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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
[Me, sotto voce.] This is my last contract with NRO. After the contract is settled, I have more flexibility.
[Unknown male voice, sotto voce.] I understand. I will transmit that to Gurbanguly.
[Me, normal voice.] Oh, are we on the air? Sorry, I was just exchanging courtesies there with a friend visiting from Turkmenistan.
Welcome, Radio Derb listeners! This is your ambilaterally genial host, John Derbyshire, with a survey of the passing charivari. Which word, by the way, some listeners are urging me to pronounce in proper American style as "shivaree." I'm willing, guys, but I only have one pair of hands, and I'm still working on "schedule."
OK, on with the motley!
02 — Obamacare hearings. The big headlines of the week concerned the Supreme Court hearings on Obamacare.
This a a zone of the news where those of us with no legal training need to stand aside somewhat and let the law-school folk pontificate, since the opinions of legally-trained minds about what's happening, and what's likely to happen, are just worth more than the opinions of us legal ignoramuses. (Or, as they most likely say around the law-school water-cooler, ignorami.)
I'll just say this on my own account. The first time the U.S. Supreme Court came to my serious attention was at the time of the 1987 hearings on the nomination of Robert Bork. Being pretty clueless at that time, I asked around among jurisprudentially well-informed people. One of them told me the following thing.
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court, he told me, are not the nation's legal best and brightest. They are not chosen for wisdom: they are chosen because they are the least creative, the least imaginative, and therefore the least controversial among the nation's prominent legal minds, and so are least likely to generate bad headlines for the administration in the nomination process. They are, in short, a bunch of mediocrities.
Well, that certainly explained the failure of the Bork nomination. I've had the privilege of several personal encounters with Robert Bork, and mediocrity he ain't. I would also have to say that nothing I've observed in American public life subsequently has led me to doubt what that person told me.
That's editorial. Whether Obamacare will survive scrutiny by the Supremes, or whether part of it will survive and part not, I leave to the legal eagles.
I will say this, on the subject of healthcare in general. So far as financing healthcare is concerned, there is a source and a sink.
The source — the place where the money gets raised — is healthy youngish citizens who don't need much healthcare and pay lots of taxes.
The sink — the place where the money gets spent — is geezers who need lots of health care but no longer work or pay taxes.
Any conceivable healthcare system is a transfer of resources from the first group to the second.
In a democratic society, the transfer must be a voluntary one. Healthy young people must be willing to pay for the geezer's hip replacement.
In the particular society we inhabit, the pool of young people is dwindling as birthrates fall, the pool of geezers is swelling as Baby Boomers retire and longevity improves, and somewhere in those numbers there is a straw and a camel's back.
Obamacare is a hamfisted attempt to square the circle, applying federal legal compulsion to make the camel keep a stiff back. My ill-informed impression is that it's unconstitutional; and what we heard in the oral arguments this week suggests that the Supremes may so rule.
Whether Obamacare stands or falls, though, the fundamental problem remains. The problem is generational, massively fiscal, and deadly serious. Someone's going to have to come up with a solution. It's not going away.
03 — GOP veep pick: Rubio? On the campaign trail, we're still hearing some hopeful squeaking about a brokered convention from partisans of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, but I don't believe a word of it. Romney's the nominee.
As I've said before, we could do worse. I can detect nothing particularly conservative about Romney, but he's smart, experienced in a fairly wide zone, and not crazy in any obvious way.
Conservatism is nice, but there hasn't been much of it on offer from the candidate field, other than from Ron Paul, and there hasn't been much of it from the Republican Party in the last five Presidential-election cycles, so low expectations are the order of the day here.
Conservatism is nice, but competence and sanity are not to be sniffed at; with Romney we shall at least get those.
Romney as President will be George Herbert Walker Bush Mark Two. A great improvement on Obama, at least. If, as I and many others believe, the nation is heading into some great fiscal crisis, some competence and realism at the top sure won't hurt. I say again, we could do worse.
With Romney the nominee, talk is turning to the vice-presidential pick. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is the one most being talked up for the spot at conservative outlets. He says he's not interested, and I hope he's sincere: Rubio would be a simply terrible choice.
For one thing, he's an ethnic particularist, a member of something called the Congressional Hispanic Conference. I can't get much of a handle on this as they appear not to have a web page; but in a Wall Street Journal op-ed dated March 2003, founding members of the Conference declare that it will, quote:
… promote policy outcomes that serve the best interests of Americans of Hispanic and Portuguese descent and thereby all Americans.
That's weasely. What if, in the Conference's determination, the, quote, "best interests of Americans of Hispanic and Portuguese descent" come into conflict with the best interests of other Americans?
In any case, the Congressional Hispanic Conference is plainly an ethnic-interest lobby, whose actual effect, whatever its intent, is to divide Americans from each other. Marco Rubio's membership in it is a bad sign.
There was another negative indicator the other day, when Rubio stepped in front of a bunch of microphones in Washington, D.C. to talk about the Supreme Court hearings on Obamacare. He started out OK [Clip: Rubio, "Thank you for the opportunity …"] but then suddenly, a minute and a half in, we got this: [Clip: Rubio switching to Spanish].
Leaving aside the fact that to be perfectly consistent with the ideals of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, Rubio should then have said it all over again in Portuguese, which I am pretty sure he didn't, this is disgraceful. The language of our country is English, and our leaders should address us in no other.
John Quincy Adams had lived in Germany and spoke the language fluently, facts that were well-known to the Americans of his time. When he was running for re-election as President in 1828, Adams was asked to address a gathering of German-speaking Americans in German. He refused on principle. Yes, I do know he lost that election; but he was still a better man, certainly a better American, than Marco Rubio.
This country can only work — can only be a country worth the name — under an ethic of relentless assimilation. You settle here, you Americanize yourself, for which the very first step is to master English, so you can join in the national political conversation. John Quincy Adams understood that. My immigrant wife understood it. Marco Rubio does not understand it.
Marco Rubio would be near to my last choice for the vice-presidential spot. My first choice? Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. ¡Plugiera a Dios que fuera así!
Unfortunately Kentucky isn't anything like as important in the electoral calculus as Florida. Furthermore, the fact that Rubio-style multiculturalism and ethnic huckstering is sheer poison to the American national project is one of the many things Mitt Romney is clueless about.
My dark suspicion is, we'll get Rubio on the ticket, and he'll thrill all the Compassionate Conservative nitwits by delivering his acceptance speech in Spanish. Or maybe Portuguese … And the Balkanization of the U.S.A. will have taken a mighty step forward.
04 — Onyango Obama (cont.) As a general rule, I think there are far too many federal laws, and we should set aside a couple of sessions for Congress to do nothing but repeal junk legislation.
As a further general rule, I am deeply suspicious of laws with the name of some person attached to them. The person is usually some kind of victim; and the point of sticking that person's name on the law is to transmute sympathy for the victim into support for the law — an appeal, in other words, for reason to be driven by emotion.
There's plenty of that in human life without giving it encouragement; and it is anyway inappropriate in something as grave as national legislation.
Still, I feel my commitment to both those general principles wavering somewhat in the case of the Scott Gardner Act.
Scott Gardner was a schoolteacher in North Carolina. Back in July of 2005 he was driving to the beach with his wife Tina and their three young children in the family's Subaru station wagon. Their vehicle was struck at speed by a truck driven by Ramiro Gallegos, an illegal alien from Mexico.
Scott Gardner was killed in the crash. Tina Gardner suffered injuries that left her in a coma, which she has been in ever since. The children survived, but were effectively orphaned.
Ramiro Gallegos was drunk at the time he crashed his car into Scott Gardner's, with a blood alcohol level of 0.22 percent, nearly three times the legal limit.
Gallegos was also driving drunk on at least three previous occasions, when he was pulled over and booked for the offense. The first occasion was in February 2002. Prosecutors dismissed that case when Gallegos failed to appear in court. In December that year he was booked again for DWI, and this time was brought to court, convicted, and given six months' probation.
A year later, in January 2004, Gallegos was pulled over and found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit. He was convicted of DWI again and given a two-year sentence. However, the kindly judge, a chap named Tom Aldridge, suspended the sentence and replaced it with 30 days in jail to be served over 15 weekends, plus 30 months probation and $1,300 in fines and restitution.
Fifteen months after that, with no-one in law enforcement or the court system having shown the slightest interest in Gallegos's immigration status, Gallegos, drunk again, destroyed the lives of Scott and Tina Gardner and their children. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 14-to-18 years imprisonment, to be followed by deportation.
This is awful stuff to read about, and in fact there are countless similar stories out there — stories of illegal immigrants with long rap sheets for drunk driving, only coming to the attention of immigration authorities when they eventually kill someone.
Hence the the Scott Gardner Act, which would require an immediate arrest and deportation for any illegal immigrant convicted of drinking and driving. Versions of the Act have been put before Congress from 2005 onwards, only to be killed in committee by the ethnic and race lobbies howling about so-called "racial profiling." The Act was introduced into Congress again this month, and no doubt will be killed again.
To go back to those general principles I started with: Yes, there's a case against this Act as being unnecessary (not to mention an unfunded federal mandate on local law enforcement). You can feel very sorry for the Gardner family and mad as hell at Ramiro Gallegos and Judge Tom Aldridge, without wanting federal legislation to soothe your feelings.
The fact remains, there is real injustice here — citizens being killed and maimed by foreigners with terrible habits who should not be in our country.
We don't need new laws; we need rigorous enforcement of existing laws, with swift and humane deportation for all persons in the country illegally.
How about we start with Onyango Obama, an illegal alien from Kenya who admitted to drunk driving in a Framingham, Massachusetts court on Tuesday? Mr Obama's entire punishment was a 45-day suspension of his driver's license. He was in an ill humor in court, though, and grumbled to reporters about the inconvenience of not having a license for 45 days. Then he went off to his job as manager of Conti's liquor store, whose owner is in violation of federal law by knowingly employing an illegal alien.
I can assure you with complete confidence that Mr Conti will not be prosecuted, even though Mr Obama, in his managerial duties, has at least twice been found to have sold liquor to under-aged customers.
Mr Obama is the uncle of our President. The President's aunt, fiftysomething fashion plate Zeituni Onyango, lives not far away in Boston, on welfare, in public housing, having successfully gamed the immigration system after years of illegal residence herself.
Ms Onyango is also a bit of a grumbler, it seems; she is reported to be dissatisfied that the government will not grant her citizenship.
Why does she want citizenship? American citizenship is perfectly worthless, as the cases of the President's uncle and aunt clearly demonstrate. Once you're in this country you can do pretty much anything: repeatedly drive drunk, run a liquor store, get public housing — and you don't have to be a legal immigrant, let alone a citizen!
I'm coming up to the tenth anniversary of my own citizenship next month. Why on earth did I bother?
Facts were sparse at that point and the MSM were, as we reported, writing the story according to a script pulled out of their … out of their … imaginations.
Here's the script. I'm going to take you here right deep into the mind of an MSM liberal, so fasten your seatbelt and take some anti-nausea medication. You ready? Here we go.
We've got a dead black guy, shot by a racist white Southern vigilante with a Germanic name. We've got racist Southern cops: Think Smokey Bear hats, mirrored sunglasses, and the one-handed pump of the pump-action shotgun.
That's the MSM script. With most of the key facts still in dispute, one thing that can be said with complete certainty is that what actually transpired was nothing like that whatsoever.
For example, we now know that the cops actually wanted to prosecute George Zimmerman; it was the pointy-head college-educated types at the DA's office who said there was no chance of a successful prosecution based on the evidence, witness testimony, and Florida law.
The MSM are holding on for dear life to their script, though. Even some conservative outlets, to their shame, have jumped on the bandwagon, out of the common desire — to my way of thinking, a rather pathetic desire — nursed by many mainstream conservatives to prove to their liberal pals that they are more anti-racist than thou.
Sunday's New York Post was a prime exhibit here. Big front-page headline: "911 NUT." Story, quote:
George Zimmerman … was a police officer wannabe who called 911 more than 45 times as a volunteer "watchman" [that word is in quotes] in his Florida gated community.
Hmm. Why the scare quotes around "watchman," guys? Isn't watching what Neighborhood Watch is supposed to do? Isn't that why it's called "Neighborhood …" you know, "… Watch"?
As to Zimmerman calling 911 45 times: Again, that's what Neighborhood Watch volunteers are supposed to do.
(Though if memory serves, they do not call 911, they have a special police line assigned to them. But hey, what do mere details like that matter under today's journalistic standards? Speaking of which, 45 times in how long a period? Forty-five times that week? Forty-five times since 2009? Did I mention journalistic standards? Pass the barf bag.)
And then, look at that nasty little slur: "police officer wannabe." Hey, New York Post: My town has a Community First Aid Squad staffed by volunteers. What are they in the favored vocabulary of the MSM: "doctor wannabes"?
The Post seems to be saying: Shame on citizens who want to help out in their own communities by volunteering their own time and effort. They should stay home and let government functionaries handle everything. Great conservative position there, guys.
Things got worse in the Sunday Post's inside pages. Here's the editorial cartoon, by Mike Luckovich — you can see it on Luckovich's blog if you just google his name.
Left-hand panel: Burly mean-looking white guy pointing handgun at trembling black youth. Speech bubble from white guy, quote: "According to Florida law, I have the right to shoot you even though you're unarmed by claiming I felt threatened …" End quote.
Right panel: Now the black guy is dead on the ground and the white guy's saying: "You have the right to remain silent …" End quote.
That's the editorial cartoon. Ha ha ha ha ha! See, the white guy just walked up to the black guy and shot him! And it's legal in Florida! Those racist Southern hicks! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Again, this is liberal fantasy. Whatever happened on the night of February 26th, it was nothing like that whatsoever. And I say again, this is the New York Post, which normally has at least an editorial leaning to the conservative viewpoint.
When there's a Great White Defendant in harpoon range, though, truth goes out the window — along with, as I demonstrated a minute or two ago, anything resembling honest journalistic standards.
06 — Trayvon Martin case: journalistic bright spots. Having said all that, here's some credit where credit's due.
None on the liberal side, of course: they're all frothing crazy. On the conservative, or at least not-dogmatically-liberal side of the journalistic world, however, there were some bright spots.
Bright spot number one: Ann Coulter. Quote from Ann's column Wednesday this week, quote:
Pretty much all that is known with certainty is that Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious character in his neighborhood, and shortly thereafter he shot and killed Martin.
Beyond that, Ann has concentrated, as I have, on the MSM follies, as the actual facts of the case are still too murky to pronounce on with any certainty.
Bright spot number two: Bill O'Reilly. I've occasionally been a bit scathing about O'Reilly. That populist shtick gets up my nose sometimes; he's a bit too full of himself for my taste; and he's often just dramatically wrong, as in his current claims that evil oil companies are running a price-rigging cartel.
Still, on the Florida shooting, I must say, O'Reilly has performed with impeccable professionalism, showing a proper restraint in the face of all the factual ambiguities, and refusing to fill in the murkiness with a narrative of his own based on ignorance, prejudice, and old movies.
For once I'm almost ready to believe the Big Mick's oft-repeated claims to be a first-class opinion journalist. If he keeps up this standard, who knows?, one day The O'Reilly Factor may enjoy as wide a distribution and popularity as Radio Derb.
I should add as a footnote here, by the way, that as restrained as I myself tried to be in last week's broadcast, with proper respect to all the many unknowns in the case, I still managed to pick up a couple of facts from the media cloud that turned out not to be true, though they were being widely said.
Untrue fact one: I said that George Zimmerman was not arrested at the shooting scene. In fact he was arrested. You can pick nits there with some fine-point legal definition of the word "arrest": but most users of colloquial American English, when a guy has been cuffed, Mirandaed, and driven to the station house in a squad car, would say he's been arrested.
Untrue fact two: I said that Trayvon Martin was on a five-day suspension from school. In fact it was a ten-day suspension.
Apologies for those inaccuracies.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: My visitor from Turkmenistan did in fact bring some news from that wonderful country.
Following his sensational victory in February's election, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has announced that two more political parties will be licensed to join in his nation's political conversation: an agrarian party and an entrepreneurs' party.
Democracy marches forward in Turkmenistan! … aided, of course by free, open media coverage, with Radio Derb Turkmenistan in the lead.
Rumors you may have heard that Radio Derb's monopoly over the Turkmen airwaves is stifling free discussion in the country are utterly false, base slanders put about by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's enemies. Other radio stations are perfectly free to broadcast to the Turkmen people, so long as they meet state licensing requirements.
Item: We don't yet have a sentencing in the case of Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers University student who spied on his homosexual roommate by leaving a webcam on — the case I frothed and fumed about in my February 17th broadcast.
For his prank, Ravi was prosecuted on fifteen felony charges. Fifteen felony charges is what you'd expect for someone who'd spent ten years bilking old ladies out of their life savings. Fifteen felony charges is what you'd expect to face if you'd been running a Mafia subsidiary.
There used to be a legal principle called by the Latin tag de minimis non curat lex — "The law does not concern itself with trivialities." That principle is dead and gone, killed by the homosexualist lobbies. There are no more trivialities now.
Watch out: If you pick your nose in public in the state of New Jersey, you could be looking at a couple of felony counts, if the homo lobbies decide it should be so.
Welcome to overlawyered America; welcome to post-freedom America.
Item: Last Friday 23-year-old Jenna Talackova was booted off the Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant after organizers learned that she had been anatomically and physiologically a male until undergoing "gender reassignment surgery" four years ago.
If you have an opinion about this story, I advise you to keep it to yourself, unless you want to face felony charges in New Jersey.
Item: Here's a little sidebar on the issue of criminal aliens not getting deported.
There was an exceptionally gruesome murder in San Francisco last Friday. A person of Chinese origin, Vincent Lei, and his girlfriend, his sister, and his parents were all murdered in their home, the bodies so badly mutilated that identification was difficult.
On Sunday Binh Thai Luc was arrested and charged with the five murders. Turns out the perp, from Vietnam, is a resident alien and has a criminal record. He served a prison term for robbery and assault, and on his release six years ago was supposed to be deported, but Vietnam wouldn't take him back.
Hard to blame them, but there's a simple remedy for this particular problem: The State Department should deny any kind of visas, including diplomatic visas, to countries that won't take back their felons.
Congressman Ted Poe of Texas, a great immigration patriot, actually introduced legislation along those lines last year. Congress should act on that legislation, and force the State Department to get itself a spine, which it surely will not do without being forced.
Item: Finally, conservatism lost a couple of longstanding champions this week: Priscilla Buckley and Hilton Kramer.
I was privileged to know them both. I sat at dinner tables with Priscilla several times, most recently in July of 2010, and she cheered me up every time — a sunny, sweet lady with a great fund of stories.
Hilton I knew from New Criterion parties: a real American gentleman and scholar, and the only person ever able to convince me that there is any point to looking at Abstract Expressionist art.
Priscilla and Hilton will both be much missed.
08 — Signoff. That just about wraps it up, folks. Before I go, though, just one shout-out here.
It goes to Radio Derb fan Gerard L. Owens of Pennsylvania, by request of his son Connor. Mr Owens' wife, which is to say Connor's Mom, passed away two years ago, and Owens Sr. has taken up the slack, working night and day to give Connor and his brothers the life he wants for them. Connor wants his Dad to know how much he's appreciated.
It's a small story, repeated untold thousands of times across our country; but in my take on the news I offer a pretty good dose of cynicism, and it's salutary to be reminded that underneath all the follies and injustices that make the headlines, there is this silent, strong current of everyday decency and courage, keeping us moving forward somehow in spite of it all.
Good luck to you, Mr. Owens, and to your fine sons.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]