• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please to put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do; if you haven't got a ha'penny, well, you should have got a government job.
Yes, Radio Derb here on the air, folks. This is your seasonally genial host John Derbyshire, with news and views to make your plum pudding lose its flavor on your tongue and your egg nog curdle in its jug. Ho ho ho!
02 — "Don't ask, don't tell" repealed. Last Saturday in the U.S. Senate was a bad day for illegal aliens, but a good day for homosexual soldiers.
The Senate voted 65-31 to abolish the ban on open homosexuals serving in the military. That was enough to send the bill to the President for signing.
The Senate also voted, also on Saturday, by 55-41 to amnesty illegal aliens who were under 16 when they violated our nation's border. That vote was not enough to get the so-called DREAM Act out of the Senate, and so it died right there.
So far as the DREAM Act is concerned, Radio Derb has said enough over the past few weeks to make our opinion plain. We cheer the defeat of this monstrosity [cheers]. It now only remains to note the names of the Republican Senators who voted for the filthy thing: Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Robert Bennett of Utah. May those names live in infamy.
The abolition of the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell rule marked another station on the long downward slide of the U.S. military, from a formidable fighting force with an ethos of service, sacrifice, comradeship, and manliness to a social welfare organization with an ethos of multicultural cringing and pandering. Or to put it another way: from an instrument for winning wars to an instrument for celebrating the moral vanity of our ruling class.
So far as I can judge from reading news stories and having occasional encounters with military folk, our military today consists of a few lethal units of dedicated fighters in the finest military tradition imbedded, like steel splinters in a bun, in a soft doughy mass of flabby time-servers, single moms, diversity enforcers, touchy yet untouchable Muslims, Oprahified weepers, and rejects from other kinds of government work.
If we just added openly homosexual personnel to the doughy mass, it won't make much difference. The dough is just a degree fluffier, that's all. If we added them to the steel splinters, however, we just finished ourselves as a serious nation. I'm clinging to the hope that those steel splinters have their own way of keeping homosexuals away from where it matters.
And percentage-wise, what we really have here, as with so-called gay marriage, is not so much legislation on behalf of homosexuals in general, as legislation on behalf of lesbians. Just as not many homosexual men are looking for life partners, probably not many homosexual men are attracted to the military life. Lots of lesbian women are, though. Rampant lesbianism in female military units has been a standing joke since at least as far back as World War Two.
So here's my breakdown of the effect. Open lesbians among military women? Just a slight tweak on the status quo. Open homosexual men in that large part of the armed forces whose mission is to shore up political correctness and offer government jobs to the otherwise unemployable? Won't hardly notice. Open homosexuals in our serious war-fighting units? Fatal to those units, and to the U.S.A. as a serious nation.
Reading assignment for this section: Tom Wolfe's novella Ambush at Fort Bragg, which you'll find in Tom's book Hooking Up.
03 — Army / Education Trust report on military recruits. If you want to join the military, there are a few hurdles to jump. First, you must be a high-school graduate. Second, you must not have a serious criminal record. Third, you must not be obese. Fourth, you have to pass an IQ test.
People usually jump when you mention that last condition. It's a condition, though. The military has been testing applicants for intelligence since World War One. Their database of test results is so big and useful that Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein used it for much of the data in their 1994 book The Bell Curve.
And of course the AFQT, the Armed Forces Qualification Test, is never openly referred to as an IQ test since, as everybody knows, IQ testing is a sinister plot designed to keep minorities down. It is also the case that the AFQT contains a smattering of question types not found in pure IQ tests. AFQT results and IQ-test results correlate very closely, though, and the AFQT is an IQ test in all but name.
What does it mean to "pass" this military IQ test? That depends on the military's requirements. If recruitment's coming up short, they can always lower the bar a little. Currently you need to have an IQ of 92 or more to be accepted for the Army. For the Marines it's a tad higher, 93. For the Navy you need a 94 IQ, for the Air Force a 96, for the Coast Guard a 98. That, please understand, is on top of the prior requirements mentioned above: not a high-school dropout, not a budding career criminal, and not obese.
Put it another way, one American in three is not smart enough to be accepted by the Army even if they dropped the ban on dropouts, crooks and lard-butts. Almost one in two is not smart enough for the Coast Guard.
Well now, here's an outfit named the Education Trust discussing the data from the military.
What's the Education Trust? It's a liberal do-gooder think tank with a mission, to quote from their website:
to promote high academic achievement for all students at all levels.
Apparently nobody's told these well-meaning folk that lots of people have no interest in academic stuff, nor any aptitude for it.
Their mission also is, further quote:
to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement that consign far too many young people — especially those from low-income families or who are black, Latino, or American Indian — to lives on the margins of the American mainstream.
Lots of luck with that. The Education Trust is funded by the usual suspects: Carnegie, Ford, Bill Gates, and so on. We're deep in liberal-land here. There's an Indian behind every tree, so I'll be treading softly.
So this Education Trust got permission to do an analysis of the military tests. They got a big database, so it's a worthwhile analysis. Quote from their report:
Our sample consists of the nearly 350,000 high school graduates aged 17-20 who applied for entry into the Army between 2004 and 2009 and took the ASVAB at a Military Entrance Processing Station.
I think they actually mean the military, not just the Army, as the rest of the report deals with all branches. The ASVAB, by the way, is the bigger battery of vocational tests you advance to after passing the AFQT.
You can read the report for yourself on Education Trust's website, www.edtrust.org, and click on "Press Releases." Be prepared, though, to enter the strange looking-glass world of liberal talk about intelligence — a thing that liberals aren't supposed to believe in but, like the rest of us, can't help noticing. Sample:
More than one in five young people do not meet the minimum standard required for Army enlistment.
Gosh, so let's see: The military gives applicants an IQ test, with a cutoff set so that they don't get too few or too many recruits. One applicant in five falls below the cutoff. Understand, please, that this is presented to us as a problem that we must solve.
You think I'm kidding? Here is our federal Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, commenting on the report. Quote:
Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career — and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces. I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system.
Imagine how much more "troubled" our imbecile Secretary of Education would be if someone were to break the news to him that half our high school students tested below average. It's a national crisis! Something must be done!
Among other knock-you-off-your-chair surprises in the Education Trust report are listings of the failure rates on the AFQT by state. The highest failure rate was for Hawaii, followed by Mississippi, Washington, D.C., Louisiana, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Alabama. Lowest failure rate was for Wyoming, followed by Indiana, Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and North Dakota.
Darned if I can see any pattern in there. Nope, no pattern at all, none whatsoever.
04 — START treaty. Continuing on a vaguely military theme here, I have to admit I don't understand arms control, and never have. What's the point of it, other than to provide indoor relief to third-rate diplomats?
These thoughts are of course inspired by the passing of the START treaty in the Senate this week. As I said, I just don't understand the whole business.
No, that's not quite right. I understand arms control perfectly … for Estonia. If you're a small nation that can't afford much military hardware, getting some controls in place on the armaments of nearby big nations makes a world of sense.
Now let's talk about the United States of America. We have the world's biggest economy, a territory wellnigh impossible to invade and occupy, and longer, deeper experience of making and testing nuclear weapons than any other nation. For Estonia to make one small atom bomb from scratch would consume a large part of the nation's resources for a decade or more. For us to make the same bomb is just a matter of some Department of Defense GS-12 putting through a call to Amarillo to crank up an assembly line.
In a dangerous world chock-full of bad actors, crazy despots, and what a recent Secretary of Defense called "unknown unknowns," the nuclear policy of the U.S.A. should have three legs: prevention, interception, and deterrence.
Prevention consists of trying to stop anyone — anyone at all, from lone lunatic to nuclear mega-power — from popping a nuke on our territory. This includes primary safeguards like checking incoming sea and air cargo for suspicious characteristics, keeping track of known fissile material, monitoring other countries' silos and submarines, and so on.
Interception is the second line of defense. The crazy guy has planted a nuke in one of our cities. I refer listeners to this year's excellent thriller movie Unthinkable. Or the hostile mega-power nation has got a barrage of missiles in the air coming our way. Whatever we can do technologically to locate and destroy those incoming missiles, we should do.
And then, deterrence. This has a tricky part and an easy part. The tricky part is to identify the nation of origin or assistance in the case of lone rogue actors; more precisely, to make everyone believe we can identify them.
There will be such a nation: Making a nuke is still beyond the power of anything smaller than a nation. If that ceases to be true, which it may for all anyone knows, then Katy bar the door. It's true now though, and for the near future, so if we lose a city, we need to know which nation to blame.
That's the tricky part of deterrence. The easy part is having way more nukes and delivery systems than anyone else. We're well-equipped for that, with the base of knowledge and facilities we have.
So let's work on all that. Let's make it very clear, to avoid ugly misunderstandings, that any nation that attacks us with nukes, or helps any person or group to do so, will suffer very grievous retaliation. Let's make it similarly clear that we have the means to carry out that retaliation a thousand times over.
There is no total security, nuclear or otherwise. Even under my policy, as just stated, we could lose a city or two. That terrible catastrophe is more probable, though, if we fail to make our resolve clear, or advertise some weakening of our capabilities. Such things we should not do.
The policy of our current administration would be fine for Estonia. This is not Estonia. The ideal world would have no nukes. That's not the world we live in, nor is such a world likely to come about in our lifetimes.
The second-best ideal is for the world to have one supreme nuclear power overshadowing all others, and for that power to be under rational, consensual government. That is the world we currently live in. Let's keep things that way.
05 — Obama: Naughty or Nice? The tax deal that the President signed on December 17th is being construed in two different ways by two different factions of conservatives, a happy faction and a worried faction.
The happy faction, personified by pretty much the entire congressional GOP, conservative or otherwise, and on NRO by Michael Barone, says this was a triumph and Barack Obama has been reduced to a hollow shell. "He wanted the tax cuts to expire. We've kept them alive for another two years," the happy faction chortle.
The worried faction, represented on NRO by Andy McCarthy and Charles Krauthammer, argue that this is a stealth stimulus. Even neglecting the tax revenues that will now, at least on a static analysis, not be flowing in to the government, there is massive unfunded spending in the deal — nearly a third of a trillion, according to Rep. Paul Ryan, according to Andy.
Is this what Obama intended? If the happy faction of conservatives see the President as a sad sack loser, the worried faction, or at least some of them, see him as a brilliant strategist who's just pulled off a sensational piece of ju-jitsu against congressional Republicans. No tax hikes, plus a third of a trillion more stimulus, across two years. Two years … let's see … that takes us to … oh yes, Fall of 2012.
Where is Radio Derb on this debate? Is Obama a sorry loser, or a strategic mastermind?
I don't think he's either; though if you want to put me on the spectrum, I'm closer to the strategic mastermind end. No, I don't really think he's a mastermind; but I do think he's got very good political instincts. Obama's entire career testifies to that. And — a factor not yet mentioned, but vital in all human affairs — he has luck. So no, by no means a towering genius, but a good political athlete blessed with a lot of luck.
Here's a story from U.S. political history. I've pulled it out from H.L. Mencken's 1933 obituary essay on Calvin Coolidge. Mencken is reminiscing about the 1920 Republican convention, when Coolidge was made Vice-Presidential candidate on Warren Harding's ticket. It was June in Chicago and the convention hall was unbearably hot, so after the result everyone went looking for coolth and refreshment. Here's Mencken:
I retired to the catacombs under the auditorium to soak my head and get a drink. In one of the passages I encountered a colleague from one of the Boston papers, surrounded by a group of politicians, policemen and reporters. He was making a kind of speech, and I paused idly to listen. To my astonishment I found that he was offering to bet all comers that Harding, if elected, would be assassinated before he had served half his term. Someone in the crowd remonstrated gently, saying that any talk of assassination was unwise and might be misunderstood, for the Armistice was less than two years old and the Mitchell Palmer Red hunt was still in full blast. But the Bostonian refused to shut down.
Warren Harding was not assassinated before serving half his term. He served three-fifths of his term, then died of a heart attack. Strange are the ways of the world.
Barack Obama is not a loser, and he is not a genius. He's smart, and he's lucky. Lucky lucky lucky.
06 — Fiscal catastrophe ahead? Reading what economists say can be scary. Here's one of them, John Williams of ShadowStats.com, who's been making a handsome living as a consulting economist for 30 years. He was interviewed by The Energy Report back in August. Sample quote:
The government is effectively bankrupt. Using GAAP accounting principles, the annual deficit is running in the range of $4 trillion to $5 trillion. That's beyond containment. The government can't cover it with taxes. They'd still be in deficit if they took 100 percent of personal income and corporate profits. They'd also still be in deficit if they cut every penny of government spending except for Social Security and Medicare. Washington lacks the will to slash its social programs severely, to change its approach to ever bigger government. The only option left going forward is for the government eventually to print the money for the obligations it cannot otherwise cover, which sets up a hyperinflation.
Then here's precious-metals guru James Turk, quote:
All of these crises are going to come to a head in 2011. So far they have been developing serially, but everything is shaping up for a big bang. The reason is that debt holders are finally waking up to the risks and demanding higher interest rates, which is something over-leveraged debtors cannot afford to pay.
You want more? I got more. Here's Michael Pento, senior economist at Euro Pacific Capital, quote:
We had a chance in 2008 to de-leverage as a country, but we chose the easy path which was more debt and more inflation. The idea that we will ever be able to unwind this leverage without disastrous consequences is completely ridiculous. I wish I had better news, but unfortunately the central planners on the US side have sent this country down a path of destruction.
And so on. Now it is of course the case that if I can find a seasoned, fully-credentialed economist who says something definite, you can find a seasoned, fully-credentialed economist who says the opposite thing. Paul Krugman, for instance, thinks we need more stimulus spending.
It seems to me, though, that this last few months it's been getting easier and easier to find seasoned, fully-credentialed economists who think we are headed for an almighty crash, with the year 2011 figuring prominently in their forecasts. I used to have to go to Marc Faber's Gloom, Boom & Doom Report for this kind of thing; now it's all over the place.
Politically, of course, the interesting question is: If the U.S. economy goes over the waterfall in 2011 or 2012, who gets the blame — Barack Obama, or the new Congress with all those new Republican faces in it?
In a normal downturn the President takes the hit: ask Jimmy Carter or Herbert Hoover. I just have a feeling there isn't going to be anything the least bit normal about the next couple of years.
07 — Early 2010 Census results. We're getting some early results from the 2010 Census. Not many surprises here. For example, people are moving from high-tax, business-hostile states that are being sucked dry by public-sector unions to low-tax entrepreneurial states with weak unions. Hey, why wouldn't they?
The thing that jumps out at you is the huge increase in the size of the U.S. population, three-quarters of it the result of immigration. Mark Krikorian's colleague Steven Camarota at the Center for Immigration Studies has put together a report on this aspect of the Census numbers. Go to www.cis.org, it's right there on the front page.
The actual numerical increase this past ten years was 27.3 million, a ten percent increase. Actual immigrants accounted for 13.1 million of that, and births to immigrant mothers about 8.2 million.
Once again, we're just looking here at the size of the increase. Camarota calculates that going forward, with no change to immigration laws, with chain migration and the higher birthrates of immigrants, we'll be looking at a population increase to around 450 million by mid-century. In 1950 the population was 151 million; so if Camarota did his sums right, the number will have tripled in a hundred years.
All those people need to be housed and fed, and their children need schooling. We shall need 11.5 million new housing units every ten years, roads for 24 million new vehicles every ten years, and 8,000 new schools.
The upside is usually advertised as high immigration keeping us young, so that lots of young workers are funding the entitlement systems. Yet in fact the Census Bureau data tells us that all those 13.1 million immigrants this past ten years, plus their 8.2 million births, only reduced the average age slightly, from 37.4 years to 36.8 years. So that's a lot of investment and disruption and environmental impact for a teeny tiny benefit.
Steven Camarota's piece just concentrates on overall numbers, without getting into the dark matters of population origins and human capital. Here at Radio Derb we're bolder, so I'll point out what Steven didn't: That of those ten percent annual increases in our population into the indefinite future, by far the largest component is Latin American.
We can thus reasonably expect that as our populations swells, our nation will drift closer and closer to resembling a Latin American country. I guess that's what we want, since we're letting it happen.
08 — The welfare ratchet. At Christmas, while we're feasting and gifting, it's right and proper to give a thought to those less fortunate — poor people for example. So here's a word about welfare to close with.
Here in particular is one of our federal welfare programs: SSI, which is to say Supplemental Security Income. This was created in 1972 with the idea of helping poor people who are coping with seriously disabled children — children, that is, who are blind, or have cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome, or some similar severe disorder requiring lots of parental care.
The reasoning was that low-income people in that situation (a) needed extra resources to cope with the problem, and (b) would lose a lot of time off work because of their responsibilites. So low-income people with seriously disabled kids needed government help.
Flash forward 38 years. One point two million children nationwide are now covered by SSI payments. Six hundred and forty thousand of those — more than half — qualify because of, quote from the Social Security Administration, which runs the program, quote: "mental, learning, or behavioral issues."
What does that mean? Well, the top two afflictions are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, and delayed speech in young children. Some way behind those two leaders, the next commonest are autism spectrum disorders, bipolar illness, depression, and learning problems.
In plain English, if you're poor and your child is unruly, or a late talker, or self-absorbed, or unhappy, or un-scholarly, you can get a check from the feds. A big check: One case came to light by chance in 2006, the case of the Riley family in Massachusetts, who had three children all diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. The Rileys were getting $30,000 a year from SSI.
That wasn't an unusual case. According to a long report in the December 12th Boston Globe, tens of thousands of poor families depend on SSI. To read the whole thing, google "A legacy of unintended side effects." The truly horrible thing is that to qualify for the program, your child needs to be on Ritalin or some other behavior-modification drug. And you have to keep him on it if you want those checks to keep coming. If your child gets better, the checks stop.
You may not be aware of SSI but down in the ghetto, there isn't anyone who doesn't know about it. Get your kid diagnosed with some learning or behavioral disorder — the kind of thing you can easily coach them to put on for a doctor or welfare worker. Get them on a prescription drug for the bogus disorder. Then [ker-ching] — $700 a month.
The Boston Globe story comes with a graph. The graph shows that from 1990 to the present — this last twenty years — the number of kids on SSI has quadrupled from 300,000 to the aforementioned 1.2 million. The number enrolled because of mental, behavioral, or learning disorders has gone from zero to the aforementioned 640,000.
This is the welfare ratchet. It turns in only one direction, from no benefit, to benefit. Twenty years ago zero kids were on SSI for being naughty, or unhappy, or uninterested in schoolwork. Now there are 640,000. If you cut them off tomorrow, there'd be riots, mayhem, and death.
You want more of this? Oh, I've got more. Never mind SSI, let's look at SSDI. Completely different program: SSDI is Social Security Disability Insurance. Created in 1956, the idea of SSDI was to give income support to people aged 50 to 64 who were disabled and couldn't work. As with SSI, the program has swollen beyond anything imagined by those who conceived it.
The Cato Institute did a report on SSDI, published November 30th this year. As the Cato people point out, there should be much less need for SSDI now than in 1956. Quote:
Five decades of advances in medical treatments and rehabilitative technologies, combined with a secular trend away from physically exertive work … should have reduced the incidence of disabling medical conditions and hence lowered the relative size of the SSDI program. This has not occurred.
It sure hasn't. Payments under SSDI have more than doubled in just the last fifteen years, even after factoring in inflation. Welfare programs, once you start them, have a life of their own. There is a whole legal sub-industry dedicated to helping you game these Social Security welfare systems — they advertise on TV.
The whole welfare system is rotten, and getting rottener real fast — look at those soaring graphs on the Boston Globe and Cato websites. And it's irreversible. The toothpaste's out of the tube, you can't get it back in. People coped without these systems once, but they can't any more.
Those of us who work, and pay taxes, and stay away from government programs, we pay all the bills — bills rising steeply, like those graphs. Something's got to give.
09 — Christmas Day in the Workhouse. Since this is Christmas, however, I'm just going to give you a reminder of why anyone ever thought we needed welfare in the first place.
Once, not so long ago, there was real and terrible hardship. I grew up among English working people who themselves, the older ones, had grown up in the late 19th and early 20th century. The most terrible word in their vocabulary was "workhouse." This was a place maintained by the parish where hopelessly indigent people could get minimal food and shelter in return for some kind of drudge work. It was the most shameful and humiliating thing to go to the workhouse, and these older people spoke of the place with dread and loathing.
The classic expression of that dread and loathing was George Sims' narrative poem "Christmas Day in the Workhouse." This was written over a hundred years ago, when there really was such a thing as the deserving poor, and it really was possible to fall into hunger and destitution through no fault of your own.
In one century — one long human lifetime — we have moved from that to the dependency rackets, entitlement mentality, moral collapse, and careless public profligacy of today. We have got welfare all wrong, and our system is hopelessly corrupt and degraded; but if you think there need be no welfare at all, listen to George Sims' fine old melodramatic poem "Christmas Day in the Workhouse." There's a reading on my website, johnderbyshire.com under "Readings."
[Party noises in the background.]
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, and forgoing our usual closing miscellany because we're out of time, with that I leave you.
I can hear the party getting under way in the oak-paneled, book-lined, deep-pile carpeted precincts of Buckley Towers out beyond my studio here. The girls are out there already, jitterbugging with Jonah and Andy. So I will wrap things up here in the studio. It only remains to wish a hearty "Merry Christmas!" to one and all and give you a song to hum over the goose and stuffing.
I recall being a tad rude about our military up there. What was it I said? "Flabby time-servers, single moms, diversity enforcers, touchy yet untouchable Muslims, Oprahified weepers, and rejects from other kinds of government work."
Yeah, well: you put women in submarines, tell the world that "diversity" is more important than troopers' lives, and legitimize buggery in the barracks, you can expect a conservative traditionalist to grumble.
And I did note that there are real fighting men in there somewhere still, in harm's way, doing their duty in obedience to bird-brained politicians and PC-whipped careerist generals. I wish those brave warriors to come safe home and have Christmas with their loved ones, if not this year then next.
Here's Gracie Fields to echo the sentiment.
[Music clip: Gracie Fields, "I'm sending a letter to Santa Claus."]