»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, March 4, 2011

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]

01 — Intro.     Greetings, ladies and gents. Radio Derb on the air here, with your diffidently genial host John Derbyshire bringing you news from home and abroad. No, I'm not bringing you a broad, I'm bringing you news from abroad. No, not from a broad, from overseas. For goodness' sake, who writes these scripts?

02 — Government shutdown averted.     Bad news here, folks. The federal government will not be shutting down after all.

Yes, I had my hopes up like the rest of you. I had visions of the IRS unable to collect taxes, the Department of Energy helpless to prevent people drilling for oil, our 56 thousand soldiers in Germany confined to barracks as if the threat of Russian tanks surging westward were nonexistent, the Justice Department impotent to act against states passing laws La Raza doesn't like, farmers planting crops without the Secretary of Agriculture's permission, passengers getting on planes without having to take their shoes and belts off …

All empty dreams, I'm afraid. Congress passed a funding bill to keep the beast operating for another two weeks. The federal government will continue minding our business and taking our money until March 14.

Just a little background here. For federal budgeting purposes, a fiscal year runs from October to September. We are currently halfway through fiscal 2011. A few months down the road on October 1st, fiscal year 2012 will commence.

Eight months before a fiscal year starts, in early February, the president sends his budget to Congress. Congress looks it over then comes up with its own budget, which it makes formal in a Budget Resolution. That's a resolution, not a Bill, which means the President doesn't have to sign off on it. Then Congress has a few months to pass all the appropriations into law.

So a year and somewhat ago, in February 2010, Obama put forth his budget for fiscal 2011. Congress never got its act together to pass a budget resolution, however, so come last October no money had been appropriated. For the past five months we've been coasting along without any proper appropriation bills passed. They've just been passing ad hoc authorizations for the government to keep spending in last year's proportions.

OK, so the budget for fiscal 2011 — the period we're halfway through — was an almighty screw-up. We shall stagger on from week to week as long as the congresscritters can agree on enough to keep those ad hoc funding measures passing — the next one's due on March 14. What happens during these funding negotiations is, the GOP asks for ten billion in spending cuts, the Democrats say one billion is all they'll give, then they arm wrestle and agree on something much closer to one than to ten, because practically nobody in Washington really, sincerely wants to cut anything at all.

This week's agreement was for four billion in cuts. Since this year's deficit is over 1.6 trillion, that's 0.25 percent. To put it on a human scale, if you had $100,000 of debt outstanding, 0.25 percent would be $250. So deficit-reduction-wise, this agreement is a joke.

Still, it'll keep those troops in Germany patrolling the Fulda Gap, and Eric Holder's lawsuit against Arizona going forward, and farmers getting paid to not grow food, and the IRS checking the receipts from little Timmy's lemonade stand, and Janet Napolitano's TSA screeners busy at their X-Ray machines scrutinizing your underwear. So never fear! — the vitally important work of our federal government will go forward for another two weeks.

03 — Obama's 2012 budget.     All that is about the 2011 federal budget. Just to remind you, federal-budget-wise we are in the middle of 2011; 2012 starts October 1st.

So, the budget for 2011 having been political roadkill, what are the prospects for 2012?

Well, the president submitted his budget proposal in February as per usual, and Congress and the commentariat have been looking over it. What do we find?

Investment! Investment in education! Investment in innovation! Investment in infrastructure! Invest, invest, invest!

Let's go through some of the federal government departments. I'm just reading from the budget document here.

Department of Energy, quote: "Provides $29.5 billion, a 12 percent increase over the 2010 enacted level." Quote: "more than $580 million to assist in research and development" on "advanced-technology vehicles," which I guess means electric cars.

Department of Education, quote: "Sustains maximum Pell Grant increases." Quote: "Provides a $200 million increase for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act State Grants, which help students with disabilities succeed in elementary and secondary school." Sure, let's help 'em, obviously we haven't been helping them up to now. What's $200 million, after all? Quote: "The Budget includes a significant increase for K-12 education …"

Let's try the Department of Health and Human Services. Quote: "The Budget expands access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment activities." Quote: "Includes $8.1 billion for Head Start … maintaining the historic expansion undertaken with Recovery Act funds." Whoa: Head Start? Now in its 47th year of operation, with no proven benefits at all? When the Thernstroms studied it back in 2003, at which point it had already cost taxpayers $60 billion, they found that, quote from their book titled No Excuses, quote: "it does not seem to have improved the educational achievement of African-American children in any substantial way." The president wants to, quote, "maintain the expansion" of this fruitless, pointless, feelgood program. Eight billion dollars. [Toilet flush]

Department of the Treasury, quote: "Enables the implementation of critical reforms to the U.S. financial regulatory system through support for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act," end quote. That would be Dodd as in Chris Dodd, Frank as in Barney Frank. Don't you feel your money is safer already?

Some of this stuff you can read three or four times and still not squeeze any meaning out of it. Department of Labor, quote: "Invests almost $380 million … for a competitive 'Workforce Innovation Fund' that will allow States and regions to compete for funds by demonstrating their commitment to transforming their workforce systems, including breaking down program silos and paying programs for success." End quote. What does that mean? What's a "workforce system"? Is that, like, a workforce? And what's a "program silo"? I know what a grain silo is, and a missile silo, but "program silo"? Does my state have a "program silo"? Can I go see it? I imagine this tall cylindrical structure with a dome up on a hillside in the Catskills, perhaps, where the state stores all its programs.

And on and on, all written in that same weird Fedsperanto, where "investment" means spending, "cuts" means "slight slowing in the rate of growth," and "streamlining services" and "eliminating waste" mean nothing at all.

You can read the thing for yourself on www.budget.gov/budget, or just google "2012 Federal Budget." Or you can just take it from me here that the main idea of the 2012 budget is spend, spend, spend.

With all that spending — sorry, investment — we must be in for some hefty tax hikes, right? Perish the thought! In fact the budget document boasts of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, signed into law by Obama in December, to, quote: "Prevent a Middle-Class Tax Increase … Cut Payroll Taxes for 159 Million Workers … Provide Critical Tax Credits for Families … Extend the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit …" And on, and on.

So here's the president's 2012 budget proposal: Spend like crazy, and cut taxes. Brilliant! What could possibly go wrong?

04 — Foreign Aid.     The problem with cutting spending, as many observers have pointed out, is that we all want to cut the other guy's. Nobody wants his own federal spigot turned off.

Almost the only exception to this is foreign aid, which 71 percent of the public wants cut. Rand Paul wants to eliminate it altogether.

I wouldn't go quite that far. Radio Derb's foreign policy slogan is: Nuke 'em, bribe 'em, or leave 'em alone, with a strong preference for leaving 'em alone. In fact the nuke option has dwindled to wellnigh nothing, since most of the people we're likely to want to nuke can nuke us back. That just leaves us with bribery as our main foreign-policy tool. It's worked pretty well: it kept Egypt out of trouble for thirty years, which is a darn good result as foreign policy results go.

So I'd definitely give the feds some leeway to bribe foreign governments to stay out of trouble and pretend to be our friends. It needs to be done judiciously, if it's not to turn into a protection racket: "Nice little ally you've got there — be a shame if anything happened to them …" and so on. That's the kind of things we pay diplomats for, though, so let 'em earn their paychecks.

That aside, most aid comes under the "humanitarian" label. I'd be happy to see our government get out of this business altogether. Humanitarianism is a private virtue, not a public one. Any one moved by the sight of suffering people in Cambodia, Cameroon, or Colombia should be free to help. There are lots of private organizations to pass on the funds. That's great — all strength to them. It's no business of government, though.

That's an ideal position, however — hard to hold on to in all its purity. When there's a sudden catastrophe somewhere — a tsunami or an earthquake — there's very widespread public support for sending some spare military cargo planes loaded up with food and medicine on the public dime, and I wouldn't gainsay that. Beyond such limited and occasional assistance, though, let's keep humanitarianism private.

The Obama budget actually makes some small concessions to Derbism here. In the budget estimates for the Department of State, for example, comparing the 2010 number with the one for 2012, I see actual reductions in "International Organizations and Peacekeeping" (down seven percent), "Migration and Refugee Assistance" (down 5 percent), and "Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia" (down 15 percent).

That looks to be on the right track. It may just be smoke and mirrors, though, with funds shuffled off to somewhere else. The number for "Total Discretionary Outlays" is up forty percent. And then beyond that we have "Guaranteed loan commitments" up 34 percent and "Direct loan disbursements" up eighty percent. Yeah, I definitely smell a rat here.

Foreign aid is mostly a racket. Peter Bauer forty years ago defined it as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries, and nothing much has changed since. Hillary's people are spending 94 billion dollars of your money and mine, one way or another. You could cut that to nine billion without anybody in the U.S.A. noticing, I have no doubt. Of course, some dictator somewhere might have to sell off one of his Gulfstreams, but why is that my business?

05 — Libya.     The uprising in Libya seems to be developing into total civil war.  …   What's that you say? You couldn't care less?  …   Me neither. Go to it, lads.

06 — Wisconsin standoff.     We still have the standoff in Wisconsin, the state's Democratic senators hiding out in Illinois so there's no quorum to pass Governor Scott Walker's restraints on public-sector unions.

Latest news is, the state senate has officially declared the fugitive legislators to be in contempt of the chamber. This means that the sergeant at arms, with police assistance if necessary, can arrest them … but unfortunately only in Wisconsin.

Now Governor Walker is getting ready to issue layoff notices for state employees. He has no choice: without those restraints on unions, he can't balance the budget, as the state constitution requires him to.

The state Assembly is still functioning, and voted up Governor Walker's budget bill last weekend. This incited the Democrat members of the Assembly to insensate fury. One of them, Rep. Gordon Hintz, screamed at a Republican colleague, Rep. Michelle Litjens, that, quote: "You are [bleep] dead!" There's another one for the "Civility" folder. Let me tell you, after twelve years in this game, nobody shrieks death threats at you like a liberal Democrat. But of course that's not "hate" — not unless the Southern Poverty Law Center says so, which in the case of a liberal Democrat it never would.

One enjoyable side benefit from the Wisconsin fiasco has been, it has inspired economists to make complete rear ends of themselves talking about educational attainment.

Here for example was Paul Krugman in the op-ed pages of the New York Times on Sunday. Krugman's whole shtick, in everything he writes about, is that the government doesn't spend enough money. So here he is scoffing at the state of Texas, which according to Krugman doesn't spend enough money on its schools. Quote:

In low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings.

End quote. Krugman, let me remind you, has a Nobel Prize for economics.

Here are some more economists, in fact the actual magazine The Economist. They compare Texas, which does not have collective bargaining for teachers, with Wisconsin, which does. On test scores from the SAT and ACT, these economics whiz-kids tell us, Texas ranks 47th among the states, while Wisconsin ranks second.

You'd think, wouldn't you?, that these economics wunderkinder, with all their glittering credentials and all the research facilities of the New York Times and The Economist at their disposal, you'd think they'd dig into the data a bit, wouldn't you? Nope: that is left for bloggers to do, in this case the indispensable Iowahawk.

Iowahawk actually goes to the most solid, most authoritative data we have on educational attainment, the NAEP — National Assessment of Educational Progress. Here are the NAEP scores for 2009, Texas first, then Wisconsin. For white 4th-graders, math: 254, 250. That's Texas 254, Wisconsin 250. Score one for Texas. For black 4th-graders, math: 231, 217. Score two for Texas. Hispanic 4th-graders math: 233, 228 — score three for Texas!

If you go to 8th-grade math, that gets the score up to Texas 6, Wisconsin 0. Leave math and go to reading scores — now it's Texas 12, Wisconsin 0. Throw in the science scores, whaddawe got? Texas 18, Wisconsin 0 — a total shut-out! Please note that not only is Texas better at educating white kids, it's also better at educating black and Hispanic kids!

True, black and Hispanic kids lag behind white kids, but that's true everywhere. And because Texas has a whole lot more black and Hispanic kids than Wisconsin has, that drags down the state averages. In fact, as Iowahawk says, quote: "A state's 'average ACT/SAT' is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there. In fact, the lion's share of state-to-state variance in test scores is accounted for by differences in ethnic composition." End quote.

The NAEP numbers bear that out. However, we are in the zone here of things that may not be mentioned in the op-ed pages of the New York Politically Correct Times or The Open-Borders Economist.

As well as illustrating a thing we all kind of knew anyway, viz. that the so-called discipline of economics is a crock of turkey poop, this little incident shows up the laziness and irresponsibility of establishment journalists. All the real investigative journalism now is done on the blogs by people like Iowahawk. The pampered journo-school graduates at the big print outlets are just faking it.

I have sometimes done five-minute segments here on Radio Derb that cost me an hour and a half of trawling through the internet to make sure I got my data right. That makes me more diligent than Paul Krugman or the writers at The Economist. Where do I go to get my Nobel Prize? When do I get an op-ed column in the New York Times?

07 — Immigration / Multiculti follies.     It wouldn't be Radio Derb without an immigration segment, so here you go. First, Mexico, our colorful neighbor to the south.

One of the picturesque customs for which our Mexican friends are so well known has made its debut appearance here in the republic. Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy, 38, of Phoenix, Arizona, was found lying in a pool of blood last October 10th in his apartment. His head was found some distance away across the room. So here's another vibrant Mexican custom to add to the gorgeous mosaic of diversity: decapitation.

That was last October, but Phoenix police only just this week issued a report on the case. Quote from the report, quote: "One man, Crisantos Moroyoqui, has been charged in the killing, and three others are believed to have fled to Mexico." Oh, I'm sure our good friends in Mexican law enforcement will soon track them down.

Also on our southern border, Border Agent Brian Terry died in a firefight near Nogales, Arizona last December. We just got a report on that incident, too. What happened was, the Border Patrol spotted a group of armed Mexicans, obviously illegal border crossers, in this remote canyon. They called on the illegals to drop their weapons. When the illegals refused, the Border Patrol fired on them … with beanbag rounds. Beanbag rounds. This annoyed the illegals so much they opened fire with their real weapons, killing Agent Terry.

This is pretty much a metaphor for the current degraded state of our nation. Here's a situation that calls for flame-throwers, helicopter gunships, and napalm, and we're shooting beanbags. Let's just hope those beanbags didn't raise any nasty bruises. If they did, let's make sure the bruisee gets his full day in court, and a couple of million dollars compensation; and the agent who fired the beanbag round gets prosecuted and jailed; and the President flies to Mexico City to issue a full public apology. That's the right spirit.

One more, this time from Europe. Last weekend the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan paid a visit to Germany, which has upward of three million Turkish nationals and Germans of Turkish ancestry. Erdoğan's a mixed bag, who sings an Islamic tune to his followers and talks about Israel the way Li'l Squinty over in Tehran does, but has pushed some genuine reforms and freed up his country's economy some.

So here he was in Germany in an auditorium full of ethnic Turks. He told them, quote: "You must integrate, but I am against assimilation. No one may ignore the rights of minorities," end quote.

That is beyond my ability to parse, I'm afraid. If you integrate, then you're not a minority any more, right? And how are the rights of minorities different from the rights of anyone else? Anyway, we're familiar enough with all this stuff. It's just the same thing John McCain's sidekick was telling his people back in '08, remember him? Quote: "I want the third generation, the seventh generation, I want them all to think 'Mexico first.'" These people are sowers of discord.

The Germans know this better than we do. Recall Chancellor Angela Merkel recently telling her countrymen that multiculturalism is a bust. Recall also that last year's smash bestseller in Germany was Thilo Sarrazin's Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab — loose translation: "Germany Shafts Itself" — arguing that Muslims are a drain on state funds and a risk to national culture.

They are also a hazard to life and limb. This was illustrated on Wednesday, also in Germany — at Frankfurt airport to be precise — when a crazy Muslim shouting "Allahu Akbar" shot dead two U.S. airforce personnel and wounded two others. The shooter is not a Turk but a Kosovan — that is, a citizen of Kosovo, the nation we liberated from Serbian bondage back in the 90s. Hey, you're welcome! And we can blame the Turks anyway, since Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912.

So, the Muslims never made it past the gates of Vienna in 1683 but they seem confident they'll do much better this time, thanks to the open-borders types and multi-culti fanatics. Let's hope the Germans prove them wrong. It doesn't look as though we have the stomach to do so.

08 — Miscellany.     And now, our miscellany of brief items.

Item:  I think I mentioned electric cars up there somewhere. Well, with oil prices going through the trophoshere, citizens must be rushing to auto dealers to buy electric and electric-gas-hybrid cars, right? Not exactly. The Chevy Volt, which is a hybrid, went on sale in December. In January it sold 321 units. Oh, here comes the sales figures for February: 281. How about the Nissan Leaf. which is all-electric? 87 in January, 67 in February. So paying 33 thousand dolalrs for a hybrid that'll get you 40 miles on one battery charge, or 40 thousand for a deal that goes 70 miles, isn't proving so popular. If GM and Nissan want to stick with the four-letter names, I have some suggestions for their next models … but not on a family show.

Item:  New Jersey Governor Chris Chistie, in an interview with some outfit called … lemme see … yes, National Review; the governor said he knew he could beat Obama in 2012. If the nation's fortunes go the way I think they're going to go, my Jack Russell terrier could beat Obama in '012. I'm not infallible on political predictions, though. Obama is a very skillful political athlete, and if it's a conventional race in 2012, Christie will need all the Republican and conservative votes he can get. So just a word here, Governor, and I hope you won't think it's impertinent. There's a big country out there west of the Delaware, with a lot of people in it. A great many of them cherish their Second Amendment rights, and at least as many are mad as hell about state and federal authorities smiling indulgently on illegal immigrants. You need to get right on some of these things, or at least righter than you have been. Being forthright and plain-spoken is great. Being a skilled politician who can outfox your enemies — also great. We love you for these things. Nationwide, though, in a conventional race, they won't suffice. You could ask Rudy Giuliani.

Item:  Curious article by Mark Helprin in the Wednesday Wall Street Journal. He starts with the four Americans murdered by Somali pirates last week, then segues somehow from that into arguing we need to spend more money on our navy, for fear that China will dominate the oceans. I didn't get it at all, though possibly I missed something. So we should borrow another 900 billion dollars from the Chinese to beef up our navy so that China doesn't control the Pacific? No, that can't be it. All those Chinese merchant ships bringing cheap Chinese goods to our shores need us to protect them? No, that doesn't sound right either. Maybe it's about the pirates: With 11 carriers and 270-something other capital ships, we can't cope with doped-up Somali teenagers in rowboats fitted with outboard motors, therefore we need a couple more carriers? Mm, no, that doesn't quite ring true, either. All right, I give up. Someone please email in with the case for a bigger navy.

Item:  Not entirely irrelevant to the previous item, here's the cover headline from the February 24th Bloomberg Businessweek, quote: "Would you invest in a company that lost $2 trillion last year and has a net worth of negative $44 trillion?" That's our country they're talking about. There is no way we can pay off these debts, and no actual political will to do so, as Obama's ludicrous budget shows. Reality will assert itself eventually, probably in the form of hyperinflation. In that Wall Street Journal article, which I'll certainly allow is well-intended and well-written, Mark Helprin says, quote: "Deficit reduction is not the only or even the most important thing." Sorry, Mark. I beg to differ.

09 — Signoff.     There, I got through the whole thing without mentioning Charlie Sheen. Radio Derb is, and will remain, a No-Sheen zone. There are some doors man was never meant to open.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the suits have just dumped a load of programs on me, and I have to truck them over to the program silo for storage. More from Radio Derb next week!

[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]