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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, this Labor Day weekend, from your doggedly genial host John Derbyshire.
This week's podcast comes to you from beneath the sign of Saturn. I am glum. It's nothing personal, thank God; I'm glum about the state of my country. Coming from the author of a book titled We Are Doomed, I guess that's not an astonishing thing to hear; but I'm glummer than usual. Let me try to explain why.
02 — Laws, not men. It was my colleague James Kirkpatrick who turned me in this unhappy direction. Tuesday this week here at VDARE.com James published a very good piece about former Texas congressman Steve Stockman, who last November was sentenced to ten years in federal prison, and ordered to pay over a million dollars in "restitution," for fundraising irregularities.
Stockman's release date is December 26, 2026, when he'll be 70 years old. So his life is pretty much over. That's assuming he makes it to 2026; He seems to be incarcerated in a medical facility.
My colleague makes a good case that Stockman was stitched up for taking on the Deep State while being too much of a National Conservative — translation: not enough of a cuck to the cheap-labor donor lobbies — to get any support from the Republican Party.
James then contrasts Stockman's fate with the numerous non-prosecutions or gentle wrist-slaps delivered to Establishment darlings like Hillary Clinton, Al Sharpton, and Ilhan Omar, who have displayed an approach to the people's laws about campaign-finance, taxes, and immigration far more careless — to use the mildest possible adjective — than Steve Stockman's.
James notes that this pattern doesn't just apply to the politically powerful. When there's a street rumble involving Antifa, arrests are made, charges are brought, and convictions are handed down … but hardly ever against the Antifa goons.
Are we already a Third World nation? James wondered. Have we already slipped down to the level where the powerful and well-placed can scoff at the law, while lesser folk — especially if they hold unpopular opinions — have their lives destroyed by instruments of the state?
Well, yes, we are, and we have: ask Steve Stockman.
Progressive politicians love to tell us who we are. If anyone takes a public stand against progressive orthodoxy you can be sure that current candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination will step up one after another with the reproving frown to tell us, "This is not who we are." Barack Obama's Presidency was regularly punctuated by these little correctional sessions. Obama must have who-we-ared us at least a hundred times.
Well, I have my own longstanding ideas about who we are, or rather who we aspire to be — the ideals we should reach for. One of those ideals is, that we are a nation of laws, not men. In America, it doesn't matter who you are: rich or poor, powerful or lowly, the law applies equally to all.
Of course, you can't say we've always lived up to that. It's in the nature of ideals that they shine there in sight but never quite in reach. We strive to approach them. This one really shouldn't be hard to get close to.
It shouldn't be, if we want to try. We don't any more want to try, though. As James's column tells us, we have given up on equality under the law.
At any rate, to judge from the fact that protests like his appear only in minority-interest websites off the beaten track — apologies to the VDARE.com suits there — apparently the mass of ordinary Americans have stopped minding about gross transgressions of the equality-under-the-law rule.
I remember thinking these thoughts eleven years ago in the '08 election campaign, when the issue of Barack Obama's scofflaw aunt was brought to light — by British newspaper reporters, our own newshounds having displayed very little interest. Obama's aunt went on scoffing at our laws until she died in 2014 in very comfortable circumstances, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. Why not? She was the President's aunt!
Does anyone but me remember that Obama has a scofflaw uncle, too? He's also an illegal alien, ordered deported in nineteen eighty-nine. Still here? Oh yeah.
In a country of laws, not of men, our chief federal executive would have made a point — a proud point! — of having his uncle and aunt deported, as the courts had ordered. Unfortunately we don't live in that country. We live in a country where having connections to the powerful and holding approved opinions gets you off the hook.
03 — Justice delayed: New York. My morning drill is to read the New York Post over my breakfast, then power up the computer and browse the news and opinion websites. It thus happened that I read James Kirkpatrick's column right after this one in the New York Post. Headline: Corrupt ex-pol Sheldon Silver still freely roams NYC after conviction.
For non-New Yorkers, let me explain. Sheldon Silver was for years one of the most powerful legislators in our state. He sat in the state assembly, the lower house of New York State's legislature, for over thirty-eight years. For the last twenty-one of those years, under five governors, he was Speaker of the assembly.
For all those years Silver was a front man for the trial lawyers, receiving millions of dollars from big law firms for legislative favors. This was an open secret. New Yorkers were grumbling about it, and local tabloids were passing scathing comments about it, back in the oughties when my kids were in middle school.
Silver's a Democrat, though, in a heavily Democratic state; and he's a master manipulator of the legislative process, so for years — decades! — he skated.
At last prosecutors caught up with him. He went to trial four years ago and was found guilty on all counts. He got a twelve-year sentence and seven million dollars in fines.
Then we were off to the races. Out on bail, he appealed. A year later, the conviction was overturned on a technicality. The feds tried him again last year; again he was found guilty on all counts. Again he appealed. Let Tuesday's New York Post pick up the story here. Quote:
A three-judge panel heard arguments from both sides in March but have yet to issue a ruling.
And all that time, since he was found guilty the first time four years ago, Sheldon Silver hasn't done an hour of jail time. Not only is he a free man; he's been drawing a state pension from his assembly years of nearly $7,000 a month.
This guy is 75 years old. If this current appeals panel re-affirms his conviction and he appeals to the Supreme Court, he might easily string this out for a couple more years. If they overturn his conviction and the feds go for a third trial, Silver could be in his eighties before anything happens to him, if anything ever does.
Here's another one of those shining ideals that I'd like to think America strives for, one of those things that in my personal vision is part of Who We Are: "Justice delayed is justice denied."
I understand of course that the legal process needs to be punctilious. Prosecutors have their own biases and agendas; some of them are fools and rogues. There is such a thing as being over-punctilious, though.
Sheldon Silver is a crook. Everyone in New York has known that for twenty years. I knew it; my neighbors knew it; it was common gossip; as they say in Ireland, "even the dogs in the street knew it." It's amazing that he got away with it as long as he did. It's disgraceful that he's still getting away with it.
04 — Justice delayed: Tennessee. Here's more justice delayed, the delay in this case being twelve years.
The crime that calls for justice here is the one our own Nicholas Stix calls the Knoxville Horror: the killing of sweethearts Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, aged 21 and 23, in Knoxville, Tennessee back in January 2007.
This was an exceptionally horrific crime. The young couple were kidnapped, raped, tortured, and killed by a gang of at least five assailants.
The details are difficult to read about. If you think you can stomach them, a site search for Nicholas's articles at VDARE.com gives comprehensive coverage.
The victims were white, though, the assailants black, so mainstream media suppressed the story as well as they could. Nicholas has covered all that in detail, too. The media malfeasance in this case is as shocking as the nature of the crime itself, although of course in a different way: morally, not physically, disgusting.
Four of the assailants were brought to state trial and a fifth, Eric Boyd, to federal trial as an accessory after the fact, for helping one of the killers hide out. The whole trial process was shambolic, though, with procedural issues, judges being replaced, jurors bused in from majority-black counties, vacated verdicts and retrials. The guiding principle behind all these shenanigans was, says Nicholas: "It ain't over 'til the black felon wins!"
Eventually there was a measure of justice. The four assailants brought to state trial were convicted: one death penalty, one life without parole, one 127-year sentence, one for 35 years. Eric Boyd, tried in federal court as an accessory, got 18 years.
Then last year George Thomas, who got the 127-year sentence, agreed to testify that Boyd was involved in the killings, in return for having the 127 years reduced to fifty. Eric Boyd was brought to state trial. Ten days ago he was convicted of first-degree murder, with two automatic life sentences for the two killings.
That's twelve and a half years on from the crime; twelve and a half years of unimaginable mental anguish for the families of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. If the youngsters had married, as everyone thought they would, they'd now be in their mid-thirties with kids in school.
Justice delayed? I'd say so.
The contrast here, going back to the previous two segments, the contrast is between who justice is delayed for and who it is not delayed for.
That endless procedural wrangling we're seeing in Sheldon Silver's case: Why was there nothing like that in Steve Stockman's?
Or compare the years-long clown show to get the Knoxville killers convicted with the case of James Fields, accused of killing a protestor in the Charlottesville Antifa riot two years ago. Fields' trials went by so fast, if you blinked you'd have missed them.
We're a nation of laws, not of men … unless the man — and woman, in the case of Obama's auntie — is connected to the powerful, and preferably black. Our justice is delayed, and delayed, and delayed — unless you're a white person with unpopular opinions; then it's wonderfully brisk.
This is Who We Are.
05 — Draining all the trust out of the system. In further support of all this negativity I offer you two social commentaries.
The first comes from my favorite liberal. I'm not speaking sarcastically; I really like this guy, and the things he says. This is Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who teaches at NYU. He's the author of the 2013 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Just note the date there before I proceed: 2013.
Prof. Haidt is also more recently the co-author, with Greg Lukianoff, of the 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.
I have some slight personal acquaintance with Jonathan. I can affirm that while we disagree on many, many points of fact, particularly to do with human biodiversity, he is one of the sanest, most thoughtful, best-mannered, and, darn it, most civilized people I know — a man who has done real, interesting, original, quantitative work trying to understand human nature.
Well, he's been on an Australian tour, to open which he gave an interview to The Weekend Australian. The interview isn't easy to read online, with the usual paywall and subscription folderol. Email me at VDARE.com and I'll send you a text version if you're particularly interested.
[Added when archiving: A kind reader found an online copy of Haidt's interview with no paywall. Thank you!]
In the interview he is deeply pessimistic. Sample quotes:
I am now very pessimistic. I think there is a very good chance American democracy will fail, that in the next 30 years we will have a catastrophic failure of our democracy.
I say again, this is a calm and reasonable guy, who investigates human nature for a living. It's not some frothing partisan. I can't even imagine Jonathan frothing.
Note that he mentions the Cold Civil War there, one of my own hobby-horses. Re-quote:
The current political civil war is between two groups of educated white people with radically different views about what the country is, what morality is and what we need to do to move forward.
To see Jonathan in recent action, go to YouTube and key into the search box "jonathan haidt abc." That's "Haidt," H-A-I-D-T and "abc" for the Australian Broadcasting Company. This is a fifteen-minute interview he did for Australian TV where he says some of the same things in more detail. It's well worth fifteen minutes of your time.
Haidt is especially concerned with a change he has seen on campus — in the lifestyles and attitudes of students — that happened quite abruptly in, he says, 2014. That's much of what his latest book, written with Greg Lukianoff, is all about. That's why I said to note the date of his earlier book, which has an overall more cheerful tone.
Something happened in 2013-2104, Haidt implies. Our society, the younger strata of it, turned some kind of corner.
I have heard the same thing from other academics. This youngest tranche of students, the ones raised on social media, are, they say, "different" in scary ways from what has gone before.
Key differences are their closed-mindedness and emotional fragility. They have high levels of depression and anxiety. They don't date much; they don't have sex much; they don't fall in love.
(And in parentheses here, having mentioned sex, I'd like to offer heartfelt thanks to Jonathan Haidt for saying "sex differences" instead of "gender differences." I'm approaching the point where I shall get up and leave the room if someone says "gender." It's sex, dammit. Thank you, Sir!)
There is a line of logic you can reconstruct from these apparently academic reflections on sex, love, trust, closed-mindedness and fragility to the gloomy predictions about "a catastrophic failure of our democracy" that Prof. Haidt expressed to The Weekend Australian the week before. This is a guy we should be listening to.
06 — The coming civil war? I said I'd offer you two social commentaries to ponder. Here's the other one: Angelo Codevilla writing in American Greatness, August 6th. Codevilla is the author of the 2010 book The Ruling Class.
Executive summary of that book: he doesn't like our ruling class. Neither do I; so I'm always up for an essay by Prof. Codevilla. In this August 6th one he argues that, yes, we are heading for civil war. Quote:
The story of the contemporary American Left's sponsorship of hate and violence begins around 1964, when the Democratic Party chose to abandon the Southern constituencies that had been its mainstay since the time of Jefferson and Jackson. In less than a decade, the party found itself increasingly dependent on gaining super-majorities among blacks, upscale liberals, and constituencies of resentment in general — and hence on stoking their hate.
They certainly have. Look at the candidates on display in those debates last month. "Self-images of righteous entitlement to rule inferiors"? Speaking as an older heterosexual white male, and therefore quadruply inferior, I totally get the point.
Enough pessimism? I'm not through yet. Codevilla closes with the following, which I think might usefully be embroidered in cross-stich on a throw pillow, except it's a bit too long. Quote:
We know that our ruling class having largely made government into a partisan thing, America has crossed the threshold of revolution. While we have no way of knowing what lies ahead, we know that the spiral of political violence has already taken its first fateful turns, and that the logic of our partisan ruling class is pushing for more.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: To go back to the point of our having turned some kind of corner recently, the Wall Street Journal published a survey last weekend making the point quite dramatically. This was from a telephone poll of registered voters aged 18 and up.
The shocker here is the gap between young and old. Millennials, including Gen Z, registered only 42 percent support for patriotism. For us Boomers and Silents, it's nearly eighty percent. Religion? Thirty percent from the young crowd, sixty-seven from us. Having Children? Thirty-two percent to 53.
It's all true. These things sneak up on you. My own kids are 26 and 24. I hear them talk, and their friends. Yes, we've turned some kind of corner.
The problem with corners is, it's hard to see round them — especially when, as with this one, the twentysomethings are round on one side and I'm on the other. It's hard to make predictions.
The only thing I feel sure of is that the America to come, the America of the mid-21st century, will not be a place of stability and social harmony.
Civil war? Heaven forbid! But the last few decades, even with all their disturbances and discontents, have been a sort of golden age, now passing.
Item: Here is one of the nastier harbingers of what may be to come. Tuesday afternoon, August 13th, shots were fired at an ICE office in San Antonio, Texas, also at a private firm that contracts to ICE. USCIS acting Director Ken Cuccinelli tweeted out pictures of the bullet holes.
That followed a demonstration the previous day in Florida. The target here was just the private contractor, which is called GEO Group — and which, as their spokesman pointed out, provided identical services to ICE under the Obama administration.
The Florida protestors were shouting: "We know where all your children live … We know everything about you and you won't just be seeing us here … We know where you sleep at night."
That brought back memories. I lived in England, and briefly in Ireland, when the Troubles were going on through the seventies and eighties. It was a dreadful business: assassinations, bombings, mass killings, some stunning atrocities. A favorite taunt of the terrorists was: "We know where you live!"
Now that taunt is being heard here in the U.S.A., from fired-up ideologues with guns — from what Angelo Codevilla calls "constituencies of resentment."
This isn't going in any direction I like.
Item: This Sunday, September 1st, marks the 80th anniversary of Germany's invasion of Poland, triggering WW2 in Europe. The Soviets invaded from the east two weeks later, under the secret agreement they'd reached with Hitler in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, August 23rd. Poland slipped into dark years of cruelty and horror.
I don't mean to belittle those events in any way; but to us literary types "September 1st, 1939" is also the title of a poem, written on that date by W.H. Auden in, as he says in the opening lines, "one of the dives / On Fifty-Second Street," in New York City.
I can't say it's one of my favorite poems; but Auden had the gift and could turn a line. Even when I don't like one of his poems much, there's always something in it that sticks in my mind. In this case it's the fifth stanza, quote:
Faces along the bar
08 — Signoff. That's all, ladies and gentlemen, ending there on an appropriately melancholy note. I have a vacation coming up in September, so perhaps that will put me in better spirits.
As always, thank you for listening, and very best wishes for the Labor Day holiday.
For our signoff music this week, something original. I mean, you never heard this before.
Among Radio Derb listeners there is one who is a master of music software. Here is his latest: a skillful merge of Pachelbel's Canon in D, Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2 and Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia. No, I wouldn't have thought it possible, either, but my listener (who prefers to remain anonymous) has done it: baroque, classical, and transitional styles all compressed into 53 seconds. He calls it "Pachelbel's Derbyshire Canonical and Britannical March."
I understand the composer is available at a reasonable fee for weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs, funerals, military parades, and political demonstrations of a properly conservative and patriotic temper — inquiries via me here at VDARE.com.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Pachelbel's Derbyshire Canonical and Britannical March.]