[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your ballistically genial host John Derbyshire with highlights from the week's news.
It's been a quiet week here on the island. Down in the village they have been putting out bunting ready for the inauguration ceremony of our new Mayor a week on Monday. I say "new," although actually it's Mayor Papakonstantinou, the incumbent, who won re-election last November. I don't really understand how he won. The island's finances are in a terrible mess, a boatload of illegal immigrants from Africa came ashore and stole George Gregiorou's figs, and plans for the new health clinic seem to be bogged down in paperwork.
Still, I don't follow the language very well, so probably I'm missing something. And the Mayor did give us all a free cellphone …
OK, enough of our local trivia, let's see what's going on in U.S. of A.
02 — They want your guns. We heard more, much more, in the debate over gun control this week.
It's gotten ugly, too, with the administration claiming dictatorial powers to confiscate weapons and congressional Republicans still so shell-shocked from November's election debacle they might just roll over and let Obama stage an executive coup.
An incident down in Georgia concentrated everyone's attention. A young wife was at home alone with her two kids, out in the sticks 30 miles from Atlanta. Someone she didn't know knocked repeatedly on the door, then started ringing the bell. Scared, the lady called her husband, who called the cops. The lady hid in a closet with the kids and the family revolver, a Smith & Wesson .38.
So the guy broke in, went through the rooms turning things over for stuff to steal, and at last came to the closet and opened it. The lady gave him all six rounds, point-blank. Five of them hit him. He made it back to his car, drove away a short distance, then crashed. He's now in custody.
This story generated a brief dialectic. "Aha," says the Second Amendment supporter — call him Mr Red — "See? Without her gun, that lady would likely be dead!"
"No, no," soothes the gun-controller, Mr Blue. "We don't want to take away her handy little revolver; only those beastly assault weapons, you know. The ones that can fire ten rounds or more."
"OK," responds Mr Red, "But she fired six rounds at point-blank range, and only five hit him, and he could still move around. With a bigger magazine she could have made sure of her survival, and saved the taxpayers of Georgia a bundle in court and incarceration expenses." (Well, perhaps Mr Red should leave that last clause out. Don't want to sound mean-spirited. The intruder probably had a deprived childhood.)
"Furthermore," adds Mr Red, "what if there had been more than one intruder? What if there had been three?"
There are ripostes that can be made, but my feeling is that Mr Red wins the argument at that point. How about we let citizens decide for themselves which weapon is appropriate for home defense?
And keep in mind, please, that while home defense is a darn good secondary reason to own firearms with creeps like that burglar around, home defense is not the rationale for the Second Amendment. The rationale is the preservation of liberty: the right to defend myself, my family, my property, and my community against a despotic government or major civil disorder.
This is basic: this is fundamental. Close your ears to the murmuring of the gun controllers that, oh, we don't want to take away your gun, only that guy's gun over there, the fancy military-style one. You're looking at the thin end of a wedge right there, listener.
When did "military-style" become a scare phrase, anyway? The Second Amendment speaks of "A well regulated militia." Militia … military … HELL-O?
03 — Hagelian dialectic. Hagel is Barack Obama's pick for Secretary of Defense in his second term, subject to congressional confirmation of course.
No, this is not Hegel the German idealist philosopher who wrote The Phenomenology of Spirit; though since I've mentioned that Hegel, you can't stop me from repeating W.H. Auden's ditty about him, quote:
No-one could ever inveigle
But no, it's not that Hegel Obama wants for his SecDef, it's former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel.
That confirmation may face some difficulties. Hagel has managed to rile up three, count 'em three, rich and powerful lobbies: homosexuals, the military, and supporters of Israel.
A little boilerplate here. Hearing me say "supporters of Israel," a lot of listeners are muttering: "Come on, Derb, since when did you get so mealy-mouthed? Why not just say 'Jews'?"
Two reasons why. One: Conservative gentile Republicans in general, and Christian evangelicals in particular, are big supporters of Israel. Two: American Jews aren't that fixated on Israel. In a poll of American Jews taken last April, the most important issues cited were, in order from the top: the economy, health care, taxes, national security, then U.S.-Israel relations at number five. Fifty-nine percent of American Jews have never been to Israel. Eighty-two percent favor a Palestinian state … and so on.
American Jews trend strongly left-liberal. Now, left-liberal Gentile opinion is strongly pro-Palestinian: remember that embarassing moment at last year's Democratic Convention when the party platform was revised to declare Jerusalem the rightful capital of Israel and the delegates booed. Left-liberal American Jews aren't as pro-Palestinian as that, but they feel the gravitational pull of their left-liberal Gentile allies.
The situation was captured by a headline in the Christian Science Monitor last November 8th, quote: Why Israel is red and American Jews are blue. Subheading, quote: "Israel would have voted for Mitt Romney by a 2-to-1 margin, but American Jews voted for President Obama by almost the same margin." End quote.
All of that is just boilerplate for why it is more accurate to say "supporters of Israel" than to say "Jews." Lots of supporters are not Jews; lots of Jews are only lukewarm supporters.
OK, what's up with ex-Senator Hagel and the Israelophiles? Well, Hagel has a paper trail of having said sympathetic things about the Palestinians. He's also pooh-poohed the idea of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran's Revolutionary Guard being terrorist organizations. He is also on record as having said in 2006 that the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of congresscritters.
And then there are the homosexuals. Back in 1998 Hagel objected to Bill Clinton's nomination of homosexual philanthropist James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg, saying that Hormel was too, quote, "aggressively gay."
And then there are the military. Hagel was a combat infantryman in Vietnam, and served with distinction. A year and a half ago, though, he said he thought the Defense Department was, quote, "bloated" and, quote, "I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down," end quote.
What to make of all that? Well, you couldn't call me a Chuck Hagel fan. He's shown flashes of good sense — he voted against the preposterous No Child Left Behind Act, for instance — and he's been decently good on spending. He also saw early on what a fiasco the Iraq War had become. On the other hand he's been lousy on immigration and foreign aid.
Hagel's not an easy guy to place on the usual left-right Republican spectrum, RINO-to-conservative, because he's been too much of an individual — which I rather like, shows some independence of mind — but he's generally ended up left of center of the GOP, which I … don't much like. If you're going to be a maverick, I'd prefer you maverick out to the Right.
On the Israel business, while I think we should encourage and support Israel's survival, I can't see it as a vital U.S. interest, and in any case the Israelis seem to have matters well in hand. I'd rate Muslim terrorists a bigger threat to us than Hagel thinks them; but I'd deal with it by severely limiting Muslim immigration, which Hagel wouldn't for PC reasons, so that's kind of a wash. As for the Jewish lobbies wielding a lot of influence in Congress: they boast of it. AIPAC promotes itself to donors by telling them how much influence it has. Why isn't Chuck Hagel allowed to repeat their own propaganda?
I agree with the 1998 Hagel that we shouldn't send out flamboyant homosexuals to represent our nation, though Hagel himself has since done the PC grovel and recanted.
On those two issues anyway, look: We are speaking of American Jews, who are three or four percent of the population, and homosexuals, who are two or three percent. Regardless of your position on this or that issue, should we be orienting national policy, at the level of picking a Secretary of Defense, should we be organizing our national policy around the interests of these two tiny minorities? Allowing for some overlap there, around 95 percent of us are neither Jewish nor homosexual. Could we please have some policy made with us in mind?
On our military bloat, Hagel is quite right. We spend far too much policing the world.
So net-net, I'm neither shaken nor stirred by the Hagel nomination. I didn't want an Obama administration; I voted for the other guy. We're stuck with Obama, though, and as his picks go, this is by no means one of the worst. Let Hagel through, I'd say. I'd rather Republicans husbanded their strength to fight the next Sotomayor or Holder.
Having laid down my opinion marker, let's see if I can update W.H. Auden. Ahem:
Nobody could ever inveigle
04 — MOOC learning. MOOCs, that's the acronym of the hour: MOOCs. It stands for "massively open online courses," and people — well, some people — are saying it's the future of higher education.
The idea is that a university puts its lectures online so that anyone — anyone in the world — can watch them in their own time, at their own pace. There is some supplementary material, too: interactive tests and so on. You can get a university-level education right there in your own home.
Some big playahs are getting involved. A bunch of Ivy League colleges have started a MOOC venture called edX. A group of British universities has a similar venture going.
The appeal for the MOOC suppliers is the sheer numbers they can enrol. One course by Udacity, brainchild MOOC of a Stanford University professor, had 160,000 students in its virtual classroom for a computer science course. Another one by Coursera, which is another MOOC out of Stanford, got 180,000 students for a course on "How to reason and argue." People are talking about the first million-student classroom.
All very well, but … what's the business model here? How are these MOOCs going to make money, if their material is out there free on the internet?
Well, they have three possible revenue sources. First, they can issue a certificate to students who complete a course, and charge a certification fee. Second, they can partner up with head-hunters and pass promising students on to them to be recommended to employers. Third, they can license their courses to bricks-and-mortar colleges.
It's all new and exciting, and venture capital's flowing in. A friend who's involved in the MOOC business burbles enthusiastically to me that it will wipe out traditional higher education. That sounds great to me. The college racket is way out of control, with middle-class Americans bankrupting themselves to have their kids indoctrinated with cultural Marxism. I'd be delighted to think of bats nesting in the deserted lecture halls of Berkeley and Harvard.
My guess is, though, that the wiping out will mostly occur at the lower levels. That's where people go to college just for the education. Up at the higher levels, the point of going to college — certainly to one of the Ivies — is to get stamped as a member of the cognitive elite, and to acquire social connections, not to mention marriage partners, that will help you rise in the very competitive society we are becoming. You won't get those sitting with a laptop in your bedroom. Nor will you get to hobnob with big-name scholars.
Still, the present order is so illogical and — as Ron Unz recently showed in a brilliant article for American Conservative magazine — so corrupt, any threat to it must be welcomed, and any level of destruction can only improve things. Bring on the MOOCs, I say.
The only thing that bothers me is that the MOOCs might put the Great Courses company out of business. That would be a shame: I've had many hours of pleasure and instruction from their offerings. But hey, perhaps Great Courses will turn themselves into a MOOC.
05 — Scofflaw-in-Chief. The fiscal cliff issue has quiesced for a few weeks, but let's keep it in mind. In fact, let's keep in mind something bigger: the nation's bookkeeping is in an unholy mess.
Just to reprise the basics: We're three months into fiscal year 2013. Fiscal year 2014 starts in October and it needs a budget. The drill is, the President sends a budget to Congress no later than the first Monday in February. That, by the way, is not merely a quaint custom: it's the law, under the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. Congress looks it over and comes up with a budget resolution. It's a resolution, not a law — a basis for discussion. So they discuss it, and by the beginning of the new fiscal year in October, they should have agreed on the appropriations and passed them into law.
This whole process is now a joke. The President was 98 days late with his first budget in 2009. He was on time in 2010, but a week late in both of 2011 and 2012. Recall that "late" means "in violation of his legal obligation." You run a red light, you get a ticket. The President misses a budget deadline by 98 days, no problem.
There is some excuse for being late with your first budget, as you've only been settled in office a few days and some key officials are still awaiting confirmation. George W. Bush was 63 days late with his first budget, though he was on time with the other seven. Bill Clinton was 66 days late with his first budget and three days late with his fifth, but on time with the others. Still, with three late out of four, Obama is setting new standards of sloppiness.
And the President is a neat freak compared with Congress. They're supposed to have a budget resolution out by early April — again, according to law, in this case the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Congress hasn't managed to comply with that since since 2009.
The entire national budgeting process is, to be blunt about it, FUBAR. Nobody much cares. By running without a budget, the nation is kept in a state of permanent fiscal crisis. That's the way the congresscritters like it, because by pleading crisis they can spend as much as they like. That really is what the "fiscal cliff" panic was all about. Meanwhile we have 16½ trillion dollars in debt and counting.
Did I say nobody much cares? That's a little harsh. There are some honest men, even in the United States Congress. The House of Representatives has a Budget Committee, and that committee has a chairman. He's a Republican; his name is Paul Ryan; and on Wednesday this week he sent a letter to the President's Budget Director asking whether the President intends to submit a budget on time.
The only response we have heard is from an unnamed "administration spokesman" telling us that, quote, "no decision" has been made on budget timing this year. Put it another way, the President has made no decision about whether of not he will obey the law.
In the same spirit, I have made no decision yet on whether or not I shall file a tax return this year. I have also made no decision about whether I shall stop at stop signs, purchase dope from street dealers, beat my wife, steal my groceries from the local supermarket, or urinate in public. No decision yet, sorry, no decision.
We do have at least two common forms of widespread generalized hatred here. I write as an American who first came to this country in adult life, so that the national peculiarities presented themselves for inspection in a clear and striking way. The two hatreds that I am most aware of are:
End of self-quote.
I added some suitable qualifications: Many non-Christians couldn't care less about Christians one way or another. Likewise, many nonwhites don't hate white people. I said these hatreds are widespread, not universal.
You have to add qualifications like that for the benefit of that huge number of people — I sometimes think it's an actual majority — who don't understand the difference between the words "some," "many," and "all." You think it's easy, writing for the public? Let me tell ya.
Black people's hatred of whites bursts through the surface of American life now and then. I'm sure we all remember the whooping and hollering for joy by blacks when O.J. Simpson was acquitted. I wouldn't swear there was actually dancing in the streets, but it came close to that.
Well, we seem to have entered a season in which hatred of white people is out in the open and intending to stay there, a permanent feature of our culture, like baseball or rodeos.
These dark thoughts were awakened by the success of the movies Lincoln and Django Unchained. I haven't seen either movie, not being much interested in movies, but I've read and heard enough about them to get a fair picture.
Lincoln is apparently a bit of politico-historical hagiography showing a saintly Abraham Lincoln struggling to abolish slavery. The two people I know who saw it, neither of them strongly opinionated, both used the word "dull" when describing it. Well, sure: You're supposed to respond to hagiography with reverence, not excitement.
A historian named Sebastian Page wrote an article for the New York Times blog telling us that historically, the movie is hogwash, and reminding us of the uncomfortable fact that Lincoln was, probably to the end of his life, a keen supporter of "colonization," which in that time and place meant encouraging blacks to leave the U.S.A. and settle in colonies in Africa or the Caribbean.
The movie's hate-whitey moment comes early on, with a scene showing a black Union soldier stomping the face of a white Confederate into the mud. I suppose you're expected to cheer at that point, and probably a lot of people did.
Django Unchained apparently goes beyond the ordinary genre of White Guilt Porn that we're now all used to from TV and movies like Blind Side and The Help into wide-open unabashed genocidal fantasy, with gory scenes of a righteous black ex-slave murdering white people.
The movie's been very popular with blacks. Hollywood Reporter ran an article headlined African Americans Turn Out in Force for Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained". They report that, quote, "42 percent of Django's initial audience was black, according to exit polling data," end quote. Well, isn't that nice.
My go-to guy for an opinion when the subject of hating whitey comes up is Louis Farrakhan, leader of the white-hating gangster cult Nation of Islam. What does Louis think of Django Unchained? Quote from him: "If a black man came out of that movie thinking like Django and white people came out of that movie seeing the slaughter of white people and they are armed to the teeth, it's preparation for a race war." End quote. You can depend on Louis for an upbeat assessment.
Down in the urban depths there are individuals keen to get that race war started. Here's one: 23-year-old Caleb Russell of Chicago. Mr Russell was riding a city bus westbound on Orleans Street when the spirit of Farrakhan visited him. According to passengers, according to the Chicago Tribune, he, quote, "made derogatory and racial remarks and threatened to, inner quote, 'blow this (expletive) up'," end quotes. When cops arrived, he, quote, "began yelling racial slurs at responding officers and said he was jihad against the white devil," end quote.
Just another day in post-racial America.
07 — Miscellany. And now, here comes Miss Eleny with some brief closing items.
Imprimis: An interesting sidebar to the gun-control debate has been the "outing" of registered gun owners by leftist media. I'm not quite sure what the point is here. If these lefties were to expose un-registered gun owners, they might be performing a public service.
And then, aren't these leftists just offering a handy manual for burglars? They now know which houses they can break into without any fear of an armed householder confronting them.
To say that, though, is to miss the point of what the late great Sam Francis called "anarcho-tyranny." In this state of society, to which leftist politics is always trending, the civilized and law-abiding part of the populace lives under governmental tyranny, while the criminal classes run loose in anarchy.
Liberals are on the side of criminals. They hate the law-abiding bourgeoisie, whom they regard as repressed, conformist, whitebread dullards, good for nothing much but tax farming. "Bourgeois" was a term of abuse in Mao Tse-tung's China. In the labor camps of the old U.S.S.R., the underclass criminal inmates had privileges over the middle-class political prisoners, and terrorized them mercilessly. Jeremiah Wright, our President's old pastor, used to warn his parishioners about the perils of "middle-class-ness."
That's the mentality. The publication of these lists and maps fits perfectly.
Item: Its not just criminals that our leftist elites love, it's also welfare moochers. We've been having an exceptionally clear view of this here in New York State.
Welfare nowadays means the EBT card — stands for "electronic benefit transfer" — which rolls the food stamp and cash assistance programs into one card you can swipe pretty much anywhere: amusement parks, Las Vegas casinos, your local liquor outlet, the Pussycat Lounge, … anywhere.
That's just what welfare clients have been doing. The New York Post found this out when they data-mined EBT records they got via a Freedom of Information request. They were prompted to do this by a bill that passed the state Senate last year, a bill to prevent outlets like that from accepting EBT cards. The bill passed the state Senate but is stuck in the lower house, the Assembly, which is dominated by liberal Democrats.
Here's what one of them, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried from Manhattan, had to say, quote:
Last I checked, this is America, and if somebody wants to propose that policemen, firefighters, sanitation workers, state legislators and other people paid with government funds be restricted as to what they use their money for, let them propose it. I wouldn't support it.
So there you have it. In the liberal mind, people on welfare are just government workers, like cops or garbagemen. Er, what actual work are they doing? Hey, you think it's easy, holding up the bar at the Pussycat Lounge?
Item: This Saturday, January 12th, is the third anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Guess what: the place is still a mess. Not as big a mess at it was, mind you: The Economist reports that most of the earthquake rubble has been cleared, and the "most visible" refugee camps have been emptied.
The problem, says The Economist, is that while Haiti needs investment to generate social stability, it needs social stability to attract investment. Aha.
How bad is social stability in Haiti? Bad enough for the State Department to have just issued an advisory for travelers, quote from that: "U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender or age." End quote.
Well, at least after three years, surely it's safe enough for the TPS's to go back, isn't it? TPS is "temporary protected status," an immigration category allowed to illegal immigrants from Haiti who were here when the earthquake struck. Under TPS you can stay for 18 months and are allowed to work. The Miami Herald says that there are currently 60,000 TPS's from Haiti. So … isn't it time they went home?
Our federal government doesn't think so. They have just loosened the requirements for re-registration — that is, for another 18 months of stay on top of the two they've already had. Face it, these people are here for good.
Wouldn't Haiti itself be better off if they took their talents back there to help rebuild the place? Aren't they homesick anyway? I dunno. Perhaps they read that State Department advisory.
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents: the Republic is another week older and deeper in debt. What does that matter, though, as long as we have our charismatic, Nobel Prize-winning President in Washington to shine the light of his goodness upon us? Washington, Honolulu, wherever he is this week.
I used the verb "pooh-pooh" back there somewhere. That may be a Britishism, in which case I apologize to our American listeners. My dictionary gives the meaning as "to express disdain or contempt for." To explain further, here is that master of the English language, and also of the higher military arts, General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, in conversation with Captain Blackadder.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Clip: From Blackadder Goes Forth, General Melchett on the perils of pooh-pooh.]