[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! — broadcasting to you from our state-of-the-art studio here on Taki Theodoracopulos's private island in the balmy Aegean.
First I should wish a Happy New Year! to all our listeners, with thanks for your patronage, and the hope that all you wish for will come to you in 2013.
We here at Radio Derb will begin our tenth year on the air this coming June 1st. Our first broadcast, back in May 2004, was a mere seven minutes thirteen seconds long, and that included a formal introduction by an actual emcee — an employee of some magazine or other, I forget the details. Seven minutes thirteen seconds — Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!
By the time we finish our tenth year, which is to say in May of 2014, I hope to have transcripts for all ten years posted to johnderbyshire.com. I have my minions here working on that project as I speak. How's it going there, Mandy? [Mandy: "This is so boring! Why do we have to do this? Oh my God!"] Excellent. Most encouraging. There's nothing I like to see more than a happy workforce. So if all goes well, by May of 2014, all my sagacity and foresight will be preserved for posterity. [Mandy: "What a crock! You got everything wrong."] Thank you, my dear. Why don't you go see if they need some help in the file room. [Mandy: "Oh my God …"]
Meanwhile, here in the present, our nation's ongoing fiscal crisis took another turn. In which direction? Let's see …
02 — Will America see the light? My hopes that we would go over the fiscal cliff and actually see some cuts in federal spending, proved to be in vain. Svani ogni speranza! as they say in operas … or sing, whatever.
My hopes for a leap over the cliff were based on the belief that my fellow Americans are fundamentally sensible people who understand that there are no free lunches, that if you want good things you must be willing to pay for them, and that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20500.
In contradiction to that belief of mine you may say, well Mr Derbyshire, your fellow Americans haven't been behaving in that sensible way these past few years, have they? They have been steadily voting for politicians who offer them an unlimited vista of free lunches — free lunches stretching away to the horizon, lunch plates heaped high with entitlement benefits, wars, food stamps, housing benefits, transportation projects, farm supports, unemployment benefits, college tuition credits, pork, pork, pork, and pork.
Just this last November the American people voted in as President the candidate who more convincingly promised to keep the free lunches going. Is not your estimate of the American people mistaken, Mr Derbyshire? I hear you asking.
Well, I sure hope not. As we all know from our own personal lives, it's easy enough to get on a wrong track that leads to some kind of catastrophe; after which you see your error, get back on the straight and narrow, and proceed with life perhaps poorer, but at least wiser.
That was my hope for the fiscal cliff: that the sudden shock of federal revenues being increased while federal expenditures were cut, thus bringing the two numbers into better alignment with each other, would bring Americans to see the error of their ways and return to what they were once famous for being: a well-managed nation of practical citizens with sound business sense, the ability to value future good higher than present gratification, and a proper concern for the security, prosperity, and stability of the nation their grandchildren will inhabit.
If this belief of mine is wrong, the implications are bleak indeed. If my fellow citizens are not as fundamentally sensible as I take them to be — if they are not able to see the light and mend their ways, then those philosophers down through the ages — their number includes most of our own Founding Fathers — who have scoffed at democracy, and who have argued that once people can vote themselves benefits from the public fisc, they will do so until the nation is completely beggared — those prophets of doom will have been proven correct, and our democracy will, as John Adams said is the case with all democracies, our democracy will have committed suicide.
03 — Kicking the can over the cliff. So if we didn't go over the fiscal cliff, how did we avoid doing so?
Well, bear in mind that the term "fiscal cliff" contained an element of media dramatization. The Budget Control Act of 2011 said that the big spending cuts and tax increases would go into effect January 1st if the Congress did not pass some budget-reforming legislation. Congress didn't, of course — to be precise, the Republican-controlled House did but the Democrat-controlled Senate didn't, so there we were on the cliff edge. Legislation is just legislation, though. Congress makes the laws, and Congress can remake them; or, as in this case, just fiddle with them. On Wednesday this week they fiddled, pushing the cliff edge forward a ways to March 1st and raising some taxes in the meantime. That gives Congress two months to do what they really should have done sometime in the past year and a half.
It's not fair to blame the politicians, though. They are our politicians, doing what we wanted them to do. I don't personally hold the most senior of them in high regard. Barack Obama's Robin Hood fixation — pretending to tackle the nation's fiscal problems by taking money from rich people — is shallow and absurd. John Boehner [Johnnie Ray, "Cry"] seems to me to be a bear of very little brain. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, makes John Boehner look like Immanuel Kant.
They're doing what they were hired to do, though. I'll quote here from George Will's Thursday column, in which Will himself quotes from an article in National Affairs written by two economists, quote from George Will:
Piling up unsustainable entitlement promises has been improvident for the nation but rational for the political class. The promised expenditures, far in excess of revenues, would come due "beyond the horizon of political consequences" … Both parties are responding to powerful electoral incentives to neither raise taxes nor cut spending.
End quote. That sums it up nicely. I still hope that a cliff-sized shock to the national system will bring Americans to their senses; but that's all it is, just a hope. If it's a false hope, then the future has much worse in store for our republic than a mere fiscal cliff. I'll quote from George Will again if you don't mind: he's on top of his form this week, for the first time in ages that I can remember. George Will:
Although Republicans are complicit, Democrats are ardent in embracing decadent democracy. This consists not just of infantilism (refusing to will the means for the ends one has willed) but of willing an immoral means: conscripting the wealth of future generations.
End quote. I have two members of those future generations living in my house. If the nation doesn't soon come to its senses, the day will arrive when my children, and all alive in their time, will curse the names of Obama, Biden, Reid, McConnell, Pelosi, and Boehner.
04 — Republicans are revolting. Speaking of Mrs Pelosi, the nation dodged a bullet Thursday when the House of Representatives voted in a Speaker for the 113th Congress. Republicans still hold a majority in the House, though a diminished one since November's election, so John Boehner should easily have won the speakership over Mrs Pelosi.
However, there was rebellion in the Republican ranks. Nine Republican congressmen voted for someone other than Boehner. That shaved Boehner's margin down somewhat, though not enough to give Mrs Pelosi the Speaker's gavel. Boehner got the job by a 19-vote margin.
The political implications here are that there is mighty restlessness among House Republicans. On the last-minute deal that staved off decisions about the fiscal cliff, two-thirds of them voted against the deal. That was the old Congress, mind, the 112th, so some of its members are no longer with us.
Still, most are, including a lot of Tea Party-supported members whose whole idea in coming to Congress was to rein in runaway federal spending and tackle the nation's debt, now 16 trillion dollars. The fiscal cliff deal reached on January 1st contains only small nominal spending cuts. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will add almost four trillion dollars to the national debt.
The Tea Party Caucus peaked at 61 members in the last Congress. I don't have a count for the Caucus in this new Congress, but it will be a few short of that number. What the Tea Party has lost in numbers, though, it has more than gained in energy, with activists fired up over Tuesday's deal, over the arrogance of the President and his party, and their stubborn refusal to consider any fiscal future other than more borrowing, more debt, more taxes, and more spending.
How this will play out will be the running political story of the next few months. A lot of my conservative friends have given up on the Republican Party. Indeed, at least one Republican congressman, Representative Peter King, says he has given up on them. I understand the feeling. Looking at John Boehner flourishing his hanky, I understand it very well.
The only way out of our fiscal mess, though, is big cuts in federal spending, and the only legislators willing to contemplate that are in the Republican Party. "If there is hope it lies with the proles," says the hero of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. I feel the same way about the Republican Party that Winston Smith felt about the proles: despair at their leaderless blindness, their meek acceptance of a corrupt system, their gullible swallowing of shallow lies and empty promises, yet awareness that while there is little to hope for from them, there is nothing whatever to hope for from the other party.
So just keep repeating to yourself: "If there is hope it lies with the proles" … and try not to remember how things turned out at last for Winston Smith.
05 — Amnesty and gun control. A very important factor in these coming months will be morale in the Republican Party.
Right now Republican morale is at a low ebb. That's one reason Boehner was able to round up 85 Republican votes for Wednesday's rotten deal. Why are Republicans demoralized? Well, we just had an election with 22 million unemployed, a trillion-dollar federal budget deficit, and 16 trillion dollars of national debt. We were fighting a pointless war, our borders were wide open, and one of our ambassadors got murdered. The Republican presidential candidate, if not inspiring, was at least presentable, articulate and non-crazy. Yet when the results were in, the Democrats had held the Presidency and advanced in the House and the Senate.
Demoralizing, sure. A lot of Republicans have taken the lesson to be that their candidate was too conservative. This is a bit baffling, since no-one has ever thought Mitt Romney was conservative — Governor of Massachusetts, HELL-O? — and he did not put forward any conservative positions in the campaign.
At any rate, if Romney was talking about shutting down the Department of Education, or cutting entitlements, or ending foreign aid, I missed it. Likewise if he said anything about abolishing race preferences, or building border defenses, or bringing troops home from Germany, Italy, Japan, and Korea, or taking a meat cleaver to the federal code, or shutting down the so-called "refugee" cheap-labor rackets, or moving to end birthright citizenship, I missed them too.
Romney did, it's true, suggest that with firm enforcement of immigration and employment laws, illegal immigrants might self-deport; but when the leftists all screamed in horror at the prospect of foreigners getting on planes and going home, Romney obediently dropped the topic at once and we heard no more.
None the less, some Republicans did think the problem was too much conservatism, thence drawing the conclusion that the GOP needs to get more liberal. You may say that, well, if the U.S. electorate wants liberalism, there's already a liberal party they can vote for. Why would they need another one? I'd say you're right; but this is the Stupid Party we're talking about.
To get re-moralized, the Republicans are going to have to pay attention to their base. That's where energy and morale come from, in any party. In particular, the GOP needs to give patriotic working-class white voters something to vote for.
Here are two things: Immigration enforcement and Second Amendment rights. Barack Obama is going to war against both, he has told us. In an interview with NBC News December 30, Obama swore that, quote, "fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority," and also that, on gun control, quote, "I will put forward a very specific proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden's task force is putting together," end quote.
Isn't that encouraging: to know that your Second Amendment rights are in the hands of Joe Biden, the living definition of the phrase "empty suit" — a man who not only, in a forty-year career in public life, has never said a single interesting or memorable thing, but who flunked out of the 1988 presidential campaign after having been found to have stolen some speech lines from a British politician, and a fifth-rate one at that.
Our immigration laws aren't broken and don't need fixing; they need enforcing. Our immigration failures are executive, not legislative. And if you don't think citizens need access to good military-style firearms, ask one of those Korean storekeepers who defended their homes and businesses with just such firearms in the Rodney King riots.
These are the political battles we'll be facing in this new Congress: to stop amnesty and defend our gun rights. To fight those battles, we'll need good morale. To get good morale, Republicans need to show they are a real alternative, not just a party of meek me-too social democrats.
06 — The war about nothing. I've been begging for years for someone to tell me what the heck we are doing in Afghanistan, but nobody can. British soldiers in WW2, when some operational SNAFU had left them stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do for days on end, would sing: "We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here …" I think that pretty much sums up the situation of our troops in Afghanistan today.
The stupidity of it would be easier to bear if not for the fact that large and important segments of the Afghan population hate us and kill our guys when they can. In 2012 at least 63 coalition personnel, most of them Americans, were killed by Afghan soldiers and police, who are supposed to be our allies.
The hostility goes all the way up the Afghan power hierarchy, too. Here's a bloke named Mohammed Ismail Khan, speaking in a videotaped meeting last November with Islamic militants. Quote: "The fate of the Americans in Afghanistan will be worse than that of the Russians." Mr Khan denounced the U.S.A. for bringing, quote, "American girls, white-skinned Western soldiers and black-skinned American soldiers" into his country. He urged the jihadists to attack Americans wherever they could find them.
Who is this guy? Why, he's the Afghan Secretary of Energy, a member of Hamid [ker-ching!] Karzai's government, which our soldiers are fighting and dying to defend.
There is actually an official answer to the question "What are our troops in Afghanistan supposed to be doing?" The official answer is: "They are training the Afghan National Army and police to fight the Taliban and prevent Al Qaeda from re-establishing bases under Taliban protection, in preparation for the U.S. withdrawal in 2014." That's the official answer.
What you in fact hear from journalists who've been there is that these training operations have largely been suspended because of the attacks on our forces by our so-called allies; that no U.S. soldier turns his back on an Afghan soldier or cop; and that there is a general assumption that weapons and equipment we supply to the Afghans are as likely as not to find their way to the Taliban, as indeed does a regular stream of defectors from the Afghan National Army.
The reaction of the administration and their mouthpieces in the army senior command is to double down on the fantasy that we are winning the hearts and minds of Afghans by our selfless endeavors on their behalf, and converting them to civilized values and constitutional government by our own patient example. Deaths of U.S. soldiers at the hands of their supposed allies are dismissed as unimportant.
Our senior military brass even make excuses for the murderers. In August last year, when twelve of our guys and and three Australians were killed by Afghan National Army troops, General John Allen blamed it on summer heat and, quote, "the strain of Ramadan fasting." I wonder whether Gen. Allen considered the possibility that the U.S. soldiers might have been responsible for their own deaths, perhaps by being insufficiently respectful towards Islam. Perhaps one of them had sneezed while walking past a mosque, or something, in which case it's hard to blame the Afghans for killing him, unless you are some kind of Islamophobic bigot.
Oh, here's the latest news: Gen. Allen has submitted plans to keep up to 20,000 troops in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal in 2014. That would seem to make "withdrawal" an odd choice of word. (The current number is 66,000 by the way.) So the madness goes on, apparently for ever. All together now: "We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here …"
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Vladimir Putin has signed a new law banning the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans. This is in retaliation for a bill our Congress passed last year restricting visas for and freezing assets of Russian officials involved in the death of corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.
The Russian treatment of Magnitsky was appalling, to be sure; and the entire Russian political and law-enforcement apparatus is so crooked no self-respecting corkscrew would shake hands with it. Still, Putin will have popular support on this. The large-scale adoption of children out of Russia is felt to be a kind of national humiliation. It's as if we are telling them: "You're too poor and backward to look after your own children, so we'll take care of them for you." How would you like to hear that about American kids?
On the other other hand, it's Russian orphans who end up at the wrong end of the deal. If this distresses you, there is a solution to hand. The Russian Children's Welfare Society is an old and respectable charity that has been helping homeless children in Russia itself for nearly 90 years. They have a website, rcws.org, and you can go there and see the kind of work they do. I have some slight connections with the Society, I know some of the principals, and I can tell you they do great things. Send them a donation; or better still, buy tickets for their annual benefit, the Petroushka Ball, at the Plaza Hotel in New York this February 8th.
Item: In our pre-Christmas broadcast we failed to notice the December 19th passing of Judge Robert Bork, one of those rare individuals, along with the Earl of Sandwich, Captain Boycott, Henry Shrapnel, Samuel Maverick, and William Lynch of Virginia, to be honored by having his name become a word in our language. Judge Bork was borked in 1987 by a pack of hyenas on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Ted Kennedy, after Ronald Reagan had nominated him for the Supreme Court. (The chairman of that committee, by the way, was Joe Biden, who soon joined in the hue and cry led by Kennedy.)
Judge Bork was a friend of the New Criterion magazine, for which I write, and I met him several times at New Criterion functions, along with his charming wife Mary Ellen. He seemed to me a sensible and learned man, nothing at all like the snarling bigot he was portrayed by Kennedy, Biden, and their gang. To the best of my knowledge, he never drove any of his dates off a bridge and left them to drown.
Sorry to lose a good man. Condolences to Mary Ellen and the family. Rest in peace, Judge.
Item: I once coined the phrase "Better dead than rude" to describe that pathological extreme of political correctness where a person would rather let himself be killed than say or do anything that might give offense to some person of a protected class — black, Muslim, female, homosexual, etc.
Well, here's a story that fits neatly under that heading. Cops in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, arrested a 39-year-old man named Eddie Jones III and brought him into the station house for processing. A routine part of the processing involves briefly removing the suspect's handcuffs. At this point Mr Jones was in care of Ruth Burns, a slightly-built female cop. Jones overpowered her and took her gun. She shouted for help, two officers ran in, and Jones shot them both though fortunately not fatally. Both cops returned fire, and Eddie Jones III is now at room temperature. Officer Burns took a wound too, though it's not clear whose gun caused it.
There are no pictures of Eddie Jones III in the news stories, but we are told he had a previous conviction for resisting arrest, so it's fair to assume he was large and fit. You might think that to leave a man like that, with a criminal record, in care of a young female officer, would be a pretty stupid thing to do. If you did think that, you'd be wise to keep your opinion to yourself. Better dead than rude.
08 — Signoff. That's it, folks. I hope you all had a joyful family Christmas, as I did. 2013 looks to be a challenging year in the life of our nation, so let's keep our wits about us, speak up for the things we believe, let our congresscritters know we are watching them, and hope for a turn back towards sanity and responsibility at home and abroad.
However things develop, Radio Derb will be here to tell you about it. So be of good cheer; cherish your family; hold on to your job if you've got one; and don't take any wooden nickels, especially from politicians.
More from Radio Derb next week. Over to you, Franz Josef.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]