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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Greetings, listeners. This is Radio Derb on the air once again, with your counterfactually genial host John Derbyshire bringing you news of the hour.
Lots to report this week, so here we go.
02 — Healthcare dealing (1): labor unions. Politics proverbially ain't beanbag. It also ain't shuffleboard, croquet, or tournament tiddleywinks, though it does sometimes bear a passing resemblance to synchronized swimming.
As rough as politics is, though, it is never rougher and dirtier than when an administration has staked its prestige on legislation that is seriously unpopular, and getting more unpopular by the hour. Then the executive, desperate for support, goes round the garden lifting up rocks, looking for sleazy interest groups to cut deals with.
That's where we're at with the healthcare legislation, which is currently being finalized via secret negotiations in a sealed bunker deep beneath the National Arboretum in Washington D.C.
One key counterparty to these negotiations has been organized labor, led by the Service Employees International Union and the vast public-sector union apparatus. What powerful unions do is, negotiate really sweet deals on benefits for their members. This fact has come crashing up against the President's need to pay the humongous tab for his healthcare overhaul.
Plan A, to shaft the elderly by gutting Medicare, isn't polling too well, so Obama moved to Plan B: hit the most luxurious healthcare plans with a big tax. Unfortunately, that would include the plans those powerful unions have proved so adept at squeezing out of employers and taxpayers. Whoops!
It looks like all has been put right, though. Doing whatever he had to do to stop the wheels coming off the healthcare juggernaut, the President has exempted union-won sweetheart bennies from the tax.
Now he'll have to find the money somewhere else. Hold on tight to your wallets, citizens.
03 — Healthcare dealing (2): illegal aliens. Did I just utter the phrase "sleazy interest groups"? I believe I did. Well, you can't get much sleazier than being an interest group on behalf of scofflaws.
That would be Hispanic ethnic ideologues, led by the twenty members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the CHC, ideologues de pies a cabeza.
Part of the process of finalizing the healthcare bill, you see, is taking the two existing bills — the House's bill and the Senate's — and batting them back and forth from one chamber to the other in the hope that with enough batting, the differences between them will drop away.
Those differences are still causing problems, though. A big one concerns government-subsidized health care for illegal aliens. The House bill makes room for this; the Senate bill prohibits it.
Hispanic ideologues like the CHC of course see the whole issue of illegal immigration in terms of ethnic solidarity, so the Caucus is fighting to keep benefits for illegals in the bill. The White House seems to consider the point expendable, though, and is willing to knock out the benefits-for-illegals clause if that's what it takes to get the bill passed, though they'd still like to square things with the ethnic ideologues.
Latest rumors are that the Caucus will give way on healthcare for illegals if the White House will commit to amnesty being its next priority. I think in fact that hope of this deal is the main reason for the Caucus standing firm. The alternative possibility is that they're standing firm because they really want healthcare for illegals in the bill.
Yet they surely know that even if it's left out of the bill, it'll be legislated from the bench anyway, just as happened with Proposition 187 in California. That was the 1994 initiative to deny state welfare benefits to illegals. It was passed by 59 percent of voters, but killed by liberal judges, who said it was unconstitutional.
The same will happen if the healthcare bill denies benefits to illegals. The judges will just grant them anyway. This jousting between the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the White House is just shadow play to get an amnesty commitment.
04 — Haiti earthquake. The big news item of the week is of course Tuesday afternoon's earthquake in Haiti.
Disasters like this aren't really proper subject matter for the opinion journalist, since the only reasonable opinion one can have about them is: "What a terrible thing!"
Ever ready with an un-reasonable opinion, Pat Robertson stepped up to tell us that the Haitians purchased their independence from France 200 years ago via a pact with Satan. This earthquake, and the generally wretched condition of the place even before the earthquake, is part of the payback on that deal.
So said Pat, to a lot of indignation. If you believe in Satan, and a system of supernatural rewards and punishments, it doesn't seem that preposterous to me; but since I don't believe in either thing, perhaps I'm not the right person to judge.
In any case the main threat now in Haiti is probably from disease, via rotting corpses, polluted water, and problems getting food, leading to lowered disease resistance. If you are moved by suffering in foreign places, there's a box on the National Review Online website that makes it easy to contribute to relief.
If, on the other hand, you are the kind of stone-hearted person who believes that we should look after our own and let foreigners shift for themselves, let me gently remind you that there is just six hundred miles of open water between Port-au-Prince and Miami, that Haiti's nine million people have a pretty wretched life at the best of times, and that there's a good case for trying to help them even on the coldest calculations of national self-interest.
05 — Google in China. Google is threatening to pull out of China.
The big search-engine company went in to the People's Republic four years ago next week, and has captured nearly a third of the search-engine market there. That's no mean feat, considering that their main competitor, holding most of the other two-thirds of the market, is Baidu, a company of Chinese parentage with good connections among the Communist Party elites as well as major backing from big American institutional investors like Fidelity.
At the time Google started up in 2006, there was controversy because the firm announced it would self-censor its Chinese search engine, to make sure that anyone keying in, say, "Dalai Lama" or, say, "Independent Taiwan," would get no hits at all. This seemed obnoxious to a lot of us.
Google made the old "engagement" argument originally invented, if memory serves, by the late Armand Hammer: the argument that by dealing with dictatorships, even on their own terms, you encourage them to open up, and give their citizens a glimpse of the fruits of liberty.
Well, it looks like this didn't work out. Google discovered that the Gonganju, China's secret police, were prying into the gmail accounts of dissidents. They've said this is unacceptable and they may just pull out of China.
Reactions have been predictable. Baidu, that government-connected competitor, is sneering that Google is just miffed at not having a bigger market share. ChiCom officials are saying that they just expect internet firms to operate, quote, "according to the law," which sounds pretty reasonable until you understand that the law, in China, is whatever the Communist Party wants it to be this week.
Some American conservatives, long disgruntled over Google's leftward slant, and over a recent story about Google suppressing negative comments on Islam, are saying that the company's just playing some deep negotiating game with the ChiComs, the threat to leave being understood by both sides as merely a chess move.
I don't have any great affection for Google myself, and on the large issue of commercial dealings with nasty regimes I stand with Richard Nixon, quote: "Sell 'em anything they can't shoot back."
You get into some moral calculus there, as people pointed out when Nixon made his remark. How about leg irons for political prisoners? How about the metal the leg irons might be made from? Etc., etc. I never found those arguments persuasive. If you think a private firm is doing something obnoxious abroad, start a boycott.
I hope Google's taking a stand on principle, and if they are, I applaud it. If it turns out to be corporate cynicism, I'll drop my gmail account. I was going to add: "… and give Bing a try," but I remembered that Microsoft is even more snugly in bed with the ChiComs than Google. Yahoo, we've long known, shares its email lists with the Gonganju.
It's a fallen world all right, especially on the internet.
06 — Harry Reid's gaffe. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was at the center of a nine days wonder — I think it was actually about three days — when the authors of a book about last year's Presidential campaign quoted him as saying that the U.S.A. was ready for a black candidate, especially one that was light-skinned and had, quote, "no Negro dialect."
Everybody shrieked, grabbed their skirts, and jumped up on chairs like old maids seeing a mouse. There followed acres of furrowed-brow ruminations and billions of pixels deliberating the question: Is Harry Reid a racist?
Here, just for once, I stand with Barack Obama. I mean, neither he nor I could give a flying fandangle whether Harry Reid is racist. Barack Obama doesn't care because he wants Harry to deliver him a healthcare triumph, and further than that wouldn't be bothered if he learned that Harry gets intimate with small mammals in his spare time.
I don't care because I just can't connect with American hysteria about race. I think you have to be born here to do the shrieking and skirt-clutching with real conviction. What Harry said seemed true and harmless to me. I didn't even know that "Negro" is a taboo word — and I refuse to be embarassed about that since, as Radio Derb reported last week, neither does the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
Conservatives tried to work up a fuss about the differential treatment of Harry Reid, who got a pass from the liberal elites, and Trent Lott, who got tarred and feathered for saying what a pity it was the Dixiecrats didn't win in 1948.
I didn't see anything wrong with that, either. The Dixiecrats were a legal political party, and they carried four states, including the one Trent Lott was representing. But then, like I said, I don't get the whole race-panic thing.
If I ever get it figured out, I'll join in the fun. Until then, I'm kind of a wallflower on these topics.
07 — Not Martha Coakley for the Senate. Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general running for the Senate seat left vacant when Ted Kennedy died, is having a rough passage.
It can't be rough enough, though, for those of us who followed the dreadful case of the Amirault family, one of the grossest miscarriages of justice in U.S. history. Coakley was the Middlesex County district attorney when the full horror of what had been done to the Amiraults was becoming public knowledge in the late 1990s.
The Amiraults — mother Violet, daughter Cheryl and son Gerald — were caught up in the child-abuse hysteria of the mid-1980s and given long prison terms for imaginary crimes on flimsy evidence — indeed, on no physical evidence at all.
As the injustice came to light, public-spirited people in Massachusetts, including attorneys and judges, set to work to right the injustice. Martha Coakley fought them every inch of the way.
Here's a quote from Dorothy Rabinowitz's book on the child-abuse cases, No Crueler Tyrannies, page 173, quote:
Every comment now issuing from District Attorney Coakley bore out what everyone schooled in the facts of this case had always known: that the prosecutors would never let go of Gerald Amirault, the symbol of their victorious case. They would fight his release with all the tenacity and passion available to them.
Together with her predecessor, previous district attorney Scott Harshbarger, and the justices of the state's Supreme Judicial Court, notably Herbert Wilkins and Margaret Marshall, Coakley is a villain in this appalling story. The polls say she may still win this Senate race, but if she does, it will be a blot on the record of the Bay State, a rewarding of stupidity, incompetence, and cruelty.
Republican challenger Scott Brown is running strong. Not just conservatives and not just Republicans, but anyone who cares about fair dealing, good government, and justice, should hope that Martha Coakley never sits in the U.S. Senate.
08 — Employment news. How's the national economy doing?
Terrible. The official unemployment figure for December was just the same as for November: ten percent. Economists tell us, however, that this is deceptive, as a lot of people give up looking for work and drop off the rolls in despair. The Economic Policy Institute estimates 661,000 such drop-outs for December, meaning that the true rate is 10.4 percent.
There are also people who have moved from full-time to part-time work, who don't show up in the numbers.
The total labor force is 153.1 million, down nearly two million from May last year. The share of the population in the labor force is now at its lowest for 25 years.
Things are especially bad for young people. In the age range 16 to 24, the percentage with jobs has dropped one-eighth over the decade. Forget about entry-level work; what youngsters hope for nowadays is an unpaid internship. Hey, it's a foot in the door.
This recession is going to run and run.
I first came to this country in 1973. Boy, the living was easy then. Quote from Business Week magazine, quote:
Wages for production and nonsupervisory workers, who are eighty percent of the private workforce, are nine percent lower than they were in 1973, adjusted for inflation.
Well, I'm glad I saw America when it was still on the up and up — when an average American could expect to be better off this year than he was last year.
Those golden days have gone. I remember them: Those tiny numbers in the box on my paycheck labeled "Major Medical"; 57 cents a gallon gas; plenty of jobs for able-bodied citizens with not much education; one-page tax forms … Gone, all gone, gone with the wind.
09 — Italians riot against illegals. We got another angle on the problem of illegal immigration in news from Italy last weekend.
The Southern Italian town of Rosarno had a big squatter settlement of immigrants from Africa in an abandoned factory outside the town. The squatters earned subsistence wages picking fruit, some say in an operation controlled by a local crime syndicate.
The trouble started last Thursday, when one of the squatters was shot by an unknown assailant, possibly connected to the syndicate. The squatters, riled up by this, tried to march on the Rosarno town hall, breaking windows and burning cars as they went. That riled up the townspeople, and pretty soon it was the Africans who needed protecting. The authorities bused them out to distant towns.
It's a dismal story, all the more dismal if the stories about Mafia involvement are true, but dismal enough in any case. It does point to the future, though. Africans are desperate to escape the poverty and hopelessness of their countries, and tens of thousands of them every year try to get to southern Europe, especially to Italy and Spain.
It's hard to blame them; but it's also hard to blame the Europeans for not wanting their countries flooded with people of utterly different customs and faiths, whose idea of getting justice is to break windows and burn cars.
Liberal elites wring their hands over the plight of these migrants, and indeed it's not a happy plight; but neither is it a happy thing to see your quiet old town assaulted by a mob of violent aliens.
The Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi has been taking a tough line on illegals. The Interior Minister said that last week's riots were, quote, "the result of years of tolerating illegal immigration."
The problem will get a lot worse before it gets better. Africa isn't improving any, and has high birth rates — the two countries of origin named in the CNN report, Togo and Sudan, are at 3.3 children per woman and 4.5 respectively. There'll be a swelling supply of unemployed and desperate young men heading north across the Mediterranean.
Italy's birth rate, on the other hand, is way down at 1.3 children per woman, so the ranks of police and military available to push back the tide are shrinking. This will not end well.
10 — Miscellany. OK, here is the traditional Radio Derb miscellany of brief items to close with.
Item: In Boston, Massachusetts a cat has received a summons for jury duty. Well, that explains a lot about the Amirault case.
Item: I confess I'm a showbiz ignoramus, so I have my fingers crossed here hoping I get this right: Simon Cowell has quit American Idol, Sarah Palin is to be a Fox News contributor, Jay Leno has got the Tonight Show back, and Conan O'Brien's looking for work.
I think that's right. If the actual news is that Sarah's joining American Idol, Conan's going to Fox News, and Jay's teaming up with Simon for a sitcom about a bar in Boston, I apologize.
Item: An engineer from New Jersey has developed the world's first talking sex robot, name of Roxxxy.
I'm not sure he's on the right lines here: a lot of men might prefer a non-talking sex robot. Demonstrating Roxxxy in Las Vegas — where else? — inventor Douglas Hines said, quote:
The real aim is to make the doll someone the owner can talk to and relate to. Sex only goes so far — then you want to be able to talk to the person.
Er, no: then you want to go to sleep. What kind of life does this guy lead?
Item: Movie-maker Oliver Stone has a new project under way: a history of the 20th century.
Sketching out his ideas to a gathering of TV critics in Pasadena last Saturday, Stone intimated that he would go easy on Hitler and Stalin, portraying them as, quote, "historical phenomena."
Interesting. But … if Hitler's Germany and Stalin's U.S.S.R. are not going to be the villain nations in Stone's history, which nation will play that part? Let me see if I can guess …
Item: It's not only here that school subjects are being dumbed down for the benefit of slower students. Here's a report from the think tank Civitas, over there in the mother country. Sample quote:
In an endeavour to make schooling of greater interest to less academically inclined schoolchildren, several changes have been or are about to be made to the national curriculum. These are all steadily undermining its previously academic subject-based character.
Apparently Brit kids are no longer learning basic facts about geography and history.
What d'you think about this, Mandy? [Clip: Miss Teen U.S.A. bimbo rambling.] Er, thanks, honey. Why don't you go join Jonah and the girls in the grotto? I'll be up there shortly.
Item: In an interview on C-Span, Doug Shulman admitted that he uses a tax preparer.
Who he? Why, he the Commissioner of the IRS.
"I find the tax code complex," Shulman explained. Asked how he would make the tax code simpler, Shulman replied: "I don't write the tax laws. Congress writes the tax laws."
Exactly. Well, let's be thankful for small mercies: at least the judiciary hasn't got their hands on the tax code yet. Anything Congress can screw up, the judges can screw up screwier. [Clip: Ethel Merman, "Anything you can do, I can do better …"]
Item: I see I was passed over yet again in the London Daily Telegraph's annual list of 100 top American conservatives. Since the list includes Olympia Snowe, Michael Steele, and Joe Lieberman, I'm not going to be too miffed, though I think I would have fitted in nicely there between Ron Paul and Michelle Malkin.
Ah, a prophet is without honor in his own country — and also, on this evidence, in the country of his birth, even in a newspaper that briefly employed him. Little do these dull British provincials know what a force in the world Radio Derb has become!
When the media empire I am building here reaches its full power, we shall crush the Daily Telegraph like a bug! The petty scribblers of the newspaper age will soon be dust beneath my chariot wheels. Vae victis!
11 — Signoff. With those stirring words, listeners, I leave you. Never fear, Radio Derb is not mocked. We shall be here again next week to bring you all the news you need, sifted, edited, and compiled by our staff of dedicated researchers here at Buckley Towers, in the heart of Manhattan.
Take it away, Maestro.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]