lawn chair …" Larry ended up with a fifteen hundred dollar FAA fine and a Darwin Award, which he finally justified by committing suicide eleven years later. Here's a toast to Lawn Chair Larry, a guy who just wanted to fly.
Item: I think that pretty much wraps it up … Oh, wait a minute — something's happened in Honduras! Quote from the BBC: "There is more confusion in Honduras over whether an agreement has been reached to solve the political crisis," end quote. See, this Honduranian guy was kicked out, then he came back, then this other Hondurist said something, then the first guy did something, then some other guys came in, then Obama said something, then someone imposed sanctions, and everyone started talking about the Hondurese constitution, but nobody could find a copy, so some other guys said something should be done, and the guy who'd fled said he was willing to do one thing, but not another thing, … Radio Derb will keep you abreast of this vitally important story concerning one of the key nations of our hemisphere.
10 — Signoff. That really does wrap it up, boys and girls. More next week from your infallible source for news and views, Radio Derb. In the meantime, you can keep up with the Radio Derb spirit by purchasing a copy of We Are Doomed in which, at the very end, you will find some lyrics from the following downlifting little ditty.
[Music clip: From Noël Coward's There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner]