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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is back on the air! Yes, this is the voice they couldn't silence, at least not for long; and I apologize for the hiatus, interruption, gap, lull, downtime, intermission, caesura, pause, rift, abeyance, cessation, and lacuna. [Aside: Okay, Mandy, you can put the Thesaurus back now, thank you, dear.]
As you may have heard, we were obliged to vacate our premises at Buckley Towers owing to one of those tiresome landlord-tenant disputes. This came on rather abruptly; hence the lacuna.
Fortunately Radio Derb has many friends in the world of media entrepreneurship. One of them is Mr Taki Theodoracopulos, the well-known writer, sportsman, and patron of the arts. Taki has very generously transported myself, my staff of technicians and assistants, and all our impedimenta to a modest Greek island he owns in the Aegean Sea.
With the eager assistance of local Greeks, keen for work following their layoffs from government jobs, we got a state-of-the-art sound studio up and running here in no time.
So here I am in new quarters, looking out through a wide picture window across the wine-dark sea to the isles of Greece, the isles of Greece, where burning Sappho loved and sung. Although to tell the truth, from what I remember of Sappho, I'm hoping that is one of the more distant islands.
I'm also hoping this one we're on isn't the one where people get turned into hogs, I really don't need that. Just trying to produce a radio show here, all you ghosts and spirits.
So, then, on with the show! Or as we accomplished classicists say, "Menin aeide, Thea …"
02 — Government scandals. While the cat's away, the mice will play; and without Radio Derb to keep an eye on things, our federal government has been misbehaving, or at least owning up to past misbehaviors.
Item One: The General Services Administration, which is mainly the purchasing & procurement department for all the other federal government agencies, has been running its own little stimulus program for the national economy by spending money like water on employee junkets. Most egregiously, a five-day "training conference" for 300 people in October of 2010, held in Las Vegas, cost Joe and Jane Taxpayer 823,000 dollars.
The very week we were handed our eviction notice from Buckley Towers, GSA head Martha Johnson resigned. An investigation by the GSA Inspector General has since given us a breakdown on that 823,000 dollars. It included, for example, $7,000 on sushi at a, quote, "networking reception," whatever that is, and $3,200 for a session with a mind reader. Ah, government work.
Item Two: A different conference called the Summit of the Americas, basically a diplomats' junket held every three or four years, took place April 14th-15th in Cartagena, Colombia.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of course attended; and when the conference was over Mrs Clinton threw decorum to the winds and did a little partying. Photographs appeared in our newspapers showing the lady dancing the Watusi at a Cartagena nightclub while simultaneously swigging beer from a bottle and waving what the news reports describe as a "scarf," though under the prevailing lighting condiditons it could just as well have been an item of underwear …
You know how sometimes an image comes into your mind and you'd do anything to get it out of there? Let's press on, perhaps that one will go away.
Item Three: Prior to President Obama's visit to that same Summit of the Americas conference in Colombia, a Secret Service advance party installed themselves in the city and hastened to made use of its public facilities: the well-stocked libraries, art museums, and concert halls, no doubt, but unfortunately also Cartagena's large and very reasonably priced corps of prostitutes. Eleven of the agents were reprimanded and shipped back stateside.
When I first read this Secret Service story I thought it was a big fuss about nothing. Secret Service guys are young and super-fit. Colombian hookers, to judge from the one or two who got their pictures in our papers, are young and pretty. What d'you think is going to happen?
There's more to the story, though — more than meets the eye, it seems to me. Also in Cartagena as part of the advance party was Paula Reid. Who she? Well, Paula Reid is the Secret Service boss for the South American region. She's 46 years old, been in law enforcement for 21 years. She's black, and when the unfortunately-named feminist website WomenForHire.com, during an interview, asked her, quote, "Do you have a family or interests outside of work and how is your career impacted?" Ms Reid's response was, quote:
I am very close to my parents and siblings.
I hope I won't be accused of any very extravagant leaps of imagination if I surmise that what we have here is a diversity three-fer: female, black, and butch.
So let's open up the question: What would have been Paula Reid's mental state at the prospect of humiliating a bunch of randy white heterosexual males? Would it have been (a) brimming with wellnigh uncontrollable glee, or (b) sadly reconciled to a necessary but regrettable disciplinary action?
For a definitive ruling on that question, I guess we could ask the GSA for the email address of that mind reader.
03 — Budget follies. It's springtime and a commentator's thoughts naturally turn to the federal budget.
Just to remind you of the basics: Federal-budget-wise, a fiscal year runs from the beginning of October to the end of September. So right now we're seven months into fiscal 2012. Fiscal 2013 starts this coming October 1st.
The drill is, in early February the President puts forward his budget for the coming fiscal year. Congress chews over it, and by mid-April is supposed to come up with a Budget Resolution.
It's not a law, it's a resolution, like your New Year's resolutions. The Budget Resolution is handed off to the appropriations committees, who crank the handles and turn it into bills to be passed into law, ideally before the start of the fiscal year on October 1st.
That's what's supposed to happen. In fact it's been three years — April 29th, 2009 — since Congress passed a Budget Resolution.
Congress, remember, has two chambers, the House and the Senate. In 2010, with majorities in both chambers, Senate Democrats didn't allow a full vote. In 2011, Democrats still running the Senate but the House now Republican, Senate Democrats didn't even bother to write a budget.
In 2012 the Senate Budget Committee got some work done, but the Democratic leadership wouldn't allow them to vote a budget out to the full chamber.
Why don't Senate Democrats want to debate a Budget Resolution? Two reasons. One: a budget that addresses our nation's terrible fiscal problems will involve some really hard, unpopular choices, especially on entitlement spending. The noble senators don't want to be seen making hard choices, especially not in an election year.
Two: In response to the debt-ceiling crisis of last summer, Congress passed a law — not merely a resolution, a law — called the Budget Control Act, which automatically trims the rate of growth of federal spending — the rate of growth, not the actual numbers — across the next ten years.
So the Democrats who run the Senate can say righteously:
Hey, we're not being derelict in our duty. We don't need a Budget Resolution! The Budget Control Act we passed takes care of the whole issue — for ten years!
What they don't tell you is, that nobody believes the automatic cuts come even close to addressing our fiscal problems.
The beauty of the situation is that the Republicans who control the House can also strike righteous poses: cooking up and passing somewhat more realistic budgets in the sure and certain knowledge that the Senate won't consider them.
Well, that's a bit unkind. The chairman of the House Budget Committee is Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan's an honest man, by congressional standards, and his proposals are less of a pose in at least this: that if his party keeps the House in November and Mitt Romney wins the White House, Ryanism will actually be put to the test.
When you look at the awful numbers building up, though — national debt of 26 trillion dollars by 2021, per capita national debt now bigger than Greece's, ballooning entitlements, stagnant tax receipts — even Ryan's proposals look picayune.
After mocking the cowardice of Senate Democrats, Forbes writer Josh Barro says, quote:
House Republicans, with budget proposals that gloss over challenging details and make unrealistic assumptions, aren't doing much better.
He calls the Ryan budget, quote, "vacuously vague." Ryan responded with some variation on the line about politics being the art of the possible.
So that's the state of budgetary play, listeners, as we head for the lip of the fiscal waterfall. But what's to worry about? We still have the almighty dollar, don't we?
Well, yes, but nobody else much seems to want it. Of the U.S. government debt issued last year, we ourselves — which is to say, the Federal Reserve — ended up buying 61 percent of it.
That's our current fiscal policy: just keep moving stuff from one trouser pocket to the other and hope nobody notices.
04 — The majority-minority Democratic Party. A report here from USA Today based on some number-crunching by political analyst David Wasserman, quote:
In 1950, white men constituted 98 percent of House Democrats — a percentage that fell precipitously to just 53 percent following the 2010 elections. Based on the makeup of candidates in the current congressional races, Wasserman projects that the 2012 elections will result in a House Democratic Caucus that will be 46-48 percent white males when the next Congress starts in January — whether or not Democrats win a majority.
So as of next January, this guy's predicting, the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives will be a majority-minority party, with white men fading away. You have to pretend that women are included as a minority there; though since there are four million more females than males in the U.S. population, you need to squinch up your eyes to do it.
According to me, this is all part of the quiet, mainly peaceful, ethnic disaggregation going on all over the world across the modern — I mean post-WW2 — era. To quote from myself, writing elsewhere, quote:
Czechs and Slovaks, Serbs and Croats, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Abkhazians and Ossetians and Georgians, have all separated after centuries of cohabitation. The Flemish and Walloons of Belgium look set fair to do the same. The Jews are long gone from Arabia and Persia, the Saxons have mostly decamped from Transylvania, the Nepalese are leaving Bhutan, and the Bantus want out from Somalia. The Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland are less mixed now than they were a hundred years ago …," and so on.
Among House Republicans, white males currently constitute 86 percent. Wasserman predicts that will change very little in the November elections. So next January, according to him, we'll be looking at House Democrats less than fifty percent white male, House Republicans close to ninety percent white male.
None of this is very surprising, though it comes under the heading of things you're not supposed to notice. Blacks and Hispanics, with their overall low levels of educational, social, and career attainment, want a big, generous government that will transfer wealth to them from more successful groups.
Women, in the generality, want a nurturing government that emphasizes safety and security, with big government subsidies on provisions like healthcare and education. All of that is the province of the Democratic Party.
On the bare numbers, it doesn't look good for the GOP. Non-Hispanic white males are only 31 percent of the population, though a bit more than that of the adult electorate. It's way less than half, anyway; and of course a good slice of that number consists of liberal ethnomasochists.
On the other side, women aren't a solid block: married women with kids, for instance, are more inclined to vote Republican than single women, rural women more so than urban women, and so on.
Lessons are rather easy to draw none the less. One lesson is the great folly of Republicans in encouraging mass low-skilled Hispanic immigration this past twenty years. The illusion persists that these voters can be seduced into the GOP camp, but I don't believe it.
For one thing, with the aforementioned low levels of attainment, they are natural redistributionists. For another, voting habits are awfully sticky. The Irish of Massachusetts were voting Democrat en bloc a hundred years ago: they still are.
Another lesson is that the GOP needs to keep itself right with white males. If the party loses them, it really has no place to go.
And contrariwise, the Democrats need to get as big a slice of that white female pie as they can. They know this of course, and are striving to keep as many white women as possible in the corral. That explains much of the last few weeks' politicking.
05 — Europe's rising ethnonationalism. If I am right about this being an age of ethnic disaggregation, that means that multiculturalism is a bust.
Further evidence for this comes from Europe, where the greatest multicultural projects of all, the European Union and the Eurozone, are tottering. All over Europe, anti-EU and anti-multiculturalism movements are gaining and consolidating power.
In the Netherlands, both tendencies were symbolized by Geert Wilders, who by the way has been on a book tour in the U.S.A. this week. The name of his book is Marked for Death, which Mr Wilders is, because of his fierce opposition to Islam and Islamic immigration into his country.
Well, last week Mr Wilders withdrew his party from the ruling coalition in Parliament, bringing down the government and forcing an election, to be held in September. He wants the Netherlands to get out of the Eurozone, establish strict border controls, and give the finger to the austerity plans being pushed from EU headquarters in Brussels and managed mainly by the Germans.
Meanwhile in France, there was a presidential election April 22, or at least the first round of one. The Socialist Party leader François Hollande got the biggest bite of the vote with 29 percent. The incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, was close behind with 27 percent. Marine Le Pen, the ethnonationalist candidate — i.e. the approximate French counterpart to Geert Wilders — got 18 percent.
France now has a runoff election this Sunday, May 6th, and the numbers don't look good for Sarkozy. If you add up those three percentages I just quoted you get 74, which means 26 percent of the French voted for someone else, mostly leftwing parties.
Even some of Marine Le Pen's vote will go Left: as always, ethnonationalist populism doesn't map easily into left-right. Mme Le Pen in fact, in a stirring May Day speech, said she herself would cast a blank ballot in Sunday's runoff, and urged her followers to vote according to their consciences.
That means some big chunk of them will vote for the socialist Hollande. Since the 26 percent of Frenchmen who voted in the first round for leftist parties other than Hollande's will also presumably swing to him, it looks as though Sarkozy is pain grillé. (That's toast, for you monolingual clods.)
So what effect will a Hollande presidency have on the simmering EU/Eurozone crisis? There's some hopeful speculation that Hollande might do a Nixon-to-China turn and take an ax to France's bloated bureaucracy and decrepit industries.
I think that's dreaming. From what I've been reading about François Hollande, he's just what his party label says he is: a socialist. Higher taxes, more public spending, celebrate diversity.
Well, it should make for a good relationship with Barack Obama.
06 — Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. The Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng somehow escaped from his house arrest in his home village and made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Peking.
Chen is a very admirable character. Despite being blind since a childhood illness, he educated himself in the law and went on to make a nuisance of himself to the Chinese Communist Party by helping peasants and workers to file lawsuits on matters like forced abortions, illegal taxation, and disregard of environmental rules.
The communists of course hate him. They arrested him, gave him a show trial, and jailed him for four years. When he came out of jail two years ago, they put him under house arrest in his village, deputing local bully-boys to harass Chen and his family. That's the situation Chen escaped from.
So there he was the last week of April in the U.S. Embassy. Cases like this present real nontrivial problems for the U.S. government.
Everyone can admire these dissidents, struggling to bring civilized values to a brutal, lawless system. Everyone can acknowledge the cruelty, cynicism, and dishonesty of the Chinese Communists towards their own people.
At the same time, nations have interests, and diplomats are paid to advance and protect those interests. Sometimes that mission comes up against a person like Chen. How do you weigh the safety, perhaps the life, of one admirable, courageous Chinese citizen against the interests of your nation? As I said, it's a nontrivial problem.
In Chen's case, the Embassy seems to have been willing to grant him political asylum in the U.S.A., but the Communists made it clear that if that happened, Chen would never see his family again. Chen opted to be reunited with his family.
Some assurances were given, a deal was cut, and he left the Embassy and went to a local hospital to be treated for injuries he'd suffered in escaping house arrest.
Chen seems to have understood that American diplomats would stay with him in the hospital, but in fact they soon melted away. He met his family — wife, widowed mother, and six-year-old-daughter. They, it turned out, had been told things by the authorities quite different from what Chen and the U.S. diplomats had been told as part of the deal. The communists, in short, had lied through their teeth. What. A. Surprise.
Now Chen fears for his life and wants the U.S.A. to get him and his family out of China.
It might happen. China, like the old U.S.S.R. before it, has learned that a good way to deal with troublesome dissidents is to just throw them out of the country.
On the other hand, the ChiComs are in an arrogant mood right now, full of contempt for what they see as a stumbling, failing U.S.A. beset by intractable fiscal and demographic problems. It would be perfectly in character for them to give Chen another show trial and another jail sentence, just to humiliate us — to remind us that while they hold a trillion dollars worth of our debt, they don't have to give a fig for our blather about "human rights."
I can't call this one. A year from now, Chen Guangcheng will either be in jail or in the U.S.A. with his family: I wouldn't give odds.
I'll venture this thought, though: The obvious and growing contempt that China's leaders feel for the U.S.A., their conviction that the future belongs to them and that we are on the downslide to second-rate status, is now the major factor in Sino-U.S. relations, and is exactly the kind of attitude that might lead the Chinese into some calamitous miscalculation.
07 — Obama's white girlfriend. If you are one of the seventeen people who have actually read Barack Obama's turgid autobiography, Dreams from My Father, you'll recall that after graduating Columbia University in 1983, Obama decided to become a community organizer.
First, though, he wanted to save a bit of money, so he took work as a research assistant for a New York City business consultancy. Yes, our President once worked in private enterprise. Quote from page 135 of the book:
Like a spy behind enemy lines, I arrived every day at my mid-Manhattan office and sat at my computer terminal, checking the Reuters machine that blinked bright emerald messages from across the globe.
You can just feel the agony in young Barack's soul, trapped behind enemy lines, aiding international capitalism.
Fortunately he had some extramural consolations. In particular, he had a white girlfriend, whom he tells us about in pages 210 to 212. He loved the girl, Obama tells us, and they saw each other for over a year. Then the race thing got in the way. Quote from page 211:
We had a big fight, right in front of the theater. When we got back to the car she started crying. She couldn't be black, she said. She would if she could, but she couldn't.
Thereupon they broke up.
When I read that, I assumed that the reason for the break-up was somewhat more calculating on Obama's part. He was already ambitious, and planning a future path into politics.
A person with antennas as fine-tuned as Obama's are to the minutiae of racial sensibilities in the U.S.A. would certainly have known that for a black politician to have a white wife would be a huge negative, because no black women would vote for him. Black women hate to see black men with white women.
To get ahead in politics, and first of all in black city politics, as Obama had already decided to to, he needed a black wife.
An alternative reading of that passage, popular with some other commentators, is that Obama just made the whole thing up to add a little dramatic spice to the memoir. The fact that nobody was able to locate the mystery woman added cedibility to this reading, though of course the mainstream media weren't exactly busting a gut to verify Obama's stories about his early life.
Well, now there's a new biography of Obama coming out, written by David Maraniss, and some excerpts have been published in Vanity Fair. It turns out that Obama's story about the white girlfriend is sort-of true.
In those post-Columbia years in New York, 1983-85, when he was aged 22-23, he did have a white girlfriend, lady named Genevieve Cook. The denouement wasn't as Obama described it in his own book, but the President told Maraniss he'd made up a compound figure out of two different girlfriends.
Nice to have that little mystery laid to rest. When all's said and done, though, I'm sticking with my original assumption, the one I came to when reading Dreams from My Father: that Obama was never going to marry a white girl because he knew it would be a political downer. This guy was born making political calculations.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our traditional closing miscellany of brief items.
Item: The new Islamist-dominated parliament in Egypt is debating a law to let husbands have sexual intercourse with their dead wives for up to six hours after the wife's death.
Once this news story got around, a mighty chorus rose from old married guys around the world, crying: "How are we supposed to tell?"
Moroccan cleric Zamzami Abdul Bari put some egalitarian spin on the issue by declaring that a woman likewise has the right to intercourse with her dead husband, which it seems to me would bring her up against some severe physiological limitations.
We haven't yet heard a ruling from the world of Islamic theology to cover the case where both parties are deceased, but no doubt they're working on it.
Item: Remember the big May Day demonstrations of 2006, when illegal immigrants and their supporters came out into the streets waving Mexican flags and demanding citizenship?
Amazing to report, those rallies did not go over well with Americans. Dimwitted politicians like Hillary Clinton who showed up to address the crowds in 2006 were nowhere to be found in 2007.
Now the demonstrations themselves have faded away. This year's May Day turnout was miserable. A rally in Atlanta drew just 100 activists.
The illegal immigrant's moment may have come and gone. With the sputtering economy, the Pew Research Center tells us as many illegals are leaving as arriving; and the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on Arizona's state law fortifying enforcement of federal immigration statutes, with the justices not apparently much sympathetic to the Obama administration's challenge to the law.
My take on this is that now would be an excellent time to start rounding up and deporting the 11 million illegals still here, but I'm not holding my breath.
Item: I'm going to read you a story from Local 15, which is the NBC affiliate in Mobile, Alabama. I'm going to read the entire story, no omissions, just at Local 15 printed it in their April 23 report. Here goes. Begin quote.
Mobile Police are investigating after they say a man was attacked by a group of people.
"A man was attacked by a group of people." Got that? "A man was attacked by a group of people."
This is news reporting in the Age of Sensitivity. For bonus points, see if you can figure out, just from your knowledge of mainstream-media crime-reporting protocols, see if you can figure out some key details the Local 15 report omitted.
Item: Here's another pop quiz along similar lines.
An Australian think tank called the Institute for Economics and Peace has been studying the states of our Union to find out which are the least and most peaceful, based on the prevalence of violent crimes, homicides, police employees, size of the prison population and small arms availability.
Most peaceful states in the U.S.A.? Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Utah.
Least peaceful? From the bottom: Louisiana, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida and Arizona.
The quiz is to see if you can tease out the factors that make those the most and least peaceful states. Is it, for example, religion? No, can't be: Utah's religious all right, but Vermont is not. How about proximity to the Canadian border? Well, that almost works for states, but the same study tells us that the least peaceful metro area is Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, which is actually on the Canadian border.
What can the hidden factor be?
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Good to be back on the air once again, broadcasting from here in the balmy Aegean. There will be more from Radio Derb next week. In the meantime, I urge you to check out Takimag.com, the online presence of our new patron and his excellent stable of writers.
Now, in lieu of our usual close-the-week party, I'm going to take the girls down to the local village for some souvlaki, a bottle of ouzo, and, who knows? perhaps some wild spontaneous dancing in the warm Greek twilight. Come on, you all know the tune.
[Music clip: Ricardo Pérez con los caballeros de siempre: "Zorba the Greek"]