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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb here, ladies and gents. This is your elegiacally genial host John Derbyshire with the news you need to know.
You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll hurl. Er, that's a little retro humor there, folks — a Wayne's World allusion, for those of you who were around in the eighties. [Clip: "Wayne's world! Wayne's world!"] Yes, that's the one.
To tell you the truth, though, I'm having a little trouble maintaining my mask of geniality lately. Seems to me the storm clouds are gathering. How, exactly? Let me explain.
02 — Looming default. Timeline for this week.
Monday: Obama submits his 2010 budget, asking for expenditures that will bring the deficit to 1.6 trillion. That includes big bailout packages to states like California and New York that have gotten themselves into trouble through being fiscally irresponsible. In Obamaworld, no bad deed goes unrewarded. That was Monday.
Thursday: Congress votes to extend the federal government's line of credit for this year to 1.9 trillion. That's so that the congresscritters can keep voting thumping new spending bills from now to November without generating ugly headlines about how they've crashed through the debt ceiling.
But what's this? Sandwiched in between those two news stories was this one from the Washington Times. Headline: Deficit imperils nation's top credit rating. Story: Moody's, the big credit rating agency, is threatening to downgrade Uncle Sam's rating. Quote from them:
Unless measures are taken to reduce the budget deficit further or the economy rebounds more vigorously than expected, the federal financial picture as presented in [President Obama's Feb. 1 budget] will at some point put pressure on the AAA-government bond rating.
Did you get that? The U.S.A. is about to get its credit rating downgraded unless the federal government cuts spending.
Will it do that? Another quote from the Moody's man:
We understand that the government is constrained for the time being by the high unemployment rate, and that a big fiscal adjustment right now would be politically difficult.
So … I guess that's a no. Put it another way, we're heading for the fiscal cliff edge so fast, if the government tries to jam on the brakes, the brake pads will shear off.
Now let me say this, Radio Derb listeners. I try to keep a light tone in these broadcasts. I don't have that high an opinion of my own powers of prognostication, or anyone else's for that matter. I've been doing public commentary for a quarter of a century and been wrong about a lot of things. Prognostication-wise, I seriously doubt I've batted .300. I doubt any of my fellow bloviators have done much better.
So I try to keep it light and modest — I don't want to spoil anybody's weekend. I have to tell you though, I'm still in touch with some of my pals from the bond brokerage business, and I can still count up to a trillion. There's something nasty not far ahead: either a national default, or else a slow collapse of the nation's financial situation, ending with huge cuts in entitlements and public services and much higher taxes all round.
I truly don't see any way out of that. This thing I'll predict, with much higher confidence than I usually predict anything: The days of leisured, well-funded old age, with easy access to health care, are drawing to a close. If you're looking to spend your seventies and eighties on the golf course, with a pacemaker installed, a replacement knee, and an occasional cruise to relieve the boredom, fuhgeddaboutit. You're going to spend your 75th birthday serving coffee at Dunkin' Donuts and cleaning out the head before you go off shift. Oh, and you'll get mugged walking home, because your town can't afford police services and you can't afford the tax-loaded price of gasoline for a car.
Very likely your 85th birthday will be like that too. Sorry to deliver the bad news, but that's where we're headed.
But wait!, I hear you cry. What about all those hard-working immigrant fruit-pickers and landscapers? Whose taxes, according to the Wall Street Journal editorialists, were going to save Social Security and Medicare? You know, just as soon as the second generation got through AP Calculus, became software entrepreneurs, and sent the Gross National product zooming up into the stratosphere. Wasn't that the plan sold to us by the open borders lobbyists?
Indeed it was, suckers … er, I mean, listeners. Indeed it was. [Laugh.]
03 — Greece trap. If you want to see what's in store, take a look at Greece. That country is pretty much where we shall be five years from now, absent an economic miracle of which there is not the trace of a shadow of a sign. They have huge unfunded entitlement obligations, an economy in recession, and a bloated public sector which is heavily unionized.
What are they doing about it? Well, they've frozen public sector salaries and hiring, raised the retirement age, and hiked taxes. What else could they do?
This, however, has brought the public-sector unions out on the streets. They are voting on a general strike to close down government services. And all this is happening under a socialist government!
The Greeks have some cushion: being a member of the EU, Greece can look to the other Europeans for help. That operates like the International Monetary Fund, though: The help comes with strings — like, for example: "Sure, we'll give you a hand … if you cut benefits some more, raise taxes some more, and lay off another fifty thousand civil servants."
The EU has other problems besides Greece to take care of, also. Here's an acronym for you from the pages of global-finance analysis: PIIGS. That's P-I-I-G-S, stands for "Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain," all of which countries are in the same boat, or clambering into that boat over the gunwales as it sinks ever lower in the water.
Remember also that the U.S.A. — if, or when, we get to the point that Greece is at — does not have anyone to turn to, unless you count China, which you really, really, shouldn't. I tell you, this is going to get nasty.
But hold on there, you say. Didn't the President's budget this week project reduced deficits and spending in future years? Yes, but look back at his projections of a year ago. He said this this year's deficit would be 1.2 trillion; it's actually 1.6 trillion. Whoops!
It also predicted reduced spending, which wasn't hard to predict, given the whopping bailout and stimulus packages we were all staring at a year ago; yet the spending reduction was 170 billion less than requested. Whoops again!
We did get an uptick in growth last quarter, but that's just bumping along the bottom: Unemployment is still rising.
Things are bad, and getting no better, and still the administration wants to spend more money on grandiose welfare-state projects and pointless wars.
The socialist government of Greece has started to do what it has to do. The socialist government of the U.S.A. will likewise do what it has to do. They're just putting off the evil hour.
Least surprising news of the week was that the government is getting out of the manned spaceflight business. The grand fantasies of the George W. Bush administration for a new generation of rockets and spacecraft, and a return to the Moon by 2020, have all been dropped. Instead, the government is going to contract out spaceflight to private industry.
Did you hear that? The Obama administration believes in private enterprise! Well, not in healthcare, but at least in space travel; and they're going to keep NASA in business as a sort of nanny supervising the entrepreneurs.
And of course, NASA will still be exploring space with robots like those wonderful Mars rovers, with space telescopes, gravity-wave detectors, and the like. You can make a respectable argument that even that is none of the government's business, and I wouldn't be unsympathetic; but let's at least be glad that if we are to have a government-run space agency, it's doing some real science, instead of giving joyrides to schoolteachers and Saudi princes.
Good riddance to the Shuttle; welcome to the space entrepreneurs; and let's all gaze in wonder at the fact the the Obama administration has done something sensible at last.
05 — ChiComs in a huff. The ChiComs have been stamping their feet and wagging their fingers. What's their problem? Well, they have a few.
For one thing, our administration has inked a deal on six billion dollars worth of military stuff for Taiwan. That is vexing to the ChiComs, who can't get their heads round the fact that the people of Taiwan don't want to be ruled by a gang of amoral thugs with the blood of tens of millions of Chinese people on their hands.
The communists are threatening to retaliate against the American firms involved. Xinhua, the "news agency" mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, harrumphed that it is, quote: "unreasonable for some U.S. companies to simultaneously sell civilian products to the Chinese mainland and military hardware to Taiwan," end quote. Whereas it is perfectly reasonable for the Chinese government to pillage American firms by hacking into our computer systems, in flagrant violation of the WTO protocols China signed up to eight years ago.
And then, the U.S.A. is enforcing some anti-dumping rules on Chinese imports. Unfair trading practices! shriek the ChiComs from behind their Great Wall of pirated software.
Next on the list: the Dalai Lama, who'll be in Washington DC mid-February. Barack Obama has said he'll meet him; the ChiComs tell their people that the Dalai is a limb of Satan, so it's tough for them to explain why a U.S. President would give the old coot the time of day.
And then there's the Iran business, with the administration really, really keen to push sanctions, while the ChiComs just want to sell stuff and cut turf deals with their fellow gangsters.
Some of this temperature-raising is being driven by the Chinese, who see themselves as the rising world power of this decade and want to do a little self-assertion, yet who at the same time are deeply nervous about the stability of their society and economy and want to play the nationalist card to shore up their own popularity. Some of it is driven by our concerns over trade, our own economy, and nuclear proliferation.
I bet some of it, also, is sheer personal pique on Obama's part over the way the ChiComs dissed him at the Copenhagen climate summit. And some of it is the inevitable friction you get when a nation under rational, constitutional government rubs up against a nest of amoral bandits.
06 — Boob bombers. Most horrible story of the week: The boob bombers. Al-Qaeda is said to have recruited female suicide bombers and given them explosive breast implants.
This is the PETN explosive the crotch bomber had. You can get enough of it in a breast implant to blow a hole in the side of a plane, and it is undetectable by airport scanners. MI5, the British equivalent of the CIA, believes that Muslim doctors trained in British teaching hospitals have returned to the Middle East to help al-Qaeda do the implants. Yet another of the multifold benefits of Muslim immigration into the Western world.
This tactic, if correctly reported, strikes me as exceptionally horrible. Women's breasts are associated in the minds of normal people with softness, tenderness, and the nurturing of new life. To the jihadists, the female breast is just another weapon, to be used not for feeding infants, but for murdering them.
There have been some sick and crazy cults in the history of the world, but jihadism has to be the sickest and craziest. Hunting down these vermin and killing them without apology should be a routine part of our national defense policy for the next couple of decades. So should keeping them out of our country, and coming down like a ton of bricks on Americans who help and support them.
How are we doing on that second one? Let's see … New York Post, February 4th, headline: Prison Imam is Busted. Story, quote:
A Correction Department chaplain who once served 14 years for murder was arrested yesterday for carrying three utility blades and a pair of scissors into a Manhattan jail, authorities said. Imam Zulqarnain Abdu-Shahid had the objects in his duffel bag when he arrived at the Manhattan Detention Complex … Abdu-Shahid, 58, was charged with four counts of first-degree promoting prison contraband.
Boy, that's some chaplain system we've got here. You commit a murder, you do 14 years porridge. During that 14 years you get Islam from some radical prison chaplain. You come out and get a job with the Department of Corrections at (I am told) $49,000 a year. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Hasn't anybody in this country got any sense?
07 — Another Zuma hatched. The only nation in sub-Saharan Africa that has much of an economy is South Africa. The current president of South Africa is 67-year-old Jacob Zuma.
Zuma is a Zulu; that's easy to remember, if you're a fan of classic movies. I certainly recommend that one. Mr Zuma has been married five times. Four of those ladies are still extant, and in fact still married to Mr Zuma, polygamy being legal in South Africa.
When you know that Zuma has four wives, though, you've only just scratched the surface of this man's relations with the other gender. Before being elected president, Zuma was acquitted in a rape trial, in the course of which he admitted to having had unprotected sex with a woman who was HIV-positive. He told the court he took a shower afterwards to avoid infection … Ever since which, South African political cartoonist Zapiro has drawn Zuma with a shower nozzle over his head.
Well, belated congratulations to President Zuma on the birth of what we think is his 20th child last October, but only just now in the news. Which one of the four wives is the mother of this child? None of them. The mother is Sonono Khoza, daughter of one of Zuma's best friends.
John Edwards, eat your heart out.
08 — We hate the census. Every good conservative hates the census. Not the fact of their being a census — that's in the Constitution, a document conservatives approve of — but the out-of-control invasions of privacy that Congress has subsequently introduced into the census process so they can shovel money to their favored constituencies.
Census takers used to go round counting how many people were in each house. Now they want to know about my cesspool, my toolshed, my fireplace, my commuting time, and whether I am white, Hispanic, black, mulatto, quadroon, quinteroon, octoroon, griffo, zambo, cafuzo, marabou, mestizo, catalo, or high yaller. Where's the box I tick for "mind your own stinking business"?
And in fact, at the risk of losing conservative creds, I'm not even sure I agree with the Constitution on this one. In the pre-modern world, censuses were characteristic of despotic empires, not free nations.
True, England had a census in 1086 under the Normans, but that was because the Normans had picked up bad habits while ruling Sicily, habits they'd learned from the adjoining Byzantine Empire and Arab Caliphates. And after that one, England went without a census for seven hundred years.
Well, that's water under the bridge, I guess. We're stuck with the fool thing now. Not just stuck with it, in fact: the federal government, with all the tact and delicacy for which Washington bureaucracies are so well known, is ramming it down our throats with one of its iron-fist-behind-the-smiley-face campaigns. Quote from the BBC News website:
A troupe of dancers were braving the cold outside the Bronx Borough Hall, trying to drum up interest in the 2010 census.
It's no accident that it was the Bronx where People's Liberation Army Dance Troupe No. 73 were shaking their booties, either. Quote:
Census officials are criss-crossing the US with their signature blue trailers between now and April, targeting communities where traditionally people have been reluctant to be counted.
Well, I'm reluctant to be counted, but I, as is well known, am a reactionary enemy of the people. Why are the inmates of the Bronx reluctant? Quote:
Take the estimated 12 million people who are in the US without the right legal documents, eight million of whom are thought to be from the Hispanic community. Many fear that if they fill out the census, the information will be given to the immigration service and they will be deported.
Notice the weasel words there: "without the right legal documents." It's not that these people have done anything wrong, you see, they just don't have precisely the right documents. The notary's stamp is on the left of the page, not the right, darn it.
Of course, honest citizens should hope that the fears of these twelve million scofflaws are well founded. They should be deported, and if the census helps with identifying them for deportation, then I'll allow that the census is of some benefit after all.
That, of course, is the viewpoint of a far-right fascist hyena seeking to grind the faces of the helpless poor. To set me straight, here's Reverend Miguel Rivera, pastor of the church of Our Lady of the Welfare Scam, speaking on behalf of something called the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian leaders. Quote from him:
The sadness and agony endured by undocumented Latinos and their families is heartbreaking. This should be addressed through immigration reform.
All right, but tell me, pastor: Why on earth do people want to live in the U.S.A. if it means sadness and agony? I like the U.S.A. It seems to me a great place to live. If one day I find it a sad and agonizing place to live, I'll be on the next plane out of here. The way you're portraying these sad, agonized illegals, I should think they'd be only to glad to get deported.
Anyway, the debate among illegals is whether or not to co-operate with the census. Pastor Rivera says not to, because it's just a ploy by the gringo authorities to enforce their cruel and unjust laws. The other faction says that there's not much point being in America if you don't take every opportunity to squeeze money out of the government, and the census helps to do that, because government money is apportioned by population.
I don't have much of a dog in the fight, though on balance I'd support the illegals' boycott. Then places like the Bronx will get less of Washington's money. Which is to say, my money.
09 — Miscellany. And now for our lead-out miscellany of brief items.
Item: [Clip: "You've lost that lovin' feeling …"] Amber Lee Ettinger — remember her? She was the Obama Girl in the 2008 presidential campaign. She donned a bikini … wait a minute: do you don a bikini? give me a ruling on this, girls [bimbo giggles] … right — well, she donned, put on, slipped into, or assumed a bikini and made a suggestive video, telling us how much she loved Barack Obama. The thing went viral (as we now say) and the busty, toothsome Ms Ettinger had her proverbial fifteen minutes of fame.
Well, a reporter from the New York Post called the lady last week to see how she's feeling after a year of Obama in office. Not great, was the answer.
"I think he's doing an OK job," allowed Amber, who is now 28 and bills herself as an aspiring actress, but "I feel like he should be focusing a lot more on jobs and the economy … He did create some jobs, but most of them were government jobs and that doesn't really help the middle class."
Apparently our aspiring actress hasn't been getting too many calls from casting directors.
Sean Hannity got the money quote out of her in an interview a day or two later, quote: "Well, at least I wasn't the John Edwards girl." Yeah, you dodged a bullet there, honey.
Item: Remember J.D. Hayworth? He was the conservative Republican from Arizona who lost his seat in the 2006 midterms, to much crowing from the open borders fanatics — Hayworth is an immigration restrictionist.
Since losing his House seat, Hayworth's been running a radio talk show — a pretty good one. It doesn't compare in wit and insight with Radio Derb, of course, but he was learning.
Well, now this other J.D. has shut down his radio program. Why should you care? Because, gentle listener, Hayworth is staging a primary challenge to John McCain, who is up for re-election in November.
McCain, in that gentlemanly way he has, has been siccing the FCC on Hayworth, saying that running a radio show while running for office violates some picayune regulation or other. That's why Hayworth's gone off the air.
Says the Wall Street Journal, quote:
Hayworth … who is best known in Arizona for his opposition to illegal immigration, has seized the Tea Party mantle of low taxes and small government.
Let's hope Hayworth survives the McCain goon squads and wins this one. At the very least, it would reduce by one the pool of seventy-something no-hopers the Republican Party can put forward as Presidential candidates in 2012.
Item: Speaking of 2012, here comes Sarah Palin. Sarah's run a city, she's run a state, and now she has her eye on running the country.
She has a big event this weekend in Nashville, where the Tea Party movement is having its first convention. Sarah will be delivering the keynote address Saturday evening. Good luck to the Tea Partiers in their efforts to get the Republican Party to do something conservative, and good luck to Sarah. I see she's also endorsed Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, for the Republican primary in Kentucky, where Jim Bunning is stepping down from a Senate seat.
Yeah, yeah, I know the arguments against Sarah. She's not well-informed, she'll go native in DC, she's a squish on illegal immigration — I know it all. But look: a conservative in the White House.
I share some of the reservations, but I'll tell you this: If Sarah's on the top of the ticket in 2012, I'll vote Republican with a lot more enthusiasm than I did in '08.
Item: This one kind of zipped by me, I didn't pay much attention to it, though a lot of folk were jumping up and down with excitement.
I think what happened was: Rahm Emanuel, who does something or other around the White House, said in a closed-door strategy session last summer that liberal Democrats who attack less-liberal Democrats for opposing the healthcare bill were "[beep]-ing retarded."
The PC alarms went off, and everybody screamed and put on their angry faces. Busloads of spokespeople for whatever we're supposed to call the people we're not supposed to call "retarded" showed up at the White House and formed a line around the block, waiting to be apologized to by Emanuel.
And yes, here came Sarah Palin, calling for Emanuel to be fired, saying he'd insulted all the whatever-we-call-them people, and it was, quote, "unacceptable" and, quote, "heartbreaking."
For goodness sake. Here's the rule for taking offense, for those of you — it seems to be around three hundred million — who didn't get it from your first grade teacher: Try to form a common-sense judgment about the speaker's intentions. If his intention was to give offense, then you may take offense. If you take offense otherwise, you are a [beep]-ing [beep].
Item: Barack Obama swears he's going to scupper the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals serving in the military. Here's what I think about that.
So far as lesbians are concerned, I'm fine with it. I once had a lesbian as a personal trainer, and after that experience, let me tell you, I'd sleep soundly at night if the nation's security was in the hands of an all-lesbian military.
So far as male homosexuals in the military is concerned, the military themselves are strongly opposed, and I think that should settle the matter. Please don't drag up the old parallel with racial segregation in the armed forces. Race is not a primarily behavioral distinction, and in a close-knit combat unit, behavior is what matters.
And please don't tell me homosexuals can't help their state, so it's unfair to exclude them from military service. Blind and deaf people can't help their state, either, but I don't want them flying F-16s over Long Island.
A volunteer military should be highly selective. The boundaries of that selection have always excluded openly homosexual men. That the boundaries need re-drawing, is a proposition that has not been proved, and that conservatives should resist. I say stick with what works.
Item: Barack Obama's auntie, Zeituni Onyango, had a hearing this Thursday on her petition for asylum. Ms Onyango came to this country in 2000. She was ordered deported in 2004 but ignored the order, and has been living in taxpayer-subsidized public housing in Boston ever since.
The outcome of Thursday's hearing seems to be, her lawyers have until March to file written arguments. How an unemployed woman from Kenya, living on public assistance since 2004, can afford to retain counsel, is not known to me. Nor is it known to me why, having committed flagrant contempt of court by remaining in this country after the court ordered her to leave, she should not be put on the first plane back to Kenya and told to file her petitions from there, after first compensating the taxpayers of Boston for whatever she has cost them this past six years.
But then, what can I be expected to know? I'm just a taxpaying, law-abiding U.S. citizen, the lowest form of life in these United States.
Item: We lost a language this week: Bo. That's the name of the language, Bo. It was one of the languages of the Andaman Islands, a little archipelago there in the Bay of Bengal, between India and Southeast Asia.
The last speaker of Bo, a lady named Boa Sr, died last week at age 85. The second to last speaker died 30 years ago, so for 30 years, Boa Sr had no-one to speak to. Can you imagine that?
The Andamans are a weird place: settled very early after Homo Sap. left Africa sixty thousand years ago, and not much interfered with since. Anthropologists, geneticists, and linguists love the Andamanese.
Well, now there's one less thing to love about them. Rest in peace, Bo.
Item: Scientists in Britain tell us they are just three years away from marketing a pill that will allow us all to live to 100, with good health and free of Alzheimers. "We'll all be able to work longer!" burbles one of the scientists.
Well, isn't that terrific. And the percentage of people who would actually like to work another twenty or thirty years is …?
I don't know if anyone outside the Eng. Lit. departments still reads Edmund Spenser, but here's what he had to say:
Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas,
10 — Signoff. Well, that was all a bit depressing, wasn't it? Go on, suck it down, it'll do you good.
To help with the peristalsis, how about a little mood music? If you follow The Corner, you'll know that I've been mulling the question: What is the gloomiest piece of music ever written? Readers have been helping out, with both pop and classical suggestions, and I'll be posting a list shortly. Way ahead of the pack though in my readers' estimation is the Kindertotenlieder of Gustav Mahler — "Songs on the Deaths of Children."
We forget now what a commonplace event it was, before modern medicine came up, to lose a child. Mahler lost one himself. My grandma lost two out of thirteen.
Well, here's an extract from one of the liveliest of the Kindertotenlieder, "In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus" — "In this weather, in this storm, I would never have let the children go out …"
[Music clip: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, "In diesem Wetter."]