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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb is on the air! This is your convalescently genial host John Derbyshire, returned from the place of sickness and misery to bring you another roundup of the week's news.
Yes, listeners, that delightful mid-November romp in a cruise ship with eight hundred conservatives on board was paid for with a week of sneezing and coughing. Nature demands a balance; pleasure must be paid for with pain. This is the law of life, and it is not for us mere mortals to question it.
However, medicated with regular doses of Kentucky's finest, and soothed by frequent rub-downs from my devoted assistants, I am now back in the saddle, ready to bring you another instalment of the most depressing commentary since the Book of Lamentations. Here we go.
02 — Wikileaks (1): Sneaking sympathy. The big headliner this week was the Wikileaks scandal. I have to confess the whole thing stirred my inner anarchist to life.
Julian Assange, the Wikileaker, is said — by his mother, who ought to know — to be driven by, quote, "a deep-seated mistrust of authority."
Now, a deep-seated mistrust of authority is no bad thing. It is in fact a very American thing, though Mr. Assange is Australian. Let X be the number of people — world-wide, throughout history — who lost their property, liberty, or life through placing too much trust in authority; and let Y be the number of people who lost their property, liberty, or life through placing too little trust in authority. Is there any doubt that X is much, much bigger than Y?
Is there any righteous American conservative who doesn't feel some sympathy stirring in his breast at hearing the phrase "a deep-seated mistrust of authority," in an age when authority is instantiated in the likes of Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton?
So this Wikileaker strikes a sympathetic chord with me. That chord is only amplified when I see that his leaking has enraged Vladimir Putin, the ChiComs, Hillary Clinton, the Turkish Prime Minister, and a whole raft of other people the sight of whose whose discomfiture is balm to my soul.
Furthermore, the leaks as reported are penny-ante stuff that make it hard to believe the whole business is really very important. Who fell off his chair on hearing that the Saudis are duplicitous rats, the Pakistanis are corrupt and incompetent terrorist-coddlers, our stooge government in Afghanistan is milking us for all they can get, Medvedev is Putin's sock puppet, ChiCom hackers run wild in our government and business systems, or Gaddafi is a lecherous old coot? Anyone surprised by any of that? Anyone? Me neither.
Well, all of that was the heart speaking. Then the head spoke up; and for the record, I am very much a head guy, not a heart guy. Raison d'etat is not an empty phrase in my lexicon.
To preserve and advance the interests of their citizens, nations need to do certain things, not all of which should be made known. There are useful lies to be told, useful pretences to be preserved, useful people to be protected. Some of that needs secrecy.
Let it also be noted that Mr. Assange is not waging cyber-war against authority in general, only against the authorities of the United States. If he had simultaneously released transcripts of diplomatic traffic from the embassies of China, Russia, Europe, India, Mexico, and the Arab world, my heart mught have a better case.
As it is, my head is the clear winner here. I hope they find Mr Assange and prosecute him. No, I don't think he should be tried for treason in the U.S.A. Treason only has meaning in time of war. If the U.S. authorities want to try anyone for treason, let them first have the congresschickens issue a formal declaration of war against someone, as the Constitution demands. Until the day our congressroaches can summon up enough spinal tissue between them to do that, let's have no talk of treason.
Try the guy on some minor offense and send him down for five years of breaking rocks in the Aleutians.
03 — Wikileaks (2): Defensive driving. The Wikileaks scandal does after all have this other dimension, one that further inclines conservatives to go easy on Mr Assange.
Let me come at this through a personal story. The other day my teenage daughter drove me to the railroad station. She's 17, has been driving for a year. So she drove me to the station in our family sedan and pulled into the station forecourt to let me out. She stopped behind and to the left of a big SUV.
As I was unbuckling my seatbelt the SUV suddenly reversed into us, damaging our front fender. I got out, somewhat ticked. The SUV driver got out, somewhat apologetic. Insurance information was exchanged. I went to my train. My girl drove home.
Back home that evening she asked me: "Dad, I wasn't at fault there, was I?" I had to measure my words before answering. At last I said something like this:
Honey, you were not technically at fault. Nobody would blame you for that accident. He should have looked before reversing. However, you had stopped right in his blind spot. That doesn't excuse him. A driver is supposed to constantly check his blind spot and know what's there. He didn't, so the fault is his. At the same time, it was not smart to stop in his blind spot.
OK, I'll argue that something similar applies to the Wikileaks business. The blame is all on the leakers, Assange and his collaborator. They are the guy in the SUV doing a bad, dumb thing. They are the ones we should ticket. The fault is theirs. They did it. No doubt, no excuse.
At the same time, if your diplomatic traffic is controlled by a system some energetic hacker can get into and expose, well, you're parked in the blind spot. If you don't want this kind of thing to happen, get yourself some hacker-proof communication systems. If there are none available, go back to diplomatic pouches. Do what you have to do.
Conservatives are never surprised to learn that the federal government is lousy at doing something. It's an article of faith with us that the federal government is lousy at doing pretty much anything. We don't necessarily, in all cases, like this, though. We'd prefer to think that where national security is concerned, there are at least a few competent patriots on the federal payroll — some folk who know the national-security equivalent of defensive driving.
04 — Norks kick up the dirt. Overseas, we see the North Koreans playing up again. They shelled a South Korean island, killing two soldiers and wounding a dozen other people. The South Koreans shelled back a bit, and that was that.
Nobody has a clue why the Norks do anything, but there was the usual array of opinions on offer. The most popular one was, they want us to give them some stuff — food or oil or something. Having no economy, the Norks depend on other countries giving them stuff. When this doesn't happen, they kick up the dirt a bit, then everyone gets scared and gives them stuff to quiet them down.
Among the runner-up explanations:
You can take your pick from the explanations on offer. I have no clue, and I don't believe anyone else has either. I do believe, though, that South Korea, with twice the population of the North and a GDP 34 times as big, should be able to take care of itself.
A little naval display never does any harm, but I am baffled to know why we still have troops stationed in South Korea. The Korean War ended 57 years ago. If there is unfinished business between North and South Korea, let them finish it themselves.
05 — The Moment of Truth on spending. The topic for this segment is the nation's finances: how much the federal government spends, and how much it takes in in taxes and other revenues.
The polite way to speak of these numbers is as percentages of our Gross Domestic Product. Here you go: This year the feds will spend 24 percent of our GDP, take in revenues equal to 15 percent, leaving a deficit of nine percent, around $1.3 trillion.
With the baby boomers starting to retire, things can only get worse. So what to do? Well, in February the President set up an 18-member commission headed by Erskine Bowles, a bigfoot Democrat who served in the Clinton administration, and Alan Simpson, a former Republican U.S. Senator. This was the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
Well, this week the commission brought forth its report, title "The Moment of Truth." To confuse the issue, Bowles and Simpson put out a preliminary report of their own a few days ago, but there are no tremendous differences between the two reports.
The commissioners want to get that nine percent deficit down to two percent by 2015. To do it, they suggest a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes, in the ratio two to one.
It's mostly pretty mild stuff, risibly so when they get on to longer-term plans. They propose, for example, raising the social security eligibility age to 69 by 2075. If there are any four-year-olds in the room with you, this may be of interest to them.
It's highly likely nothing will come of these proposals. For one thing the incoming Republican House majority has already said they won't touch them because of the tax hikes. For another, public opinion polls consistently show strong opposition to any cuts at all to any entitlements at all. With Congress against tax hikes and the public against spending cuts, what are the odds? I ask you.
Nice work there though, guys. The cover design on the report is really neat. I love that little fleur-de-lys thingy at the top.
Also in this zone, on Monday President Obama proposed a two-year pay freeze for federal employees. Sort of. Kind of. More or less.
What he's actually proposed is to freeze the annual cost-of-living adjustments to federal pay. Federal worker bees will still get automatic step raises based on simple longevity and raises based on job classification upgrades, which are at the whim of managers. So not much to worry about here, you federal folk.
In tangentially-related news, here's a report from Newsweek, November 10th, on America's richest counties. Guess what? Seven of the nation's ten richest counties are in commuting distance of Washington, D.C. — three in Virginia, four in Maryland. Of the other three, two are in New Jersey, one in New York … and no, I don't live in any of them.
So … full speed ahead, everyone. Iceberg? What iceberg?
06 — Fry Mumia!. I missed this one, being too busy packing the week before the cruise.
November 9th there was a hearing in a Philadelphia federal courtroom in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who murdered Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981.
Let me just say that again: The murder occurred in December 1981, 29 years ago next week.
There is not a shadow of doubt that Abu-Jamal was the murderer. He was convicted eight months later, after a trial he did his best to disrupt. He was then sentenced to death by a unanimous decision of the jury. Yet this vermin is still with us, kept alive by a vast international campaign and the log-rolling punctilio of the U.S. criminal justice system.
What was the November 9th hearing about? Don't ask me. Some damn fool bogus appeal against a decision on appeal of a decision on an appeal about some microscopic point of order in some previous decision on some earlier appeal about some other point of order … and so on for 30 years of nit-picking. Faulkner's widow Maureen, who was married to her husband just two years before Abu-Jamal killed him, was present in court November 9th.
Here is what Maureen Faulkner said to the Philadelphia Enquirer, quote:
Put the man to death for what he's done. My husband was murdered in premeditation and malice on December 9th, 1981. Here I sit 30 years later in court. It's become an absolute joke and it's got to stop. It really has to … Every time we have to go into a courtroom, it is like a wound being ripped back open. It is so emotional for us.
Radio Derb heartily seconds Mrs. Faulkner's plea, with only this qualification: That while this is indeed a joke, it's one nobody should be laughing at. The criminal justice system has flagrantly, cruelly, and egregiously failed Mrs. Faulkner and all the rest of us.
Quote from the Philadelphia Enquirer story, quote:
For an hour, lawyers for Abu-Jamal and the Philadelphia district attorney were peppered with questions by the three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. A decision is not expected before 2011.
For this we have federal judges? How many questions can there be to "pepper" the lawyers in the case with, after thirty godforsaken years? Do these federal judges really have nothing better to do?
Did Abu-Jamal murder Officer Faulkner, or did he not? Don't we know the answer? After thirty blessed years? What is Mrs Faulkner in the eyes of the law — chopped liver?
For crying out loud, can we please execute this piece of refuse and have done with it?
Anyone know where I can get a FRY MUMIA T-shirt?
07 — Earmarks: Localize benefits, distribute costs. Tuesday the U.S. Senate voted down a proposal to outlaw earmarks. Earmarks — those are the little appropriations that congresscritters slip into bills to bring a bit of pork home to their districts or states. The vote was 56 to 39.
With earmarks you're looking at the fundamental flaw in representative democracy, the flaw called "localize benefits, distribute costs." A congressman snaffles a few million dollars for a new federal building in his home town. It's a big thing there: profits for contractors, work for construction people, then a bunch of bureaucrats to be hired — what's not to like? The costs of the thing, meanwhile, are smeared out over the entire nation, so nobody notices.
The same kind of logic applies to illegal immigration. Some meatpacking plant somewhere gets a huge tranche of cheap labor — a big thing for the firm, maybe even for the town if it's one of those aging, dying communities whose storekeepers are glad to see some new customers.
The illegals come with costs, however: health care, education for their kids, incarceration for their crimes, ultimately pensions and disability payments. Those costs are all smeared out across the nation too, though. Our meat-packer has privatized his profits and socialized his costs — a pretty nice trick if you can pull it off.
Understand please that the problem here is fundamental and structural. It's not left-right or Republican-Democrat. It's someone figuring out how to get a private or local benefit while smearing out the cost. Earmarks are just an especially visible aspect of it.
Can you have a representative democracy without this problem? Maybe you can; but if so, after two hundred and twenty-odd years, we still haven't figured out how. So the chance we'll be seeing the end of this any time soon is, oh, round about … zero point zero zero.
08 — Homophobia the new racism. In case you hadn't noticed, let me bring to your attention the current big push by a mass of leftist groups acting together to shame out of public life all criticism of homosexuality.
The so-called Southern Poverty Law Center is out in front of the effort. This nest of crooks, whose financial and ethical shenanigans have been exposed innumerable times, starting with their hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Adertiser in 1994, this gang of thieves is still being held up by our left-wing media as an unimpeachable authority on who should or should not be accepted as respectable contributors to public debate.
They publish lists of "hate groups," supposedly organizations that yearn to enslave people or hustle people into gas chambers or burn crosses on people's lawns, but in practice mostly just lobbies for causes that the far left finds objectionable.
Well, the Southern Poverty Law Center has now added the Family Research Council and the American Family Assocation onto its list of "hate groups" because they are socially conservative and refuse to celebrate homosexuality. That, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, categorizes you with Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party.
Right behind the Southern Poverty Law Center come the far-left media shills, CNN of course leading the pack. The other day Kyra Phillips, one of the resident lefties over at CNN, did a weepy, furrowed-brow piece about how homosexuals are suffering persecution every day of the week, and why don't we have more "hate crime" legislation?
All the stuff you're hearing about so-called "bullying" is a synchronized part of the same campaign.
Homosexuals are already a preference group, with special legal privileges and rights setting them above ordinary citizens, and privileged access to social goods and government resources.
The next step is to outlaw all criticism of them — all mention of the fact, for example, that the AIDS plague in America was spread by promiscuous male homosexuals.
The principle of equality under the law is long gone: A homosexual beating up a heterosexual is by no means the same thing in a U.S. courtroom as a heterosexual beating up a homosexual.
Next down the memory hole after legal equality goes freedom of speech and assembly. If I want to say aloud that homosexuality is antisocial and unhealthy, pretty soon I shall not be able to. If I prefer to conduct my private life as far away as possible from homosexuals, that preference too will soon be illegal.
Enjoy your liberties while you can, listeners; you won't have them much longer.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
This comes from the town of Graz, in Austria. A townsperson, identified only as Helmut G. — I think it should be pronounced "Gay" in German … but let's stick with G — Helmut G. was yodeling, in his own garden, because he was in a good mood, so he says, when Muslim neighbors heard him. They took his yodeling amiss, said he was trying to mock them by imitating the call of the Muezzin. [Clip: Adhaan, the Muslim call to prayer.]
A judge agreed with them and fined Helmut 800 Euros. So be careful where you yodel.
Item: The government has approved a plan to hold and deport thousands of illegal immigrant workers whom the head of the government described as, quote, "a threat to the character of the country."
Speaking to his cabinet officers, he further said that thousands of illegals who have entered the country across the southern border in past years would be housed at a special holding facility, due to built in the southwestern desert. Quote from him, quote:
We must stop the mass entry of illegal migrant workers because of the very serious threat to the character and future of the nation.
He added that severe fines would be imposed on employers who gave work to illegals.
Gotta love that Benjamin Netanyahu!
Item: If you drive I-495 through New Jersey on your way to New York, you'll see one of these new atheist billboards. It shows, all in silhouette, the three wise men riding their camels towards the stable, in which are Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child. The star of Bethlehem is shining overhead. The text says: "You KNOW it's a myth. This season, celebrate REASON!"
I'm all right with this, as I can afford to be, having no religion myself. I can't forbear pointing out, though, that this billboard isn't so much pro-atheist as anti-Christian. At Ramadan shall we see an equivalent billboard telling Muslims to celebrate reason? At Rosh Hashanah, shall we see one aimed at Jews? At Kali Puja, one for Hindus?
I guess we'll find out.
Item: Astounding news here from Columbia University, the most liberal institution in one of the nation's most liberal cities in a liberal region. The senate of the university has approved a flag-raising ceremony! The November 21st New York Post reports that the ceremony was approved in time for Veterans' Day and will now be carried out every Monday by a small group of patriotic Columbia students.
Columbia is one of a raft of big-name universities — Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, Chicago, Tufts, etc. — that don't allow ROTC on campus. The students who negotiated the flag-raising are hopeful it's a step toward reinstatement of ROTC, but I wouldn't be so sanguine myself.
Still, it's better than nothing. If you're a Columbia student and want to participate, the flag-raising is 7 am Monday mornings at the southwest corner of Low Library.
10 — Signoff. That's full measure for this week, ladies and gents. I'm glad to be back on the air, I apologize for last week's absence and the previous week's scratchy, truncated broadcast from the remote Caribbean, and we shall strive to maintain regular service henceforth.
Now, that segment about yodeling has got me thinking. It's not just Alpine shepherds that yodel. There's a great yodeling tradition in American country music, too. Jimmie Rodgers could yodel up a storm. Hank Williams yodeled; Dolly Parton still yodels. In fact, I doubt there's a single country singer that didn't put out a yodeling number at some point.
So to see us out, here's a wee clip from one of my favorites from far back, I think the first bluegrass song I ever heard, circa 1958: Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys with Mule Skinner Blues. Take it away, guys.
[Music clip: Bill Monroe, "Mule Skinner Blues."]