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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was one of Franz Josef Haydn's Derbyshire Marches and this is your homonymously genial host John Derbyshire with our weekly roundup of the week's news, brought to you courtesy of Taki's Magazine from our state-of-the-art sound studio here on Taki's private island in the warm Aegean Sea.
Here at the studio we try our best not to interfere in the island's political affairs. Our intercourse with the islanders is of course friendly, and we participate in island festivals like the annual Goat Derby and ouzo-drinking contest, but as resident aliens we respect the islanders' right to conduct their affairs as they see fit. Occasionally, however, things go awry, and such has been the case this week.
You may recall in last week's closing miscellany a snippet about King Mswati of Swaziland, whose custom is to have all his kingdom's young virgins perform a dance for him, after which he picks one of them to be his companion. Well, I'm afraid one of my research assistants, in conversation with the island's Mayor, Mr. Papakonstantinou, whom she happened to encounter at the dedication of a new olive press, mentioned this item.
Mayor Papakonstantinou was so taken by the story he decided to try a similar arrangement here. He announced that all the nubile young women of the island would perform a dance for him at the next Feast of the Martyr Erotidus, the most appealing dancer to be hired as his personal private secretary.
Alas, Greece is not Swaziland. Outraged by the Mayor's suggestion, the islanders marched on the mayoral mansion yesterday evening with pitchforks and burning brands. Mayor Papakonstantinou was last seen out at sea, rowing desperately for the mainland.
So now we need a new Mayor. I understand there will be an election in November. We here at the studio are keeping a low profile, hoping no-one will blame us for igniting the fiasco. I tell you this, listeners, just so that, should our broadcast be interrupted by the noise of an angry mob outside the studio, you will know what is afoot. Rest assured that we shall stay on the air for as long as we can, in the true show business spirit!
[Clip: Ethel Merman, "Let's go on with the show …"]
02 — Cruzing for a bruising. Man of the hour is Ted Cruz, junior Senator from Texas. This week saw Senator Cruz on a mission to defund Obamacare.
Here's the backstory. October 1st is an important day for the United States government in this or any other year. It is the day the government's fiscal year begins. So October 1st, next Tuesday, marks the beginning of fiscal year 2014 for the U.S. government and all its operations.
The way things are supposed to work is, the President proposes a budget for the coming fiscal year in January or February. The House and the Senate debate the President's proposals and come up with their own; they get together and nail down a final congressional budget resolution; and then they pass the necessary appropriations bills based on the resolution. That should all be done by the time the fiscal year opens in October.
Things haven't actually happened like that for many years. Congress hasn't even produced a budget resolution since 2009. It's always been a contentious business, of course, except when the President's party also controls both houses of Congress, which doesn't happen much — four out of the last 17 Congresses, so around a quarter of the time in recent decades. When Congress is divided, House and Senate controlled by different parties, as has been the case since the Tea Party revolution of 2010, things are especially fraught.
While the process has always been contentious, though, a lot of us think that the wheels have really been starting to come off in recent years.
Be that as it may, here we are in the last days of the fiscal year, and there is no federal budget — no proper authorization for the federal government to spend money doing all the wonderful things it does. Not a big problem: Congress just has to pass a short-term authorization, technically called a "continuing resolution," authorizing spending to go on at current levels for some period. The House works up a bill, the Senate passes it, and everything's tickety-boo for a while. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And that's what happened. The House has passed a bill to fund the government through December 15th; except that when the House leadership originally put forward the bill they had worked up — the continuing resolution — conservative Republicans insisted on adding language to defund Obamacare. That's the bill that finally came out of the House on September 20th.
So this week the Senate took it up, this continuing resolution with language added to defund Obamacare. They didn't have any choice about taking it up; a continuing resolution has to be passed by midnight next Monday or else the government can't write checks. The pressure's on.
What Ted Cruz did was ramp up the pressure by speaking for hours on end as the clock ran down. It was a heroic performance: over 21 hours of speaking, from half past two Tuesday afternoon to noon on Wednesday, without a meal or a bathroom break. You try talking for 21 hours about anything. It's true the senator wandered off-topic now and then: there was something about his taste in hamburgers, something else about Star Wars, and a reading from Dr. Suess as a bedtime story to his two infant daughters, who we must suppose had been glued to C-Span since mid-afternoon.
You might have read or heard that Cruz was conducting a filibuster. That's not strictly true, since Cruz didn't seriously delay the vote, much less prevent it. And this wasn't even a vote on the continuing resolution. What was it a vote on?
Here we get into the minutiae of senatorial procedure. The vote was for cloture, which is a bit easier to understand if you use the equivalent British parliamentary term: "guillotine." Cloture cuts off debate and moves you to a vote.
So the vote was to end debate on the spending bill and go to a vote? No, things are a degree move technical than that. The vote Cruz was holding up was "cloture on the motion to proceed." So you get a motion to proceed, a motion to decide: "Shall we consider this bill, or not?" Only when you've voted on that can you debate the actual bill itself, which might bring you to a second cloture motion. That second motion would be "cloture on the bill."
I always think there should be an infinite regress there. I mean, if you have a bill, and before you can debate the bill you have to pass a motion to proceed, then before you can debate the motion to proceed, shouldn't you have a motion to proceed on the motion to proceed, which of course would require a motion to proceed on the motion to proceed on the motion to proceed … and so on? I guess I must have dozed off in one of the classes on parliamentary procedure — not hard to do.
Anyway, there was Ted Cruz from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday noon, holding up a cloture vote on the motion to proceed with debate on this spending bill. It was all for nought as the Senate voted anyway, an hour after Cruz had finished speaking, for cloture on the motion to proceed. They voted aye, let's proceed — let's debate the spending bill. Here's where things get really confusing: the vote was 100 to zero, which means that Cruz and his supporters all voted aye.
Why, I hear you ask, if he was going to vote for cloture anyway, did Cruz hold up the vote for most of a day? Here's where you really get into the procedural weeds. It's a tightrope act by Cruz and his allies. The cloture motion on the actual bill, probably Friday, will have Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, sticking on an amendment to restore Obamacare funding. Cruz has vowed to vote no on that cloture motion.
You need 60 votes for cloture, and there are 45 Republicans in the Senate. So if Harry Reid can peel off five of them, which he probably can, then that second cloture motion on Friday will send the bill back to the House with Obamacare funding restored.
Now time's really running out. We're into the weekend when the House starts debating, and coming up against the Sunday morning political talk shows, which loom much larger in the minds of political professionals and activists than in yours or mine or anyone's that actually has a life outside politics.
It's a big game of chicken, in other words. The result is a foregone conclusion, as Senate Democrats have the votes to pass Harry Reid's amendment and congressional Republicans do not want to be the guys who shut down the government. They remember the last time they tried that, with Bill Clinton in 1995. It didn't end well for them.
So the continuing resolution, Obamacare funding and all, will pass; but Ted Cruz and his fellow senatorial conservatives will have put up a heck of a fight, and be covered in glory. Let's take a closer look at that.
03 — Who will defy the Slave Power? The overall reaction to Ted Cruz among conservatives has been highly approving. That's easy enough to understand. As I said, he has led a heck of a fight against Obamacare, which is a horrible piece of legislation, and widely unpopular with Republican voters — only 13 percent like Obamacare, and 47 percent want total repeal.
And just seeing Republicans stand and fight is heartening for conservatives. Standing and fighting hasn't exactly been a Republican trademark recently in the Senate. The big news out of the Senate prior to this week's clash on spending was Marco Rubio, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham taking off their clothes and climbing into bed with Chuck Schumer to promote a bill to open the nation's borders and amnesty immigration scofflaws. Ted Cruz taking a stand on spending makes a very refreshing change. It's not surprising that Senator Cruz is now a folk hero to the Tea Party.
Far be it from me to rain on anyone's parade, but I have a couple of reservations here.
First, let's talk about immigration. Blogger Mickey Kaus argued persuasively on the Daily Caller website last Saturday that Ted Cruz would have done more for the conservative cause by putting up a fight against amnesty, where there is some chance of winning, than by going through all this procedural kabuki against Obamacare, where there isn't. Longish quote from Kaus, quote:
The man had a choice — he could fight the Senate's push for "amnesty first" immigration legislation, which he had a very good chance of killing, or he could stage a showy fight against funding Obamacare that he'd certainly lose. The first course would annoy the business backers who fund Senate and presidential campaigns. The latter course would gin up and channel conservative anger, boosting Cruz's profile in the caucuses and primaries,without doing anyone much damage at all (since it would fail). The choice seems to have been a no-brainer for the senator.
End quote. Kaus goes on to chew over Ted Cruz's recorded positions on amnesty and border security. On amnesty, Cruz actually favors giving illegals permanent residence status, just not citizenship. This is bogus: As Kaus says, a status that enables you to freely work and travel in the U.S.A. and lets your children be citizens, is a big juicy reward for breaking American law, and a huge incentive for more illegals to come in. Not many illegals care about citizenship. They just want to be legal. Cruz's position on border security is just as ambiguous.
And this is a pity. It's a pity, I mean, that Cruz has thrown his energy and talents into a glamorous, but hopeless, mission to defund Obamacare when he might have been a real force against amnesty. That Spanish surname, from his Cuban dad, is a help just by itself, as it neutralizes the race card the amnesty crowd like to play.
What we're badly in need of — we conservative patriots — is some congresscritters who will defy the cheap labor lobbies — the hotel and casino owners, the software billionaires, agribusiness and the food processors — what my colleagues at VDARE.com sometimes call "the slave power." On the evidence as presented by Mickey Kaus, Ted Cruz is not such a congresscritter.
And then, behind the fight over Obamacare, there is the larger issue of spending caps. One of the few victories for fiscal conservatives this past few years was the Budget Control Act of 2011, which imposed mandatory budget cuts — the famous sequesters — if Congress and the President can't agree on fiscal discipline, which of course they can't.
Congress — and I'm not just talking about Democrats in Congress — and of course President Obama would love to gut the Budget Control Act and end the sequesters. The federal government is a spending machine, and Congress is its willing enabler. Here's a quote from Brandon Arnold of the National Taxpayers Union, quote:
The spending caps are already written into law and protecting them is a winnable battle — but only if fiscal conservatives are willing to put up a fight. If they don't, taxpayers could get the worst of both worlds: Congress will break its promise of modest fiscal restraint by abandoning [the Budget Control Act], even as it allows Obamacare to proceed apace.
End quote. There are major congressional battles to be fought on immigration and spending. Filibustering the continuing resolution is grand, but futile.
I'm going to think positive here and hope that Ted Cruz's performance this week gives heart to congressional conservatives for these other battles, that are actually winnable — that in the case of the the Budget Control Act have already been won, but whose gains could easily be snatched away.
04 — Where the money goes. Just a footnote on federal spending.
The touchstone of modern American conservatism is the desire for smaller, less intrusive, less expensive, and more efficient government. How are we progressing with that?
Not well. The Census Bureau just put out a new report on median family income, by county. Just a mathematical reminder: the "median" of a set of numbers is a number that has half the set below it, half above it. It's different from the average, which is what you get if you add 'em all together and divide by how many there are. For the four numbers one, two, three, a million, the median is two and a half, because the first two numbers are less than that, the other two greater. The average, however, is 250,001½. The average is 100,000 times bigger than the median.
OK, median family income, by county: Whaddawe got? Running away with the prize, wealthiest county in America is Arlington, Va., located just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. Arlington's median family income is $137,000 and change, over $10,000 more than that of any other county in the nation. Wow!
Second wealthiest, with median family income $127,000 and change, is Loudon County, Virginia. Where's that? Why, right next to Arlington County, also in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Number three, $125,000, is Howard County, Maryland, a Washington, D.C. commuter suburb. Number four is Fairfax County, Virginia, back in the D.C. metropolitan area.
There are only 26 counties in the entire U.S.A. where the median family income is over $100,000. Eleven of them are either in the D.C. metropolitan area or else within commuting distance of it. Forty states — forty! — don't have a single such county.
My source for all this is Jeffrey Anderson's September 23rd article in the Weekly Standard. As Jeffrey observes: the idea of representative government is that wealth flows into the capital, and is then redistributed and flows out again. The second thing doesn't seem to be happening. The nation's wealth is flowing into Washington, D.C. all right, but it's not flowing back out: it's just piling up there.
Government is the biggest business there is, and getting bigger all the time. If you want to keep the fruits of your labor, as the Founders intended, vote for nobody but rock-ribbed fiscal conservatives.
If, on the other hand, you'd like to enjoy the fruits of other people's labor, get a job with the federal government and move to Arlington County, Virginia, or Loudon County, or Howard County, Maryland, or Fairfax County, Virginia.
05 — That's OUR word, Gringo! You may recall our reports on the hate crime atrocity at ultra-liberal Oberlin College in Ohio back in March. Black History Month and Year of the Queer posters were defaced, and a swastika was drawn on a window. Then a student reported seeing someone in a hood on the campus at 2 a.m. on a February morning.
As is always the case, these stupendous outrages turned out to be either nothing at all — the hooded figure was a girl in a blanket — or else hoaxes by leftists desperate to have something to protest about.
The whole silly affair did, though, alert me to Oberlin College's microaggressions website. This is a fascinating artefact of our times, giving a glimpse into the strange world of leftist victimology.
There is a species of flower called mimosa pudica that is so exquisitely sensitive, if you so much as touch it, it withers and droops. Well, we have raised a generation of young adults even more sensitive than that. If you touch them, or say one of the innumerable things they do not like to hear, they shriek, tremble, and swoon. You don't have to commit actual aggression, just "microaggression." That's their word, the title of their own website, and they don't mean it ironically. Quote from the header material on the website, quote:
If you see or hear racist, heterosexist/homophobic, anti-Semitic, classist, ableist, sexist/cissexist speech etc., please submit it to us so that we may demonstrate that these acts are not simply isolated incidents, but rather part of structural inequalities.
End quote. Well, Oberlin students are glad to oblige. A prime specimen showed up on the microaggressions website this week.
What had happened was, a Puerto Rican race hustler named Arlene Davila — a very big name in the race grievance industry — came to Oberlin to help them celebrate Latino Heritage Month, which I guess overlaps Year of the Queer, so Ms. Davila's visit would have been especially exciting for queer Latinos. Anyway, the lady came and gave a speech, and there was a schedule clash causing some soccer games to be canceled.
Well, when the time of Ms. Davila's talk was announced, the captain of one of the soccer teams sent an email to team members saying, quote, "Hey that talk looks pretty great, but on the off chance you aren't going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go." End quote. That was "futbol" spelt f-u-t-b-o-l.
So what's wrong with that? What's wrong is, the team captain who sent the email is a Gringo, not a Latino. [Klaxon.] Microaggression!
A Latino team member posted to the microaggressions blog slapping down this hate-filled bigot. Quote:
Who said it was ok for you to say futbol? It's Latino Heritage Month, your [spelt y-o-u-r] telling people not to come to the talk, but want to use our language? Trick NO! White students appropriating the Spanish language, dropping it in when convenient, never ok. Keep my heritage language out your mouth! If I'm not allowed to speak it, if my dad's not allowed to speak it, then bitch you definitely are not supposed to be speaking it.
End quote. It is of course a well-known fact that Latinos are not allowed to speak Spanish when on U.S. soil.
That was bad enough. Far worse was the response from the Gringo team captain. Some extracts, quote:
I have a second family that I have spent a good portion of my life with … Technically their [spelt t-h-e-i-r] my god-family but for all intensive [sic — these are college students?] purposes they are my family, … and I am extremely close with them … My 2nd family is Costa Rican, and I am a part of that family no matter what you say. I'm not claiming to be latino and I don't think I've ever claimed that, but I do have a latino family …
End quote. Pure ethomasochism. The Gringo is protesting, cringing, kneeling, banging his head on the floor, trying to appease his moral superior — superior by virtue of being [soaring music] Latino.
Chico isn't buying it, though. Quote:
We need to talk about tokenizing brown friends/family and taking them in to identify with POC's [which I guess means "people of color"] (or avoiding accountability for being racist).
End quote. The Gringo's not through abasing himself, though. Quote:
Your anger with the white male patriarchy is justified, and the social system of America perpetuates injustice by giving unfair advantages to white people, to wealthy people, and to men.
End quote. I suffered a sudden attack of overwhelming nausea at this point, and had to make a run for the bathroom. I'll leave you to read the rest for yourself at the Oberlin microaggression website, obiemicroaggressions.tumblr.com.
Then, to clear your head, get some of your friends together for a nice game of futbol.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: A theme I've picked up on lately — I wrote a column about it at Taki's Magazine, September 5th — is the sheer vicious nastiness of the liberal left. Remember leftist commentator Julianne Malveaux back in 1994 expressing the hope that Clarence Thomas's wife would feed him a high-cholesterol diet so that he would die prematurely?
During my own spell of fame last year, when one of my left-liberal interviewers let out that I was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, several commenters on her website expressed the hope that my cancer would get worse and kill me. I mean, really — just because you disagree with someone?
What conservatives say about liberals is: We think they are wrong; they think we are EVIL. So true.
Here's another one: David Guth, professor of journalism at the University of Kansas. Prof. Guth thinks Second Amendment loyalists are to blame for mass shootings like the one at Washington Navy Yard. He posted the following thing to his Twitter account, quote:
The blood is on the hands of the NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.
End quote. What, you want to tell me there's some of this on the right, too? I don't doubt there is, if you go looking for it; but nothing like as much, and not coming from mainstream journalists like Julianne Malveaux or college professors like David Guth.
We think they're wrong; they think we're evil. And when you're confronting evil, no words, no method, can be too extreme.
Item: National Journal ran a curious little article on Vladimir Putin's American admirers. Apparently Putin-worshipers come in several varieties. There are the outdoors types, longing for another Teddy Roosevelt to show up, shooting bears and fishing in waders. There are those who like the way he stands up for Christians in the Middle East, while our own President is feeding arms to Muslim radicals. Others just contrast Putin's unashamed masculinity with Barack Obama, concerning whom, while no doubt he has many admirable qualities, nobody has ever used the phrase "unashamed masculinity." Others are just glad to see a leader who stands up for his own people instead of deferring — sometimes actually bowing — to foreigners.
I can see their point, but they should be careful what they wish for. Yes, it'd be great to have a leader who put his own people first. Sure, the muscular, teetotal Putin is a great improvement on his flabby, alcoholic predecessor. And indeed, other things equal, I'd rather have a president who rides horseback barechested than one who rides a bicycle wearing one of those dorky helmets.
Putin's got a lot of blood on his hands, though — real blood, on his actual hands, as well as the metaphorical blood of unknown numbers of his fellow countrymen, several of them journalists, murdered on his instructions.
In my personal ranking of presidential desirability listed by previous career, "community organizer" ranks around number 279. That's still way higher than "secret police leg-breaker," though.
Item: The President of Iran paid a visit to New York the other day … [distant crowd noises] … Wait a minute … What's that? [Noise comes closer] Mandy, go have a look out the window, will you? [Noises louder, scream] Oh no, it's the islanders marching on the studio! Everybody keep calm, keep calm, I'll go out and reason with them. [Sound of breaking glass.] On second thoughts, everybody into the safe room … Bring the Monopoly game, Candy, we could be in there a while …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]