• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb here, ladies and gents. This is your imperturbably genial host John Derbyshire with all the week's news, slanted well to the right.
02 — Obama on education. We know by now that the three pillars of Obama-ism are: health care, education, and climate change. This week we got a speech on education.
It kind of went over my head. I still can't figure out why the federal government is involved in education at all. I'm still mentally stuck in 1980, with Ronald Reagan promising to abolish the federal Department of Education. What happened to that? Oh right, Congress happened to it, Howard Baker happened to it … I still think it was a good idea.
All right, what does this new President think about education?
Well, he wants to improve it. We're not doing as well as other countries; and some parts of the U.S.A. aren't doing as well as other parts. Singapore students out-perform our students in math three to one. Fourth-grade readers in Mississippi score 70 points lower than students in Wyoming, says the Prez.
Well, what on earth could account for those discrepancies? I mean, Singapore's students are just the same as our students, aren't they? And Wyoming students are just the same as Mississippi students, aren't they? What on earth accounts for these differences? Beats my pair of jacks.
The answer to our education problems of course is money. The President proposes a hundred billion dollar "education stimulus fund."
Like we never tried throwing money at education! You want to know what happens when you throw unlimited quantities of money at education? Get on your computer, listener, go to Cato.org, put the name Ciotti in the search box, that's C-I-O-T-T-I, and read up on the great Kansas City fiasco of the 1980s. Under a judge's order they spent two billion dollars on their school system. The end result was that test scores fell and dropout rates rose.
Every study of our school system for forty years, every single study, has come up with the same answer. It's not the schools, it's not the teachers, it's not the funding. What makes a difference is the students, and behind them, their families.
Nothing else really matters. Merit pay for teachers, which Obama suggested, but which the teacher unions will kill stone dead if he tries it, wouldn't make any difference anyway. A poor teacher with a class of keen students will get better results than a first-rate teacher with a class of kids who aren't interested.
Obama's talk about early education and college for everybody misses the point. A lot of kids aren't bookish. Half of us are below average intelligence. Plenty of jobs don't need twenty years of schooling. The number of really inspired teachers will always be very small. Those are the basics.
03 — Holder v. Arpaio. Attorney General Eric Holder is shaping up, to the surprise of nobody very much, as a Political Correctness Czar.
A couple of weeks ago he was lecturing us on our cowardice about race — cowardice, in this context, meaning our refusal to be as obsessively interested in race as Eric Holder is. Now he's bringing the full weight of the Justice Department down on Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is a hero in my book.
I've mentioned Joe before on Radio Derb, back in February. He's the chief law enforcement officer in Maricopa County, Arizona, the nation's 4th most populous county — it includes the city of Phoenix. Sheriff Joe has saved the county a bundle of money, putting prisoners in tent cities, cutting back on prison luxuries, and rounding up illegal immigrants.
ICE — that's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a branch of the Homeland Security Department — ICE has this training program to help local law enforcement apprehend immigration law-breakers, and Sheriff Joe has had his officers trained under the ICE program. That's poison to open-borders activists, and Attorney General Holder is their willing tool.
I note that the activist groups involved here include not only our old pal ACORN, but something called the National Day Laborer Organizer Network. "Day laborer" means "illegal immigrant"; so there is a nationwide network of community organizers for illegal immigrants, and that network is giving orders to our Department of Justice.
This is what America's come to: federal government policy being driven by the demands of foreign scofflaws.
So Sheriff Joe, an honest American and a great lawman, is going to be hounded out of office to appease foreign criminals. All the power of the federal government will be brought to bear against him.
He'll be destroyed, of course, financially and professionally. When the feds decide to make an example of you, there's not much you can do. You got a lawyer? They've got a hundred lawyers. You've got funds? They've got billions. You've got supporters? So have they — twenty million illegals, the government of Mexico, and a Democratic Party desperate to get those illegals on the voter rolls.
Sheriff Joe is toast, I'm afraid. So is anyone else who stands up against the race lobbies, open borders fanatics, and Mexican imperialists. Six hundred thousand Americans every month are losing their jobs, and our government is taking its orders from the National Day Laborer Organizer Network.
Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.
04 — Holder on the Voting Rights Act. Here's another news item on Holder.
Cast your mind back, if you can, to 1964, when literacy tests, poll taxes, and property requirements were used to stop black Americans from voting. Well, that was all outlawed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Act also named nine states and sixty-something offending counties as places where any future change to voting procedure would require Justice Department approval.
You want to move your polling place from the Baptist Church to the Methodist Church? Well, the United States Attorney General will have to sign off on that. Talk about big government!
I suppose it all seemed like a good idea at the time, but the time was forty-four years ago, and we just elected a black guy as President. Surely this Justice Department micro-management of local voting procedures isn't still necessary?
Oh yes it is, says Eric Holder. Quote:
We must commit ourselves to continue to defend the Voting Rights Act that is under attack.
He went on to argue that defending the Act is, quote, "just as important as reviving the U.S. economy and fighting foreign wars," end quote. Perhaps it's even as important as crucifying Joe Arpaio to please ACORN and the National Day Laborer Organizer Network.
See, if you're a radical leftist like Holder, it's always 1964.
05 — Shoe-thrower gets jail time. Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi guy who threw his shoes at George W. Bush last year, has been jailed for three years.
Three years, huh? Well, that should give him time to recover from the police interrogation.
In an opinion poll carried out for the BBC and ABC, 62 percent of Iraqis considered al-Zaidi a "hero." Twenty-four percent of the sample viewed him as "criminal," while ten percent agreed he was a hero and criminal equally. If you take the 62 percent and the ten percent together, that's nearly three-quarters of Iraqis say he's a hero of some sort.
Isn't that nice, after we lost four thousand guys and spent nine hundred billion dollars trying to fix their sinkhole of a country. When do we get out of there, Mr President?
06 — Madoff in court. In other courtroom news, Bernie Madoff was up before the bench here in New York city. He pleaded guilty to ripping off his clients to the tune of — latest estimate — 65 billion dollars.
Sixty-five billion: That's about ten times the Gross Domestic Product of Nicaragua.
Bernie told the court that he just put the money in an account at Chase Bank. When clients asked for their returns, he just wrote checks on the bank account. Meanwhile, he had a staff of low-level clerks with no clue about the finance business generating fake account statements and confirms.
Boy, it sounds so simple! Investment-wise, bank Certificates of Deposit are looking better and better. Not to mention a nice big bag of Krugerrands.
Bernie has now been incarcerated at the Metropolitan Correction Center in lower Manhattan as prisoner number 61727054.
61727054 — stick three more digits on the end of that, and you're almost up to the amount he bilked from his clients.
07 — Charles Freeman. The U.S.A. has a lot of intelligence agencies: the CIA and the FBI, of course, but also outfits like the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security Office of Intelligence, and several others.
There's a thing called the National Intelligence Council to coordinate all their reports, and a Director of National Intelligence sitting on top of the whole shebang.
Got that? OK, the current Director, appointed by President Obama, is retired admiral Dennis Blair, best known in the Navy for once having tried to water-ski behind a destroyer of which, to be fair, he was the captain.
Well, once Admiral Blair was settled in his office and had figured out how to work the coffee machine, it fell to him to appoint a chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He nominated Charles Freeman, a career diplomat and accomplished linguist, who had worked at the State Department China Desk for some years, then served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush.
Freeman is currently president of the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank that is funded in part by the Saudis. He's been critical of Israel, quote, "seizing" Arab land for settlements, though I haven't been able to find anything he's said about Israel evacuating the Gaza settlements and giving back the land to the Arabs there — land from which the Arabs then proceeded to launch missiles into Israel.
Freeman seems to have taken the Chinese government's line on the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown too, and he served on the board of a state-owned Chinese oil company.
That all proved to be too much controversy and too much of a paper trail. Fist-fights broke out on the internet and in Congress, and on Tuesday Freeman withdrew his name.
Now, speaking as someone who detests both the ChiComs and the Saudis, and is sympathetic to Israel, I'm not a fan of Freeman's. After half an hour of reading his actual words, though, I can't say I find his views outrageous. If it had been my decision, I'd have ruled him out on the financial connections; but I think his opinions, taken as opinions, are within the range acceptable for the position he was up for. As Obama and Pelosi keep reminding us, they won, and they're entitled to appoint people whose views won't please conservative commentators like me.
What generated all the heat was of course the presumption that it was the organized power of the Israel lobby that sank Freeman's appointment. For sure there is an Israel lobby, just as there's a Saudi lobby and a China lobby — in fact, two China lobbies — and the Israel lobby is very good indeed at what it does, which is, lobbying for Israel.
I suppose there are laws about lobbying on behalf of foreign countries, and if anyone's broken those laws here, I hope they'll be prosecuted. That aside, the whole business gets a shrug from me. This is the system we have. It might be a better system if lobbying on behalf of foreign countries were more tightly constrained by law. I think it probably would be.
Until that happens, though, I'm filing this under "normal political rough-and-tumble" and not shedding any tears for Freeman, who seems to be doing pretty well for himself … and also doing pretty well for his pals in Riyadh and Peking.
08 — Card check for unionization. I've been trying, in my plodding way, to follow this Card Check business.
Best I can make out, the bill just put before Congress will change the law so that employers can't demand a secret ballot on unionization. Right now they can demand a secret ballot, and of course the labor unions hate that. It's not a done deal, in spite of the Democratic congressional majorities. There may be enough pro-business Democrats in the Senate to stop it, or at least turn some kind of compromise.
I'm looking at this as a guy who comes from a country that was very nearly wrecked by union power. Even so, I can't get excited about this particular issue.
The thing that makes my blood boil, union-wise, is public sector unions. In private business, employers will sometimes deal unfairly with employees to boost their profits, and I don't see any objection in principal to workers unionizing, though secret ballot seems like a sensible precaution against union bullying.
How does any of that apply to the public sector, though? If you work in the public sector, your employers are the taxpayers of your municipality, state, or nation. They're not trying to squeeze a profit out of your hide. What's the rationale for public-sector unions? All they're going to do is try to get more of the taxpayers' money for their members.
That's exactly what public sector unions like AFSCME — that's the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — that's exactly what they do.
I don't think public-sector workers should be allowed to unionize at all. As a great President said: "There is no right to strike against the public interest." Without a right to strike, what's the point of a union?
The only point seems to be, to co-opt politicians into granting extravagant benefits packages, the kind that private-sector workers can only dream of — the kind that are dragging states and cities over the fiscal cliff in this current recession.
Alongside that, the card check business seems to me like small potatoes.
09 — Mexico will implode. The oil and gas industry website RigZone.com reports that Pemex, the Mexican state oil monopoly, pumped only 2.68 million barrels of crude per day in January, down 9.2 percent on last year. Declining production means declining exports, which means declining revenues for the Mexican government, facing recession like the rest of the world.
Around a third of Mexico's tax revenue comes from oil. The government is already weakened by massive corruption and drug crime. Mexico is heading for an implosion, which would send great floods of desperate people surging across our undefended southern border.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio won't be there to stop them. He'll be in Washington, D.C. having his fingernails pulled out by Eric Holder's boys.
There won't be a fence to stop them, because Barack Obama's administration is as likely to build a border fence as it is to order compulsory showings of Birth of a Nation in federal government offices.
How about putting troops on the border to defend our country? Quote from our President, quote: "We've got a very big border with Mexico. I'm not interested in militarizing the border." So we can forget about that.
Meanwhile the border region gets more and more violent. In Ciudad Juárez, just across from El Paso, 250 people were killed just in February — in one month! That annualizes to three thousand deaths, in a town with population one point four million.
Still nobody in our government wants to close the border. They think defending Pakistan's border is much more important.
Oh well, I guess at least the National Day Laborer Organizer Network will get lots of new members.
10 — Northern Ireland killings. There have been some killings in Northern Ireland, breaking the long peace that's mostly held since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Two British soldiers at an army base were shot while accepting a pizza delivery last Saturday. Then 48 hours later a policeman was shot dead while on duty.
The perps here are splinter groups that broke off in 1998 from the Provisional IRA, which was itself a splinter group that broke off from the official IRA back in 1969. The official IRA was itself the losing side in the Irish Civil War of the 1920s.
That's how it goes in Irish republicanism. Moderates strike a compromise with the authorities, extremists break off and form a splinter group. Then 20 years later the splinter group has taken over the whole movement, and it turns out to have moderates in it, too. They strike a compromise, extremists break off, lather-rinse-repeat.
Could these new splinter factions get the Troubles started again? It's not very likely. For one thing, there's less grievance in Northern Ireland now than there was in the 1960s, when the last round of Troubles started. The discrimination against the Catholic population is a thing of the past. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness have government jobs, expense accounts, and chauffered limousines.
For another thing, people have got used to a peaceful, welfarized, Euro-style life, and would like to keep it. There was a huge demonstration in Belfast against the killings earlier this week.
And for yet another thing, the British Army learned some sense in the last round of Troubles, and isn't likely to stir up the widespread hatred it caused in the 1970s by brutal or clumsy operations.
Still, these are economic hard times in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the Devil makes work for idle hands. The dream of a united Ireland is powerful still, and there's still bitterness left over from the 70s and 80s.
There'll be more mischief in Northern Ireland's future, though not likely another full-blown Troubles. Let's hope not, anyway.
11 — Reading minds. Neuroscientists at my alma mater, University College, London, say they can now figure out what you're thinking by observing your brain. They put some subjects in virtual reality headsets and asked them to move around in the virtual reality. From their brain scans they could figure out where they were.
I'm not sure what the excitement is about. Mrs Derb can do this without any fancy equipment at all.
12 — Nork missiles. The North Koreans say they're going to launch a satellite. Can you believe these people? They have no industry and no commerce; half the population is in labor camps and the other half is starving; there's one TV channel and no private automobiles; and they're building atom bombs and launching satellites.
The missile here, I should say, is not one of the No Dong type beloved of schoolboys everywhere; it's a Taepo Dong 2. I wouldn't want Radio Derb listeners to get hold of the wrong Dong.
The Norks are a real major nuisance in the world — say, approximately 120 times bigger nuisance than Saddam Hussein's Iraq was. Now they're going to launch a satellite, though everyone knows the point of the thing is just to show the world they have a really long-range missile.
Seems to me this is a wonderful opportunity to test our anti-missile technology. We've had these things in development for decades, let's see what they can do. Get every one of them out there on Navy ships in a ring around North Korea, and award a tremendous cash bonus to whichever development team hits the Nork missile first, with bonuses to the ship's crew also.
If the Norks want to make a nuisance of themselves to us, let's make a nuisance of ourselves to them. Who's the superpower here?
13 — Chinese provocation. Perhaps angry at the hard time being given to their pal Charles Freeman, the ChiComs staged a little publicity show in the South China Sea last Sunday. The US Navy surveillance ship Impeccable was harassed by five smaller Chinese vessels.
Impeccable carries no armaments and was sixty miles outside Chinese territorial waters. Her mission was presumably to keep an eye on Chinese submarines — there's a big new Chinese sub base nearby on Hainan Island.
That's fine, and all within the normal scope of one nation keeping a watch on another nation's military capability. Well, along comes this little convoy of Chinese boats, buzzing Impeccable and dropping obstacles in its path. Impeccable turned fire hoses on one of the Chinese crews, but the Chinese stripped to their underwear and went right on harassing.
After the incident the ChiComs made their usual blustering noises, our Secretary of State said soothing words, and the thing was basically swept under the rug.
What was it all about, actually? My guess is, the target audience for the ChiComs was their own people. With hard times settling in on the Chinese economy, the ChiComs need to play all their cards right now to maintain their power, which is the only thing they care about. One of their strongest cards is the one that presents them as the defenders of Chinese sovereignty, standing up fearlessly to the evil round-eye foreign devils who seek to humiliate and exploit China.
This goes over especially well with the legions of fanatically nationalist young Chinese males panting to see their nation avenge itself on the foreign devils for the humiliations of the Opium War, Burning of the Summer Palace, crushing of the Boxer Rebellion, and unkind remarks about the cheesiness of the 2008 Peking Olympics. Since those legions of angry young men are having trouble finding work right now, it makes sense to distract them with a little show of national self-assertion.
That's my theory. The other one going round is that the ChiComs wanted to test the new administration, to see how much spine they have. I doubt that. If they want to test us, the test will be over something substantive.
With the world economy at the front of everybody's minds, this is anyway not the time. This one was for the folks at home.
14 — Palin family values. Should I say something about Bristol Palin? I dunno. I don't see that she herself is an issue that ought to be of interest. The little outbreak of schadenfreude on the political Left is worth a comment, though.
I liked Sarah Palin as soon as she showed up last year. She seemed like an actual person, not just another Washington drone. She was especially appealing by contrast with the other Vice Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who is the very epitome of Washington, D.C. inside-ness, as well as being the epitome of capped-teeth, blow-dried, studio-tan political phoniness — a walking advertisement for the Term Limits movement.
Sarah Palin was a breath of fresh air. I even fell out with some friends over my support for her.
Well, Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol got pregnant last year at age seventeen, while still at high school and unmarried. The baby's father was a handsome young fellow of the same age, name of Levi Johnston. They declared they would get married when they finished high school this summer. The baby was born in December — a little boy named Tripp.
Well, now we hear the marriage is off, and young Levi is with someone else. The Lefties are all jeering about the hollowness of Palin family values.
As the parent of a 16-year-old girl, I say that's a crock. You do the best you can, but culture's a powerful force on the young, and what happened to the Palins could happen to anyone. It was dumb of Bristol to get pregnant at seventeen, but it was well within the normal range of human dumbness — I've done things just as dumb, and you probably have too — and the Palin family's handling it well.
With strong family support, teen pregnancy needn't be a complete disaster. That's where family values kick in. Good luck to Bristol and the baby.
But Bristol: Why'd you have to call him "Tripp"? What kind of name is that? A name should at least tell us whether the person is male or female.
"Tripp"? Oh well; at least you didn't put an apostrophe in it.
15 — Signoff. I'm way over my limit here, Radio Derb fans, no time for the usual miscellany, nor even for one of my rants about the pointlessness of the manned space program after the Space Station nearly got wiped out by space debris this week. I'll save that for another time.
Until next week, stay well, count your blessings, nag your teenage kids relentlessly about the tremendous downsides of teen pregnancy, and try to discourage them from becoming astronauts.
More from Radio Derb next week. Take it away, maestro.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]