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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, traditional instruments version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! If you noticed a slight difference in the intro music there, that was Haydn's Derbyshire March Number Two played on traditional instruments by The Philharmonists Of Chateauroux, passed on to me by James Fulford.
And yes, this is your traditionally genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you some commentary on the week's news from a Dissident Right perspective.
Like many Trump voters, and many, many gun owners, I am holding on to faith in our President by the tippy-tips of my fingernails this week. Let's take a look at that.
02 — Trump agrees with the last thing anyone said. There is an old joke, known I am sure to most of my listeners, about the Second Coming.
A senior cardinal rushes into the Pope's office at the Vatican. "Holy Father, Holy Father, come look! The most amazing thing has happened?"
That instinct to look busy is common to all bureaucratic organizations, including of course the federal government. It seized President Trump this week. On Wednesday he held an hour-long televised session at the White House with a group of federal legislators from both parties, Senators and congresscritters.
The supposed object of the exercise was to work out something Congress might do in the way of new federal laws, something that would prevent horrors like the February 14th school shooting in Florida.
The meeting itself was a lousy idea. When Trump proposed it to his staffers they should have gagged him, bound him hand and foot, strapped him to a chair, and made him watch looped re-runs of the previous televised meeting with congressfolk. That was the one on January 9th to discuss immigration policy. Reporting on it at the time, I said that, quote, "the President seemed clumsy and ill-informed."
Mine was one of the milder reactions. Tucker Carlson thought the January 9th immigration meeting was a disaster.
All right; but I was striving to avoid despair. Trump's all we've got — we, citizens who would rather not watch our country turned into a multicultural slum. On the National Question, every current political alternative to Trump is far worse.
After this last show, however, I have to admit, despair is getting hard to fend off. Trump was simply terrible. As in the January meeting, he agreed enthusiastically with the last person who spoke, even when that person had said the opposite thing to what the previous person had said. I found myself thinking: Does Trump actually understand words and meanings? This is the Great Negotiator?
This tendency of Trump's to agree with everyone around the table even when they disagreed with each other was so obvious even the congressfolk themselves noticed it. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska told reporters after the event that, edited quote:
Strong leaders don't automatically agree with the last thing that was said to them … We're not ditching any Constitutional protections simply because the last person the President talked to today doesn't like them.
We were told after the January 9th fiasco that, off-camera following the meeting, the President gathered his wits and said more sensible things; and we're being told the same now about this gun-control meeting. Well, maybe; but then, why let him hold these meetings on air, where he comes across as a dithering doofus? We know Trump's a TV freak who loves having those cameras on him, but can't anyone on his staff restrain him?
03 — Time to dump Trump?. If you think I was being harsh on the President there, check out some other reactions from our side of the national conversation.
The Z-man, for example. Z — that's the name I refer to him by, not a pronoun — Z is one of the smartest bloggers on the Dissident Right, with an exceptionally high density of intelligent insights. Thursday this week, following the White House meeting on gun control, he dumped Trump with a vengeance. Sample quotes:
[Trump's] latest antics over the gun issue … suggest that he's just a stupid bullshitter who got very lucky …
Ouch! Z is, as I said, a thoughtful guy who hardly ever sounds really angry. This week he did; and if Trump's Wednesday performance did this to him, it likely did much worse to a lot of less cerebral voters. It may not be too much of a stretch to say that Trump lost his party the 2018 midterms there on Wednesday.
This is not a happy time for National Conservatives. The hopes raised by Donald Trump's election have pretty much evaporated. Sure, we got some conservative judges; although there are still way too many of the other kind who fancy themselves legislators, and Congress shows no appetite for restraining them, as it easily could. What else did we get? A tax cut? Uh-huh. Funny, I don't recall that being a major issue in the 2016 election.
Talking the other day with a like-minded friend, he said something like the following, quote:
I could see, back in 2016, there was a huge opening waiting for some canny politician to exploit it, to drive a coach and four through it. It was in plain sight! Yet the politicians all ignored it. Only Donald Trump saw it. Why did it have to be him? Why couldn't some competent, Washington-smart politician have seen the opening?
The answer I guess is that politicians of our age are terminally timid, when they're not actually corrupt and just dancing to their donors' tunes. Trump's boldness in saying what so many of us were thinking surely made the difference in the vote count that got him to the White House … where it's turning out that while he may have been bold on the campaign trail, in office he is just another GOP girly-man.
So should we just yield to despair? Well, not entirely. Trump is obviously useless. It's possible, though, that someone less useless will have learned the lesson of 2016: that even in this age of suffocating, stultifying Political Correctness, there is a hunger for a bold and direct approach to our nation's problems. Let's nurse that hope for 2020.
04 — Don't just do something, sit there. In the meantime, what should be done to minimize the possibility of another atrocity like the one in Florida?
I think it makes more sense to ask not what should be done, but who should do it. And the beginning of wisdom in answering that question is: not the federal government.
Setting aside the President's incoherent babblings at Wednesday's meeting, the things that were actually proposed were stale and unpromising. More background checks, raising the minimum age for gun purchases, banning military-style weapons …
These aren't hopelessly stupid ideas. For example, in last week's podcast I had respectful words for Ralph Peters' argument against civilian ownership of military weapons. I didn't agree with Colonel Peters; but his arguments are cogent and not contemptible.
I just don't see how federal laws and regulations are going to help. The ones I've seen spelled out fall into two categories.
In Category One are suggestions that are just plainly unconstitutional and will be struck down by the courts. The suggestion our President extruded on Wednesday falls into Category One, quote: "Take the guns first, go through due process second," end quote. Was that some drunk sounding off in a bar? No, that was the President of the United States.
Category Two are proposals, like those on more background checks or mental health assessments, that would stretch the operational competence of the federal government agencies to breaking point.
Look, I'm not saying that all federal agencies are terminally incompetent; and if you, gentle listener, are a federal employee, please don't take offense. Some federal agencies do a great job. I've interacted some with the Social Security Administration, and always found them polite and efficient.
And in the zone of immigration I very much want to see our laws firmly and fairly enforced. If I didn't think the relevant agencies could do that, I wouldn't bother speaking and writing about it. What would be the point? Likewise, I want Congress to pass new and better laws on immigration, and I believe federal legislators are capable of doing that, if enough of them will lash themselves to the mast and ignore the siren songs of donors and ethnic lobbies.
Immigration control is comparatively straightforward, though. You're either a citizen, or you're not. You either fall into one of the categories admitted for lawful settlement, or you don't. There are no conceptual ambiguities in immigration control.
The operational chaos in immigration arises from the union of two very powerful forces. One is a determination on the part of big money interests — the cheap-labor lobbies — to thwart enforcement or improvement of the people's laws; the other is an ideology of ethnomasochism, a hatred for Western civilization that has captured the educated classes of the West and filled them with a longing to drown our nations in a flood of non-Western immigrants.
Gun control isn't like that. The immigration issue is conceptually clear-cut: the gun issue isn't.
The very foundation of our gun rights, the Second Amendment to our Constitution, is ambiguous. What is "a well-regulated militia"? What exactly is included among the arms that the people have a right "to keep and bear"? Hand grenades? Howitzers? Nuclear weapons? The Framers didn't specify.
Modern legislation has only multiplied the ambiguities. What precisely counts as an "assault rifle"? Who gets to decide whether I am mentally healthy or not?
These are the kinds of gray areas that federal agencies are not good at policing, and that federal legislators are not good at defining. We have seen this with the FBI bungling in the Florida case, and in experience with the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, concerning which there is still debate, fourteen years after the ban expired, as to whether it had any effect at all.
Where this kind of muddle and uncertainty prevail, the proper attitude of the federal government is restraint. General nationwide consensus provides some obvious boundaries on things like hand grenades, howitzers, and nukes. Leave the fine details to the states. Borrowing words from Z-man again, quote:
On an issue like guns, doing nothing is usually the best course. Most states are sensible on guns, so letting the states handle it is good for us.
My recommendation to the President and the Congress on gun control is therefore: Don't just do something, sit there.
To the President in particular, I offer the words of the late great Calvin Coolidge, quote:
Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.
That review was cross-posted to the Unz Review. For reasons I don't understand, that cross-post got an unusually large number of comments — 636 last time I looked.
Some of the commenters were lunatics of course, and some others, as is always the case with China topics, were wumao. Those are internet trolls paid by the ChiComs to post comments and Amazon reviews giving the ChiCom point of view. Wumao means "fifty cents," which is supposedly what they're paid per posted comment. Probably other countries that are extra-sensitive about their image do this too: I've heard Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia mentioned in this context.
Most of those comments were not obvious lunatics or wumao trolls, though. That bespeaks a high level of interest in things Chinese, and in how much of a problem China poses to the rest of us.
Well, in that review I wrote that many of Paul Midler's points reinforce the grand theme of foreign commentary on China down through the ages: continuity. I followed up with one of my own favorite quotes on this theme, from the 19th-century historian Demetrius Boulger, quote:
It is the peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of Chinese history that the people and their institutions have remained practically unchanged and the same from a very early period … The supreme ruler possesses the same attributes and discharges the same functions; the governing classes are chosen in the same manner; the people are bound in the same state of servitude, and enjoy the same practical liberty; all is now as it was.
That's a good start point for understanding the news out of China this week that the Central Committee of the Communist Party will amend the nation's constitution.
Chapter III, Section 2, Article 79 of the constitution stipulates that the President and Vice-President of the People's Republic, quote: "shall serve no more than two consecutive terms," end quote. Those are five-year terms.
This week's news is that the two-term limit will be scrapped. China's presidency, and presumably the vice-presidency too, will no longer be term-limited.
The current ChiCom dictator, Xi Jinping, assumed the Presidency in March of 2013, so he's just coming to the end of his first five-year term. His second term would have expired in March of 2023. With this latest change to the constitution, though, he could have a third term, to March of 2028. At that point he'd only be 74 years old, so … why not a fourth term to 2033, when he'll be 79? … And so on. Hey, Deng Xiaoping held effective supreme power — although not, to be fair, the presidency — into his nineties. Xi Jinping won't be ninety until 2043.
It's tempting at this point, tempting for a person who said the thing I said a few days ago, the thing about continuity, it's tempting to conclude that China, under the gravitational force of its own immense history, is sliding back to the imperial norm of despotic-bureaucratic government under a hereditary ruler-for-life.
Will President-for-Life Xi Jinping, a few years from now, be donning a silk robe and sacrificing to his ancestors at the Temple of Heaven? Will Zhongnanhai — that's the Chinese equivalent of the White House — will Zhongnanhai be staffed by eunuchs? Will aspiring bureaucrats once again be locked into examination cells for three days? Will the successful ones, once settled in office, grow their fingernails long?
Well, nothing would surprise me. I think, though, that modernity has made some purchase on China. Demetrius Boulger's rule that "all is now as it was" remains true in a general way; but no, I don't think we'll see the return of eunuchs … although, should China want a few, we have plenty in the Republican Party I'd be glad to see shipped over there.
Explanations of this constitutional change in the ChiCom press center on the need for stability as a precondition for the country's continuing development, usually coupled with some sneering remarks about how un-stable and chaotic countries like the U.S.A. are.
This misses an important point. Having the same people in charge, then their offspring or their hand-picked successors, for decades at a stretch, is a kind of stability, to be sure. North Korea has been stable like that for seventy years.
For real stability, though, a stability that leaves room for maximum human flourishing, there's nothing to beat constitutional stability under a firm rule of law. The U.S.A. has had the same Constitution, with some tweaks and fixes, for two hundred and thirty years. China's present constitution is its fourth since 1949.
Sure, our everyday politics may look scrappy and untidy. There is a deeper underlying stability to it, though, a stability that has emerged from centuries of tradition, jurisprudence, and open argumentation.
Whether that stability can survive as our nation's demography is transformed and open argumentation increasingly suppressed, is a question worth pondering.
06 — A new May Fourth Movement? A footnote to that previous segment.
Just coming up on the horizon is a major anniversary for the Chinese people.
The last Imperial dynasty ended in 1912. Among educated Chinese there was a widespread desire for China to become a modern democracy. What they actually got was a spell of chaos, ending in 1915 with the restoration of the Empire under Yuan Shikai, a general from the old imperial army.
That only lasted three months, but what followed was even worse: warlordism, under weak-to-none central authority.
Educated people concluded that the problem was cultural — that, as we say nowadays, politics is downstream from culture. They set about overhauling Chinese culture — what was called the New Culture Movement.
That movement culminated in nationwide protests and strikes in the Spring of 1919 — what has ever since been known as the May Fourth Movement, after a great protest march held in Peking that day.
Every Chinese person — every porter and peasant — has heard of the May Fourth Movement, although the ChiComs have of course twisted the actual history to their own advantage. It is impossible to over-estimate the cultural resonance of that phrase "the May Fourth Movement" — in Chinese, 五四運動, Wusi Yundong — especially among educated Chinese.
Well, we are just over a year away from May 4th 2019, which will be a century on from the May Fourth Movement. If there is any spirit of political reform alive in China, there would be no more likely date for it to express itself.
The ChiComs know this, of course, just as well as I do. I have been quietly wondering whether a lot of Xi Jinping's crackdown on dissent recently may be intended to forestall any kind of commemorative protests next May.
Here's a Google search that just got me over a quarter million results. I put in the two words "China" and "panopticon." In case you don't know that second word, a panopticon was originally a design for a prison with the cells arranged in a circle around a central watchtower, so that one watchman could see into all the cells all the time. The meaning has since been expanded to mean any system of surveillance when everyone is watchable all the time. Any given person can't know whether he's being watched at any given time; but because he may be, he acts as though he is. The telescreen in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is a more advanced style of panopticon.
Well, as I said, putting "China" and "panopticon" into Google's search box gets you 255,000 results. A random sample from the first few headings:
The Dark Side of China's Tech Boom
You get the idea. The ChiComs are steaming ahead with panopticon-friendly technologies — facial recognition, artificial intelligence, a cashless society with all transactions electronic so they can be monitored, … A lot of this is just totalitarian control-freakery, but some portion is, I am sure, inspired by worries about a new May Fourth movement fourteen months from now.
So, China-watchers, mark it on your calendar: May Fourth, 2019. Just don't let the ChiComs see you doing so …
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: February 20th, a week last Tuesday, a suit was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court against Twitter, on behalf of Jared Taylor, proprietor of American Renaissance and all-round Dissident Right superhero.
Last December, you'll recall, Twitter purged a great mass of dissident writers' accounts on the grounds that they were associated with violent extremist groups. Jared was one of those purged. In fact both the American Renaissance Twitter account and Jared's personal account were purged. When Jared asked which violent extremist group they thought he was associated with, Twitter did not deign to answer.
The suit's being filed in California because of a Supreme Court ruling on the state constitution forty years ago, to the effect that when private property functions like a traditional public forum, the property owners could not prevent speech just because it was unwelcome to them. That sounds to me like a pretty good principle. It's a shame it doesn't apply nationwide.
I wish Jared the very best of luck with this lawsuit. I hope he gets a big fat settlement from Twitter, to plow back into the great work he's been doing for nearly a quarter century now.
Item: I spoke last week about how our current Cultural Revolution progresses by sudden leaps, so that things nobody much minded for decades are suddenly outrageous.
Confederate statues are the victims of one of those leaps. There they stood, decade after decade, bothering no-one and bothered by no-one. Well, those days are gone.
We've run two stories about Confederate statues recently. February 22nd our James Fulford reported that a black District Attorney has dropped charges against five people who destroyed the statue of a generic Confederate soldier in Durham, North Carolina last summer.
There was no doubt the defendants committed a wanton act of gross vandalism against public property — they filmed the whole thing and put it on YouTube — but … it was a statue of a Confederate soldier, so the courts are fine with it.
Then on Wednesday this week Jason Kessler reported that a judge has ordered tarps removed that had been covering statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Charlottesville, Va. following the Antifa riot there last summer. The Antifa Red Guards have promised to destroy those statues.
Quite likely they will find a way to do so sooner or later, happy in the knowledge that if they succeed in doing so, some other supportive judge will make sure they suffer no significant punishment.
This is our Cultural Revolution: lawless anarchists egged on by sympathetic judges from our left-wing law schools. And somebody wants to take my guns away? Come and get them, you bastards.
Item: The ChiComs aren't the only ones changing their constitution. South Africa has a new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, inaugurated two weeks ago. He made it clear that one of his priorities was taking land from white farmers and giving it to blacks.
He didn't waste any time. Tuesday this week the South African Parliament, which is dominated by President Ramaphosa's party, passed a motion to start the process of amending the constitution to allow the government to take land from white owners without compensation.
The motion was proposed by anti-white extremist Julius Malema. Malema doesn't belong to the President's party. He leads a small minority party in parliament. Ramaphosa seems to be fine with the constitutional change anyway, so white farmers will soon be chased off their land.
Here is a small immigration proposal from Radio Derb. Let's have a special visa category for white South Africans deprived of their property without compensation; or heck, for any white South Africans. There are only five million of them. We have thirty million Mexicans living here; surely five million white people won't notice.
No, I don't really expect we'll get such a visa any time soon. I'd love to see some congressperson propose it, though, just to see the reaction from all the white-haters — to flush 'em out.
If you value your sanity, don't try to understand Italy's electoral system; and, as I said three weeks ago, don't bother to remember the names of the parties, which will all be different this time next year. The main things to watch for are the vote shares won by the Trumpist Five Star Movement and Northern League, the somewhat less Trumpish Forza Italia alliance, and the center-Left Democratic Party.
Big wins for the Trumpists and further cratering of the Democrat Party vote will indicate a definite turn away from national suicide on the part of Italians. Europe isn't totally lost yet. Fingers crossed for Italy.
08 — Signoff. That's all for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and welcome to the month of March. I don't know how it is elsewhere, but here in the Northeast March is fulfilling the first half of its reputation: coming in like a lion. We've had a howling gale here all day. Let's hope it fulfills the other half too, going out like a lamb four weeks from now.
In hopes of inspiriting the voters of Italy this weekend, here to sing us out is Marilyn Horne with a fine aria from Rossini's Italian Girl in Algiers. "Pensa alla patria, e intrepido il tuo dover adempi," the lady sings: "Think of the fatherland and do your duty fearlessly."
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Marilyn Horne, "Pensa alla patria …"]