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[Music clip: Intro song for "SpongeBob SquarePants."]
01 — Intro. I'm most terribly sorry, listeners. We must have got our sound clips mixed up. Can't imagine how that happened. Heads will roll, I can assure you.
In the meantime, on with the show. [Clip: Ethel Merman, "Let's go on with the show."] Right, right, thank you, Ethel.
Well, this is — that errant intro clip notwithstanding — Radio Derb, broadcasting to you from our palatial state-of-the-art sound studio here on the 95th floor of Buckley Towers in the heart of Manhattan. I am your apologetically genial host John Derbyshire with all the week's news, or at any rate, as much as anyone should have to put up with.
02 — Flight attendant goes berserk. It's mid-August, the traditional Silly Season in the news biz, and the world has been living down to our expectations.
Major news item of the week concerned Steven Slater, a flight attendant for the airline JetBlue, who made a dramatic exit from his job after his plane landed at JFK Monday. When a passenger got up and opened the overhead bin before the pilot had given the word, Steven tried to restrain her. Words were exchanged, and Steven was struck on the head by the bin door.
Steven thereupon lost it. He went to the plane's PA system and launched the f-bomb heard round the world. Then he grabbed two beers from the beverage cart, opened one of the fuselage doors, and slid down the emergency chute into imperishable fame and everlasting glory.
He is now the greatest air travel-related folk hero since D.B. Cooper, if not Charles Lindbergh. There have been at least four songs written about him, a Japanese anime music video, Facebook pages, TV interviews, all the apparatus of modern celebrity, inevitably including talk of a reality TV show.
My own reaction has been sympathetic. In fact I'm deeply sympathetic to anyone whose job involves dealing with the public. In my own interactions with servicepersons I am, as Radio Derb listeners may well imagine, the exemplar and epitome of courtesy, restraint, consideration, and Old World charm.
I stand in line behind people, though. I see what happens on the line ahead of me at the bank, the supermarket, the post office. Let's face it, quite a lot of human beings seem to have been reared in warthog litters. They are loud, rude, coarse, and selfish.
What's "quite a lot"? I'd guess five to ten percent. That would be eight to fifteen passengers on the average Airbus. It's amazing that Slater lasted as long as he did in his job — though it can't have been 28 years, as he claimed in his PA system tirade, as he's only 38 years old.
One thing I do when stories like this come up — stories about some sort of workplace craziness — is, I go to the bookshelf and pull down Studs Terkel's 1972 classic, Working, subtitle "People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do."
Terkel was an old FDR lefty who collected oral history — sitting people down in front of a tape recorder and letting them talk. In Working he presents people from every kind of job, from stockbroker to waitress, talking about their daily routines.
So I pulled down the book and went looking for "flight attendant." Of course there was no such thing in 1972. The nearest thing is "airline stewardess," and it makes quaint reading. Quote:
The only time we can sit down is when we go to the cockpit. You're not supposed to spend any more than five minutes up there for a cigarette.
[Sigh.] Ah, 1972. Souvenir, souvenir, que me veux-tu?
Anyway, one factor not much commented on in the Steven Slater story, because it concerns things we're not supposed to notice, is Steven's homosexuality. It's not exactly a surprise: "straight male flight attendant" is an oxymoron, like "democratic socialist" or "honest politician from Chicago." It does, though, make the whole story less surprising.
Homosexuals are strongly inclined to be drama queens. What happened at JFK on Monday was just an inspired bit of drama queenery. Call me an evil stereotyper if you like; but stereotypes don't come out of nowhere, and I think any honest homosexual will admit to the truth of this one.
Anyway, Steven Slater is now back home in, er, Queens, New York, out on bail under charges of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. If he ever goes to court, it'll be the trial of the century … unless the Silly Season's over by then.
03 — La Reine in Spain. Speaking of Queens, Marie Antoinette, the unfortunate Queen of France, has been considerably mentioned in the public prints this past few days. This is in the context of our First Lady's trip to Europe, much criticized for its extravagance, and for Mrs Obama having chosen the beaches of Spain for her vacation rather than, say, those of New Jersey.
In fact, Mrs Obama's choice of Europe for a vacation is a bit odd, given the antipathy to the place expressed by her husband in his autobiography Dreams from My Father, subtitle "A Story of Race and Inheritance."
No doubt you all recall the relevant passages in Chapter 15 — I mean, since the book was a huge best-seller, I assume every literate American has read it. Quote from that chapter, where Obama is talking about his trip to Europe as a young man in 1988, long quote:
For three weeks I had traveled alone, down one side of the continent and up the other, by bus and by train mostly, a guidebook in hand. I took tea by the Thames and watched children chase each other through the chestnut groves of Luxembourg Garden. I crossed the Plaza Major at high noon, with its De Chirico shadows and sparrows swirling across cobalt skies; and watched night fall over the Palatine, waiting for the first stars to appear, listening to the wind and its whispers of mortality.
Obama actually gives over a page and a half to his travels in Spain, the very same country in which his Missus and kids were frolicking this week. You don't learn much about Spain from that page and a half, though, nor even anything much about young Barack's feelings about Spain. What you learn is that halfway between Madrid and Barcelona he met an African from Senegal, and rode on the bus to Barcelona with him, and bonded with him.
So here's 27-year-old Barack Obama, a middle-class American kid, raised by a middle-class American mother and her middle-class American parents, mostly in the United States of America, a child of European civilization, and the major event he records about his trip to Europe is bonding with a West African he meets on the road — not even an East African, like Obama's Dad, but a West African from a considerably different culture.
Ah, but the guy was black, and with Obama that's all that counts, that's all that ever counts. Was the selling of Obama as a trans-racial healer the biggest con job ever pulled on the American electorate, or what?
Well, at least Michelle doesn't seem to share her husband's distaste for Europe; though it's a question how much of it she actually managed to see, past the mighty throng of Secret Service personnel, assistants, staffers, assistants to staffers, chauffeurs, personal trainers, hair stylists, manicurists, personal shoppers, and hangers-on she took with her.
From what we heard and saw, this was a very high-maintenance lady even before her spouse ascended into the infinite wealth that nowadays accompanies political power in America. I'm surprised she didn't commandeer a carrier battle group.
How much of the First Lady's extravagance was taxpayer-funded? Enough to be annoying, I'll wager; but let's take what little comfort we can from the fact that Mrs Obama seems not to dislike the white folks' civilization as much as her husband confesses to, in his own words, in his own autobiography. "It just wasn't mine."
04 — Charlie Rangel's birthday bash. Everybody who is anybody was at Charlie Rangel's 80th birthday bash Wednesday night, notwithstanding that the congressman is facing a trial by the House Ethics Committee on 13 charges of corruption and malfeasance.
Both New York senators showed up, Schumer and … the other one; so did the current governor of the state, and the probable next governor, Andrew Cuomo. I say "probable" because while Cuomo is universally agreed, even by his own allies, to be a snake in the grass who would kill, cook, and serve up his own parents as the entrée for a fund-raising dinner if there were votes in it, New York State Republicans, who form the far-stupid wing of the Stupid Party, have decided to run a bobble-head doll against him in November.
Cuomo heaped extravagant praise on Rangel's head, saying, quote:
His voice has always been a powerful voice for the forgotten people and the forgotten places of this nation.
Well, yes; but it's only fair to note that Rangel has forgotten a few people and places himself when filling out his tax forms — the tenants in those undeclared New York apartments he owns, for instance, and that villa of his in the Dominican Republic.
As extravagant as Cuomo's praise was, Al Sharpton went one better, comparing Charlie Rangel to Jesus of Nazareth. Again, comparisons are odious, but one can't help reflecting that Rangel fell somewhat short in the matter of rendering unto Caesar.
Ah well: the guy's 80 years old, and unless all those pols praising him Wednesday are mistaken, which isn't likely, he's still a vote-getter.
There you have the problem. No matter how often we point out what thieves, liars, vermin, and swine most politicians are, and how shamelessly the pols themselves strive to confirm the judgment, millions of people just go on voting for them anyway.
Maybe democracy isn't such a great idea after all. Or perhaps New York Republicans aren't such dribbling morons as I've always taken them for. Maybe a Congress full of bobble-head dolls is what we need. At least they wouldn't do much harm.
05 — Wheels coming off U.S. economy. The Dow Jones Index took another sensational plunge this week, though this has become so routine lately the sensationality of it barely registers any more. The drop was over three percent just for Wednesday and Thursday.
First there was Tuesday's announcement that the Federal Reserve is buying more short- and medium-term Treasury paper. Government buying its own paper isn't quite as desperate as it sounds, but it's still a bad sign. The announcement also stirred fears about who, if anybody, wants to buy the long bond any more, or indeed go long on anything much any more. Faith in the future is not the keynote of our age.
Then figures came out indicating that the global economy is stalling — even in China, which everyone agrees has a huge property bubble that's about to pop. Given the economic linkage between our economy and China's, this is really one to watch.
For the triple whammy we got news that applications for jobless benefits here in the U.S. reached a new high last week.
Yep, the wheels are coming off the economy. At least, they're coming off the private-sector economy. Government's doing just fine, and those of you who have followed my many injunctions to Get a Government Job will treasure the day you first tuned in to Radio Derb.
CNBC.com has in fact just published a list, with a cute little slide-show, titled "America's Best Cities for Six-Figure Jobs." See if you can guess which city is Number One. Yes, it's Washington, D.C. Unemployment rate 6.7 percent, against the nation's 9.5.
The federal government is determined to keep the public-sector pot boiling, too. On Tuesday the President signed into law a new $26 billion tranche of stimulus money to — and I'm quoting here from the August 11 Washington Post — to, quote, "save the jobs of thousands of teachers and other government workers." Nancy Pelosi called the congressweasels back from their summer vacations to vote on the package … which, by the way, was only half as big as Obama had requested.
Quote from the President after the signing ceremony:
We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children and keep our communities safe.
Or, to slightly modify a remark of a previous President: "When public-sector workers are hurting, government must move."
Wait a minute, though: isn't the government broke? Where did they come up with the money to fund this new $26 billion bail-out of states that have recklessly over-spent on their public employees?
Well, a big chunk of the money came from raiding the Food Stamps program. Yep, there's a clause in the bill that strips $12 billion from Food Stamps. Some Democrat congresscritters were upset about this, though not enough to vote against the bill.
So here we got a glimpse of the Democratic Party in the age of Obama. Democrats are the party of government people. The two most reliable Democrat constituencies are public-sector workers, who depend on government for their paychecks, and poor people, who depend on government for their welfare checks, food stamps, Medicaid, and the rest.
When push comes to shove, though, and a Democratic administration is looking at either (a) allowing government workers to be laid off, or (b) shafting the poor, they don't hesitate. Government workers vote, and the poor vote; but you see, government workers, through their unions, supply funds to the Democratic Party. Poor people on food stamps don't, because they're, you know, poor.
For the Obamarrhoids, it was a no-brainer. [Ker-ching.]
06 — Ramadan-a-dingdong. The President issued a Ramadan Statement, directed at Muslims in America. Ramadan is the month when pious Muslims fast from dawn to sundown. The holy month, and the rituals associated with it, remind us, says the President, of, long quote:
… the principles that we hold in common, and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings. Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.
End long quote. Let's just analyze that a little.
There are indeed some principles that Muslims and non-Muslims hold in common. We all believe, for example, that thieves should be punished, though there are some differences of opinion about the precise nature of the appropriate penalty. However, there are also principles that Muslims hold, that non-Muslims don't agree with: the principle, for example, that it's OK to have more than one wife at the same time.
And then: "Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings." That's tendentious. In those nations where Islam dominates, non-Muslims are second-class citizens, required to pay a special tax, the jizya. How does that square with "the dignity of all human beings"?
Next, the great advances in justice, progress, tolerance, and dignity this past thousand years have come out of Europe. Islam's contribution to those advances has been nil, at any rate since the tenth century.
And then: "A faith known for great diversity and racial equality"? I'm sure the numberless victims of the Islamic slave trade up and down East Africa this past several centuries would be interested to hear about that. Some of them must still be among us: Slavery was only abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1964, and it is still practiced in the Muslim nation of Mauretania.
This is not even to mention the slave raiding across the Mediterranean throughout the Middle Ages and into modern times, when untold numbers of Europeans disappeared into the slave barracoons and galleys of Muslim North Africa.
Again: "Islam has always been part of America." Well, I suppose that's technically true, inasmuch as there were presumably a few Muslims resident here since Independence; but then, the statement would be equally true, on the same terms, if you substituted any other old system of thought or belief for Islam. Odin worship has always been part of America. The Divine Right of Kings has always been part of America. Rosicrucianism has always been part of America. Etc., etc.
Then comes the eyebrow-raiser, quote: "American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country." Have they? Name one.
Now look: I don't mind Islam. I'm the guy who confessed to Islamophobophobia. As religions go, Islam is as internally consistent as any other, and seems to give more than the average amount of consolation to believers. Islamic countries have, for example, very low rates of suicide.
There are some things about Islam that can't be denied, though. One is that it doesn't play well with other religions. The few individual Muslims I've known seemed like very nice people. Sometimes, however, individual niceness just doesn't scale up. When you look at non-Muslim countries with large numbers of Muslims settled in them, you're looking at water with droplets of oil floating in it. Islam just doesn't mix, doesn't assimilate.
Another thing is the terrorist connection. Of course it's not the case that all Muslims support terrorism. Enough of them do, though, to make it the case that any Muslim organization is addled with terrorist sympathizers and corrupted with funds from terrorist-supporting factions in Muslim nations.
Similarly, of course not every mosque is a haven for plotters; but enough are to cast deep suspicion on the rest.
I'm fine with Islam — a noble and ancient faith, its tenets no more preposterous or reality-defying than those of any other religion. I don't want Islam planted in force in any country I myself live in, though; and I don't see why it should be permitted so to plant itself. There are 56 nations in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Any Muslim who wants to move to another country is spoiled for choice. Why do they want to move to non-Muslim countries?
And why should we let them do so? When did it become a precept of morality that a nation has to permit settlement by anyone, any group, any religion, that wants to settle, in any numbers? If those 56 Islamic nations are entitled to their Islamic-ness, as I sincerely believe they are, why are not America, Britain, France, and the Netherlands entitled to our customary non-Islamicness?
What was wrong with the U.S.A. being a nation with very, very few Muslims in it? What were Americans missing back then? Oh right: those "extraordinary contributions," like [crickets chirping] and [more crickets].
07 — Birthright citizenship (cont.). As reported by Radio Derb last week, the issue of birthright citizenship has recently come to the fore, both in Congress and in the public prints, and the 14th Amendment is now a topic of common conversation around the nation's water coolers.
Let me just correct a slight mis-statement in last week's broadcast. I said that immigration didn't come up in the debates on the 14th Amendment, whose purpose was to secure citizenship for freed slaves. That's technically true, since immigration wasn't an issue in 1868. The nation's borders at that time were essentially open, and naturalization was mostly in the hands of the various states with just a few blanket rules, such as, you had to be white — which, as a matter of fact, was one of the reasons the Amendment was needed.
Well, while technically true, that's not the whole story. Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, who served on the committee that drafted the 14th Amendment, did say, quote:
This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers.
Fair enough. However, I still say that litigating the 14th Amendment is a no-hoper in a nation whose judiciary has a political center of gravity slightly to the left of Pol Pot. We need either a new amendment, which is a very difficult thing to accomplish, or we need to greatly restrict chain migration, which will remove a lot of the point of birthright citizenship, and, most of all, we need to enforce the laws we've already got, deporting illegal immigrants and securing the borders and the visa system against further inflow.
Wherever you stand on the particulars, further evidence that we need to do something came this week from the Pew Hispanic Center, who issued a report saying that eight percent, one in twelve, of the babies born in the U.S.A. in 2008 was born to an illegal immigrant mother. That adds about 340,000 infants to the four million or so U.S.-born children of illegals already here. One in twelve.
This is madness. We tell foreign applicants, people with work skills and college degrees and lifelong records of law-abiding industriousness, we tell them to wait years just for a green card entitling them to live and work here, while meanwhile we shut our eyes to illiterate peasants and criminals slipping over the border and producing citizen babies at a rate of 340,000 a year. One in twelve.
Hundreds of millions of people all over the world want to come settle in the U.S.A. We should select the ones we want, and admit them in an orderly fashion, not let them select themselves.
It's madness, it's national suicide. You can't even plead "diversity" on this one: we all know that 95 percent of those 340,000 anchor babies are Mexican. Why not just give Mexico a couple of states and have done with it?
In fact, since the dominant ratio here is one in twelve and we have fifty states … let's see, one-twelfth of fifty is … four and one-sixth: OK, let's give them four states. To make up the one-sixth, let's throw Washington, D.C. into the deal. The nation would be far better off without that compost heap.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: The Japanese surrender happened 65 years ago this weekend, after three years and nine months of terrible fighting. Meanwhile the war in Afghanistan heads for its tenth year, and this week's news is that the Afghan National Army has at last stood up.
Yes, the ANA, after all these years of recruiting and training, on its own initiative sent a battalion of soldiers, with no NATO support, into a Taliban-infested region east of Kabul. How'd it work out? How'd you think? They got their rear ends handed to them on a platter.
An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman allowed that, quote, "There were some tactical mistakes, and the weather was also a problem." That darn weather!
Onward and upward into the second decade of our vitally important mission in Afghanistan. At this rate, after 65 years the Afghan National Army should be lacing their own boots.
Item: Further evidence that the U.S. party system is becoming ever more straightforwardly race-based came from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Harry, or Haroldo, told a Hispanic audience in Nevada, or as we Anglos call it, "Snowfall," Haroldo told them that, quote:
I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay. Do I need to say more?
No, you really don't, Harry. America is waking up fast from her 50-year dream of racial harmony, and ever more frankly accepting that in a multiracial society, politics will always cut by race, with each race uniting under a party banner to fight for a share of the national spoils.
The Obama administration has given a mighty assist to the wakening process. White Americans who don't have government jobs increasingly look at the Democratic Party and say what young Barack Obama said about European civilization: "It just isn't mine."
This is sad, but it's true, and you know it.
Item: Talk about the Silly Season. Here's my headline of the week, from the website of WSAZ in Kanawha County, West Virginia, quote: "Man Caught with Pants Down and an Armless Mannequin in Public Park."
Sheriff's deputies found 61-year-old Eddie Campbell sitting on a park bench with an armless mannequin on his lap, holding it with one hand while pleasuring himself with the other. All of this happened in a residential area and close to a church, the deputies reported.
Well, thank goodness it wasn't a mosque — who knows what the punishment for that is under Sharia law. [Clip: "Sharia" to the tune of "Maria" from West Side Story.]
Eddie grabbed two beers and headed for the exit, but the deputies caught him. A 61-year-old guy doesn't move too fast with his pants down. Now Eddie's been charged with indecent exposure. The mannequin was released on her own recognizance. I very much hope it was a "her" anyway, we're way over our quota on gay references this week.
Item: My Republican friends are chuckling with glee over the prospects for November. Perhaps you should sober up a little, guys.
Wednesday's Wall Street Journal reported figures from the latest of the polls they regularly take jointly with NBC. Just 24 percent of those polled expressed positive feelings about the Republican Party. That's a new low in the 21-year history of the Journal's survey.
Democrats are actually slightly more popular, though their number is also at an all-time low. The mood we're in right now is, we just hate politicians.
I certainly do. If I were to turn on the TV news and see footage of an angry mob sacking Congress and stringing up the congressroaches from utility poles on Pennsylvania Avenue, I'd yawn, scratch, murmur "That's not very nice," then go out and do a bit of gardening. Like the rest of you, I just hate the buggers.
Now of course this isn't entirely fair. Some politicians are human beings; and if you look hard enough, you'll find the odd one who's trying selflessly to do something for his country. You can't do without politics. That's a fantasy. There have been some attempts in history to put an end to politics, and they didn't work out well.
Our problems are systemic and institutional. When a society faces major, systemic, institutional problems, what happens is, it doesn't face them. It ignores them until there is some huge and ghastly crisis. Then there's a revolution. That, in my humble opinion, is where the U.S.A. is currently headed, and what these poll numbers are telling us.
Item: News from the wonderful world of science: Researchers at the University of Queensland — the word "queens" seems to be popping up a lot this broadcast, doesn't it? Don't blame me. I don't make the news, I just report it — yes, these researchers have been sequencing the genomes of sea sponges from the sea floor around Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Guess what: the sponges share seventy percent of their DNA with us, Homo sap.
Well, that's cheering, isn't it? Makes you feel so much better about the human race.
Er, wait a minute: homo … Queensland … queens … Ah, the heck with it. Gimme a couple of beers and open the fuselage door …
09 — Signoff. Now hold on a minute. That last item — who put that in there? [Girls giggling.] Was that you, Candy? Mandy, was it you? And then, that intro clip of the SpongeBob song … OK, I get it. Clever, real clever. You girls! [More giggling.]
You must excuse us, ladies and gents, we sometimes have a little harmless fun here. That's "harmless," not to be confused with the armless fun Eddie Campbell was having with his mannequin. Nothing like that at all, absolutely not.
OK, girls, head on up to the grotto, see if Jonah's got the weekend party started yet. I understand we've got a mystery guest this week. They won't give me a name, only that he's a real party animal, and absolutely not a crook …
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]