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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Sorry, folks, a little flustered and disorganized here. We just had one of those tiresome incidents that disturb a citizen's peace from time to time.
What happened was, some cops came knocking on my front door claiming there'd been a report of an attempted break-in here. Can you imagine their nerve? I mean, just because I'm a white man in America! I told them to go boil their heads. Hearing that, they apologized profusely and went away. I guess at last they realised who I am.
You have to stand up to these characters, it's no use trying to appease them. Oppression and harassment are what they do. I can see one of them now through the window, standing by his patrol car talking into that dinky radio they have, looking up at the house. [Window opening sound.] HEY, YO MOMMA! [Window closing sound.] … There, that'll get rid of them.
02 — Obamacare update. The President gave a news conference to try to rally support for his healthcare plan.
Nobody remembers much of what he said, because at the end he decided to tell us that some Massachusetts cops were "stupid" for arresting a guy who'd made himself a royal pain to them when they were trying to investigate a break-in. Nothing to do with health care, but it got everyone's attention for reasons I'll deal with presently. Right now let's see if we can salvage some of the health-care talk from the President's news conference.
This isn't easy because the President, as usual, spoke in fluffy generalities. We gather that the nation's middle class won't take a hit from Obamacare; but then, when you listen to politicians, the middle class never takes a hit from anything. It's a thing the pols feel they have to say, whatever they're talking about. It's like the "Amen" at the end of a prayer, just a verbal flourish.
I've been listening to politicians telling me that nothing they do will cost the middle class anything for fifty years now, from way back when a middle-class family could live very comfortably on one salary. Now we can barely manage on two; but nothing the politicians did contributed to the change, no Sir. I guess we middle-class types must be real bad money managers.
All right, all right: If the middle class isn't going to pay for all this extra health care, who is?
Well, one of the few substantive things in Obama's address was declaring support for Nancy Pelosi's plan to stick extra taxes on couples making more than a million a year. That's at least milder than Congressman Charlie Rangel's plan to put a surtax on families making over $350,000. At least Pelosi and Rangel are implicitly acknowledging the central truth here: If you force more people into insurance coverage, costs go through the roof.
Massachusetts is discovering that. A report here in USA Today says, quote:
Three years after mandating that residents get health insurance and requiring employers, insurers and taxpayers to chip in, Massachusetts has yet to control soaring costs that are eating up half its budget.
That was the plan established by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is fifteen times smarter than Barack Obama and has approximately nine hundred times more experience in administration and management.
Listeners, I'll give you a little more factual sure-fire detail on Obamacare than the President did at his news conference. You ready? Here you go: Obamacare will be the financial equivalent of a major asteroid strike on this nation. You can take that to the bank.
03 — Health care for illegal aliens. One interesting question about health care reform is whether it will apply to non-citizens.
The Massachusetts plan did: At any rate, the 30,000 or so legal immigrants in the Bay State were explicitly covered. Massachusetts is now backing off from that in its attempts to control those ballooning costs. The New York Times reports that the new state budget eliminates health coverage for non-citizens, though the cut only affects nondisabled adults from 18 to 65 years old. Non-citizen oldsters and non-citizen kids will still have taxpayer-subsidized health care in Massachusetts.
How will this apply to the national plans coming out of Congress? Well, the 1,018-page House plan that came out last week definitely gives coverage to legal aliens, just as the Massachusetts plan did before Bay Staters found out how much it costs to do so. Normally, legal aliens have to wait five years before they can get taxpayer-subsidized benefits. Section 242 of the House health-care bill explicitly says this won't apply to taxpayer-funded health benefits.
So legal aliens are in clover. What about illegal aliens, though? Here the politicians have pulled their usual stunt, promising that illegals won't profit at the expense of citizen taxpayers, while at the same time carefully ruling out any kind of checks to prevent that happening.
The bill limits eligibility to individuals who are, quote, "lawfully present in a State in the United States." That's a little bit of legislative squid ink. Since states have no jurisdiction over immigration, the phrase "lawfully present in a State" has no meaning in law, or at any rate has a meaning that lawyers can argue about till the crack of doom without deciding anything.
The bill also lacks any mention of provisions or safeguards against illegals claiming eligibility with false documentation. So basically, illegals are covered.
The Senate health-care bill goes even further, requiring citizens to carry health insurance but not requiring illegals to do so, thus further entrenching illegals as a privileged aristocratic class with special rights not available to citizens.
The health care industry as a whole is probably happy with all this. Right now an illegal immigrant gets free health care from a hospital emergency room, and the hospital has to swallow the cost. Under the House and Senate bills, they can recover the cost from Uncle Sam. What's not to like? Can you say "special interests"?
Of course, elderly citizens whose Medicare benefits are cut back so illegals can get treatment, may not be too happy; but hey, who cares about them? They should just go away and die somewhere. Undocumented workers are our nation's future!
04 — The Henry Louis Gates arrest. Come on, now, listeners — admit it. You thought that with Barack Obama in the White House, you'd hear no more of that tiresome race business, didn't you? You thought all the whining and complaining about "discrimination" and "profiling" and "racism" would fade away, didn't you, leaving us to discuss national affairs as citizen to citizen, with the race business no longer getting in the way.
That's what you supposed, wasn't it? It's OK, you can admit it.
Well, welcome to reality. It's a rare week goes by when race isn't in the news here in the U.S.A. Just this past couple of weeks, without thinking very hard, I can come up with, let's see:
The U.S.A. without racial rancor would be like chicken pot pie without the chicken.
So here we go again with the saga of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., described by the Boston Globe as "one of the nation's pre-eminent African-American scholars."
Gates is in fact a professor of black studies at Harvard University. In 1997 he was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans. Quite rightly — I've read all his books, and I'm sure you have, too.
Well, Professor Gates came home from a foreign trip and couldn't get into his house. With the assistance of a friend, another person of blackness, he tried to jimmy open the door. A neighbor saw this and called 911. Gates was inside by the time the police came.
Police Sergeant James Crowley asked through the door for identification. Gates called him a racist. The Sergeant asked him to step outside. Gates: "Why, because I am a black man in America?" Eventually Gates did show some i.d., but when the officer again asked him to step outside, Gates replied, "Ya, I'll speak with your mama outside." After some more of this, the cops booked Gates for disorderly conduct, cuffed him, and took him to the station house.
Wow, so I guess the rule that you should always speak calmly and respectfully to a police officer applies even to Professors of Black Studies at Ivy League Universities. Who knew?
Of course, Gates and his supporters don't see things like that. To them, Sergeant Crowley — a long-serving officer with a spotless record, who teaches a Police Academy course on racial profiling — is just Bull Connor without the fire hose — just another racist white devil trying to keep the black man down.
Matter of fact, that's how our "post-racial" President sees it too, as he let slip in a news conference Wednesday.
As for what Michelle thinks — well, perhaps we're better off not knowing.
To most of us here in the U.S.A., this is the year 2009. Last year was 2008 and next year will be 2010. To a few, though, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., and apparently also our President, it is 1960, and always has been, and always will be.
Post-racial? Fuhgeddaboutit. This thing is with us for ever. Forget about "We Shall Overcome." If we ever do overcome, a lot of people will be out of jobs. Henry Louis Gates, for example.
[Clip: Leporello's "Catalog Aria" from Mozart's Don Giovanni.]
Ah yes, what would Radio Derb be without a splash of opera! That was from Mozart's Don Giovanni, the bit where Don Giovanni's manservant Leporello is telling Donna Elvira about all his master's female conquests: 640 Italians, 230 Germans, and so on.
Well, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi seems determined to give Don Giovanni a run for his money.
Last time we touched base with the 72-year-old il primo ministro, back in May, he was being divorced by his wife for his relationship with 18-year-old Noemi Letizia. Well, this week the Italian news magazine L'Espresso posted a recording of Berlusconi talking to a young lady named Patrizia D'Addario. Signorina D'Addario is a professional escort, and the magazine claimed that the recorded conversation took place after she and the prime minister had just got through making the beast with two backs, known in Italian as la bestia con due dorsi.
Certainly their chat was intimate. Signorina D'Addario said she had not enjoyed the intimate act with a man for many months, since leaving her boyfriend. Berlusconi advised her to fare sesso da sola, "make sex by yourself," further advising the young lady that for best results she should, quote, toccarti con una certa frequenza. Er, I think I'm going to leave that untranslated. You can look it up in your Italian dictionaries.
When the story came out, Berlusconi was defiant, telling his countrymen, quote, "Non sono un santo," — "I am not a saint."
For sure not, Mr Prime Minister, but let me tell you: You may not be a saint, but to 72-year-old guys all over the world, you're a hero.
06 — Auditing the Fed. Not all House bills run to hundreds of pages, listeners. Here's an example of one that doesn't: H.R. 1207, titled the "Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009."
I don't know how many printed pages the bill is, but when I bring it up on www.govtrack.us/congress, it fits nicely on to a single screen on my PC. This is Congressman Ron Paul's bill to audit the Federal Reserve system. That's the system of banks that was set up in 1913 to keep the economy on an even keel, by squirting money into the system as necessary, making loans to private banks, fiddling with interest rates, and so on.
Congressman Ron Paul, who introduced the bill back in February, thinks we should know what the Fed is doing with all those billions — whoops, I mean of course trillions — of dollars it's been hosing around, and the best way to find out is through a systematic audit.
If you think Ron Paul is a lone wacko with a head full of crazy ideas, you'll be surprised to hear that his one-page bill now has 276 co-sponsors, including I believe every single Republican member of the House, and getting close to 100 Democrats too.
Paul is an odd sort of person to be introducing this bill, since he doesn't actually think we need a Federal Reserve at all. He'd abolish the whole thing if he could, but he takes the view that since we're stuck with it, we may as well know what it's doing.
The Fed barks back that it's supposed to be independent of politics, and if Congress starts making demands on it, it will lose its independence to the congresscritters. Much more worrying to some of us is that the Fed might lose its independence to the executive.
Ben Bernanke, the current Fed chairman, is under fire from all sides for not having responded well to the financial crisis. Well, it's true, Bernanke was slow off the mark, and spent more time reacting to the last segment of the crisis than anticipating the next one. The same is true of every single one of our politicians, to be sure, but that doesn't get the Fed chairman entirely off the hook, since he's the Fed Chairman, and they're not.
So a lot of people want Bernanke out. His term expires early next year, and the President has to decide whether to re-appoint him. Problem is, if Bernanke goes, the White House gets to appoint his successor, and it's a certainty that the Obama administration would appoint someone far more political, far less dedicated to Fed independence, than Bernanke.
The Fed would become a tool of the administration, with consequences whose precise nature I can't predict, but which I am sure would be dire. An Obama-ized Fed would be like the Justice Department under Eric Holder, letting Black Panther voter-intimidators off the hook; or the State Department under Hillary Clinton, who just issued her twenty-third apology last week for all the wickedness the U.S.A. has committed in the world.
With all the Fed's faults, and all Bernanke's faults, here is a clear case of keeping hold of nurse for fear of something worse. Audit the Fed? Sure — I'll join Ron Paul and the entire Republican House membership on that. Turn it over to the Obamarrhoids? Heaven forbid!
07 — Surgeon General portly. The President introduced us to his nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, a doctor from Alabama named Regina Benjamin.
Dr Benjamin's been doing good work at a clinic for poor folk down in her home state of Alabama. She seems very worthy and capable, and more sensible than some of her predecessors. I'm thinking of Bill Clinton's first Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders, who, if I recall correctly, wanted America's school-children instructed in that same solitary art that Signor Berlusconi tried to enlighten his young escort about.
So here comes Dr Benjamin, and the commenting classes all swooned in horror when they saw her because … she's overweight.
It didn't help that the same week we were introduced to Dr Benjamin the Centers for Disease Control came out with the aforementioned report on obesity, showing strikingly higher rates for African Americans, which is Dr. Benjamin's group.
Well, I think people should have more sense than to let themselves get obese, but Dr Benjamin isn't obese. She isn't even really fat; just … chubby … well-upholstered … plump … portly. What's the problem here?
Personally I'm sick of these damn health fascists telling me what to eat, what to drink, don't smoke, get more exercise. In America, we're told, you can never be too thin or too rich. Well, personally, having failed to get rich, I'm going to go for that extra slice of cheesecake.
I extend a welcome to Dr Benjamin as a person of portliness. I greet her as one who will likely be doing something useful with her time while all those White House yuppies groan and sweat through their morning workouts. I think she'll look great in that Sergeant Pepper uniform, and if she wants to drop by at my house for a full English breakfast — bacon, eggs, kidneys, tomatoes, baked beans, black pudding, and slabs of bread, all fried in good nutritious lard — I'd consider it an honor.
08 — Federal judge says written exams are racist. Here we go again, folks. I'm quoting here from my New York Post, America's Newspaper of Record, for Thursday July 22, quote:
The [New York City Fire Department] discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants for years through written exams that bore "little relationship to the job of a firefighter," a judge ruled yesterday … Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the "discriminatory effects" of the SAT-style tests helped limit the number of minority firefighters to just 303 blacks and 605 Hispanics — or 3.4 and 6.7 percent, respectively — out of a total force of 8,998 in 2007.
Let me explain one more time where this is taking us.
Once upon a time in the U.S.A., big-city civil service jobs and promotions were awarded on the basis of personal connections and ethnic solidarity. To be a cop in New York City, for example, you had to be Irish.
Then, starting in the late 19th century, people felt that the favoritism and corruption was getting out of hand. Uniform written examinations came in for civil service positions, both national and local. The idea of written civil service exams was to eliminate all that chicanery and favoritism, to ensure that anyone smart and diligent enough to do well on the examinations would have an equal chance of being hired or promoted.
Examinations are a fair way to decide. The calls for "fairness" that we're hearing from the likes of Judge Garaufis, a Clinton appointee of course, are actually asking us to turn away from the fairness of written examinations to less-fair selection procedures.
What would those procedures be? The Judge doesn't tell us, any more than Sonia Sotomayor did; but you can be sure that they will come down at last to — guess what? — personal connections and ethnic solidarity.
The entire effect of these rulings, in other words, would be to return civil service hiring and promotion procedures to where they were back in the days of Boss Tweed 150 years ago.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: You can have a fair and impartial selection procedure for civil service jobs by competitive written examination, or you can have a spoils system. Which one do we want?
09 — Miscellany. Here's our closing miscellany of short items.
Item: Irony alert: July 21 recorded a record low temperature in Nashville, Tennessee: 58 degrees at 5:30 a.m. The previous record low was all the way back in 1877, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president. Furthermore, this was the third consecutive morning of record low temperatures in Nashville.
Do you get the irony? Nashville, see — in the home state of … Al Gore. All right, it's a stretch, but it's always fun to poke a finger in Al's eye.
Item: You wanna know what the trend-setters of New York City are doing? OK, I'll tell you: they're having pool parties in dumpsters.
Yes folks, the New York Times reports in its July 19 Arts & Design section that some enterprising bohemians in Brooklyn have opened what they call an urban country club on a rented lot that's hidden from the street. There are three dumpster swimming pools, a boccie court, and some lounge chairs, grills and cabanas. Quoting here from the Times:
"The water's amazingly fresh, for swimming in a Dumpster," said Alexis Bloom, a documentary filmmaker from TriBeCa, after doing a few laps.
A few laps? How long does it take to do a lap of a dumpster? Do they have lane markers?
I guess I'm not getting the concept here … as they say in TriBeCa.
Item: The world's oldest man died in England, aged 113.
Henry Allingham could remember Queen Victoria's funeral in 1901, and the Wright brothers' first flight in 1903. He saw action in World War One, joining Britain's Royal Naval Air Service as a mechanic in September 1915. In fact he saw action on land, on sea, and in the air. He took part in the great sea battle of Jutland, and scavenged for parts from downed aircraft among the mud and corpses of the Western Front.
After the war he settled into a quiet but useful life, was married to the woman he loved for fifty-two years, and left behind him 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.
An extraordinarily long life, well lived. Rest in peace, Air Mechanic Allingham.
Item: President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia has announced the setting up of a commission to counter the falsification of history. He said this falsification of history was becoming, quote, "increasingly severe, evil, and aggressive."
Goodness; I wonder what's on his mind — or rather Vladimir Putin's mind, since Medvedev is nothing but Putin's glove puppet. Could this be something to do with the seventieth anniversary next month of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, when Stalin placed the U.S.S.R. in formal alliance with Nazi Germany?
In the postwar Soviet Union the pact was a well-kept secret. You could be sent to a camp for talking about it. Officially, it never happened. When Soviet historians were confronted with it by foreign colleagues, they said it had been a subtle play by Stalin to buy time while the Soviets built up their armaments — a thing for which there is no evidence whatever.
Apparently the Hitler-Stalin deal is still something that Russia's leaders don't want their citizens talking about.
No, modern Russia isn't the U.S.S.R.; but it's nothing close to being a free country, either.
Item: A family in Saudi Arabia, it says here, has taken a genie to court, alleging theft and harassment.
The lawsuit, filed in a local Shariah court [Clip: "Maria-Shariah."] accuses the genie of leaving them threatening voicemails, stealing their cell phones and hurling rocks at them when they leave their house at night. A local charity has moved the family to a temporary residence while a court investigates.
A genie. So that's what Barbara Eden's been up to — harassing Saudis. Good work there, Barbara.
10 — Signoff. There you are, listeners. Most news is pretty dreary stuff, hack politicians telling lies, or foreigners being beastly to each other. There's generally one item each week that warms my heart, though, something I'm glad to have reported.
There were actually a couple this week: that old soldier who passed away in England aged 113, and Silvio Berlusconi upholding the Italian standard of vigorous masculinity.
Having introduced the Berlusconi story with some appropriate Mozart, here's more of the same to see us out. Tune in again to Radio Derb next week for more of the news you need.
[Music clip: more of the "Catalog Aria."]