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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! — broadcasting to the world from our lavishly-equipped state-of-the-art sound studio here on the 95th floor of Buckley Towers in the heart of Manhattan. This is your prodigiously genial host John Derbyshire with news and views from America and the world.
First off this week I'm going to play tour guide — take you on a trip to one of the lesser-known neighborhoods of our great metropolis here.
02 — New York 9th. One of my favorite corners of New York City is Breezy Point.
Not many people know about Breezy Point. It's a little community way out on the eastern** tip of the Rockaway peninsula, which is a sort of barrier between the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens to the north. You cross over the Marine Parkway Bridge from Brooklyn and head east** along the peninsula.
You come at last to this quiet little enclave of one-family houses, kids playing baseball on sandy lots, friendly little stores, volunteer fire brigades, practically no traffic because it's the end of the peninsula. It's the kind of place where you don't bother to lock your car. New York City shimmers away in the distance, but it might as well be on a different continent. You could be in Iowa. There's nothing the least bit "urban" about Breezy Point. The inhabitants are lower-middle-class white ethnics, mostly Irish. If you come to New York City by ship, as I once did, there's Breezy Point on the starboard side as you head towards the Verrazzano Bridge and the great old harbor.
Well, this only comes to mind because Breezy Point is one component of New York's 9th Congressional District, which voted in a special election on Tuesday. The cause of the special election was Rep. Anthony Weiner resigning the seat back in June. Breezy Point, I should say, with all its charms, is not totally representative of New York's 9th, which is Jewish as much as Irish, and has some middle-middle and upper-middle-class neighborhoods to supplement the lower-middle-class ones.
Still, the 9th has voted Democratic since the Harding administration. So when Republican Robert Turner, a political newcomer, won Tuesday's election 54 percent to 46, that was a political bombshell. It was in fact several kinds of bombshell: an ethno-religious bombshell, for example, Turner being of Catholic Irish descent, the district having a big Jewish component and Turner's opponent being Jewish.
The Jewish factor occasioned much comment from two points of view. One: President Obama, and by extension his party, has been unfriendly to Israel, or at least has been so perceived by Jewish voters. Two: The Democrat candidate for the district, David Weprin, voted for same-sex marriage in New York State Assembly, which angered Orthodox and Conservative Jews — which is to say, most of the Jews in New York's 9th.
There was much discussion locally about which of the two factors, Israel or same-sex marriage, was more important in Weprin's defeat. I'm acquainted with a fair sample of New York policy wonks, and they all tell me it was Israel. I pass that on for what it's worth. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who knows a thing or two about local politics and the dynamics of the Jewish vote, agrees.
All this comes with a warning, though: American Jewish voters' attitudes to Israel are not straightforward. Nobody wants to see Israel suffer, of course; but the left-liberal strain of Zionism, which is nearly extinct in Israel herself, is still strong among liberal Jews here, and dampens their ethnic enthusiasm when Israel has a conservative government.
So prognostications about the Democratic Party "losing" the Jewish vote, the way the Republican Party "lost" the black vote after 1964, are highly premature.
And as pleasing as Bob Turner's victory is for us Republicans, that comes with some dampers, too. Of all the registered voters in New York's 9th, only 18 percent bothered to vote on Tuesday, less than one in five; so the image of a tidal wave of anti-Obama wrath surging up is about as close to reality as that other image of American Jews turning en masse away from the Democratic Party.
We're really talking straws in the wind here, not political hurricanes. That wind is blowing the right way, though. Not only in New York, either. There was another special election Tuesday in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District, and the GOP won that, too. This was well short of sensational: Nevada's 2nd is as solidly Republican as New York's 9th is Democrat. Still, Mark Amodei's win there was a nice little cherry on top of the cake.
** Should be WESTERN! Write in haste, repent at leisure. I don't know what I was thinking here.
03 — Administration panic. Here's another guy who knows a few things about politics: James Carville. He's that Democratic strategist we got to know back in the Clinton administration, the one who looks like Gollum.
Well, Carville was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Blitzer asked him what the Obama adminsitration should do after Tuesday's election losses. Carville's answer: They should panic.
Carville went on to suggest that Obama should fire a lot of people and execute a complete change of direction. Quote from him: "You've got to give people a signal out there that something's not working and that you're trying something else," end quote.
Something else, like what? Scrub the 450 billion dollar "jobs bill," a/k/a/ stimulus, that Obama's just announced? Repeal Obamacare? Slash corporate taxation? Cut spending, reform entitlements, curb regulatory agencies? Those are the only something-elses that would make a difference, and Obama can't even imagine them, let alone accomplish them. Neither, for that matter, can Carville imagine them: He's a die-hard lefty who probably thinks, as most Democrats do, that more stimulus, more taxation, and more regulation are what's called for.
It's Aesop's fable about the scorpion and the frog. Democrats are Democrats; Obama is Obama; they are what they are, and can't be otherwise.
As the President's poll numbers sink ever lower, we're starting to hear some wild scenarios. Obama will do a Lyndon Johnson and excuse himself from next year's race. Or: He'll face a primary challenger from the Left.
Or: A committee of Democrat wise men will call on the White House and tell Obama not to run next year. Quote from Andrew Breitbart the other day, quote: "An internal, partisan civil war is now brewing in that party. What I think tonight is less important than what Joe Lieberman, Bill Clinton, Evan Bayh, and the rest of the former, and now defunct, reasonable wing of the Democratic Party is thinking tonight." End quote.
Nothing's impossible in politics, but I don't believe any of those wild scenarios will come to pass. Obama and the Democrats love power too much. They are the party of political power, much more so than the GOP. The "reasonable wing of the Democratic Party"? Breitbart said it himself: it's defunct. If Joe Lieberman, Bill Clinton and Evan Bayh are the angel whispering in one of Obama's ears, the ACORN crowd and the Congressional Black Caucus and Soros and Krugman are the demon whispering in the other ear, and I think I know which whispers Obama's listening to. He'll hold on course, his party will hold on course, till they are swept away.
And the sweeping-away will be accomplished not so much by the Republican Party, who, for all that we have the better policies, are still too timid and PC-whipped to pose a real opposition to the left-liberal establishment. The Obama regime will be swept away by events.
04 — Canoe report. Radio Derb's been nagging on for a couple of years about how our national canoe is heading for the lip of the waterfall. Well, here we are in mid-September of 2011, and things seem OK, or at worst OK-ish.
Unemployment is over nine percent, but doesn't seem to be getting worse. Inflation's creeping up, but you have to pay attention to notice. Nobody can make sense of the stock market: Every day starts with a big sell-off and segues into a buying binge. The stock indices graphs look like the skyline of the Hindu Kush; if you ask three different market experts what the falafel is going on, you get three different answers. Again, if you take a look at the graphs, there's a downward trend: each peak lower than the previous peak, each valley deeper than the previous valley. You have to look, though.
So all's well, then; or at least, none of us feels like he just went over Niagara. So what about this catastrophism I've been peddling to you?
I'm still peddling. My basic thesis here — and of course it's nothing original, plenty of other commentators are saying the same — is that our political system has reached a point of instability. Reality demands that certain things be done, but there is not enough political will to do them.
Our country is a democracy that works reasonably well, so the lack of political will reflects a lack of public will. Our politicians won't do the necessary because not enough of us want them to.
For example, here's a CNN poll from mid-August. The super-committee that's supposed to figure out $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving should do what? asked the poll question. Sixty-three percent of us want it to recommend higher taxes on wealthy people and corporations. Fifty-three percent want no cuts in military spending. Two thirds want no major changes to Social Security and Medicare.
Reality says that the seriously rich will easily evade any tax increase you hit them with, and the blow will fall mainly on the upper middle class — and even then will only raise inadequate amounts of revenue. Reality says that keeping 52,000 troops stationed in Germany and 36,000 in Japan is clinically insane, while the 80,000 in Iraq and 100,000 in Afghanistan have, after eight and ten years respectively, long since done all they can do. Reality says that Social Security and Medicare are certainly untenable as presently structured, and may be untenable in their fundamental premises.
The nation's spending on health care now doubles every ten years. No, really: from $1.3 trillion in 1999 to $2.5 trillion in 2009. Meanwhile demographic change and uncontrolled mass immigration from failed countries mean our population is getting older and stupider, less inclined to productive work and more skilled at gaming our extravagant welfare systems.
Liberalism is a complete bust. Big new government programs sink at once into corruption and racketeering. Education has gone from being the engine of good citizenship and a productive workforce to being a cult of romantic sensibility. The labor movement has been taken over by public-sector unions, who fight tooth and nail to preserve their members' luxury benefit packages, the fight being financed by taxes on the private sector, laundered through public-sector wages. The grand liberal-Progressive project to bring light unto the Heathen overseas is suffering badly from the facts that (a) the light is guttering and fading as our problems rise, (b) those problems demand ever more of our attention, energy, and resources, and (c) it turns out a lot of Heathens actually prefer darkness.
So yes, sure, things don't seem catastrophic. Unemployment isn't at 50 percent; inflation isn't at 100 percent; your portfolio's holding most of its value; and Grandad's Social Security checks are still coming through. What's to worry about?
And I say: stick around.
05 — GOP candidates. There was another GOP candidate debate, or perhaps two. I'm losing track. I've got the general picture, though. Michele Bachmannn is fading, Perry's lost some luster but is still the favorite of likely GOP voters, Romney's holding steady, perhaps even rising a little as Perry's novelty factor wears off, the other candidates are receding into the background.
People sometimes ask why those other candidates keep showing up, given that nobody much believes any of them has a chance of being elected President. Well, even setting aside the power of vanity and self-deception in human affairs — never to be underestimated — there are several quite solid reasons why a Rick Santorum or a Herman Cain will keep showing up on the debate platforms.
For example: believe it or not, a lot of people wouldn't the least bit mind being Vice President of the United States. We all know the many derogatory things that have been said about the office of Vice President; but hey, it's a job, and you get a chauffeur and government housing. How do you get selected for the VP spot on a ticket? Not by dropping out of the competition early.
At the moral high end of motivations to keep going, there's the desire to get your ideas out there and influence the public. That is undoubtedly Ron Paul's motivation, for instance. Whatever you think of Paul and his ideas, he's sincere, and he wants to keep those ideas in front of the public. I'm not just saying that because I have a soft spot for Paul, either. It's fun, and in fact quite healthy, to be skeptical of politicians and their motives; but all these candidates are driven to some degree, at least some of the time, by patriotism — the desire to do something good for their country. I do believe that of the GOP candidates, and I'm willing to believe it of some Democrat candidates too; though I'm much less sure of it in the case of an ideologue like Obama or a narcissist like Clinton.
And then there's just the openness of politics, and the knowledge that strange and surprising things can happen. These guys are gamblers, and once in a while a long shot comes in. Who ever thought Bill Clinton would be President — or Barack Obama for that matter? In sedate and comfortable times, an incumbent or a favorite can coast to victory. With public affairs as unsettled as they are today, though, it's all to play for.
06 — Erdoğan's folly. I'm going to eat some words here. Back in July I said on Radio Derb that, quote, "Israel and Turkey are both right now feeling like the only stable, grown-up nations in a region filled with squalling brats." I predicted by implication that the Turkey-Israel rift would not get any wider. That was after the second Gaza flotilla had been scuppered, in part obviously by the Turks, who did not want it to sail.
Well, wrong on that one. Wrong, in fact, about Turkey being a grown-up nation. Recep Erdoğan, the Turkish Prime Minister, is on a tour of Arab countries, building up his street cred with the Arab masses by threatening and insulting Israel.
It's hard to see the logic of this. Turkey did well out of the friendship with Israel through the last half of the 20th century. She depended on high-tech Israeli military technology in her war against Kurdish rebels. Turkey continues to do well out of NATO membership; and Iran is much more a natural and obvious enemy of Turkey than Israel is. Turkey doesn't need additional foreign-policy problems right now, either, with a dispute building up about Cyprus drilling for oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean. One analyst quoted by Associated Press reckons that a naval confrontation between Turkey and Cyprus is more likely than one between Turkey and Israel.
So why is Erdoğan prancing around the Arab countries declaring solidarity with his, quote, "brothers" in Gaza and bad-mouthing the Israelis? Why would anyone want to yoke themselves to the Arab nations, the all-time losers of the modern age? (You could ask the Soviet Union about that, if it was still around.)
I'm afraid the answer is that Erdoğan is a devout Muslim, and Muslims are just like that.
The sun rises, the sun sets. Tides ebb and flow. The seasons pass over us in their due order. The earth warms, the earth cools. The planets move in their slow orbits, the great galaxy turns, and the stars, to quote one of my favorite poets, migrate "in mathematical tribes over / The steppes of space at their outrageous ease."
The universe proceeds in its immemorial rhythms; and as it all goes on, one thing remains still and immutable, never changing: the Muslims hate the Jews.
It's a universal constant, like the speed of light: the Muslims hate the Jews. Through wars and revolutions, wealth and poverty, national success and national humiliation, this one thing you can depend on: the Muslims will still be hating the Jews.
It's not just the Arabs. That might be more understandable. Arabs and Jews have known each other up close and personal for three thousand years. Some animosities are bound to have developed, like with the English and the Irish. But no, it's the Muslims. Pakistanis hate Jews; Malaysians hate Jews; Iranians hate Jews; Turks hate Jews; Louis Farrakhan hates Jews. None of those people are Arabs, but they're all Muslims. If there are Muslims on Pluto, I bet they hate Jews too.
For the benefit of those listeners who've had twenty points shaved off their IQs by the modern education system and the cult of "diversity," I'll add the disclaimer that of course I know there are many exceptions — individual Muslims who don't hate Jews. When you're dealing with entire nations, though, you're dealing with generalities; and in the generality, Muslims hate Jews.
And that's why Recep Erdoğan is making a fool of himself, and shooting his own nation in the foot, by schmoozing up to the Arabs. I predict it'll work out as well for the Turks as it did for the Russians.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: Hero of the week was 23-year-old Dakota Meyer, a construction worker in Greensburg, Kentucky. I'm talking about real heroism here. Two years ago Meyer was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, on patrol in Afghanistan. His unit came under ambush, and Cpl. Meyer heard on his radio that an advance detachment was trapped under fire. In a 6-hour battle Cpl. Meyer made five trips into the ambush zone to help his comrades fight their way out, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire and suffering shrapnel wounds. He saved 13 soldiers and Marines and 23 Afghan Army troopers. Thursday this week Cpl. Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military decoration, at the White House. Radio Derb extends its thanks to Cpl. Meyer, and secondarily, with no subtraction from the former, to the United States Marine Corps for training him to do what he so heroically did.
Item: The surprising thing about the Solyndra scandal is that anyone's surprised. The whole "green jobs" business had "scam on the taxpayers" written all over it. Its entire appeal was to that segment of the electorate most detached from economic reality: the academics, the nonprofit do-gooders, media blowhards, Sierra Club tree-huggers, and the like. If you actually work at producing something for a living, or know how to change a tire, you knew by instinct that "green jobs" smelled bad. Solyndra was a California company making solar panels. California … solar panels … hel-lo? Well, now it looks as though the federal government's half-billion-dollar loan guarantee to Solyndra is all going to be called in. That's a half-billion-dollar loss to you and me, pal. What. A. Surprise. How much of the Solyndra fiasco is down to political corruption and how much to the stupidity of an anti-business administration, we shall soon find out. I suspend judgment. I will guarantee this, though: the phrase "green jobs" will very soon join the lexicon of extinct political catch-phrases, along with "missile gap," "war on poverty," and "giant sucking sound."
Item: I was going to tell you that yields on Greek government bonds were heading for 100 percent. Then I looked again, and they were 120 percent. Latest news is, they're so high the traders have stopped quoting them. They'll still give you a price on a Greek bond, but probably not even that for much longer. Yes, Greek default is upon us — I'd say in days, at most weeks. In fact the markets have pretty much factored in Greek default already. The crisis now belongs to the bankers and the politicians. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have been running round this week frantically trying to stick their fingers in the dykes, but there are too many leaks and they don't have enough fingers. Moral of the story: Monetary union without political union is a really, really dumb idea.
Item: Our listeners in Australia will be pleased to know that passport holders of that fine country now have three options when listing their sex: male, female, or x. What is an x? Well, I've read the news story twice and I'm still not sure, so I'll just quote the relevant passage to you and let you figure it out for yourselves. Quote: "The new category is only for use by intersex people — who are not biologically entirely male or female. Trangendered passport-holders — who have changed gender but not had surgery — will be free to choose either male or female, but will not be allowed to select 'x'." End quote. At this point, listeners, you have to decide which broad division of humanity you belong to: those who know the difference between "transgendered" and "intersex," and those who don't. There is no third option.
08 — Signoff. There we are, ladies and gents: another week older and deeper in debt.
Which reminds me: Couple of weeks ago I signed off with a blues clip — one of Lead Belly's songs. Several listeners appreciated that, and asked for more blues.
Given the generally pessimistic line we take here at Radio Derb, I'm wondering if throwing blues music into the mix may be a little too much. I'll take a chance, though; so here's another one of the blues legends, Big Bill Broonzy — subject, by the way, of a new biography by Bob Riesman, just came out a few weeks ago from University of Chicago Press.
More from Radio Derb next week. Over to Big Bill …
[Music clip: Big Bill Broonzy: Midnight Special]