• For some reason unknown to me, the sound file for this week's podcast has not survived.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. Greetings, listeners. This is your punctiliously genial host John Derbyshire with a somewhat truncated edition of Radio Derb. Negotiations with my dear friend President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov over in Turkmenistan, concerning the repatriation of my research assistants Mandy, Candy, and Brandy, have reached a crucial stage. I am off to Ashgabat this afternoon to finalize arrangements.
I therefore broadcast to you in some haste, although — fear not! — with no diminution of the wit, sagacity, and pith you have come to expect from our commentary. Herewith, then, some highlights from the week's news.
02 — The Big Splatter. Another week gone by, another seven days closer to the Big Splatter. What's the administration doing to avert the coming fiscal catastrophe?
Not a damn thing. The administration takes its lead from the president, and the president doesn't do policy, unless it advances his plan for re-election next year. There is nothing in this administration but politics. Either the president is unaware of what's coming, or he thinks it won't come until after November '012, or he figures that he can't do anything about it and may as well just position himself for the best shot at political survival.
News of the week on the splatter front was Standard & Poor's dropping its outlook on Treasury debt from "stable" to "negative." Talking to financial types about this, I got a lot of eye-rolling and hollow laughter. When it comes to fiscal disaster, the rating agencies, like cuckolded husbands, are the last to know, as we found out in the mortgage-backed-securities crash three years ago.
By the time the agencies have anything to say about the situation, savvy market people have long since made their moves — as witness the fact that investment giant PIMCO reduced their Treasury exposure to zero a month ago, and are now actually shorting Treasury paper. The big hedge funds and investment banks are on the same track. Standard & Poor's are merely chronicling events after the fact.
It was bold of them even to do that much, since under the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act that Congress gave us last summer, the administration can shut down a rating agency if it doesn't like their ratings; and our current Treasury Secretary, 14-year-old Timmy Geithner, is mad as hell with Standard & Poor's for bad-mouthing U.S. bonds.
Meanwhile it's April, and next month is May, and after that comes June. June 30th is when the Federal Reserve's program of buying government bonds — the so-called "QE2" — comes to a close. As I've mentioned before, our own Federal Reserve buying our own government's paper is just as silly as it sounds — really just a way of turning bonds nobody wants to buy into cash that stimulates the economy. There's the point, though: nobody wants to buy U.S. bonds. That's why PIMCO's shorting them. Quote from PIMCO boss Bill Gross, concerning Treasury bonds, quote: "Who will step up to the plate on July 1 to buy them? You don't want it to be like musical chairs when the music stops and you're the one looking around for the last chair." End quote.
There's an optimistic school of thought saying that when QE2 ends, bond coupon rates will rise, bond prices will fall, foreign investors will come in, the dollar will rally, stocks will hold up anyway because of the recovery and higher comodity prices, and we'll be off to the races with Obama looking good in time for the election.
Don't believe a word of it. We've got debt of $14.3 trillion, and if coupon rates on Treasury paper rise, the interest we'll be paying will just make our horrendous government spending problem even worse. That's not even to mention the nearly $120 trillion in unfunded entitlement commitments that the administration is totally failing to deal with. There is no happy ending to this story.
Get ready for the Big Splatter. It could come with major social disruption — unpaid police forces, uncollected trash, out-of-control Wisconsin-style demonstrations, name your nightmare. Get plenty of canned food in. Get some of those 5-gallon water bottles from Home Depot — remember you dehydrate before you starve! Have a long gun and a side arm for each capable family member, and plenty of ammo. Heads between knees: brace for impact.
03 — Vittorio Arrigoni, R.i.P.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
Yeah, well, with all respect to the Dean of St. Paul's, I've always thought he made a bit of a stretch there. The sentiment he's expressing is prescriptive, not descriptive: not "This is how human beings behave," but "This is how the ideal human being ought to behave."
I mean, really: who but a living saint could truthfully claim that "Any man's death diminishes me"? Statistically speaking, world-wide, sixty million people die every year — average two per second. About 150 people have died since I started this segment. Each one of them was no doubt tragic to those who knew the deceased, but I am not diminished by 150 units of anything I'm aware of.
And frankly, even just considering deaths I actually know about, some men's deaths diminish me more than others. There are a few that I even contemplate with grim satisfaction. I'm really more in tune with the old American frontier sentiment that there are a small number of men who need hanging.
That small number aside, there's a somewhat larger number whose death, while I would not celebrate it, just not being that ill-mannered, forces me to suppress a brief smile. Such a one was Timothy Treadwell, the expert on grizzly bears, who spent his summers living among the big critters in Alaska, calling them his friends and brothers. Treadwell described grizzlies as harmless party animals and once said he'd consider it a privilege to end up his existence as bear scat.
He almost got his wish. In 2003 Treadwell was killed and part-eaten by a couple of his ursine friends. His girlfriend suffered the same fate. Whether they ended up as bear scat is not clear. The killer grizzlies were still chowing down on Treadwell & pal when Treadwell's pilot arrived and saw what had happened. Park Rangers and Alaska state troopers shot both bears, possibly before the necessary digestive processes were complete, so we just don't know if Treadwell made it to actual bear scat.
At any rate, here's another death in that same category: that of Italian "peace activist" Vittorio Arrigoni. Signor Arrigoni came to the Gaza Strip from Italy in 2008 on some kind of "peace ship," together with a bunch of other lefty troublemakers. Their aim was to help the people of the Gaza Strip to achieve what Arrigoni called their "human rights."
Here's what Signor Arrigoni actually said back in 2008, quote: "We're here to try to help these people, but especially because we love Palestine and we want that you have the same human rights that all the other people of the world have, the same rights that Israel and Italy have."
Last Thursday, after three years of helping those Palestinians he loved so much, Vittorio Arrigoni was abducted after leaving a gym. The abductors were an armed gang from something calling itself the Brigade of the Gallant Companion of the Prophet Mohammed bin Muslima. We know this because this group made a video of Signor Arrigoni, in which they demanded the release of two of the group's leader from a Gaza prison.
The following day, before anybody could do anything about complying with the group's demands, Signor Arrigoni's body was found. He'd been garrotted, possibly hanged. It's not known why the abductors killed him without waiting for a response on their ultimatum. It is clear why they picked him as a suitable target, though. In their own words, Signor Arrigoni was, quote: "a journalist who came to our country for nothing but to corrupt people — from Italy, the state of infidelity, whose armies are still in the Muslim countries." End quote.
Gaza, you'll recall, is run by the Jew-hating gangster cult called Hamas, who won an election there in 2006. Hamas are themselves no slouches at kidnapping and abduction. It was Hamas who kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid nearly five years ago. Staff Sergeant Shalit has been held by Hamas in a secret location ever since. His loved ones don't even know if he's dead or alive. Far from feeling embarrassed about the Shalit kidnapping, Hamas boasts of it. Just last weekend, after the news of Vittorio Arrigoni's abduction came out, a fellow named Ahmad Bahar urged Palestinians to kidnap more Israeli soldiers. Who is Ahmad Bahar? He's a Hamas party operative and legislator, in fact the deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
You should therefore view with extreme skepticism the concern being expressed by Hamas spokesmen over the killing of Signor Arrigoni. The people weeping crocodile tears for the benefit of the international media are the nice grizzlies. The Brigade of the Gallant Companion of the Prophet Mohammed bin Muslima are the mean grizzlies. Bottom line here: They're all grizzlies.
Let's look on the bright side, though. Unlike poor Timothy Treadwell, at least Vittorio Arrigoni didn't get eaten by those he'd come to help and befriend.
04 — Alan Hevesi's pension. Meet Alan Hevesi, age 71. Mr Hevesi, a Democrat, served for 22 years as a State Assemblyman here in my home state of New York.
I forget who it was who said when Bill Clinton first came to our attention that nobody who'd five times been elected governor of a state like Arkansas could possibly be an honest man, but some similar remark applies to a 22-year career in the New York State legislature.
Anyway, Hevesi then ascended into the higher levels of what those who practice it are pleased to call "public service." He became Comptroller — which is a sort of chief auditor — of first New York City, then of New York State.
From that lofty position, Hevesi proceeded to loot state funds for his own personal and political advantage. He got caught with his fingers in the till, in fact in half a dozen tills, and this week started a one-to-four year sentence at an upstate correctional facility.
A sad story, you might think; but hold your tears. Hevesi is laughing all the way to the cell block. According to the Empire State Policy Center, Hevesi will be collecting his pensions regardless: $105 thousand plus dollars from the state employee retirement system and $55 thousand plus from the state teachers' retirement system, though I can find no record of his ever having been a teacher. Total $161,283.
A year or so of porridge then a lifetime collecting $161 thousand a year from Joe Taxpayer — inflation-linked of course, and some portion of it I believe tax-free. Just another humble, self-sacrificing public servant. How well they serve us, our public servants!
05 — Presidential "call to arms" on immigration. Tuesday President Obama held a meeting at the White House on immigration reform.
Now, if you're thinking to yourself: "Oh good! Now perhaps we'll get a rational immigration policy — proper border security, expulsion of illegals, end to birthright citizenship, family reunification cut back to spouses and dependent children, green cards only for spouses of citizens, no more H-1B cheap labor for Bill Gates, an end to the refugee-resettlement scams, and so on. An immigration policy that benefits the American people!"
If that's what you were thinking, you're not up to date with the current vocabulary of immigration policy. The phrase "immigration reform" does not refer to a clean-up and rationalization of the unholy mess that is our current policy. It refers to schemes that will make things worse — deliberately and cynically, to generate more votes for the Democratic Party, to further squeeze the American middle class, and to speed up the process of turning the U.S.A. from a European country with a ten percent black minority to a majority-minority bear pit of feuding ethnicities.
That's what the phrase "immigration reform" means. The keystone of "immigration reform," as understood by those who use the phrase, is an amnesty for the ten-to-twenty million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S.A. The effect of the amnesty, other than adding ten-to-twenty million scofflaws to the rolls of registered Democrats, will be to encourage a new flood of illegals, just as happened with the previous amnesty in 1986. The promoters of "immigration reform" know this. It's exactly what they want.
So here was Obama on Tuesday holding a meeting on the topic at the White House. The event got surprisingly little coverage. The only report I could find more than a paragraph long was on the website of Southern California Public Radio, www.scpr.com. Here's the opening paragraph of that report, quote:
In what was described as a "last-minute meeting," President Obama met at the White House on Tuesday with 70 labor, law enforcement and political leaders, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the current president of the Los Angeles City Council. The topic — immigration — hasn't placed high on the list of Congressional priorities.
End quote. It sure hasn't. Why hasn't it? Because the congresscritters know that the amnesty Obama wants is poison to the American electorate. The "immigration reform" crowd got their collective rear end handed to them on a chafing dish back in 2007, and Congress hasn't forgotten.
But what was that about a "last-minute meeting"? Last minute before what? And why was this Tuesday meeting in Washington so loaded up with California and Los Angeles types? — the Los Angeles County Sheriff was there, too, and the L.A. police chief, and a former L.A. police chief. What was this "last-minute meeting" all about?
I had to Google around a bit to capture the President's strategy here. That White House meeting was Tuesday. On Thursday Obama was scheduled to attend two fund-raisers at Sony Studios in Culver City, which is not really a city, but a district of … whaddya know, Los Angeles.
So here's the President due to go on Thursday to Los Angeles, which is in California, which has been heavily colonized by illegal immigrants from Mexico — as brilliantly documented by my colleague Victor Davis Hanson in a memorable piece he wrote for us last December, one of the best pieces on NRO last year, titled "Two Californias."
Now, Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal, are natural Democrat voters. Why? Because the Democrats are the party of government giving stuff to people via welfare programs, and, quote from this month's report out of the Center for Immigration Studies, quote: "Immigrant households with children with the highest use [of welfare] rates are those from the Dominican Republic (82 percent), Mexico and Guatemala (75 percent), and Ecuador (70 percent)."
The Mexicans are mad as hell with Obama for not legalizing enough of them. Given that they're natural Democrats, all the lefty outfits that prop up the Democratic Party are likewise mad at him. They were going to demonstrate at the Culver City studio on Thursday to express their displeasure at the president's lack of action.
That is why the president held that "last-minute meeting" with all the Los Angeles suits on Tuesday. See how it all hangs together? You just need Radio Derb to connect the dots for you.
The Culver City demonstrations went ahead anyway, but they weren't as embarrassing to Obama as they might have been. Quote from Associated Press, Thursday: "Several hundred protesters gathered outside Sony Studios Thursday where President Barack Obama attended two fundraisers to voice their opinions on a range of issues," end quote. From Obama's point of view, "several hundred" beats several thousand.
A couple of footnotes here to that Tuesday meeting in the White House. Note 1, from the Southern California Public Radio report, quote: "L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti said the president issued a [quote] 'good call to arms' for shared effort on immigration reform." Excuse me? "Good call to arms"? What happened to the disapproval of militaristic rhetoric that filled the air after the Giffords shooting back in January? Weren't we all supposed to stop using expressions like "in the trenches" and "attack ads" and "targeting opponents"? Oh, come on, Derb. That was three months ago. Nobody in public life can remember that far back.
Footnote 2: Among the participants in Tuesday's meeting was Al Sharpton. One of the great mysteries of modern American life is the affection that African-American leaders like Sharpton have for illegal immigration, which hurts their own followers more than anyone. In fact Rev'm Al has a radio show on WWRL here in New York, and any time he preaches the "immigration reform" stuff on the air, listeners calling in are mad as hell with him for it. Hey, Rev'm Al — stand up for your own people, man!
06 — No more whiffle-ball. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait, said a Frenchman: "If youth only knew, if age only could." When you're young, you don't know squat, but you're up for any kind of adventure. When you're old, you know a lot, but you can't stir yourself to action.
If that Frenchman was right, the U.S.A. is looking like an old nation. Once we could do things. We could win wars, for example — remember that? We could build great interstate highway systems, tame the wilderness, put men on the Moon, balance our budget. Now look at us. We have no more great generals, no more engineers or inventors, no more pioneers or astronauts. All we have are lawyers and accountants and bureaucrats.
Sorry for the negativity, but these are the thoughts that came to mind when I read this news story about New York State Health Department clamping down on whiffle ball, freeze tag, dodge ball, and capture the flag. These games, say the bureaucrats, pose a, quote, "significant risk of injury."
That's not just an opinion, it's a regulatory re-classification, in effect state-wide from April 1st. Kids' summer camps in New York State will now have to apply for permits before these games can be played, and they'll have to put camp staffers through retraining programs, buy extra insurance, and incur other extra expenses under the new rules.
Alternatively of course they could just stop the kids from playing these dangerous games. Since we are now a geezer nation with a geezer mentality, let's get these summer campers with the program.
There are, after all, lots of games suitable for geriatrics. Let's get the kids playing shuffleboard, cribbage, and mah-jong. No risk of injury there. And this will be excellent preparation for citizenship in a nation that knows everything but can no longer do anything.
The carefree, adventurous phase of our nation's history is over. No more pioneering; no more fighting wars to win; no more Moon landings, no more whiffle ball. Keep the noise down, kids, America's trying to take a nap. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait. Hey, who's been at my Metamucil?
07 — Gary Johnson to run for Prez. Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, has announced he will try for the Republican presidential nomination next year. Johnson announced this April 21st via Twitter, whatever that is.
There's a lot to like about Johnson. He was a businessman and a wealth-generator before running for Governor in 1994 on the GOP ticket. He got elected and served two terms, the maximum under New Mexico's constitution. He governed as a small-government libertarian, issuing a record number of legislative vetoes and leaving office with his state in a healthy fiscal surplus.
That's the good news. The bad news is that like too many libertarians, Johnson is a driveling idiot on the National Question. Libertarians really need to drop their globalist fantasies and get to grips here.
I myself wrote the definitive article on this back in December 2006, title: "Libertarianism in One Country." I am therefore just going to quote myself here. Quote from me, talking about libertarians and immigration, quote:
Their enthusiasm on this matter is suicidal to their cause. Their ideological passion is blinding them to a rather obvious fact: that libertarianism is a peculiarly American doctrine, with very little appeal to the huddled masses of the Third World. If libertarianism implies mass Third World immigration, then it is self-destroying. Libertarianism is simply not attractive either to illiterate peasants from mercantilist Latin American states, or to East Asians with traditions of imperial-bureaucratic paternalism, or to the products of Middle Eastern Muslim theocracies.
End quote. If Gary Johnson had read that article, he would be a wiser man, and a better presidential candidate. As it is, his recorded opinions on immigration are, not to sugar the pill here, infantile. Here he is being interviewed on the topic in November 2009, a year and a half ago.
Well, first of all, I support immigration …
Hold it right there, Governor. What the hell does that mean — "I support immigration"? It's like saying "I support foreign policy." Sure, we all do; but what foreign policy? This is the substance of politics.
There is no debate, to the best of my knowledge, between people who are for immigration and people who are against it. The debate is about what our immigration policy should look like.
I sometimes despair of getting people to talk intelligently about this. Just the other day, someone referred to me as, quote, "anti-immigrant." Anti-immigrant? I am an immigrant. My wife's an immigrant, too, and half our friends are immigrants. How in the name of Jehoshaphat am I "anti-immigrant"? Don't words have meaning any more? Should I just throw out my dictionary?
My grandfather, according to family lore, used to drink a bottle of whiskey a day. I myself believe that drinking a bottle of whiskey a day is a seriously bad idea. Does that make me "anti-alcohol"? Grrr.
Anyway, back to Gary Johnson. More from that 2009 interview:
I think immigration is a good thing.
He likes it! He thinks it's a good thing! No, this is not your four-year-old nephew talking, this is a bigfoot American politician, two-term governor of a large state. Lord give me strength to endure!
I'm opposed to building a wall across the border, which … We have built a wall across the border.
Yes we have. Across 129 miles of the border, which is to say, seven percent.
What we really need to do is we really need to make it easy for immigrants that are here in the United States to work in the United States.
Immigrants that are here in the United States are either here on visas that permit them to work (for example, an H-1 or H-2 visa), or else they're not (for example an H-4 visa or an F-2 visa). So what's the governor proposing — getting rid of all non-working visas? Or what? Does he even know? Does he even know the difference between an H-1 and an F-2? If not, why is he even trying to talk about immigration? Aren't public officials supposed to inform themselves about public topics before they open their fool mouths?
I think that illegal immigration is really the issue. We need to make documentation of illegal immigrants as easy as we possibly can. There're all sorts of ways we could do that, starting with the employer. Let's make it easy to document illegal immigrants so that they become tax-paying immigrants.
So far as I can extract any meaning from that, it seems to be a call for amnesty and open borders. If the entire population of, say, Saudi Arabia wants to come and settle in Albuquerque, Gary Johnson is apparently just fine with it.
Good luck to you, Governor. I've put you down on my list of politicians I'll vote for … when hell freezes over.
08 — Royal Wedding: no comment. Because I say "zed" and "schedule" and "fortnight" and "knickers," people expect me to have an opinion on the forthcoming Royal wedding.
Sorry, I'm an American — naturalized nine years ago last Tuesday [applause] and going for ten. I have fond memories of my English childhood, but that was long ago. That England's gone, replaced by just another dysfunctional European welfare slum, a haven for terrorists, crooks, and freeloaders. They can keep it.
Royal-family-wise, I'm not as hostile as my Dad, who used to refer to the Windsors as, quote, "those bloody Germans." I actually like the Queen, who seems like a nice old lady. She was born into certain expectations, and she fulfilled them to the letter. Duty, said Robert E. Lee, is the most sublime word in our language. Elizabeth's done her duty as she understood it, without missing a step in 60 years. Long may she live, and confound her enemies.
The rest of them, you can keep. I wouldn't give up a plate of spotted dick for any one of them, not even if you smothered it in hot custard.
Face it, guys, the show's over. Go back to your country houses and shoot some pheasants. Better yet, get a job and work for a living at something useful.
I don't wish any of the royals any harm — well, except Charles, who I'd punch on the nose if I could get close enough, for the way he treated his wife — but I don't want to be bothered with them.
And as an American, a republican with both an upper-case and lower-case "r," I don't have to. You can't make me.
09 — Signoff. I leave you in haste, ladies and gentlemen, to catch my plane to Turkmenistan. In the spirit of that last segment, I'll close with a sad, but apt, commentary from Lucy Skeaping and the Broadside Band. Take it away, Lucy.
[Music clip: The Roast Beef of Old England]