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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Greetings, listeners. Radio Derb on the air here, and this is your phlegmatically genial host John Derbyshire with a round-up of the week's news.
It was of course a triumphal week for the political Left. If your tolerance for Nancy Pelosi grinning ecstatically into TV cameras is as low as mine, you're been drinking a lot of bourbon this week.
Now the cannon smoke has cleared, let us survey the battlefield.
02 — Healthcare, hallelujah! So, whadda we got in this new law, after fourteen months in the congressional delivery room? Let's see.
First off, that plan you have that covers your kids will now have to cover them up to age 26. Why 26? Presumably because that's the age when our offspring will finally start working, once Professor Obama's plan to educate every single American up to graduate-school level kicks in.
My parents' generation left school at 14 to start bringing money into the family. My own generation mostly hung on till 18, or 21 for those of us who went to college. Now the nanny state wants you tied to the apron strings till age 26.
Henry the Fifth was leading an army at age 16; William Pitt was Prime Minister of England at age 24; Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic at age 25; but in the mentality of our ruling class, no red-blooded American is fit to heft a hammer or swing a sickle until age 26.
Nor will those mewling, squealing, fidgeting, burping 25-year-olds of yours be denied health insurance, or charged higher rates, just because they're sick. Insurance companies won't be allowed to do that; and four years down the road, that rule will apply to all Americans: Insurance companies will have to insure you at healthy-guy rates, even if you're sick.
The obvious reflection here is: Why would I ever buy any health insurance until I get sick? Along with, of course, the larger question: In what sense is this insurance? You might as well say I can hold off buying life insurance till after I'm dead.
Ah, but the government has an answer for that: "We'll make you buy health insurance! If you don't, we'll fine you."
How much are they going to fine me? It starts at one percent of my income in 2014, rising to two and a half percent by 2016. Two and a half percent for me would be $2,000.
So … Uncle Sam is going to force me to buy insurance, which at my current rate costs me $12,000 a year. If I refuse, he'll fine me $2,000. If I refuse and get sick, I can buy insurance at the regular rate anyway.
Er, have the congresscritters really thought this through? Perhaps not: Fourteen months is the mere blink of an eye in congress-time.
03 — Healthcare hitches. One thing the healthcare juggernaut seems to have done is breathe new life into the Tenth Amendment. That's the one that says that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Tenth Amendment should not be confused with the Tenth Commandment, which enjoins us not to covet our neighbor's ox, nor his ass, nor his gold-plated health insurance plan if he's a congressman, nor any thing that is our neighbor's. Amendment: Commandment: different things.
Well, in the spirit of the Tenth Amendment, thirteen states — you getting the sybolism here, thirteen? — thirteen states filed suit in a federal court Tuesday, arguing that Congress has no power under the Constitution to force citizens to buy health insurance, or anything. The state of Virginia has lodged a separate, similar suit on its own account.
So should I decide to trade in my $12,000-a-year insurance policy for a $2,000-a-year fine, signing up with an insurer only when I'm sick — should I choose to do that, I may even be off the hook for the fine, which will be unconstitutional if these state A-Gs win their case.
This is looking like a better and better deal for me … Except that, if the population behaves rationally, as I intend to, the insurance companies will have no-one on their books but sick people. That will surely raise premiums some.
A lot, in fact. In fact, since the only people paying premiums will be people getting medical treatment, it's hard to see why they wouldn't just cut out the middle-man and contract directly with hospitals and doctors. I guess there'll be a federal fine for that, too.
04 — Healthcare hurdles. What else is in the bill? Let's see …
No insurance policy will have to cover abortions. That's good. I'm a black sheep in the National Review family in that I couldn't care less about abortion. If people want to have abortions, and doctors are willing to perform them, I'm fine with it. Still, I don't see why I should pay through my premiums for other people's mistakes, so the abortion provision is a minor plus, far as I'm concerned.
What else? People settled illegally in the U.S.A. won't be covered by the government health exchanges. Yeah, well, we know how that will turn out, don't we? The first time some scofflaw gets sick and is turned down by a health exchange, La Raza or MALDEF or LULAC or MeCha will find themselves a friendly liberal judge and get this clause overturned, just like they do when a state tries to stop illegals getting state welfare benefits; or like this week's judgment in Texas, striking down a town ordinance to ban illegals from renting property.
La Raza will get a lefty judge — there is hardly any other kind nowadays — and that'll be the end of that. Come to think of it, the same thing might happen with the abortion clause, so don't be crowing over that one either just yet. Congress may propose, but it's the judges who dispose.
What else? Half a trillion dollars gets ripped out of Medicare just as the Boomers are retiring. What a great idea! Contrariwise, Medic-aid gets a boost in funding. A kick for the old, a kiss for the poor. Sell seniors, buy paupers.
Just another skirmish in the war against the middle classes. You follow the law, work hard, accumulate a little wealth, then along comes Uncle Sam to snatch it away from you, to hand it to, on the one hand, the fat cats put in charge of nationalized banks or agencies like FNMA in return for political favors, and on the other, the feckless underclass.
You're watching the slow strangulation of the middle class, folk. And then of course a whole raft of new taxes all around. What would a liberal social program be without new taxes to punish us for working, saving, and investing?
05 — Healthcare hostilities. Meanwhile, what can one say about opponents of the healthcare bill?
Well, if one is a liberal, one can call them all the bad names in the liberal playbook. Protestors outside the Capitol were supposed to have yelled racial and sexual slurs at Democrats going in; though amazingly, with one TV camera per square yard all the way back to the Mall, no such slurs were recorded.
We're hearing a lot of other stuff from liberal pols about how they're getting death threats, coffins parked on their lawns, packages of white powder sent to their offices, and so on. You know: conservatives are these beastly savage people who want to commit acts of violence against legislators they disagree with.
Liberals are the nice people, you see, the flower children, who just want to help everybody. [Clip: "Kumbaya …"] Conservatives are gap-toothed, deranged knuckle-draggers who want to stomp the faces of the poor. You know the script.
Well, look: Allowing that no more than half of these claims are made up for dramatic effect, and supposing the other half to be real, so what? I've spent the last ten years doing conservative commentary, pretty low down on the commentariat totem pole, and I couldn't count how much abuse I've taken from lefties. Not many death threats, to be sure — no more than half a dozen that I can recall — but as I said, I'm not a big player.
If you're a congressman, your office number's listed on the internet, and crazy people will call you and say crazy things. If you can't handle that, get a proper job. But of course there's political capital to be accumulated by playing up this stuff.
I'm sure the accusations will get worse as the days go by, but I think the low point for this week was Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina playing the terrorist card: [Clip of Clyburn: "People out there in the streets get their signals … from the people in positions like we hold …]
Now, I do hope I'm not going to come across as cynical here — perish the thought! — but up to this point I've never thought liberals minded terrorism much. What's to mind, when you've spent your life swooning with admiration over Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, the Khmer Rouge, Kathy Boudin, and Bill Ayres? Then there's all the solicitude for Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and his pals getting full courtroom honors.
If you're a leftist, even 9/11 can be stuck on the U.S.A. Isn't that correct, Rev'm Wright? [Clip: Rev'm Wright, "Chickens coming home to roost …"] Though I should make it perfectly clear that Barack Obama was not present in the congregation when Rev'm Wright let loose with that one. Absolutely not. He was totally unable to attend church that day. This has been proven beyond any doubt; and if you deny it, you're, well then [Clip of Clyburn: "You are aiding and abetting this kind of … terrorism, really."]
06 — Healthcare hurrahs. In other commentary on the healthcare bill, Fidel Castro called it a, quote, "miracle." However, he chided President Obama for his lack of leadership on climate change and immigration reform. In similar endorsements:
Adverse comment was thoughtful and restrained. The New York Post opined that, quote:
Presently Democrats will be living with the political consequences — even as the nation struggles with what promises to be economic fallout over the next decade.
A thoughtful editorial in my favorite newspaper, the Feudal Times and Reactionary Herald foresaw another downward lurch in the death-spiral of Western civilization, as, quote:
The world's last bastion of individual liberty, independence, self-government and and self-support sees a mighty breach made in its walls by the ballistae of utopian socialism.
Who can disagree?
07 — EFTA in the Middle East. Diplomatic brouhaha of the week was the chilly reception given to Bibi Netanyahu at the White House Tuesday.
The municipal government of Jerusalem wants to build some housing in a district where the Arabs don't want it built, for reasons nobody can explain to me. The Arabs are squealing and stamping their feet and swearing they'll take their ball and go home because Israel won't play nice. The Arabs tell us they really, really want peace and normal relations with Israel [laugh] but it's impossible because those scheming Jews thwart them at every turn.
Leaving aside the fact that you can't find an Arab alive — well, certainly not an Arab politician — who thinks that Israel has any right to exist, let me just put this in a larger context.
Barack Obama and his cabinet are fully signed-up members of EFTA, E-F-T-A. That's the Easier-For-Them Association. One of the ground rules of government work is, always go for the soft target.
Try walking into your local bank with a hood and a sawn-off shotgun and demand they open the tills. When the cops finally arrive they will treat you with scrupulous respect, reading you your rights, being careful not to manhandle you, picking up your attorney on the way back to the station house. If they're ungracious enough to bring you to trial, you'll get six month's probation from a sympathetic judge who'll make a moving speech about root causes and the curse of poverty.
Now try driving at night with a broken tail light. You'll be tased and clubbed to the ground, then hauled off to the station house in a gunny sack. At trial you'll be given five years without the option. Soft target, see?
This is why the middle-class homeowner who under-reports his income by $200 gets the IRS chopper shining searchlights through his bedroom window at 3 a.m., while Charlie Rangel gets a free pass on the half million dollars back tax he owes.
Government people always go for the soft target. It's Easier For Them: less work, less chance of embarrassing resistance.
Well, in the Middle East, Israel's the soft target. It's a civilized country, with an electorate that wants its leaders to be capable and honest. The Arabs are scary — blowing themselves up, running gangster-governments, shooting missiles at random into towns, gibbering about 72 virgins and the world caliphate. They're the bank robbers in this scenario. Israel's the middle-class shmuck with a broken tail-light.
Don't tase me, bro!
08 — Canucks cancel Coulter. Michael Moore was obliged to cancel an appearance at the University of Ottawa after a crowd of 2,000 conservative hoodlums threatened to shut down the event by violence.
[Clip: Scary Movie 3: "Nah, I'm just screwin' with ya …"]
It was of course Ann Coulter whose event was canceled by threats of violence; and the hoodlums were of course leftists. When does a lefty ever get shut out of a college by a mob of conservative students? Has this ever happened anywhere?
The hoodlums in our colleges are all on the Left. Some of them are at high levels in college administration: Francois Houle, a Vice President at the University of Ottawa, was totally on the side of the mob. He actually wrote to Ann before her appearance, telling her that if anything she said hurt anyone's feelings, she'd be tased, thrown in the gunny sack, and hauled off to the Ministry of Love to have her thoughts rectified.
There's been mixed commentary about this on the conservative blogs. Some of the more serious-minded types consider Ann a bit of a buffoon. She has that kind of acidic sense of humor that rubs a lot of people the wrong way — especially people who have no sense of humor themselves, which is to say practically the entire political Left, but also a lot of conservatives.
Her shtick, for all its apparent spontaneity, is a very carefully-calculated one, stepping over the line just precisely as much as you can without big networks and publishers pulling the plug on you. She's frankly imperialist, believing we should spend our national wealth putting other countries to rights at a couple of trillion dollars a pop. She's a creationist — not from any thought-out philosophical position, but just from sheer ignorance … and so on.
Well, fair enough; but how many figures do we have on the Right with Ann's wit and courage, or with Ann's dogged refusal to give an inch to the enemy? I like the lady. She's one of the few, the very few conservatives that, every time I see them in action, bring to my mind the thought: "Thank goodness she's on our side!"
She's done us a service in this case, anyway, exposing yet again the shallow cowardice and corruption of the Western world's universities, the creeping totalitarianism that is taking over our intellectual life, and the dull-witted vindictiveness of those who should be upholding standards of free speech, free inquiry, and free assembly, but who instead choose to slam their doors on ideas that find no favor with the screeching leftist mobs who now police much of our public discourse.
09 — Miscellany. Faithful listeners know what comes next. Yes, it's our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Toyota won a round in its ongoing war against out-of-control trial lawyers and their congressional shills. A lady in the town of Harrison, north of New York City, had claimed that the gas pedal on her Toyota Prius had stuck, and the brake wouldn't respond, causing her to crash into a wall. An analysis of the car's computers by federal safety regulators shows that she never depressed the brake.
The lady just got her pedals mixed up. Just like all the other people claiming, or having attorneys claim for them, that their Toyota ran off with them and wouldn't brake.
I once again declare my determination that my next car will be a Toyota, just to stick a finger in the eye of the industry-wrecking trial lawyer bar, star exhibit ex-Senator John Edwards.
Item: A little show business news — I don't do half as much showbiz news as I should.
The Fifteen Minutes of Fame award this week goes to Michelle McGee, whose thoroughly tattooed bod has been gracing the pages of our tabloid newspapers on account of her having been found to have played leapfrog with Jesse James — not the weasel-faced 19th-century outlaw, but the weasel-hearted 21st-century husband of movie star Sandra Bullock.
These people have so much more money than I do, I have to work hard to squeeze out any sympathy for them; but Ms Bullock is one of those rare cases of a movie star who, to the best of my knowledge, has never made a nutty left-wing pronouncement. Furthermore, she was a good sport showing up to collect her Razzie award for worst actress; so I offer her my condolences, hope she kicks the bum out, and stand ready to write her a movie script that is not deeply patronizing to African Americans.
Just have your people call my people, Sandra.
Item: If you've ever wrestled personally with the U.S. immigration service, you know a thing that most native born Americans don't know: That while there are some decent people in the service trying to do a decent job, or at least not to screw up too badly till they reach pension age, the whole thing is mismanaged and hopelessly overburdened.
It would be too much to expect immigration managers to 'fess up to mismanagement, but at least they are coming clean about having far more cases than they can possibly handle.
Here's Frank Deffer, Assistant Inspector General in the Homeland Security Department, talking to the immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee this week, quote:
Adding twelve million more people to the system would be the mother of all backlogs. Clearly to us the systems could not handle it now.
Just something to bear in mind when you hear airhead politicians talk about monitoring all the conditions they'll attach to that "path to citizenship" — paying back taxes, learning English, paying fines, providing valid documents … None of that will happen. It'll all get lost in the bureaucracy. Take it from me: I was lost in the bureaucracy for seven years, and I wasn't one of a twelve-million-strong tsunami.
Whatever you think of amnesty as a political or moral issue, it will be an administrative fiasco.
Item: Google has definitely pulled out of China, relocating its China traffic to a Hong Kong Google. The ChiComs reacted by saying that the Chinese people's feelings had been deeply hurt by the move, and that Google was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CIA.
This is one episode in a long-range plan by the ChiComs to hack into our military, financial, and commercial websites, to shortcut their own development costs and set us up for a major crippling cyber-assault when the invasion of Taiwan goes ahead three or four years from now.
I commend Google for taking a stand, but it won't make much difference.
Item: Here's a phrase you may be hearing a lot soon: "pension apartheid." I picked it up from the British press.
What's happening over there is that the British Treasury is changing the tax rules so that private-sector pensions take a hit. Pensions in the public sector, however, are left pretty much untouched.
If that doesn't sound familiar over here, trust me, it soon will. Call your kids in. Shut the door. Sit them down. Make them repeat after you a hundred times: I Must Get a Government Job.
10 — Signoff. That's it, folks. A week of triumph for the government people, a week of despair for the rest of us.
Remember Obama's budget for next fiscal year? It came out in February, that's "February" as in "last month," and projected eight and a half trillion dollars total deficit across the next ten years.
Well, that was last month. The CBO just put out a revised estimate that is one point two trillion higher. Next month? — who knows.
Just make sure you have a good sturdy wheelbarrow in the garden shed. You'll be needing it to trundle round those heaped bundles of hundred-dollar bills to pay for the week's groceries with.
Take it from me: this administration's policies are going nowhere good.
[Music clip: Beryl Korman, Julia Meadows & Jennifer Partridge, "There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner."]