[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb on the air, here, folks, welcoming you to ZOIZ, and a healthy and happy ZOIZ to each and every one of you … Wait a minute. ZOIZ? Oh, I see: Those should be twos, not z's. Who typed up these scripts? Mandy? Brandy? Where is everybody? I tell you, there'll be punishment detail in the grotto this evening.
OK, so it should be: Welcome to 2012! This is your Januarially genial host John Derbyshire opening Radio Derb's eighth year on the airwaves with a roundup of news from the four corners of the internet. Off we go.
02 — Iowa caucuses. I just took a trip down Memory Lane, going back and reading the transcript from Radio Derb's broadcast four years ago, right after the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Just to remind you, the winners there were Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama. You can read that transcript yourself on my website: johnderbyshire.com ¦ Opinions ¦ Radio Derb.
On the Democrat side in 2008, Barack Obama squeaked a win ahead of John Edwards and Hillary Clinton tied close for second. We all know what followed. In my broadcast I said the obvious things about Barack Obama, then still quite a new figure on the national scene. I called him a nanny-state socialist with racial hang-ups, and I defy anyone to say I described him wrong.
Of the GOP vote in 2008, a third went to Mike Huckabee, a quarter to Mitt Romney, the rest to the rest. Huckabee's victory I greeted with somewhat muted enthusiasm. I congratulated him for having poked a finger in the eye of the Republican establishment — the people who put the "stupid" in "Stupid Party" — but then I went on to observe that Huckabee was, quote, "a big-government populist who wants to tell us what we can eat, drink, and smoke. His entire program is a retread of George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism, one of the worst ideas the human race has come up with since benevolent despotism, to which it bears a strong resemblance." End quote.
That was four years ago. What did the GOP get this time? Well, Mike Huckabee was nowhere in sight, but Mitt Romney was in the race again, and he got 25 percent of the vote again. Perhaps Mitt's 25 percent is one of those universal constants, like the speed of light or the charge of an electron. Mitt actually won the GOP caucuses in Iowa this time, but the poor guy can't get any credit for it as Rick Santorum also polled 25 percent — just eight votes short of Romney, out of 120 thousand odd.
So after all those not-Romney candidates, one by one, shot up into the sky, illuminated the landscape for a few days, then burned out and fell to earth, come the week before vote time, Rick Santorum was the only one still sitting on the ground in its launcher bottle waiting for someone to light the blue touch-paper. Exquisite timing there, Rick.
03 — Rick Santorum. So what are we to make of Rick Santorum? Is he in with a chance for the nomination? How about for the Vice Presidential slot on the GOP ticket?
The first thing you notice about Rick Santorum is his Christian faith. That's by his own design: he pushes it right out at you. The first thing he did in his thank-you speech Tuesday night was quote C.S. Lewis, a writer whom American Christians believe to have been a theologian, while Lewis's own fellow-countryment thought he was a literary critic. My own opinion on that issue is that Lewis missed his calling; he was by nature a writer of verses for the Hallmark Greeting Card Company. Leaving that aside, and leaving aside also the inexplicable fact that very few of Lewis's American followers seem to want to follow the old boy into the Anglican Church — Santorum for example being a Roman Catholic — there is no doubt that the ex-senator from Pennsylvania puts his faith up front and center.
I have no problem with anyone being a Christian. I used to be one myself. I do, however, have mild reservations about politicians who trundle their faith around front of them like a supermarket shopping cart.
For one thing, it's un-Christian. Jesus of Nazareth, though he sometimes contradicted himself on this, as on many other points, seems on the whole to have favored a modest and private approach to worship. He certainly didn't approve of ostentation in religious observance.
For another thing, ostentatious religiosity doesn't play well in American politics, even among Christians, even among conservatives. We — we American conservatives — like our presidents to be Christian, but we don't want to hear about it all the time — or, really, any of the time, other than at moments of national crisis. The two greatest conservative presidents of the 20th century, Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan, were both Christians, but neither of them beat the electorate over the head with it. Neither, in fact, was a regular church-goer. The most deeply, openly, ostentatiously religious of recent presidents was Jimmy Carter. How'd that work out?
And the Jimmy Carter case illustrates a problem with intense religiosity in politics, namely that it's not a good fit for fiscal, constitutional and geostrategic conservatism. Jimmy Carter made that perfectly plain, but it can be seen too in the case of Mike Huckabee, who was, to repeat myself repeating my 2008 observation, a big-government populist. It can be seen for that matter in George W. Bush, the guy who said that, quote, "When someone is hurting, government has got to move" — possibly justifiable on theological grounds, but utterly antithetical to the conservative spirit of restraint in government.
With Santorum there is also the Catholic factor to be weighed. It is of course possible for a devout Catholic to be a principled conservative — the founder of National Review was an outstanding example. Today's Catholic hierarchy is, however, overwhelmingly left-wing. Outside the narrow scope of purely doctrinal issues and those issues closely related thereto — abortion and euthanasia, for instance — outside that narrow zone, on all other social and political issues the Church is well out on the political left. On wealth redistribution, on immigration and national sovereignty, on globalization, on welfare, on the death penalty, on Second Amendment rights, the Catholic Church is more liberal than Teddy Kennedy, or Nancy Pelosi, or Joe Biden, to name just three of its congregants. Check out Benedict XVI's 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, where he calls for world government.
An individual Catholic might of course interpret scripture and doctrine differently from the hierarchy, but he is leaning into a headwind when he does so. In fact, he is courting excommunication: This is, after all, a church that emphasizes obedience and authority.
Bottom line on this: A President Rick Santorum would likely be another compassionate conservative, squandering the nation's wealth on extravagant new welfare schemes, leaving the nation's borders wide open, launching missionary wars on borrowed money to bring light to the heathen. Another George W. Bush: or another Mike Huckabee, if you like.
So here we are back in 2008, with the top two places in the Iowa GOP caucuses going to a compassionate conservative and Mister Twenty-Five Percent. Who says history doesn't repeat itself?
04 — Michele Bachmann. I was sorry to see Michele Bachmann drop out after Tuesday's vote.
Bachmann was flying high back in August last year. She was, in fact, the first of those not-Romney rockets to light up the sky. Then she got into a spitting contest with Rick Perry, during which she made her only really major campaign flub, claiming that the prophylactic shots that Perry had mandated for girls in Texas caused mental retardation, which turned out not to be the case.
Perry in fact was Bachmann's nemesis, derailing her at the peak of her popularity. When the candidate debates got going, neither of them performed consistently well, though I think any fair-minded person would agree that Michele Bachmann was way better than Rick Perry. Bachmann couldn't recover the lost ground, though, and in Tuesday's caucuses she got only five percent of the vote to Perry's ten.
I thought she was a good candidate: knowledgeable, honest, and energetic, with sensible policy positions on the big issues: entitlements, energy, immigration. On immigration, in fact, she was the only candidate with better than a C grade on the NumbersUSA report card. Romney's a C, the others are Ds or Fs.
I wish she had pushed some of these issues and just let Rick Perry bloviate, instead of engaging him. She's an evangelical, though not as relentlessly public about it as Santorum, and without giving the impression that she wants to save the world on the U.S. taxpayer's dime. The congresslady's faith has a more national and patriotic focus than the Jimmy Carter, Rick Santorum style. And she actually knows quite a lot about the U.S. taxpayer's dime, having worked as a tax lawyer. I thought her patriotic style of religiosity might help her in Iowa without leading her into foolish policies in office.
Ah well, there's still that vice-presidential spot to fill. I wish Michele Bachmann good luck, and thank her for talking more sense than most of the other GOP candidates. That's not saying a lot, but it's saying something.
05 — Ron Paul. Before I leave the Iowa caucuses, just a word about Ron Paul, who is doing surprisingly well.
Congressman Paul placed third on Tuesday, with 21½ percent, more than double his 2008 percentage. That's not enough to get him any delegates, but still impressive for a candidate with no particular appeal to evangelicals, and with the mainstream media already working up a full-court press on him for supposed racism and hostility to Israel.
Most impressive of all, he totally dominated the youth vote in Iowa. Of the 18,000 Iowans under the age of 30 who voted, 48 percent went for Paul, durn near half. Santorum got about half as many as that, and Romney just barely half of that.
This is the more remarkable since Paul is the oldest of the candidates by a good stretch: eight years older than Newt Gingrich, the next oldest, and 23 years older than Santorum, the baby of the bunch. Ignoring voter age and just counting first-time caucus goers, Paul got 33 percent, a better percentage than Romney or Santorum got of the total vote.
Conclusion: Paul's combination of minimal government, putting America first, and social libertarianism is way popular among young people in the heartland, and also inspiring enough to energize some other people who never bothered to vote before.
That's very encouraging. Minimal government I like. Putting America first I like. Social libertarianism I'm OK with, though I have reservations about blanket drug legalization.
There are other planks in Paul's platform that creak a bit for me. He's reversed his 2008 position and come out for open borders. That's crazy: we, just like any other country, need to be choosy about who we permit to settle here, and that choosiness needs to be instantiated in selective immigration laws and well-guarded borders.
Paul is similarly clueless about human diversity issues, apparently believing that all group discrepancies are the result of overbearing government, and that if government would just get out of the way we'd all be dancing round the maypole together in happy multicultural harmony, with equal group outcomes on education, income, crime, and so on. That's wishful thinking: racial discrepancies in things like incarceration rates and academic test scores, and the rancors and tribalism that go with them, are baked deeper into our society than any government action, or retreat of government action, can penetrate. I agree that government should stop meddling in these things, but I don't think the result will be racial equality.
Then there's Paul's favorite hobby-horses: monetary policy, the gold standard, the Fed. Here I confess my understanding is poor; but conservatives I respect, with good economic track records, tell me this stuff is fantasy. That leaves me at best wary.
Paul himself admitted this week that he nurses no hopes of getting the GOP nomination. I continue to believe that if he shows signs of embarking on a Third Party run, his son, Senator Rand Paul, will wrap him in duct tape and lock him in the basement for the duration. So the Paul campaign is ultimately headed nowhere.
Still, as that youth vote shows, Ron Paul has done his country a great service by getting his ideas out there in the public square. None of the other candidates were asking why we have a 70,000-page income tax code, why education is any business of the federal government, or why we have ten thousand troops stationed in Italy.
Paul has got his ideas out there, and they've stuck on a lot of thoughtful young minds. Long-term, that's good news for the Republic. I don't think it's too fantastic to hope that if this country survives a few more decades, there will be statues to Ron Paul in public squares. Thanks, Congressman!
06 — Adderall shortage. All right, I'm done with Iowa, but let me just take up one point from the previous segment, the point about drug legalization.
This is a bit of a hobby horse of mine, one I've taken out for a canter before on Radio Derb. No, I don't want to see crack cocaine and meth sold over the counter at my local deli. There are too many stupid and irresponsible people in the nation for that to be anything but catastrophic.
I did, though, notice this story from Reuters last Sunday. Headline: "Shortage of ADHD drug Adderall seen persisting." Extract from story, quote:
A shortage of Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, shows little sign of easing as manufacturers struggle to get enough active ingredient to make the drug and demand climbs.
End quote. That last sentence tells you why there's this shortage of Adderall. It's not that the stuff is inherently hard to manufacture, or that it uses some ingredient that has to be extracted from the gall bladders of Tibetan condors in flight. It's just that the Drug Enforcement Administration sets manufacturing quotas to control supplies, and the quotas are set too low.
The reason this got my attention is that I know several people who take Adderall or related drugs — Ritalin, Provigil, Inderal, and so on. None of those people is an ADHD-afflicted high-school student. They are all middle-aged types in cognitively demanding professions who need to focus their minds a lot.
One of these persons is stinking rich and has a doctor on annual retainer who provides him with any prescription drug he wants. Most seriously rich people have an arrangement like this, I think. Remember how a couple of years ago Sylvester Stallone got busted by customs authorities in Australia for his traveling stash of human growth hormone and testosterone cream. Sly groveled to the court to get himself off the hook, but in interviews later he expressed surprise that anyone thought he was doing anything wrong, and urged everyone over 40 to use these drugs.
Most of the people using these drugs, though, are not billionaires or movie stars. They are just middle-aged academic or professional types who, in a competitive information-loaded society, need help concentrating. They go to a doctor, tell him they're having trouble focusing their minds, and come out with a prescription for Adderall. Or else they try to find themselves another doctor. Four years ago the British science magazine Nature polled its readers and found that one in five of them — these are working scientists — said they used Adderall-type drugs to improve their mental performance.
I totally favor liberalization of these kinds of drugs. They should be available over the counter to anyone who wants them. What business is it of doctors?
Side effects? Sly looks pretty darn good, and so do all the people I know that follow his example, one of whom I know has been juicing for 20 years. If there's some risk, it's borderline, and we should be left to take it. We're grown-ups, for crying out loud.
Dumb people or minors might misuse the drugs? OK: I'll allow at a stretch that there might be some need for background checks and permits, just as we have for firearms. I still can't see what doctors have to do with it.
At the moment, if you want Adderall, or HGH, or testosterone, you need to be either (a) rich, or (b) within reach of a willing doctor. I say that's nanny-state b.s., and I say the hell with it. Here, for sure, the libertarians have a case.
This is the kind of thing that makes mild-mannered regular citizens into Ron Paul voters.
07 — Hispanics vote left. One of the most stunning sets of numbers I've seen in the past few years came out of the Pew Research Center last summer. Pew analysed household wealth: that is, all the assets of a household, minus all its outstanding debts. They reported the figures by race and ethnicity. The median figures came out as follows: Black households — $5,677; Hispanic households — $6,325; Non-Hispanic white households — $113,149.
That means that median household wealth for whites is nineteen times what it is for blacks, and fifteen times what it is for Hispanics. Nineteen times and fifteen times. Those ratios are at record highs because of the housing crash, but they've always been plenty high. They both bottomed out in 1995 at around seven times. Twenty-five years ago the ratios were twelve times and eight times.
Those are pretty staggering figures, especially after fifty years of affirmative action, racial set-asides, anti-discrimination laws, and make-work government jobs preferentially for minorities. The only fair conclusion to draw is that black and Hispanic Americans have chronically low earning power, and if there's a way to fix that, we are today further away than ever from finding it. Nineteen times and fifteen times: and 25 years ago the ratios were twelve times and eight times; and they bottomed out in the 90s boom at seven times and seven times.
Given that inescapable conclusion, and given that our black and Hispanic populations are increasing faster than the non-Hispanic white population, and that white baby boomers are retiring from the workforce in droves, and given that incomes have been stagnating for decades now, it follows by pure logic that our country will get poorer in the years to come.
You might also surmise, looking at those numbers, that black and Hispanic Americans are always going to be supporters of whichever party favors wealth distribution and government programs to transfer money from the white folk with hundred-thousand-dollar households to the minorities with five-thousand-dollar ones. That would be the Democratic Party. GOP efforts to increase their vote share among these low-earning, government-dependent minority populations are doomed to eternal disappointment, unless the GOP shifts way to the left, like Britain's so-called Conservative Party.
As a matter of fact, a more recent study out of that same Pew Research Center supports these melancholy conclusions, at least in the case of Hispanics. At the end of December, Pew released a report on the political disposition of U.S. Hispanics. Among other things the report listed the political issues that Hispanic voters said they were, quote,"most concerned" about. Here are the top six, with percentages: Jobs (50 percent), Education (49 percent), Health care (45 percent), Taxes (34 percent), Federal budget deficit (34 percent), Immigration (33 percent).
Notice the low position of immigration in the list of concerns there. Hispanics don't care about it that much. So in addition to GOP efforts to interest Hispanics in limited government being futile, GOP politicians who promote liberal immigration policies in hopes of picking up Hispanic votes are also practicing futility.
Black and Hispanic Americans are low-earning, government-dependent demographics, and they have been for 25 years. There is every reason to think they will be so for another 25 years. Any party trying to sell fiscal conservatism and self-support to these groups is going to get the door slammed in its face. So why does the GOP keep doing so? And why has the GOP for twenty years pushed policies that swell the Hispanic demographic? Oh right — Stupid Party.
08 — Outsourcing destroys innovation. Here's a quote for you, from the magazine Technology Review, issue dated January/February 2012, quote:
After decades of outsourcing production in an effort to lower costs, many large companies have lost the expertise for the complex engineering and design tasks necessary to scale up and produce today's most innovative new technologies, not to mention the appetite for the risks involved.
That's from an article headlined Can We Build Tomorrow's Breakthroughs? The topic of the article is the relationship between manufacturing and innovation. Clever people at business schools and universities have been studying this relationship. It turns out that when you have a good sturdy base of manufacturing, with all the associated research and engineering skills and production expertise — what the article calls "the industrial commons" — you get lots of innovation; and when not, not.
The relevance of that to the U.S.A.'s current position is obvious. We've been outsourcing manufacturing for decades, thereby depleting that pool of expertise — depleting the industrial commons.
The news is in fact even worse than that. The U.S.A. has been uniquely good at innovation; and when we outsource an industry, innovation doesn't follow that industry abroad. Outsourcing U.S. industry has not only depleted American innovation, it has depleted global innovation. A character in one of my novels says that America has been dreaming for the whole world. Well, we've also been innovating for the whole world; and as the breadth and depth of our "industrial commons" dwindles, so does our ability to do so.
It's all perfectly obvious. The chance of someone in your country building a better mousetrap depends critically on your people having widespread familiarity with mousetrap manufacturing processes. If you send your mousetrap factories to China, that familiarity fades away; and it is not reborn in China, because the economic incentives and cultural variables in China are all different.
Outsourcing our manufacturing base was not only a lousy idea for us, it was lousy for the world at large. But hey, Thomas Friedman thinks the world is flat, and that the next Thomas Edison and the next Alexander Graham Bell will pop up out of Bangladesh or Djibouti any day now, so what's to worry about?
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: The U.S. military is facing major reductions in its budget. Thursday this week the President announced that Army and Marine Corps manpower will be cut by half a million, and forces will be withdrawn from Europe. So maybe those ten thousand troops we have stationed in Italy will be reduced to nine thousand. This is bold, out-of-the-box thinking. In what must surely be related news, though I'm going to leave you to connect the dots here, scientists have created a new type of ant by genetic tinkering. This fearsome-looking critter is called a "super-soldier ant." Quote from the news story: "Scientists say they can create the supersoldiers at will by dabbing normal ant larvae with a special hormone — the larvae then develop into supersoldiers rather than normal soldier or worker ants." End quote. As I said, you make the connection. And come spring, get out in the back yard with some ant spray.
Item: After watching around 200 thriller movies about terrorism in which the terrorists turn out to be blonde, blue-eyed types with Cherman accents, you can be forgiven for being a little jaded about the media's Chronic Diversity Denial Syndrome. It burst out again this week, though, with the arrest of the Los Angeles arsonist. This is the guy who'd been setting vehicles and property on fire around Hollywood and West Hollywood over the holiday season. It turned out the guy was a German-speaker, name of Harry Burkhart, age 24. Prosecutor Sean Carney, quoted on CBS News, quote: "The people believe that the defendant engaged in this conduct because he has a hatred for Americans," end quote. You could hear the champagne corks a-popping all over media-land. See, we told you — the real terrorist threat is those evil white Christians, especially the Germans, who are notoriously the whitest of the lot. Hang on a minute, though. CBS also tells us that Burkhart flew into Las Vegas last October on a Russian passport from Chechnya in the Caucasus. Why from Chechnya? Oh, that's his birthplace. Chechnya, Chechnya … let's see … isn't that place 95 percent Muslim? Bad thoughts! Bad thoughts! Bad thoughts! Next item, quick.
Item: Not a whole lot else going on, actually. I guess people are still digesting their Christmas pudding. In Italy a 99-year-old man is filing for divorce from his wife of 77 years after finding out she had an affair back in the 1940s. Hey, it's never too late to get back on the dating scene, Antonio, though you might want to invest in a new pair of spats. The EEOC says that an employer requiring job applicants to have a high school diploma is practicing "discrimination" within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act, against applicants with "learning disabilities." Hm. Since the U.S. armed forces require all recruits to have graduated high school, doesn't this ruling require the Justice Department to sue the Defense Department? Will those supersoldier ants need high school diplomas, too? These are strange times. And getting stranger: Fifty-five-year-old Robert Edward De Shields of Sacramento, California has been convicted in state court of sexually assaulting a chihuahua.
10 — Signoff. I started in Iowa, so I'll finish in Iowa. Dominating popular music during the 1930s and 1940s was the Big Band Sound — or rather, sounds, as every band-leader tried to put a new spin on the sound, to distinguish his own band from the crowd. One of the most distinctive of those sounds was Glenn Miller's.
Miller was a farm boy from Iowa, who bought his first trombone with money he made milking cows while still in high school. Miller's band was a huge success. They got their first gold record in 1942, for "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."
The war had started up by that time, though, and Miller was keen to serve his country. He joined the Army, then transferred to the Army Air Force. Flying from England to France for a troop show in December 1944, Miller's plane disappeared over the English Channel, and has never been found.
The most popular theory is that Miller's pilot flew too far east, into a zone where bombers returning from Europe jettisoned their excess ordnance, and one of these bombs hit his plane. Just this week, however, the log book of a teenage plane spotter showed up in England, recording a definite sighting of Miller's plane after it took off, on a course to cross the Channel far west of the jettison zone.
That scotches the bomb theory, leaving mechanical failure or pilot error the most likely culprits. Good to be reminded, anyway, of a fine musician and patriot.
[Music clip: From Glenn Miller's In the Mood]