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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. Radio Derb here listeners, hoping you can receive our broadcast through the storm of static created by Sunspot 1158.
That is a disturbance on the surface of the Sun causing our parent star to belch out great blobs of electrically-charged gas. A big enough blob may, when it hits the Earth's magnetic field, shut down communication, GPS, power grids, and all the other fragile stuff our civilization relies on. A monster blob back in 1859, known as the Carrington Event, brought the Aurora Borealis down to Baltimore and caused telegraph equipment to burst into flame. If we got one that big today, it would bring down civilization.
Sunspot 1158 doesn't seem to be that bad, and my private intuition is that humanity is quite capable of bringing down civilization by our own misdeeds, without our needing any help from Mother Nature.
So … hoping for the best, this is your electromagnetically genial host John Derbyshire with a roundup of the week's news.
02 — Wisconsin budget battle. One of the first things I was ever told in the journalism business, by a seasoned veteran of London's Fleet Street, was to be very careful what I wrote about the teachers' unions. Approximate quote from him:
You can say what you like about party leaders, government ministers, the IRA, the PLO, organized crime, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope, even the Royal Family. You'll get a couple of angry letters, that's all. But say something rude about the teachers' unions, you'll want one of those mirrors on a long handle to check for bombs under your car.
Just so. Hell hath no fury like a public-sector union that believes its political power to be under threat. These teachers, road crews, garbage collectors, and municipal paper-pushers have controlled state legislatures here in the U.S.A. for so long now with their bought-and-paid-for politicians, the thought of any legislative threat to their plush healthcare deals and triple-padded, inflation-proofed pensions drives them to insensate rage.
That's what we're seeing in Wisconsin this last couple of days. Wisconsin's new governor, Scott Walker, a Republican, came in after last November's elections with a Republican state Senate and House, and they found themselves looking at a $137 million hole in the state's current budget, which the state constitution requires to be balanced, and a likely $3.6 billion shortfall projected for the next two-year budget.
Governor Walker and his Republican legislators decided to reform the conditions of state employment. They drew up a bill that will double state employees' health-care contributions to 12 percent and their pension contributions to 5.6 percent — in both cases, bringing the figure up to about half what a private-sector employee pays. The bill also removes most bargaining rights from public-sector unions.
Most of us in the private sector can't even understand why public-sector workers need labor unions. The point of a labor union is to prevent a profit-making enterprise from maximizing profits by exploiting employees. Since a state is not a profit-making enterprise, what need for unions?
Since a state can't go out of business, public employment is always more secure than work for a private company. Public-sector workers should give up something in return for that security, and collective-bargaining rights are a fair thing to give up.
Public-sector unionization is in fact quite a new thing. Not until 1961 were federal employees given collective-bargaining rights, though some states and cities unionized earlier. Still today, many states do not permit public employees to unionize. Of all the nation's eight million public-sector workers, less than forty percent are unionized.
Still, we private-sector Johnnies think that's forty percent too many, and we're cheering on Scott Walker here.
Note to self: After broadcast, send out assistant to buy one of those mirrors with a long handle …
03 — Footnote to the preceding. I'm just going to add a brief footnote to that, a thought I always get when this issue comes up.
I won't play down the degree to which these unionized public-sector workers have been parasitic on the national economy. I mentioned Scott Walker raising state employees' health-care contributions to 12 percent and their pension contributions to 5.6 percent. Who pays for the other 88 percent on health care? Who pays for the other 94.4 percent on pensions? Why, the taxpayers of Wisconsin, of course.
That's the kind of distortion, the kind of injustice, that public-sector unionization has brought us. It's wrong and it needs fixing.
We'll be seeing a lot more of these kinds of battles, and the public sector will have to lose them, if the dollar is to retain any value at all. So there's a certain glee, a certain anticipatory triumphalism among conservatives here. The public-sector unions are, after all, the backbone of the Democratic Party.
Let's please remember, though, while we're exulting, that these are our fellow citizens here. The root cause of the problem is a systemic one that we have to fix, and I hope we do fix it. A patriot should always be troubled by large-scale civil dissension, though. America has enemies enough in the world, without us exhausting ourselves battling each other.
Let's fix the problem; let's get the public sector into some kind of reasonable alignment with the private sector on benefits. When it comes to vituperation against our fellow citizens, though, let's keep a sense of proportion. Someone has to teach the kids and collect the garbage. These sweetheart deals arose from faults in our political arrangements. I want the faults fixed, but I don't blame anyone for taking the deals.
We're going to win these fights, listeners, and the public-sector unions, and the Democratic Party they nourish, are going to be humbled and brought low. Let's just keep in mind the American tradition of magnanimity in victory. These are our neighbors, our friends, sometimes our family members; and we're all Americans.
04 — Obama's budget. OK, let's look at the national budget, specifically the one offered by President Obama this week.
Here is one of the oldest fables known to mankind. It was certainly current in 16th-century England — it was a favorite with Henry the Eighth. It turns up in old Persian folklore, and I'm sure was known to the Greeks, and probably the Egyptians and Sumerians too.
A man commits an offense in the presence of his king. The king sentences him to death on the spot. Before the guards can drag him away, though, he calls out: "Your Majesty! If you execute me, your kingdom will lose a great wonder-worker! Why, I can communicate with animals! Let me prove it: give me a one-year reprieve. In that year I will teach your Majesty's favorite horse to sing!"
That fable pretty much sums up President Obama's budget. Most of it is just empty blather about hiring new teachers, as if that is any business of the federal government, "cutting waste" in government operations, as if anyone knows how to do that, and "investing in American innovation," which, if it means anything, which of course it doesn't, would mean industrial policy — the surest macroeconomic loser of all time.
Obama does put in a claim that his budget will include more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction. In the small print, though, we see that this is over ten years, and is based on some highly optimistic assumptions. In other words, more empty blather.
Plainly Obama has no clue what to do about our looming fiscal crisis, no will to reduce the size of government, and just hopes we'll grow our way out of these problems somehow. In other words, he's hoping the horse will sing.
Well, I hope so too, Mr President, but I wouldn't bet money on it.
05 — Losing jobs, gaining people. Meanwhile the question hangs in the air — or rather it doesn't hang in the air, since it's one of those questions the raising of which signals that you are a hate-filled bigot with a closet full of SS regalia — why, with close to ten percent unemployment and only the feeblest signs of recovery, why are we settling over a million immigrants a year legally, and heaven only knows how many illegally?
Here are some numbers for you, from a report last November issued by the Center for Immigration Studies. The author is Steven Camarota, and you can find the report on their website.
In the decade of the 1990s, January '90 to March 2000, the U.S. economy created 21 million jobs. We took in 12 million immigrants, legal and illegal.
In the decade of the 2000s, January 2000 to March 2010, the U.S. economy lost a net one million jobs. In that decade we settled 13 million immigrants.
Got that? In the 1990s, with a roaring economy, we settled 12 million. In the 2000s, with a cratering economy, we took in more — 13 million. That may make sense to someone, but it makes no sense to me.
Nor to Roy Beck over at NumbersUSA. Roy makes the case for a time-out on all immigration until the national condition improves. He asks all the naughty questions, putting them in the context of the current debate over the federal budget. For example, quote:
It is clear that money for various kinds of social services to poor Americans will be cut significantly in the Continuing Resolution being debated in the House. So why would Congress insist on continuing to import more and more poverty by giving out more than a million green cards a year to immigrants who are much poorer than the average American?
The short answer to that is, that immigration is a subject polite people don't talk about. If the congresscritters go into a collective séance and summon up all the courage they have among them, they can just about bring themselves to discuss illegal immigration. Legal immigration is sacrosanct, though. If you want to talk about that, you are a very bad person.
So it may be that in the decade of the 2010s the U.S.A. will lose even more jobs — ten million, twenty million, who knows? If the immigration trend line continues, though, we shall bring in another 13, or 14, or 15 million immigrants for settlement. Damn the laws of arithmetic, it's the right thing to do.
06 — Ructions in the Arab world. More ructions in the Arab world.
I'm afraid I don't have much to say here. My own mental map of the world shows a zone of civilization, mainly English-speaking countries and a few others who've got the idea of rational government; and beyond that a zone of barbarism that should mainly be left alone, except for punitive expeditions when they make themselves a nuisance to us, and perhaps some strategic bribery to nip nuisance-making in the bud.
Not much of a brotherhood-of-man position, I'll admit, but well-supported by history, I'd claim.
So here are these Arabs, and Iranians too I think, howling in the streets about how corrupt their leaders are and how dysfunctional their political systems are, and how it's all America's fault. Well, I guess the Iranians aren't saying it's our fault, since their system was based on the overthrow of our guy, the Shah.
But what real hope for rational government is there in these places? These are subtropical populations with mean national IQs down in the 80s or low 90s. They have no tradition of consensual government. The dominant religion tolerates no dissent. Oil aside, they have nothing going for them economically. With world food prices rising fast, their populations will just get more desperate.
There's nothing we can do about any of this, and we have problems enough of our own. Let 'em sort it out among themselves.
The Chinese emperors had a chronic problem with wild people beyond their borders. They built a wall and developed a style of diplomacy they called "soothing the barbarians."
That would be my recommendation for the West. Build a wall to keep 'em out, and then soothe 'em as best we can, with a modest bribe thrown in as necessary.
07 — "Biblical exodus." The Europeans can't be quite that insouciant. North Africa's troubles are just across the Mediterranean from southern Europe. If things sink into real chaos and desperation among the Arabs, there will be a lot of people heading north across that sea.
It's not that much of a journey. The Sicilian Channel separating Italy from Tunisia is only a hundred miles wide, and there's a tiny Italian island, Lampedusa, closer than that. By way of comparison, it's 150 miles from Cuba to Florida.
These geographical facts are already causing problems. Reuters, February 13th, quote:
Nearly 1,000 people escaping turmoil in Tunisia landed on an Italian island overnight on Sunday after the government declared a wave of illegal immigrants a humanitarian emergency.
The Italian Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, has warned of a "biblical exodus" leaving Tunisia. And now Egyptians are showing up among the migrants too.
Bear in mind that these mostly young illegals are breaking into a continent in deep recession. Of Italians aged between 16 and 24, one in four — 25 percent — can't find a job. In Spain the number is 43 percent. There has already been a protest by fishermen in Lampedusa. Their slogan was: "Help us like you're helping the illegals."
Here's the BBC's Gavin Hewitt, reporting from Lampedusa this Wednesday, quote:
In a few days the winds will moderate and the seas will calm. Then Europe will discover whether the movement of the 5,000 was an impulse, a moment in time, or whether they reflect a deeper change — asking of Europe's leaders difficult and searching questions.
End quote. Brotherhood of man, anybody? Or "soothing the barbarians"?
08 — Lady reporter roughed up in Egypt. The big sidebar story this week on the Arab ructions was the roughing up of CBS reporter Lara Logan in Cairo.
Ms Logan was separated from her camera crew while covering a demonstration in Cairo. CBS tell us she suffered, quote, "a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating," though apparently the assault did not rise to the level of actual rape.
I guess it was a pretty awful experience for Ms Logan, but really, what did she expect? Your average Egyptian man in the street didn't get the memo from PC Central about how women have a right to do anything men do. They can't figure what a slender, beautiful blonde woman is doing in the middle of their demonstration. The only explanation that occurs to them is that she's an Israeli spy, so they start yelling "Jew! Jew!" and attack her. It was all perfectly predictable.
Ms Logan prides herself on toughness. She's reported from actual battle zones, and even taken some injuries. That's great, but it doesn't make the world other than what it is, and Ms Logan is a fool to think it does. Central Cairo is not Fairfax County, Virginia, and she ought to have know that. Ms Logan has a two-year-old daughter she should be thinking of.
Look, I'm doing my best to summon up some sympathy for the lady, but without much success. When all's said and done, stupidity and recklessness have their price.
My Wednesday New York Post front-paged this story, with a two-inch headline that just said "ANIMALS," referring to the Egyptian guys who assaulted Ms Logan. The Thursday edition headlined it again, this time with "FIND THE BEASTS." Not much brotherhood of man there, I guess.
ABC correspondent Ashleigh Banfield chimed in with an angry piece titled, quote, "Sex Attacks the Shameful Secret Job Hazard Faced by Female War Reporters." I'm afraid my reaction to that headline was "Duh." Doesn't anybody have any grasp on reality here?
Our President sure doesn't. He echoed the general tone of outraged indignation, sending out a demand that the Egyptian government round up and bring to justice the men who groped and beat Ms Logan.
This strikes me as arrogant and absurd. To the degree that Egypt even has a functioning government right now, their hands are kind of full, wouldn't you say? If they were to block out some time to deal with Western women suffering from a delusional belief in their own invulnerability, and the whining of feminist suck-ups in the White House whose notions of what is and is not due to women the Egyptians probably can't even comprehend, they'd be derelict in their duty to their own people.
If I were running the Egyptian government I'd give the matter just as much time as it takes to dictate a cable along the lines of "Don't send a woman to do a man's job," and toss further communications from Obama in the trash.
Does this make me a bigoted reactionary? I sure hope so. Give that little girl of yours some Mommy love, Ms Logan, and stay out of battle zones until she's old enough not to need it.
09 — The PC military (cont.) One of the most awful, most dismaying features of our age is the eagerness of the U.S. military to embrace all the craziest fantasies of multiculturalism and political correctness.
The prize exhibit here remains the Fort Hood shooting of November 2009. General George Casey's bizarre comment after the shooting that, quote, "as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse" — that comment woke a lot of people up to what has been happening, to the PC-ification of the one institution in our society above all that ought to be a PC-free zone.
Last week the Senate Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee released another report on Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter. It makes painful reading.
Hasan, you'll remember, was studying psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2003 to 2009. He was a simply terrible student. He did no work; his presentations were mish-mashes of verses from the Koran, often without a single medical term in them, and he ticked off everyone with his Islamist and anti-American rants. He was known to be in touch with fanatical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.
And yet the Army ignored all the red flags, which Hasan was not merely waving but practically beating his superiors over the head with, they ignored it all and kept giving him positive evaluations and promoted him.
Everything, everything, everything must yield to the cult of diversity — including, ultimately, the lives of 13 U.S. servicemen. This document breathes insanity — the insanity of our reality-defying, humanity-denying public ethos.
And then, just when you think things can't get more insane, here is the Virginia Military Institute, one of our oldest and most prestigious service academies. VMI announced a conference this March under the title 711-2011: East Meets West, in which, quote:
We celebrate the 1300th anniversary of Tariq ibn Ziyad's crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar, setting into motion the fusion between two worlds.
This caused so much outrage, VMI had to amend their web page for the event to remove the word "celebrate." That's all the concession they'd make, though, and the wretched conference is going ahead.
If anyone's organizing a protest against this outrage, I hereby sign up, and I can bring ten friends with loud voices. While the girls and girly-boys at VMI are trying to listen to lectures on the glory of Islamic civilization, let's give them some background music.
10 — Miscellany. OK, here comes our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: A follow-up here to last week's story about young Claudia Aderotimi, who flew all the way from London to Philadelphia for a booty-enhancement operation only to get injected with window caulk by an irresponsible amateur and die later from the effects.
We erroneously reported that an arrest had been made, but there is at least a prime suspect. The Philadelphia Enquirer identifies her as Padge Victoria Windslowe, age 41. Police have raided Ms Windslowe's apartment but not yet located her. She travels under several aliases and posts videos of herself on YouTube as "the Black Madam."
Should you encounter this person, alert the authorities, and on no account allow her to inject anything into your buttocks.
Item: Watson, a purpose-built computer, competed on Jeopardy with sensational success. This has given rise to a lot of talk about how humanity will soon be obsolete.
Obsolete for what purpose? We don't breed human beings for utility. Anyway, this is just one more step on a road we started down thousands of years ago, figuring ways to get machines taking over this or that human ability.
It started with the lever, a machine for lifting heavy objects. The process advanced through most of our physical functions, now we're getting into the mental ones. It's still one machine for one function, though; and the fact we have a machine that can win at jeopardy doesn't dminish me any more than having a machine that can lift ten-ton weights, which I also can't do.
If we get around to what the Articial Intelligence geeks call "whole brain emulation," where a machine can do everything a person can do, and all much better, then there'll be something to worry about.
Why would we do that, though? What would be the point? Let's stick with one gadget per function, and leave the creating of entire new brains to the old-fashioned method — which, as Werner von Braun pointed out, is at least cheap.
Item: What happens when an illegal immigrant criminal who should have been arrested and deported long since, commits a sensational murder? Well, you could ask the family of Chandra Levy.
Remember her? She was the congressional intern who disappeared in May 2001. U.S. Representative Gary Condit turned out to have been having an affair with her; he came under suspicion in her disappearance, and his political career was ruined.
Ms Levy's remains turned up a year later and investigators pinned the crime on Ingmar Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. Guandique was sentenced to sixty years in jail last Friday. Turns out he was a notorious attacker of women back in El Salvador, and fled to the U.S.A. to avoid jail time there.
Now, what was Guandique up to in the two years he was in this country prior to murdering Ms Levy? We don't know. Or to be precise, our federal authorities know but they won't share the knowledge with us. When U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen presented his sentencing memorandum last week, all the relevant passages — 43 pages of them — were redacted. Machen in fact wants Guandique's entire file sealed.
Why? Why do you think? Because it reveals the gross incompetence of our so-called immigration enforcement procedures and staff, that's why. Or if that's not why, let's see the report.
Item: A news item here on the down side of pessimism. Quote:
A patient's belief that a drug will not work can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to researchers.
Apparently if you're pessimistic that a painkiller will do much for you, it's less likely to do anything for you.
All I can say is, thank goodness that doesn't apply to alcohol.
11 — Signoff. There it is, ladies and gents. If you're not pessimistic after this week's news — the Arabs, the budget, VMI turning itself into a teen slumber party — I don't know what I can tell you.
I do know what I can play for you as exit music, though …
[Music clip: Beryl Korman, Julia Meadows & Jennifer Partridge, "There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner."]