[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your industriously genial host John Derbyshire with our Labor Day week edition of the world's best-loved news podcast.
Another week, another party convention. Last week Radio Derb quoted to you the Rasmussen poll showing that 44 percent of likely voters — of likely voters, mark you — think the party conventions are a waste of time and money. I confessed to you that I am of that same mind. In the spirit of the times, I think we should refer to ourselves as "the forty-four percent."
Addressing you, therefore, as a representative of the forty-four percent, I just want to say, my fellow Americans, I just want to say: Please make it stop.
Having said that, I understand of course that it is not going to stop; or at least, not until Barack Obama has had his say on Thursday night, a tad too late for our broadcast. I shall therefore do my duty and offer some commentary on the Democratic Party convention as matters stood at tea-time on Thursday.
Do bear in mind though that my commentary will have very little to say about the content of the speeches, so far as there is any content, which in these kinds of events is not very far.
I haven't actually sat through any of the speeches, but I have tried to watch bits and pieces of them on the internet, and browsed through the transcripts, at least to the point where my eyelids grow heavy and I lose the will to live. For the average convention speech that point is about ninety seconds in.
So that's the scope of what follows. "But Mr. Derbyshire," I hear you cry, "Will your commentary be sour, ill-natured, bilious, and mean-spirited?" Let me reassure you, gentle listener: it will.
02 — Democrats convene — hegemony of straight white European males is so over. Tuesday night we had three big-name speakers: Deval Patrick, Julian Castro, and Michelle Obama.
That's a black guy, a Hispanic guy, and a black lady. Now, these were not the only people to mount the podium — Harry Reid, for example, showed up, and no doubt Joe Biden was in there somewhere — but the Democrats definitely want you to know that the hegemony of the European white males is over.
I should probably have specified straight European white males there. To the best of my knowledge, however, Deval Patrick, Julian Castro, and Michelle Obama are all heterosexual. Barney Frank addressed the convention Wednesday, so I guess that sufficiently stroked the party's gay base (if you'll pardon the expression). And who knows? perhaps at the last minute, after Radio Derb has gone to tape, our Secretary for Homeland Security, the winsome Janet Napolitano will come roaring in on her motorbike.
Sufficient unto the day the evil thereof, though. It was Governor Patrick, Mayor Castro, and First Lady Obama who got all the press coverage, so Radio Derb's just going to follow the media pack here and pass some comment on these three pretty typical modern Democrats.
03 — Devious Deval Patrick's devastating deviations. So first of the Big Three was Deval Patrick, who for the past five and a half years has been Governor of Massachusetts. That means, of course, that he followed Mitt Romney in the job.
That's basically what Patrick's speech was about. He told us about the condition the state was in when Mitt Romney left office. Quote:
Household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up, and business confidence was down. Our clean energy potential was stalled. And we had a structural budget deficit.
End quote. Wow. You getting the picture here? Four years of Mitt Romney's governorship, and kids were begging for crusts of bread in the streets, tumbleweed was blowing through the business districts, and tax collectors were kicking down doors all over the state.
You'd never know from listening to Patrick that he, Governor Patrick, had raised the state sales tax, or that his polling numbers in the state are lukewarm, or that Massachusetts' unemployment rate is six percent, up from four and a half percent when Romney left office, or that the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Massachusetts fifth among states in 2011, down from fourth when Mitt Romney left the Governor's mansion.
And then, education, always a favorite with Democrats, who get a huge slab of their party funds from the teacher unions. Thus, a good chunk of Governor Patrick's speech was given over to boasting about the Orchard Gardens Elementary School in Boston.
The school was in trouble, the Governor tells us. Quote: "Its record was poor, its spirit was broken, and its reputation was a wreck," end quote. Now, of course, thanks to the wonderfulness of a Democratic Governor for five and a half years and a Democratic President for four, all is changed, changed utterly. Quote from the Governor: "Orchard Gardens went from one of the worst schools in the district to one of the best in the state. The whole school community is engaged and proud." End quote.
That's some achievement. Or is it? Any time some politician or news story names a particular school, I look up that school on the GreatSchools.net website to get the full stats. Orchard Gardens Elementary School, Boston? Here it is.
Current rating from GreatSchools.net: two out of ten. Eighth grade math test scores for the years 2007 to 2011, in percentages at or above proficient: 0, 1, 0, 1, 1. The state average for 2011 was 39 percent.
Unfair to take the highest grade? Well, the lowest elementary-school grades are the easiest ones to cook, and of course the easiest to teach — any educator can tell you that. I'll step down a few grades though if you like. How about grade five science? Same years, '07 to '11, in percentages at or above proficient again: 2, 0, 0, 4, 5, against a state average fifty percent. That is an improvement, I'll grant, but "one of the best in the state?" Come on, Gov.
Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair, though. Eighth grade math scores did visibly improve from '07 to '11, from one percent at or above proficient to 13 percent, state average 52 percent. English language arts too, from 37 percent to 52, state average 79.
That last one is working against a headwind, too: 63 percent of students at Orchard Gardens Elementary are Hispanic. Sixty-three percent. Whoa! How did there get to be that many Hispanics in a Boston school, two thousand miles from the Mexican border? Oh right: Governor Patrick is an open-borders fanatic — drivers licenses and in-state tuition for illegals, sanctuary policies for law enforcement, the works. We're not in Arizona now, Toto.
It's true that Governor Romney didn't exactly bust a gut to keep illegals out of Massachusetts, and there was that unfortunate episode of illegals found working on one of his properties, but bad as he was, Romney was better than this guy.
But hey, this is Massachusetts we're talking about; the state that elected, and re-elected, and re-re-elected, Ted Kennedy, and Barney Frank, and Gerry Studds. By Bay State standards, Mitt Romney was a weird anomaly.
By Bay State standards, in fact, Deval Patrick is an honest man, Orchard Gardens Elementary is a successful school, and I am Marie of Romania.
04 — Julian Castro shows some ethnic leg. And then, Julian Castro, who is the mayor of San Antonio, second most populous city in Texas.
A pretty responsible executive position, you might suppose. Well, not exactly. Mayor of San Antonio is an entirely ceremonial post, salary $4,000 a year. I haven't been able to find out exactly what the duties of the Mayor of San Antonio are, but for $4,000 a year I doubt it amounts to more than cutting the occasional ribbon. The actual management of the city is in the hands of a city manager, name of Sheryl Sculley, who is paid $355,000 for her trouble. Now that's an executive position! Why didn't the Democrats ask her to address them? Because she's not Hispanic, that's why.
Yes, Julian Castro is the Democrats' Great Hispanic Hope. Having foisted one zero-lifetime-achievement affirmative action empty suit on us, the Dems believe they can pull off the same trick again, starting the same way they started with Barack Obama, via a convention keynote address.
I think the plan goes something like this. First the Diversity Party gets a second term for their black president. Then they give us a Hispanic president. After two terms of him, a female president — Sandra Fluke, perhaps. Then, after two terms of her, a gay president. That takes us to 2040. By that time the numbers of straight white non-Hispanic males will have dwindled down so far, we can all be rounded up and put in camps. I think that's the plan, though of course I'm only surmising.
Anyway, there was Julian Castro giving the keynote address. Naturally I couldn't watch much of it, not with the gun cabinet and boxes of ammo close to hand. I got the gist of it, though.
The gist of it was, we need more government. The weasel word here is "invest." We need to "invest in opportunity," Castro told us … twice. We need to "invest in young minds," with more spending on schools and more student loans.
Permit me to translate. "Invest" means that government gives us stuff. Money, mostly: handed to us, or to public-sector unions, especially teacher unions. At one point in his speech Castro scoffed at Mitt Romney's having told young people to start a business by borrowing money from their parents. What if your parents don't have any money? Castro asked rhetorically, to cheers from the audience. I'd assume that in that case you'd go to a bank for a loan, or a venture capitalist. Where's the need for more government? Ah, but for the Democrats there's always a need for more government.
And what was that about student loans? Does Castro really not know that there's a student loan bubble about to burst, spattering the nation's economy with even more uncollectable debt than the housing bubble did? Do those cheering Democrats in the hall not know this? No, apparently they don't.
"More spending on schools" — translation: More funds sluicing through to the Democratic Party from the teacher unions. "More student loans" — translation: More favors to the lending industry, especially that part of it yoked to the federal bureaucracy, in this case Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Association; and not to mention more favors to the higher education rackets, with their solidly left-wing professariat proselytizing for socialism.
Not that the word "government" ever passes Castro's lips. No, no, no, there are weasel words for that, too. He tells us how pleased his Mexican grandma would have been to see him in, quote, "public service."
Ah, "public service"! Can't you just see, in your mind's eye, all those humble, industrious "public servants," toiling away selflessly to serve you, and me, and the rest of the public? Servants, sacrificing themselves to labor at low wages in the public interest. How strange that after a few years of this servile condition they always seem to end up stupendously rich — like the Clintons, the Bidens, the Obamas … and, Julian Castro no doubt hopes, the Castros.
[Clip: "And that's the middle class — the engine of our economic growth. With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there — and go beyond. The dream of raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to Americans. It's a human dream, one that calls across oceans and borders.]
So wait a minute here, Mr. Mayor. So when you say "everybody ought to be able to get there," you mean everybody from everywhere? You can only work hard if you have a job to work at. With 25 million citizens unemployed or under-employed, we don't have enough jobs to go around. Shouldn't U.S. citizens have first dibs at whatever jobs there are?
And then there's the whole race business. Wait a minute, you may say: Race? Who's bringing race in here?
Julian Castro is, that's who, though somewhat indirectly. He told us in his speech that, quote: "My mother fought hard for civil rights." What his mother actually did was, she helped to establish a far-left ethnic political party named La Raza Unida. That means "the united race." So don't blame me, listeners. Julian Castro took in racial boostering with his mother's milk, literally.
He's not shy about showing a little ethnic leg, either. [Clip: "Today, my beautiful wife Erica and I are the proud parents of a three-year-old little girl, Carina Victoria …"] All good luck to little Carina Victoria; but what's with the peculiar phonemes there, Mr. Mayor? For sentimental reasons my own kids have Chinese names, which I can pronounce in a decent approximation to Chinese; but here among their own people — Americans — they're Nellie and Danny. Nothing wrong with a bit of ethnic sentimentalism. I have been known to indulge myself privately in a pork pie or a helping of rhubarb crumble with custard. That's private, though. In public we're American, and we speak English.
05 — Michelle Obama on being Mrs. Obama. Next up, Michelle Obama, our First Lady.
Having been thoroughly mean-spirited towards Mrs. Romney last week — sample quote from Segment 7 of last week's broadcast, quote: "Who cares what the candidate's wife thinks, anyway?" End quote — having thus insulated myself against charges of partisan rancor in this small zone at least, I feel free to let loose with some mean-spiritedness in Mrs. Obama's general direction.
(And please note that not only is there no jot nor tittle of partisan rancor here, there is also no sex bias. My political idol during my last years back in the mother country was the great Margaret Thatcher. Mrs. Thatcher's husband Denis hardly ever spoke in public and never gave a speech at one of the Tory Party's annual conferences. If he had had the ill grace to do so, I should have mocked him just as I am now mocking Ann Romney and Michelle Obama. Fortunately Denis Thatcher had far too much good sense, and was far too much of a gentleman, ever to obtrude himself so coarsely into a scene where he had no business being. A brief pause here to remember the late Denis Thatcher, a true English gentleman and a real conservative. [Brief silence.])
Well, Michelle Obama. The first time Mrs. Obama registered on my consciousness was that interview on the 60 Minutes show back in 2007 when she told Steve Croft that, quote: "As a black man, Barack can get shot going to the gas station." Given that rates of interracial violent crime run about 85 percent black-on-nonblack versus only 15 percent nonblack-on-black, that may be the wrongest thing anyone ever said on 60 Minutes.
And that's the lady: not merely black, but obsessively interested in her own blackness. [Clip: "I'm black, y'all …"] Do you remember the title of Mrs. Obama's college thesis? Here it is, quote: "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community." That's the title: seven words, two of which are "black."
It's not the blackness that lowers the lady in my estimation, it's the narcissism. Our culture's full of it, and I hate it. I turn away in disgust from newspaper and magazine articles by some woman on what it's like to be a woman, by some homosexual on what it's like to be a homosexual, by some Mexican on what it's like to be a Mexican. Keep it to yourself, pal. It's not interesting.
The philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote a famous article — well, it's famous among philosophers — titled "What Is It Like To Be A Bat?" Now that might be an interesting thing to learn, if we could get a bat to tell us. The question "What Is It Like To Be Barack Obama's Wife" strikes me as a whole lot less compelling. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
06 — The Clinton years — a fool's paradise. And then, Wednesday night we got Bill Clinton on the podium. According to his wife's latest annual financial disclosure report, Clinton charges at least half a million dollars for a speech nowadays, sometimes more — he got 750 grand for a speech in Hong Kong last year.
I have no information on how much he got paid for his speech to the Democrats on Wednesday, but I'm sure the party managers thought it was worth it, if only to remind people that there are still a few straight white males left in the party.
So there was Bubba on Wednesday night, taking a break from counting his millions to address the party of the common man, and remind them that the rich need to pay their fair share.
People, and not just Democrats, tend to smile fondly when you bring up the subject of Bill Clinton. For one thing, the years when Clinton was President were pretty good to Americans, or at least better than what came after. Domestically, the dot-com boom was spreading some money around, and adding a whole lot of new technology for us to be interested in. Internationally, it was that calm spell between the end of the Cold War and 9/11, between having to worry about the U.S.S.R. and having to worry about Islamic nutjobs. China was starting to rise, but not enough to bother anybody. They were good times.
In that kind of atmosphere, Clinton's manifold personal failings were taken more lightly than they would have been in harsher times — more lightly, in my opinion, than they should have been. All that hanky-panky with interns and cocktail waitresses was just a good ol' boy having a little fun, the way they do. Even lying under oath wasn't going to be allowed to spoil the general mood of carnival. Heck, he was only lying about sex, for goodness' sake. Attempts to bring Clinton to account for turning the nation's highest dignity into a dirty joke were dismissed as the frustrations of envious bluenoses.
Yet in fact we can now see that those happy, carefree Clinton years were a fool's paradise. While we frolicked, other things were happening — things we ought to have paid attention to, but didn't. Islamists were plotting, China was a-building, Russia was slipping back towards despotism, and millions of Mexicans and Central Americans were drifting in across our unguarded borders, loaded with racial grievance and hungry for our public services.
Fiscal problems were quietly accumulating, too. In the expectation of an ever-expanding economy, governments at every level were writing extravagant promissory notes to their public-sector unions, notes now beginning to come due. At Bill Clinton's urging, his Housing Secretaries pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to destroy rational lending criteria in order to push up home-ownership rates, leading to the banking collapse of the following decade. Banking itself was debauched, as Clinton removed the last bits of the historic wall between high-risk financial speculation and ordinary commercial banking.
It is true of course that the clueless George W. Bush administration did very little to reverse any of that, and the little they did was done too late; but there's no denying that most of our really serious current national ailments have their origins in the Clinton administration.
Hindsight is of course 20-20, but there were plenty of people at the time warning about the several wrong directions we were headed in: my friend Peter Brimelow on the immigration disaster, for example.
Nobody listened. We were having too much fun. Now the invoices are coming due. Bill Clinton, the author of many of our current misfortunes, would, if he had any self-respect, or any concern for his nation, would be hiding out in a mountain retreat in the Ozarks, reading Spinoza, not acknowledging the cheers of the ignorant, deluded Democrats in Charlotte — people who think we can get the 1990s party going again if we just throw a few more cans of gasoline on the bonfire of our national debt.
But then, if Bill Clinton had any self-respect, or any concern for his nation, he wouldn't be Bill Clinton, would he?
07 — Can democratic capitalism go on funding democratic socialism? I'll give this to the Democrats, though: they were at least putting out a consistent message.
No, not the message that straight white non-Hispanic males should all go off somewhere and kill themselves, though there was of course that one. I'm referring to the larger political and economic message implicit, and sometimes explicit, in the speechifying at Charlotte. It goes something like this.
In spite of heroic efforts by our cool and brilliant President, things still aren't going as well as they should in America. The reason is that the great natural talents we all possess are not being allowed fully to express themselves.
There are two reasons for this. First, when those talents reside in a body that is not straight, white, and male, the malign forces of heteronormativity, racism, and sexism forcibly prevent their expression, partly out of a jealous desire to preserve ancient privileges, partly out of sheer malignant loathing of what is different or weak.
Second, whatever kind of person those talents reside in, if the person was not born into wealth, he suffers from lack of opportunity. What is opportunity? It is many things: education, cheap loans, infrastructure, affirmative action if you're black, contraception if you're a woman, amnesty if you're an illegal alien. And these things can only be provided by government — which is to say, by politicians and unionized bureaucrats … I beg your pardon: by public servants.
President Obama, who is omniscient, of course knows how to get going on this, but those damn Republicans in Congress, at the bidding of the selfish, hard-hearted billionaires who fund them, are thwarting him at every turn.
That's the core message. We, those of us not born rich, we are helpless pawns of fate, and in many cases victims of heartless oppression. Who will lift us up? Who will succour us? Who will open the doors of opportunity for us? Who but government?
Left unsaid — utterly unsaid by any of the speakers I checked — was the matter of how all this government is to be paid for. Perhaps in an effort to get our attention on this point, the gods so arranged matters that our national debt passed the 16 trillion dollar mark, headed upwards, the day before the Democratic Convention opened.
The world's prosperous, comfortable, welfare-state democracies are heading into a zone of crisis. In a nutshell: democratic capitalism can no longer fund the demands of democratic socialism. With fertility rates static, commerce sluggish, fast-swelling populations of retirees, and ballooning health-care costs, the two sides of the getting-spending equation can't be made equal, not without radical change; and the voting constituency for radical change is very small.
It may be that bold and clever politicians can square this circle, and bring us to some new point of happy equilibrium. It may be that technology will deliver some wonder — cold fusion or some such — that will sweep half our problems away in one stroke.
Or it may be that something — either democracy or capitalism — will break under the strain.
We live in interesting times.
08 — Signoff. With that I'm afraid I must leave you, ladies and gentlemen. I have just run clean out of bile.
I shall replenish the source, though — I think it's the gall bladder, isn't it? — and return with more scathing commentary, inappropriate observations, and predictions of civilizational downfall next week.
In the meantime I hope you will all keep your peckers up and don't take any wooden nickels. Over to you, Franz Josef.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]