[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your tempestuously genial host John Derbyshire with a round-up of the week's news.
The big event of the last few days, at least for those of us in the thirteen colonies here on the right coast, was Hurricane Irene. As Radio Derb reported last week, we were braced for major destruction. I was working hard to instil some Blitz Spirit into my staff here: playing Vera Lynn songs on the office PA system, issuing ration cards and gas masks, and modulating my voice to sound as much like Winston Churchill's as I could. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the grotto, we shall never surrender …
So I was hoping to open this week's broadcast with survivor stories and cheerily defiant remarks like "Cor, we didn't 'alf cop it last night!" Alas, but by the time she reached us here in Buckley Towers, Irene was merely a summer storm. It rained some and blew some. They shut down the "subway," whatever that is — some kind of underground transportation system for the lower classes, I believe — but otherwise it was all something of a disappointment. I overheard Candy telling Brandy she'd had work assignments from me that were more exciting than that. I think it was work assignments she said … didn't catch the words exactly …
So here we are back in our humdrum routines. However, it wouldn't do to bid farewell to Irene without a few words from the old, weird America. Here they are from one of its finest spokesmen, Huddie Ledbetter. [Clip of Lead Belly singing "Goodnight Irene"]
02 — Department of Illegal Labor. The big event of the coming week is Labor Day, a day of relaxation and celebration for American workers and their families.
Our federal government has a Department of Labor, headed up by a Secretary of Labor. That position is currently held by 53-year-old Hilda Solis of California. What better person to check in on this Labor Day weekend? So, what has Ms. Solis been up to by way of safeguarding the interests of American workers?
Let's see … Oh, here's a news story from Monday this week. Quote:
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis today signed "partnership" agreements with ambassadors from a group of Latin American nations aiming to protect what she described as the labor rights of both legal and illegal migrants working in the United States.
Say what? "Both legal and illegal migrants"? What about actual, you know, Americans? Ah, screw them. They're probably just a bunch of old white racists anyway.
O-kay; but what are these labor rights Secretary Solis is so zealously defending? Let the lady speak for herself.
[Solis clip] No matter how you got here or how long you plan to stay, you have certain rights. You have the right to be safe and in a healthy workplace and the right to a legal wage. We gather here today to strengthen our shared commitment to protect the labor rights of migrant workers in the United States. Unfortunately, due to language barriers and immigration status, migrant workers can be those that are most vulnerably abused.
Some of us, Madame Secretary, might say that American workers are being abused when government turns a blind eye to unscrupulous employers, with the connivance of paid-off politicians, bringing in cheap foreign workers, legal and illegal, to undercut American wages. But go on, please.
[Solis clip] We're committed to ending that abuse and in a few moments we'll sign new partnerships between the Department of Labor and the embassies of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador. These are pledges between our governments to work together to educate migrant workers about their labor rights and prevent abuses in the workplace. During the past year, we've signed similar agreements with the embassies — and I'm very proud of this — the embassies of Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Certainly labor conditions in the U.S.A. are the proper business of the U.S. Secretary of Labor; but why are they any business of the ambassadors from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala? I can't see … [Klaxon] Sorry, hold on a minute, I set off the PC alarm there somehow. [Aside] What'd I do?… Oh right. [Full voice] I should of course have said Co'tah Reeca, Nee-ha-rah-wah, and Gwah-thay-mah-lah. Deepest apologies, más profundos disculpas.
Bottom line here: All these corrupt junkyard countries to our south export their surplus peasants to the U.S.A. Joe Taxpayer here gets stuck with the cost of their medical care, food stamps, and kids' education. Meanwhile remittances flow south to prop up the junk economies of the junkyard countries. And our Secretary of Labor is, quote, "very proud" of her contribution to this shameless racket.
Anyone know the Spanish for "impeachment"? Perhaps they don't have that concept down in Nee-ha-rah-wah.
03 — Obama's jobs speech. And of course our brilliant, charismatic, world-bestriding and leg-tingling President is also concerned about American workers, deeply concerned. The thought of any American losing his job is profoundly distressing to the President; though one cannot help but suspect that it is the thought of one particular American losing one particular job in Fall of next year that distresses him the most.
What can the President do? Why, he can do that thing he so much loves to do: make a speech full of fake sympathy and gassy uplift. After three years' acquaintance with Obama and his presentational style, we know fairly exactly what he will say.
He'll say that folks are hurting! Sorry, I mean "hurt'n'" — the President will be in populist mode at this point, lapsing into nasal plosion and dropping all his terminal g's, trying his best not to sound like the well brought-up middle-class kid he is. So folks are hurt'n'. He understands how hard it is — you know, from all the struggles and hardships he himself has endured. Why, he once mistakenly ticked the "white" box on a college application form and would have lost his shot at an affirmative-action place if he hadn't spotted the error in time. And then there was that time he got impatient waiting for a college servant to show up and tried to move one of the faculty lounge armchairs by himself. Got a sprained shoulder ligament from that. Life isn't easy. Sorry: I mean, life ain't easy.
Help is on its way, though! Keep hope alive! The President has figured out a marvelous plan to get jobless Americans back to work!
See, he has these shovel-ready projects ready to go, he's going to build wind farms and solar power arrays all over so our energy production is all green, and factories will be opening in every town making green things — solar panels and such. Investing in the future! The entire southwestern desert will be covered with solar panels! Well, except for where we put up water towers so migrant workers don't get thirsty.
Furthermore the President is going to send squads of young people to rebuild the inner cities, mentor inner-city schoolkids, and teach inner-city communities how to organize themselves for common projects using cell phones and the internet. Think of the benefits!
Oh, our President has such great plans for getting us back to work. But see, it's all going to cost money. We have to invest in the future!
Where's the money going to come from? Well, the rich must pay their share. He will call for all of us to make sacrifices. Congress must step up — put country before party. Partisan bickering must cease! If this wonderful new plan fails, it will be because the President's enemies obstructed it for narrow political purposes. Shame on them!
That will be the President's speech. It will end with an invocation to the God that nobody believes Obama believes in, and after making it Obama will head off to the golf course. At least we should hope he will: every hour he spends in the White House making policy costs our children and grandchildren another trillion dollars in debt.
Where will Obama make this speech, though? Well, for maximum exposure the speech should be made to a joint session of Congress. So, hey, you congresscritters, just drop whatever fool things you're doing there, would you, and make way for for the great man, the most transformational figure in American history, to come in and address the nation. He'll be wanting to do it on … wait a minute, let me consult the desk planner here … ah, next Wednesday he has a spot free, in between the George Soros strategy meeting and the Whoopi Goldberg fundraiser.
So just clear the decks there on Wednesday evening, would you, you congresspeasants? Oh, and the President likes his Perrier water chilled, 36 degrees, please. Let's have no repetition of that embarrasing State of the Union incident when he found it unpalatably warm. OK?
04 — Schedule clash. You have to think that Obama and his lackeys really don't have a very firm grasp on the whole separation-of-powers business. Even under the feeblest, weaseliest, dimmest, most lackluster of leadership — and mind, I am not naming any names here — Congress is jealous of its constitutional status and privileges.
One house of Congress is currently controlled by the Republican Party. Now, it just so happens that the aforementioned Republican Party has a whole raft of candidates competing for the presidential nomination in next year's election. These candidates have periodic debates so the voters can get a good look at them; and one such debate is scheduled for next Wednesday — at the very time President Obama wants to address Congress!
Whether the White House staff fell down on checking the TV schedules here, or whether they just assumed Congress would jump when Obama cracked his whip, we shall not know until the memoirs come out. Anyway, what happened was, Tea Party representatives woke up John Boehner and gave him an injection of spine stiffener, and Boehner told the President the House couldn't approve Obama's request for a joint session in time, so he'd better figure Thursday for his speech.
The White House had no choice but to accede. They're pretending they're not mad, not mad at all; though you can bet that the incident is, as Irish people say, "in the book," for payback at some future date.
Just a word on that GOP debate. It is, as I said, next Wednesday, 8 pm Eastern Time. You can watch it live on CNBC or MSNBC, and Politico.com will stream it live on the internet. Participants are: Perry, Romney, Paul, Bachmann, Gingrich, Cain, Huntsman, Santorum. The debate's to be staged at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.
The fun of the thing will of course be seeing Rick Perry in the debate format. Will he show us a Reagan side — "benign and serious," as we quoted Peggy Noonan urging on him last week? Will he dither and fumble? Will he crash and burn on live TV? This is the excitement of politics. Tune in Wednesday evening.
And one more word on the President's jobs speech. The speech is of course nothing to do with jobs. It'll be like one of those husband-wife fights that aren't really about what they're "about" — married folk will know what I mean.
We all know how to pump up the economy and get Americans back to work. Slash government programs, especially welfare and unemployment benefits; suspend all legal immigration and expel illegals; repeal federal regulations; reign in the trial lawyers and lefty judges; and cut taxes.
Any one of those measures would give a collective heart attack to some key Democratic Party constituency, though, so none of them will happen. What will happen is, a strenuous effort by the President to so position himself and his party that the misfortunes of the next fifteen months seem like the fault of his enemies. Obama is a politician, and he is nothing else at all.
05 — Obama's uncle. Speaking of illegal immigrants, here's another one: Obama Onyango. Mr. Onyango was arrested August 24th outside Chicken Bone Saloon — that's a fried chicken shop — in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Mr. Onyango was not arrested for being illegally present in the United States — good heavens, we don't arrest people for that!. He was arrested because he narrowly missed colliding with a patrol car, and when breathalyzed was found to have twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system.
Wait a minute, though: what was that other name there? "Obama"? Yes, this is yet another twig on our president's colorful family tree. Mr. Onyango is actually Barack Obama's half-uncle — same grandfather, different grandmother. He came here in 1963 on a student visa and just stayed, obtaining a social security card and driver license by means unknown.
Mr. Onyango has mostly kept a low profile, though there have been a couple of brushes with the authorities. An immigration judge ordered him deported in 1989. Mr. Onyango appealed, but lost his appeal in 1992. He just stayed anyway. Meanwhile, the IRS had filed a lien against him for $4,000 in unpaid taxes in 1990.
It all sounds a lot like Barack Obama's Aunt Zeituni Onyango, who was likewise living here illegally. Aunt Zeituni was ordered deported in 2004, but like Mr. Onyango she just ignored the order. When push came to shove an unknown benefactor — [cough] Soros [cough] — hired the nation's best immigration attorney to represent Aunt Zeituni, and a spineless judge gave her political asylum on the grounds that anyone related to the President of the United States would be mercilessly persecuted by the authorities if forced to return to her native country. She now lives in public housing on public benefits and occupies her time buying designer clothes and accessories in upscale stores in between visits to the welfare office.
Mister Onyango's been working for the last five years at a liquor store, so it seems from this recent arrest that he's been ignoring the Scarface rule: "Don't get high on your own supply." He's actually had a couple of encounters with the law while serving behind the counter there, for selling liquor to under-age customers.
If this were a nation of laws, not men, Obama Onyango would be on the next plane back to Kenya, with Aunt Zeituni Onyango in the seat right behind. As it is, this is a country where powerful people and their relatives can do as they please, as these cases amply illustrate. Just like any other banana republic, in fact.
06 — "To Hell With Them" Hawks: Syria. Last week I confessed to not giving a flying falafel about Libya. This week it's Syria's turn. Yes, I've been avoiding commenting on the ructions in Syria for the same reason I've been silent on Libya: because I couldn't care less about them and their squalid, barbarous affairs. The suits are telling me I really should address the issue, though, so I'll give it a shot.
Syria, right. Big old country there between Iraq and Turkey. A backwater of the Ottoman Empire until WW1, then a French puppet state until WW2, then independent under various dictatorships dominated by the military and secret police. Corrupt, centrally-planned Soviet-style economy, some oil but seems to be running out, Total Fertility Rate 2.94. Not a lot of ethnic diversity, though there are some Kurds up there in the north that the Syrians can stir up when they want to annoy Turkey.
Well, at the beginning of this year there began to be street protests against the current dictatorship. As best I can judge, it seems to be a middle-class thing. People with some education and some knowledge of the outside world want to live in a normal country — one with decent-paying jobs, nice houses, good public services, and basic freedoms. Reasonable enough, and you can't help but be sympathetic.
The long shadow of Iran's 1979 revolution against the Shah hangs over any such process in the Muslim world, though. You wonder if it will just end up as another crazy theocratic despotism. I don't know enough about Syria to tell you whether it will or not, though Islamist fanaticism doesn't seem to have been a big factor in the protests so far.
I can't restrain my own pessimism here. Syria has a low overall level of human capital — a mean national IQ in the mid-80s range, for example — and no tradition of consensual government. The place is not a good bet for democratization.
By far the most probable course of events in Syria over the near future, as in Libya, is for the present corrupt and brutish dictatorship to be replaced by a different, but also corrupt and also brutish, dictatorship. If the Syrians get lucky, the new dictatorship will be a tad less corrupt and brutish, or more corrupt but less brutish, or less corrupt but more brutish, than the current one.
Geostrategically, Syria seems to be lining up with Iran and Iraq, in spite of the fact that it is majority Sunni Islam. That it brings anything worth bringing to such an alliance, though, is hard to see. If Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon is the new Axis, Syria is its Italy, or perhaps even its Romania. The last few decades of Syrian military history consists of a string of humiliating defeats at the hands of numerically inferior forces. If Syria's oil really is giving out, the place will have almost no economy at all. It will be a beggar nation, a Middle Eastern Zimbabwe.
Turkey seems to have realized this, and is backing off from its previous notion of joining up with Syria. Much of the border between Turkey and Syria is protected by minefields, and you can be pretty sure the Turks won't be decommissioning those minefields any time soon.
Syria is in short a loser nation with nothing to offer anyone. They have nothing to sell you and you wouldn't want to go there for a vacation. Their military consists of illiterate peasants sitting in rusting tanks.
Our current administration in Washington is stupid and arrogant enough to get us involved in Syria's murky affairs, but any attempt to do so should be fought tooth and nail. The place is none of our business and promises nothing but trouble and expense.
Probably the best thing for the rest of the world to do about Syria would be to emulate the Turks and plant minefields on all the borders, then leave the Syrians to cope with their misery, poverty, and backwardness as best they can. I understand that this doesn't sound like a very charitable solution: but the U.S.A. faces huge fiscal problems, and charity begins at home.
07 — "To Hell With Them" Hawks: Libya. Libya? Same as Syria. Where is Colonel Gaddafy? I don't know, I don't care, and you can't make me care.
08 — Miscellany. OK, here's our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Al Gore told us that denying climate change will one day be looked on the way we now look on racism. Wow. So in future people who want lower taxes, or smaller government, or less regulation, will be denounced by the political left as "climate deniers," the way they are nowadays denounced as "racists"? And poverty, crime, and illegitimacy among minorities will be blamed on climate denial? And if climate deniers book a hotel for a conference, the Mayor of Charlotte will threaten the hotel with a million dollars worth of health-code violations? This should be interesting. What will be the climate-denial equivalent of the n-word, though? What unspeakably insulting word for climate-change enthusiasts will be banned from public discourse — except, of course, in exchanges between warmists, and in the lyrics of warmist rap songs.
Item: Dick Cheney's written a book about his career. I think I'll pass on it, being still too sour on the Bush administration in general. Or rather, sour on myself for having ever been taken in by their occasional gestures towards conservatism, when they were in fact a bunch of liberal spendaholic world-savers. Still, my impression has always been that Cheney was the least bad of a rotten bunch; and altogether, when you look at his background and career, actually a pretty impressive guy. I hope his book does well, and I wish him a long life and a comfortable retirement.
Item: Michele Bachmann, on the stump in Florida, made a quip about the recent East Coast earthquake and hurricane. [Bachmann clip] I think it's plain from the clip, and even more plain if you watch the video, which is on YouTube, that a quip is what it was. If you just read the transcript, though, it seems that Michele is in dead serious Old Testament wrath-of-Jehovah mode. That, or course, is how the media lefties all read it. Moral of the story: If a conservative candidate's words can be twisted to make the candidate sound weird, they will be.
Item: Scientists in Australia have sequenced the kangaroo genome. They have even identified a gene responsible for the kangaroo's hop. [Boing!] This is, says the BBC science news website, quote, "a milestone in the study of mammalian evolution." I'm going to take their word for it, and just be glad they didn't say it was a great leap forward. [Boing!]
09 — Signoff. That's it, folks. Radio Derb signing off now, wishing you all a very happy Labor Day weekend, whether you're a documented immigrant or an undocumented one. And if you're a U.S. citizen, well, just keep writing those checks to the IRS. Uncle Sam's got a whole world to support, you know.
Here's another glimpse of the old, weird America to see us out. Take it away, Lead Belly.
[Music clip: Lead Belly, "Grey Goose"]