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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. This is your peripatetically genial host John Derbyshire, rested and refreshed from my travels, bringing you the news of the hour.
Faithful listeners will recall that last week's broadcast came from Bodrum, in Turkey, whither I had traveled to address the Property and Freedom Society. My address was well received, and I believe our Property and Freedom are now assured for a little while longer. We all do what we can.
Bereft as I was, however, of my support staff, I committed some unfortunate bloopers, referring for example to the Ionian Sea when of course I meant the Ægean, as a mighty host of listeners emailed in to remind me. My humblest apologies. Without my research assistants I am … all at sea.
Now I am once again esconced at our state-of-the-art recording studio here in Buckley Towers, surrounded by my superbly-trained staff of highly professional analysts, researchers, and technicians, to give you in-depth analysis of the week's events. Ah … excuse me … Is there a problem, Mandy? [Mandy: "This underwear is totally riding up my butt crack …"] Right. OK, off we go!
02 — You say Weener, I say Winer. I was a bit late joining the party to heap scorn on Rep. Anthony Weiner; not from any scruples about doing so — the guy is a far-left liberal — but from ignorance of the fundamentals.
For one thing, I don't know what Twitter is. I have never twitted anyone, nor, to the best of my knowledge, has anyone ever twitted me. For another, watching little TV as I do and being not much interested in New York politics, and so with nothing to work from but vague recollections of high school German, I was reading the guy's name as "Winer." German "e-i" is pronounced "eye." If a guy's name is written S-T-E-I-N we call him "Stine," not "Steen." Or if we don't, we should.
Contrariwise, Wiener Schnitzel is spelt "I-E." Does anyone say "winer schnitzel"? Of course not.
In any case, why would anyone with a name spelled W-E-I-N-E-R want it to be pronounced "Weener," if he had any choice in the matter? Has Representative Weiner been sending out some kind of strange signal all his life? John Boehner, realizing he had an embarrassing name, changed the pronunciation, as any sensible person would. Imagine an alternate universe where he hadn't, and where furthermore he was a Democrat. There would then be the possibility of a Weener-Boner presidential ticket. It doesn't bear thinking about.
Anyway, there is no reason for conservatives to hold back here. Rep. Weiner is an obnoxious lefty jerk. He went into politics right out of college, and has never done a single day of useful work. He's in his seventh term in Congress, which is about four terms too many. If this little scandal kills his political career, that will be all to the good, not just for the Republic but for him too. He's only 46, still young enough to learn a useful trade — photography, perhaps, or public relations, or … I don't know, perhaps menswear designer.
Whatever he does, I really think he should consider a name change. Supposing his marriage survives this current controversy, I assume he'll have kids one day. I can't imagine high school is much fun for kids calling themselves "Weener." Doubly so when the kids' dad is known to be somewhat weird. Or "wired" …
03 — Presidential hopefuls. Eight months to the Iowa caucuses, and probably less than that to the New Hampshire primary.
So Iowa and New Hampshire are beginning to get some visitors. Mitt Romney was in the latter state this week, and formally announced he's running for the GOP nomination. Sarah Palin premiered an autobiographical movie in Iowa, then rolled in to New Hampshire in her campaign bus, which isn't really a campaign bus as she isn't officially campaigning. And who was that spotted chowing down on fettucini alfredo at an Italian restaurant in Concord the other day? None other than Rudy Giuliani — Uh-oh. I hope there was nothing taped up behind the toilet cistern in the men's room.
In various locations outside New Hampshire, Governors Rick Perry of Texas and Chris Christie of New Jersey have been heard clearing their throats, and Michele Bachmann looks like she's itching to announce something but being told by advisers to hold back. Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah, may come in, forcing Romney to fight for the Mormon vote in Utah and Nevada, a thing Romney hadn't figured on having to do. We've even heard from Mike Huckabee, who seems to be having second thoughts and may run after all.
That's a lot of caution, indecision, and maybes. What's holding everybody up? Well, the GOP hopefuls all know their political history. An incumbent president is hard to beat — especially one like Obama, who has all the mainstream media rooting for him 24/7. If you're a youngish candidate with only low-to-middle name recognition, 2016 looks a lot more promising than 2012. Why spoil your 2016 chances with a failed 2012 bid?
On the other hand, fortune favors the brave, as Bill Clinton proved in 1992. That's a tempting example for a lot of the hopefuls. So they're hovering and havering, not knowing whether to take the jump or not.
Oh, and speaking of second thoughts, here's Donald Trump in the news again, saying he'll run as an independent if the GOP nominates a, quote, "stiff." Cue the Weiner jokes. And as if the GOP would nominate a decrepit, time-serving, no-hoper with the personality of a utility pole — when did that ever happen?
Meanwhile Mitt Romney chugs steadily forward, accumulating money and supporters, hammering away at Obama's record, shrugging off the Romneycare-Obamacare comparisons, I guess hoping everyone will just get tired of hearing them, which I think is a reasonable hope. If slow and steady wins the race, you've got to bet on Romney — a decent and capable man who'd probably make a good president, if he can restrain his yellow-legal-pad, Herbert Hoover managerial streak.
The thing they all know is that what will really matter in November 2012 is how people feel about the Obama presidency. That will depend on the state of the economy. So what's the state of the economy?
04 — The economy, Stupid. The U.S. economy is in a bad way. House prices are down to 2002 levels; they fell more than four percent just in the first quarter. At the end of that quarter, March 31st, more than 28 percent of homeowners with mortgages were "underwater" — they owe more on their house than the house is worth. That's an increase of five percent in just six months. In some places the figures are way worse. In Atlanta, 55 percent of homeowners with mortgages are underwater. In Phoenix it's 68 percent. In North Las Vegas it's 80 percent.
Automobile sales and consumer spending generally are down. The May figures were terrible. The economy added just 54,000 jobs in the month, way too few to soak up new entrants into the labor market — around 100 thousand just from legal immigration. Unemployment actually increased, to 9.1 percent. Forty-four million Americans are on food stamps and the stock market's sliding. The upward creep of gas prices is hurting everyone: the average household spent $370 on gas in April, up from $200 just two years ago. Families now spend more filling up their gas tanks than they spend on cars, clothes or recreation. That cuts consumer spending on other things while increasing costs for industry.
The only sectors of the economy showing any job growth are mining, logging, healthcare services, and education. The first two of those sectors are driven by Chinese and Indian demand, the second two generate no wealth and are largely funded out of taxes. However essential they may be, they are subtracters from the national economy, not adders to it. The productive part of the economy has to generate enough surplus to pay for them. Which it currently doesn't, not even close.
Things are dismal and not getting better; or if they're getting better, it's in a dismal way. Gas prices might dip, for example, but only because a worldwide slowdown depresses demand. Über-trader Peter Yastrow, who makes a very good living watching the financial markets, told CNBC on Tuesday that, quote, "We're on the verge of a great, great depression."
We're not living in happy times, listeners. The problems are big and structural, driven by huge irresistible trends in demographics and resource availability. There are things a good government could do to help, and things a bad government might do that would hurt, but the problems per se aren't anyone's fault. They're deep issues we have to deal with somehow.
We're in denial about a lot of them. I just read an article in MarketWatch, dated May 17th. Headline, quote: "People plan to work into their 70s or later." Subhead, quote: "Almost four in 10 workers say they'll retire after age 70 — or just keep working." Oh really? Doesn't that assume someone will still want to employ them? In a labor market awash with hungry jobseekers, who are you going to hire: the 35-year-old, or the 70-year-old?
Hard times, and no sign they'll improve. Politically, not good for a sitting president. The unexpected might happen, of course. Some technological marvel could come up — a new internet — to give the economy a boost and save Obama's skin. Absent that, I'd bet on President Romney in 2013, and with a heck of a task in front of him.
05 — Cops creator fesses up. Townhall.com seems to have been around for ever. It was one of the first conservative websites I ever saw, back when the internet was starting to take over our lives in the mid-1990s.
The TV show Cops has been around even longer — nearly 22 years. This is the show where a camera just follows police on routine street patrols — mostly dealing with small-scale underclass crime. It was Cops, I believe, that gave us the expression "wife-beater" for the upper body garment worn by that particular kind of perp.
Well, here's Townhall.com columnist Ben Shapiro with a book out, title Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV. By way of promoting the book, Ben passed to Townhall.com a sound clip of an interview he'd conducted with John Langley, the creator of Cops. That clip was all over the internet before you could say "media bias."
In the clip Langley — that's the guy who created Cops — grumbles about critics who accuse the show of showing a disproportionately high number of minority perps. To the contrary, says Langley, he deliberately shows an inordinate number of white suspects. Quote: "I show more white people than, statistically, what the truth is in terms of street crime." The reason he does this, Langley explains, is, quote, "I don't want to contribute to negative stereotypes."
Ben Shapiro's comment on Langley's remarks was, quote, "Being statistically accurate is not a stereotype."
That's a dumb thing to say. Let me break it down logically.
Stereotypes are just the brain's way of doing statistics — figuring out likely averages and spreads. Your remote ancestor strolling across the savannah heard a rustling in the high grass. It might have been any number of things: a rabbit, a trick of the wind, his brother and sister-in-law fooling around. His brain, however, had figured out from experience that there was a good probability that grass-rustling signaled the presence of some large hostile predator animal. Your ancestor went into the appropriate self-defense mode, without having to do too much on-the-spot calculation.
That's the origin of stereotypes. They help us find our way round the world. We can't always be investigating and calculating everything. We'd never get anything done. We'd be forever stuck in what the military calls "analysis paralysis." A lot of the time we have to just go with the percentages. If you want to know the way to the rock concert, who are you going to ask — the little old lady walking her dog, or the group of merry teenagers with purple hair? See? Stereotypes. The little old lady might just possibly be heading for the concert, and the teenagers might be on their way to a mah-jong party, but that's not the way to bet.
Any particular stereotype may be positive or negative. It may also be true or false; and the true-false thing is independent of the positive-negative thing. So there are four possibilities for a stereotype: true and positive, true and negative, false and positive, false and negative.
Whether a stereotype is positive or negative depends on your standpoint. Whether it's true or false can usually be determined by examining the data, with which our society nowadays is awash. No trouble locating data if you're really interesting in knowing the truth.
An example of a true positive stereotype would be "East Asian kids are good at math." That's statistically true, as test results confirm — or you can just go check the results for the 2010 International Math Olympiad. The surnames of the U.S. team were as follows: Feng, Po-Shen, O'Dorney, He, Gunby, Deng, Na, and Yuan. So that's a true stereotype, and it's also a positive one … if you like math.
An example of a true negative stereotype would be "Russian men drink too much." Statistically speaking, they do: the World Health Organization mortality figures show it. In the 1990s drinking caused more than half of deaths among Russians aged 15 to 54. Things are slightly better now, but it's still a huge problem.
False stereotypes are harder to come up with, for the simple reason that most stereotypes are true. False stereotypes are usually driven by wishful thinking, or promoted by political liars. An example would be the stereotype you hear from open-borders Republicans, that "Hispanics are natural social conservatives." Rick Santorum was pushing this line just the other day. In fact Hispanics are very liberal — natural Democratic voters, as of course the Democratic Party is well aware. PewResearch.org has a poll out, dated May 13, showing for example that 58 percent of Americans overall say that homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society. For Hispanics it's 64 percent. You get similar trends with illegitimate births, the Hispanic rate around twice the non-Hispanic white rate. We have imported a huge new left-liberal population this past thirty years. Anyone who tells you Hispanics are natural Republican voters is either a liar or a wishful thinker who doesn't want to be bothered with the facts. Most of them, in my experience, are paid liars.
To even the balance a little, here's a false negative: " Mexicans are lazy." In fact an OECD report back in April showed Mexicans working more hours on average than any other people in the 29-country survey, if you add both paid and unpaid work — ten hours a day, to an OECD average of eight hours. Mexico's a mess, but not because Mexicans don't work hard. The place is a mess for some other reason. It's probably the fault of us gringos somehow.
To the matter under question, yes, minorities commit a disproportionate amount of crime. All the statistics we have confirm that. If Cops showed criminals in their actual demographic proportions, yes, that would "contribute to negative stereotypes." This particular negative stereotype is true, though. It's a true negative stereotype; so as well as contributing to negative stereotypes, Cops would also be contributing to truth.
My own belief is that truth should trump everything. Thomas Jefferson said: "There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world." I'm with Jefferson. I guess the producers of Cops are not with Jefferson. I guess they are also not with that guy who said: ""You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Or perhaps they don't want us to be free.
06 — Fix the schools! If you read my wonderful book We Are Doomed you'll recall the fun I had working over the American educational system in Chapter Six. I felt a bit guilty about that, just because mocking the educrats is so darn easy — fishing with dynamite, as they say in the South. Quote from my book: "The whole culture of professional educators is addled with chicanery, corruption, rent-seeking, time-serving, and lies."
Things are so bad even journalists are starting to notice. Here's a longish quote from veteran reporter Michael Goodwin writing in the New York Post on Wednesday this week, longish quote:
After reading my reports from New York teachers who say they are forced to raise grades and pass failing students, a friend has questions. He writes [and now Goodwin quotes this friend, whose actual existence outside Goodwin's head only an incorrigibly cynical person would doubt]: "If nine years of mayoral control, all sorts of experimentation and extra billions spent on incentives and other approaches leave the school system no better off, isn't it right to assume that the students — for whatever mix of reasons — are incapable of performing to reasonable standards in a mass education setting? And if that's the case, what are the implications?" [End of Goodwin quoting his friend. Goodwin himself goes on:] That is the heart of the matter. Notwithstanding union obstruction, state laws or other obstacles, the Bloomberg years have been a fair test of what can be achieved in a school system flush with cash, political control and determination.
End of longish quote. All of Bloomberg's spending and reforms have, of course, achieved very nearly nothing. As Goodwin says, quote again: "While there have been some gains, as a whole, [the New York city school system] remains mediocre. Only about half of students in grades 3 through 8 read or do math at grade level… There are pockets of true excellence, with schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science among the best in the nation. With Asians making up about 70 percent of their students, these schools are glorious proof the American dream lives." End quote. Goodwin's let a cat out of the bag there, but we'll ignore the cat and pass on.
In spite of this rather startling burst of truth-telling from a pretty mainstream journalist, that bit about the American dream stuck in my throat. When was it the American dream to be a scholarly grind? The nation needs some scholarly grinds, to be sure, but it doesn't need a whole lot. If you promote the ethos that everyone's entitled to a desk job shuffling paper in an air-conditioned office, you're doing a mighty disservice to citizens whose talents are non-academic, and opening the door to the very un-American notion of "jobs Americans won't do."
This is a nation of tinkerers and inventors, pioneers and adventurers, entrepreneurs and gamblers. At least it used to be, back in the days when we were busy making America great. A lot of those Asian kids making A grades at Stuyvesant and Bronx Science will end up working at mediocre salaries for B students with more imagination, entrepreneurial flair, and willingness to take risks. What do we want here: a nation of Bartleby the Scriveners, or a nation of Huckleberry Finns? I vote for Huck.
My own experience of schools, both as a student and a teacher, is that most kids are bored by book learning and haven't much aptitude for it. An educational system built around denial of this fact is an educational system that will fail, as Goodwin notices New York's is failing. It will also waste a colossal quantity of resources, both money and human talent.
"When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun," says a character in a German play. When I hear the cry "Fix the schools!" I recall researching that chapter in We Are Doomed, and the sheer unimaginable quantity of waste, folly, and lies I uncovered, of which I could put only a tiny percent into my book.
You want to fix the schools? Shut off the money spigot, fire nine out of ten of the non-teaching staff, ban teacher unions, issue state diplomas to anyone who can pass an exam, whether they've attended classroom instruction or not, whether they've studied algebra or auto mechanics. If people want to home-school, or learn by themselves from the internet, let 'em; then test 'em, and give 'em a diploma if they pass. De-regulate, de-unionize, de-bureaucratize. We'd save a ton of public money and have a happier, more useful, more productive citizenry.
07 — Iraqi refugees. If there's anything more insane than U.S. education policy, it's U.S. policy on resettlement of refugees.
Refugee resettlement, which most Americans probably think of as an expression of our nation's charitable goodness, is in fact an almighty racket, out of which a great many people are making fat salaries — people in the contracting agencies like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services, which is almost completely funded with tax dollars (94 percent in 2009, according to their annual report), along with open-borders lobbies like the Migration Policy Institute, funded by George Soros and other of the usual suspects, and of course immigration lawyers. If you want to find out about the refugee-resettlement racket, a very useful and informative source is the blog Refugee Resettlement Watch.
For the kind of weirdness you encounter when you look into this scam, consider refugees from Iraq. Iraq's been comparatively peaceful this past couple of years — compared, I mean, with what it was like five or six years ago. You'd think, therefore, that the number of refugees we're taking in would have fallen off.
That would be to reckon without the looking-glass-world insanity of U.S. refugee resettlement policy. In Fiscal Year 2006 we took in fewer than 200 Iraqi refugees. In 2007 the number went up to 1,600. Then suddenly in 2008 it ballooned to nearly 14,000, and for 2009 and 2010 it's been more than 18,000 each year. The more peaceful things get in Iraq, the more Iraqi refugees we take.
I got those numbers from a piece by our own Mark Krikorian on the Center for Immigration Studies website. Mark asks why are we taking refugees from Iraq at all. Quote from him: "Resettlement to the United States should be used only as the absolute last resort for people who will surely be killed if they stay where they are and who have nowhere else … to go. There are lots of Arab countries where Iraqis have been going for some time, notably Syria and Jordan, and Saudi Arabia's a big, empty place right next door." End quote.
Oh well, at least these Iraqi refugees are properly vetted for terrorist sympathies, right? [Laughter.] News item: Two Iraqis, both admitted as refugees two years ago, have been arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky for conspiring to ship sniper rifles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and money to Al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq. These guys hadn't been running falafel stands back in the home country, either: they were full-time terrorists. One of them had his fingerprints on a security database in Iraq, the fingerprints having been lifted from an unexploded IED. They got resettled as refugees anyway. In Kentucky — whose state legislators, if they have a brain between them, will now pull Kentucky out of all federally-subsidized refugee resettlement programs.
It used to be that the civilized nations went out and colonized backward parts of the world. Now the political Left in civilized nations is bringing in savages and lunatics to colonize us. "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad."
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: I passed some remarks about Hispanics back there somewhere, then some remarks about Mexicans. Listeners sometimes chide me for using the two terms interchangably. Well, why wouldn't I? Here's another titbit from the Pew Hispanic Research Center, one of the more useful sites on the web for raw data. This report is dated May 26, and it breaks down the U.S.A. Hispanic population by country of origin. Mexico is way, way, way out ahead with almost 32 million. Next is Puerto Rico, which is not actually a country, with a mere 4.6 million. Behind that is Cuba, which is a country, 1.8 million, which is to say one-eighteenth of the Mexican number. Overall Mexicans are 71 percent of the total. So loosely saying "Mexican" when you mean "Hispanic" is inaccurate, but not that inaccurate.
Item: Quote from a report in The Hill, June 2nd, quote: "The White House said Thursday that President Obama believes the NATO mission in Libya is succeeding, and he is opposed to ending that mission right now." End quote. Couple of questions here from Radio Derb. One: what is the NATO mission in Libya? Two: why is there still a NATO twenty years after the Soviet Union ceased to exist? Three: what happened to "days not weeks," Mr President? Four: why did John Boehner act to quash Dennis Kucinich's amendment to defund our Libya operations? Boehner's ally Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia says Boehner told him the Kucinich amendment would, quote, "send the wrong signal to NATO." But who cares about NATO? Why is there even still a NATO? Whoa, wait a minute, I'm getting into a loop here … Bailing out!
Item: The BBC reports that French police have run out of handcuffs because of the sheer number of Tunisian illegal immigrants being arrested on French soil. In related news, a boatload of refugees from Libya capsized on its way to Italy, drowning 150 of the passengers, who were mostly Africans and Pakistanis. It's not just prosperous European countries that are getting impacted by our Libya policy, either: the extremely poor African country of Niger, which borders Libya to the south, has taken in 65,000 refugees since the beginning of May. I suppose we'll have to send Niger some aid by way of compensation. Yes, that'd be the right thing to do — just a few billion … we'll never miss it …
Item: A 17-year-old lad in Anhui Province, China, has sold one of his kidneys in order to buy an iPad2. Rumors that Rep. Anthony Weiner is trying to sell one of his body parts to buy himself a political future are so far unsubstantiated.
09 — Signoff. That, ladies and gents, is the news. If it depresses you as much as it depresses me, I am sorry. Civilizational suicide is not a pretty spectacle. It's a sorry state of affairs indeed when the most sensible man in Congress is Dennis Kucinich. I need a drink …
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]