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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air, January 24th 2015. This is your calendrically genial host John Derbyshire, and I'll have something to say about that date later in the show. First, the week's news.
02 — Stalinesque extravaganza. Around this time of year I feel obliged to offer some kind of report on the State of the Union Speech. I drag myself to this task wearily, with a heavy heart.
The reason for my negativity I have explained before at length. I refer you to Radio Derb broadcasts for February 1st last year, February 16th 2013, January 29th 2010, February 27th 2009, all in the Radio Derb archives, and of course to the definitive dissection of the topic in Chapter 3 of that cosmos-shaking bestseller We Are Doomed, where I coined the phrase "Stalinesque extravaganza" to describe the event.
Sample, from Radio Derb last year, quote:
What you were watching there was the political class at play: useless mouths who could not succeed in any kind of productive enterprise, but who have found a road to riches and fame by manipulating a political order originally designed as one in which the phrase "public service" could be uttered without smirking. What you were watching was the case for term limits …
So that's what I think of the State of the Union show. It's not merely un-American, it's un-republican, an insult to anyone who loves liberty and governmental restraint; and it's all those things twice over when it features a fourth-rate windbag like Barack Obama.
Having got that off my chest, let's glance at what the President said.
03 — Eating a cushion. All right, the President's address to Congress. No, I didn't watch it on TV. How much can you ask of a man?
I have the transcript here in front of me, though, and I swear I read the whole thing. Which was not easy — a bit like eating a cushion. What's that stuff they pack cushions with? … Kapok, that's it. Kapok. What exactly is kapok? I mean, is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? I don't know; but I just read 6,491 words of it, and my head hurts.
Three hundred words in — I mean, after three hundred words of pure unleavened kapok — we get a little jab of class warfare, quote:
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?
That's a bit rich coming from a guy who has himself done spectacularly well without ever doing anything a normal person would recognize as work. Obama's done well by skilfully playing up to the white liberal yearning to have an unthreatening Negro around that they can swoon over. If you think I'm wrong, tell me which person ever became President, other than by accident, with as few accomplishments on his résumé as this guy.
What's wrong with an economy in which a few people do spectacularly well, anyway? Hasn't the U.S.A. always been a place where a few people do spectacularly well? Isn't that what free-market capitalism's all about? I couldn't care less that a few people do spectacularly well so long as they invite me to dinner once in a while …
No wait, scrub that. I couldn't care less that a few people do spectacularly well so long as there aren't masses of citizens suffering hardship and want. Which there aren't.
Then some more kapok, then we get the compulsory human-interest story. Quote:
Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way.
Okay, what did happen to the housing and construction market? What happened was, the business of lending people money so they could buy houses was politicized in the name of racial fairness. Politicians leaned hard on lenders to shred rational credit standards, give more loans to NAMs (non-Asian minorities). Lenders who resisted were set upon by activist shake-down groups like ACORN.
There was, for example, the 1994 federal lawsuit by Calvin Roberson, who was an ACORN activist, and others against Citibank, claiming that the bank had denied mortgages to minority applicants. If you look down the list of attorneys for the plaintiffs in that suit you will see the name Barack Obama.
After a few years of that the inevitable happened. There was a mild recession; people who should never have got loans couldn't meet their payments; the mortgage market, and the market in mortgage-backed securities, all cratered.
That's what happened to the housing and construction markets, Mr President. That's what happened; and you helped make it happen. If you had a shred of honesty in your soul, you'd have written back to Rebekah apologizing for putting her husband out of work … assuming she is not a fiction concocted by your speechwriters.
Honesty's in short supply in an Obama speech, though. "She waited tables. He worked construction." Restaurant work, construction work: anything come to mind? I'll give you a clue: It rhymes with "billegal kimmigrants."
Hey, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis: your President cares about you so much, he's flooding the country with cheap foreign labor so you won't have jobs.
There's a whole lot more: five thousand eight hundred words more. I'm all kapoked out, though. Read the whole repulsive thing for yourself. Then, if you haven't slit your wrists, write to your Senators and Congressman demanding that the State of the Union message be returned to written form. Enough of the Stalinesque extravaganzas!
kapok, noun: the silky down that invests the seeds of a silk-cotton tree … of the East Indies, Africa, and tropical America.
There you go. So it's vegetable. Kapok. I can't resist quoting the sentence they give to illustrate usage, quote:
When the kapok tree blooms, say the elders, it is time to gather crocodile eggs.
So true! Ah, the wisdom of the elders! Although I must say, when it's time to gather crocodile eggs, I'd much rather it was someone else doing the gathering. I imagine crocodiles can get a little testy, a little snappy, if they see their eggs being gathered away. Angry crocodiles, it seems to me, are among those things one should strive to rule out of one's life …
I'm sorry, I'm rambling, aren't I? What's the topic here? … Kapok, State of the Union, right.
I can't face any more of Obama's gaseous drivel, so let's look at the Republican Party response.
Radio Derb listeners can feel a little smug here, as we were among the first to spot Joni Ernst. In our November 1st podcast last year we summarized some of the interesting races in the upcoming midterms. Quote from us:
Joni Ernst, running for Tom Harkin's seat in Iowa, also looks like a good sort, though again she's going to need a backbone of steel to stand up to all those meat-packing outfits hungry to privatize profits while socializing costs.
Well, Joni Ernst won that election in November, and is now in the U.S. Senate. She was picked to give the GOP response to Obama's pile of kapok. How did she do?
Not bad on presentation. She spoke clearly, and so far as one could tell, sincerely, though without much substance.
When she did approach actual matters of policy, though, it was eye-rolling stuff. Congress is going to clean up the tax code and eliminate loopholes? Yeah, right. Tax loopholes are the congresscritters' bread and butter — do they think we don't know that?
And then the foreign-policy equivalent of cleaning up the tax code: They're going to, quote, "confront Iran's nuclear ambitions." Sure they are, sure.
What I really wanted to know was the thing I wanted to know in November when I first advertised Ms Ernst to you: Does she have that backbone of steel to stand up to the cheap-labor lobbies?
Judging by her State of the Union response, the signs are not good. She didn't even mention immigration in her ten-and-a-half-minute speech. When Breitbart News grumbled about this, Senator Ernst's spokeswoman replied that the senator did so mention immigration, just … indirectly, when she said, quote: "We'll work to correct executive overreach."
That's it? Looks like the cheap-labor fix is in. That sound you hear in the distance is Iowa meat-packing bosses rubbing their hands with glee.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the GOP pushed forward some Florida congresscritter to give a second response in Spanish, thereby doing what the GOP does so well: harvesting a couple thousand extra votes from Hispanics while infuriating a couple million non-Hispanics, all of whom will stay home in November 2016. Talk about the Stupid Party!
And this Spanish-language response did mention immigration: it called for amnesty!
So between Joni and Chico we got both sides of the Republican position on immigration: Appeal to the cheap-labor business lobbies by keeping shtum on the issue in English, while appealing to the ethnic-interest lobbies by calling for amnesty in Spanish.
As Basil Fawlty would say: Brilliant!
05 — From kapok to kabuki. If I were to leave you with the impression that the Republican Party, which now controls both houses of Congress, is doing nothing at all about illegal immigration, that would be wrong, wrong. They have in fact been very busy.
Republicans in both houses of Congress have been cooking up border security legislation. Last Friday, the 16th, Texas Representative Michael McCaul, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, introduced the Secure Our Borders First Act, authorizing $10 billion of spending to improve the southern border. The bill came out of committee on Wednesday this week, and will be voted on by the House.
The Senate bill is actually the same bill, identical with the House version. It was introduced to the Senate also on Wednesday.
Well, great: So we're going to have a secure southern border at last?
In your dreams, pal. This is just more immigration kabuki from the GOP congressional leadership, who have been bought and paid for by the Chambers of Commerce and outfits like Americans for Tax Reform, funded by the likes of open-borders fanatic billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the last non-communist Mayor of New York.
Take a look at the kind of thing the bill will fund. Actual quote from the language of the bill, quote:
Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall replace, at a minimum, each of the following: (A) Thirty-one miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol's San Diego sector. (B) Five miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol's El Centro sector. (C) Three miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol's Yuma sector. (D) Twenty-five miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector. (E) Two miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol's El Paso sector.
In case you weren't adding up the numbers there, that's a total of 66 miles of landing-mat fencing replaced by bollards.
This needs a little explanation. "Landing mat" is a term from the military. It refers to quarter-inch thick steel panels used as landing mats for helicopters. These panels are welded to steel posts to form a solid steel fence twelve feet high.
That's what the bill will replace over 66 miles of our 2,000-mile southern border. What will it be replaced with?
"Bollard style fencing." That's vertical steel posts, also twelve feet high, hollow and filled with concrete, set a few inches apart from each other. The advantage is supposed to be that Border Patrol agents can see through the spaces between what's happening on the other side. The dis-advantage is that the coyotes can use a "jaws of death" gadget to prise posts apart enough for illegals to squeeze through.
That's not the only thing in the bill, of course. There's also funding for 27 miles of double-layer fencing, which is good, effective fencing. So we do get that, 27 miles of it. Did I mention that the border is 2,000 miles long?
Bottom line: not much border-security bang for the bill's 10 billion bucks. From the point of view of the bought-and-sold GOP congressional leadership, that is of course a feature, not a bug. This is immigration kabuki, boob bait for the bubbas.
Jessica Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies has exposed another part of the GOP game plan. Look at the title of the bill, she says: "the Secure Our Borders First Act." If securing the border — or pretending to — is first, what are second and third? Jessica's guess is that second will be amnesty for illegals already here, third will be expansion of our umpteen guest worker programs to bring in more legal workers, to suppress American wages.
I bet she's right. This bill is bogus, just more GOP immigration kabuki. [Clip: Kabuki music.] In case you're wondering, that was actual kabuki music. Kapok from the President, kabuki from the GOP. That's our politics today.
06 — Madame Butterfly gets a job. That kabuki music there was what we media professionals call a segue. Yes, the topic here is Japan.
Here is one of my all-time favorite headlines. It's from a few months ago, actually from the Washington Post for October 22nd, 2013. I've been meaning to do a segment on it for a while, but other things kept coming up.
OK, here's the headline: Japan's sexual apathy is endangering the global economy. Now I call that a good attention-grabbing headline: sex and money.
The story is that, one, Japan is "the world's third-largest economy, a crucial link in global trade and a significant factor in everyone else's economic well-being"; but, two, "the Japanese economy is in serious enough trouble that it could set the rest of us back"; and, three, "the biggest source of that trouble is demographic: Japanese people aren't having enough kids to sustain a healthy economy. One big reason they're having fewer kids is that they're not as interested in dating or marrying one another, in part because they're less interested in sex."
Just a few statistics here.
Some of the problem, assuming this is a problem, is with the men. Younger Japanese men have rejected the party-till-you-drop ethos of their fathers, where the word "party" here is understood to include working 14-hour days. Quotes from a different article on the subject:
Compared with the generation that came before, they are less optimistic, less ambitious and less willing to take risks. They are less likely to own a car, want a car, or drive fast if they get a car. They are less likely to pursue sex on the first date — or the third …
Another part is with the women. They want careers and interesting work; and that goes against the grain of traditional Japanese culture. Quote: "There's a word for married working women: oniyome, or 'devil wives.'"
Japan's population has been declining since 2004 and it's not surprising.
There's a fascinating social experiment going on there, and I don't think the result is easy to call. The size of the population itself isn't really the issue. Today there are about 127 million Japanese. That will drop below 100 million by 2050. Eighty years ago, when Japan was kicking butt all over Asia, and about to take on the U.S.A., population was 68 million. So plainly Japan doesn't need 127 million. Trouble is of course that the butt-kicking population of eighty years ago was a young population while the declining populations of today and tomorrow will be geezer populations.
Economists are telling the Japanese to open their borders to immigrants; but the Japanese like their culture the way it is. They say: "Maybe we'll die out, but we'll die out Japanese." I think that's a fine proud attitude, and I'm always glad to see someone poke a finger in the eyes of the fool economists.
On the other hand, that turn away from intimacy is strange and disturbing, especially in a world where intimacy has been unhooked from reproduction. Don't they at least want intimate companionship?
It is, as I said, a fascinating social experiment, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that our grandchildren will curse us for not having followed the Japanese model. Still, there are some experiments in which I'm glad it's not me that's the guinea pig.
This is only the second time in nearly two decades this has happened. It happened in 2011; before that, you have to go all the way back to the Jim Crow back-of-the-bus separate-drinking-fountain watermelon days of 1998.
The absence of blacks in the nomination list is especially galling this year because of the movie Selma, which features a black actor playing Martin Luther King. A lot of people seem to feel that the actor should have got an Oscar just for that. Wasn't King the greatest human being that ever lived, apart possibly from Nelson Mandela? Come to think of it, this time last year there was grumbling about how that Mandela movie was being passed over by the Oscars committee, though it did get a nomination for Best Song.
Selma also got a nomination for Best Song, as it happens, and another one for Best Picture; but those are obviously just cynical sops offered to blacks by the leering racist good ol' boys who run Hollywood. It's the acting nominations that really count, everyone knows that.
Al Sharpton sprang into action on this one. The nominations were, he said, quote, "appallingly insulting." Then, unsheathing his trademark rapier wit, he compared Hollywood to the Rocky Mountains, saying, quote, "the higher you get, the whiter it gets." [Laughter.]
Rev'm Al has called for an emergency Hollywood meeting to discuss possible action. I confidently await news that Eric Holder has launched an investigation.
Actually I think the interesting point to notice here is how little traction the complaints have got. Blacks are riled up, of course, but no-one else much seems to care, not even the liberal columnists and bloggers. I find myself wondering again, as I do quite a lot nowadays: Have we reached Peak Negro? Are the reservoirs of white guilt drying up at last?
The other question that comes to mind is: Why don't blacks have their own Oscars? After all, they've got their own TV entertainment channel, BET; and just last week NBC launched a news channel for blacks, NBCBLK. The new channel describes itself as, quote, "dedicated to elevating America's conversation about black identity, politics & culture today."
There is also Blackbird, the web browser for black internet users who find Internet Explorer or Google Chrome unacceptably white-supremacist. Having their own Oscars could be the next step. They could call them the Baracks, or maybe the Als …
08 — Small coup in Yemen. The old Fleet Street story goes: Some bored subeditors at the London Times had a competition among themselves to see who could come up with the least interesting headline. The winner was: Small Earthquake in Chile: Not Many Dead.
The coup in Yemen last week brought that to mind. Small Coup in Yemen: Not Many Dead.
I've done a couple of reports on Yemen these past few months, taking it to be a sort of canary in the Middle East coal mine.
To remind you: The place is very poor, has a big population and high birthrate, no economy worth speaking of, and is fast running out of food and water. It's divided between a Shia minority and a Sunni majority. Both factions have armies: The Sunni majority has al-Qaeda in Yemen, who claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. The Shia minority have the Houthis, who staged this week's coup, and on Thursday forced the President to resign.
Both factions have outside support, are in fact to some degree proxies: al-Qaeda for Saudi Arabia, the Houthis for Iran.
Remember the Arab Spring, four years ago, when righteous citizens, hungry for democracy and freedom, and egged on by the brilliant geostrategists in our State Department, overthrew corrupt Arab dictators who'd been in power for decades? Well, the government that just fell was one fruit of the Arab Spring. They came to power after President-for-life Saleh, who'd been in power 33 years, was forced out by popular protests.
Those of us who expressed some cynicism about the Arab Spring at the time, weren't cynical enough.
The geopolitical angle here is that the government just ousted in this coup was U.S.-friendly, while the Houthis who pulled off the coup are most definitely not. "The crisis marks another setback for U.S. Middle East policy," says the Reuters report. That's a phrase newsrooms should have set up as a single-key macro, and not just for Yemen.
And in fact the hostility of the Houthis to the U.S.A. is a bit ungrateful, as it's been our drone attacks against al-Qaeda in Yemen that have helped give Houthis the upper hand.
Well, now that they've got the upper hand, what will they do with it? The Sunnis are not going to accept rule by the minority Shia, nor vice versa. Most likely there'll be a civil war, followed by partition and great floods of refugees.
And what should the U.S. do? I can think of a couple of possible strategies. One, the one I favor actually, would be to stay the heck out of it and let Yemenis slaughter each other.
Alternatively we could reassemble that winning team I called the Three Horsegirls of the Humanitarian Apocalypse back in 2012: Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and Hillary Clinton. I bet they could work up a solution. They did such a great job in Libya, after all.
Oh, and speaking of Libya, here's another news snippet from last week, New York Times, January 22nd, quote:
In Libya, that country's last remaining intact and functioning institution, its Central Bank with $100 billion in foreign currency reserves, fell to marauding militiamen.
As I said: Where the Middle East is concerned, you can never be cynical enough.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
What will Rev'm Al tell the assembled scholars and legislators? How to lose an action for slander and not pay a penny? How to whip up a mob to homicide then pretend you had nothing to do with it? How to avoid paying your taxes? How to avoid any legal consequences of any kind for any acts at all, and become a cherished adviser to the Mayor of New York and the President of the United States?
The surprise here is that Rev'm Al hasn't been invited to Buckingham Palace to meet Her Majesty the Queen. Why not? Perhaps someone should ax her.
It's Rev'm Al's world, the rest of us just live in it.
Item: From a contemptible buffoon to a genuinely great man. This edition of Radio Derb goes out on January 24th, fifty years to the day since Winston Churchill died.
If you're a Churchill-hater, please don't bother emailing in to tell me about it. I grew up with that stuff. My Dad was a Churchill-hater. I'd had an earful of anti-Churchill rhetoric by the time Churchill stepped down as Prime Minister, a few weeks before my tenth birthday. It's old news.
I'm pro-Churchill. The man made some blunders, of course. Who doesn't get through life without a few blunders? But what a life it was! — escapades and battles, years in high office and years in the wilderness, books and speeches and paintings, alcohol and tobacco and the gaming tables at Monte Carlo … How can you not admire a life so large and so free of smallness, of envy and avarice and spite?
A week after he died, Churchill was given a state funeral. His body was taken in a gun carriage through London, from Westminster to St Paul's. I followed it, walking behind the crowds that lined the streets. Somewhere in all the photographic coverage of the event there's an image of a tall, skinny young student in a sheepskin jacket slipping along behind the silent crowds, keeping up with the procession. I've never been able to find that image, but it must be there.
Item: Microaggression of the week was committed by … the Pope! Pope Francis, promoting Vatican-approved methods of family planning, said that Catholics shouldn't think they have to, quote, "breed like rabbits."
Who was microaggressed by that? It can't have been Catholics. This is their Pope speaking, after all; and on the assumption he was speaking ex cathedra, he's infallible.
The microaggressee here was in fact a German rabbit breeder: Erwin Leowsky of the Zentralverband Deutscher Rasse-Kaninchenzüchter, that's the Central Association of German Rabbit Breeders. Herr Leowsky, his nose twitching furiously, told a German TV station that only wild rabbits breed nonstop. Captive rabbits apparently breed much more slowly, and the Pope should have known this.
Well, maybe infallibility has its limits, I don't know. I'm trying to recall if there was anything about this in that 1970s bestseller about rabbits, Watership Down. Remember the joke about Watership Down? "You've read the book, you've seen the movie, now eat the pie!"
Item: The science story of the week that caught everybody's eye was the one about researchers claiming to have discovered that women with big deposits of fat on thighs and buttocks have smarter babies.
It so happened that right after reading that story I read the one about the two lesbians in Michigan who have been fighting for the right to marry and form a family with each other's adopted children, the case that's caused the Supreme Court to say they'll rule on same-sex marriages this year.
The two plaintiffs, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, judging by their pictures, tip the scales at an aggregate six hundred pounds, easily. So my thought was: What a loss to the gene pool!
There must be a connection here to the Miss BumBum Pageant, but I'm too tired to think it through. It's been a long week.
10 — Signoff. That's our program for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening.
If you retain nothing else from this week's broadcast, I hope you will at least commit to memory that little nugget of life advice in segment four:
When the kapok tree blooms, say the elders, it is time to gather crocodile eggs.
Although … Call me chronically suspicious, but that looks to me like some kind of coded message — the kind of thing intelligence agencies plant as a signal to their agents. Possibly I'm paranoid, but if Radio Derb gets wiped out by a drone strike, forget what I said a minute ago and totally erase that sentence from your mind.
More from Radio Derb next week, unless … [Explosion, screams, falling debris.]
[Music clip: Vera Lynn, "We'll Meet Again."]