• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your empirically genial host John Derbyshire, here with commentary on the passing scene.
This week's big talking point was of course Wednesday night's televised debate from Las Vegas, featuring the six leading Democratic Party candidates for President.
I normally report on these events in world-weary mode, telling you how much I hate them and what a struggle I had to keep awake. This one was different. I watched the whole thing — all two hours — with fascinated attention.
The nation at large agreed with me. Almost twenty million people tuned in to Wednesday's debate, making it the most-watched Democratic candidates' debate ever, according to NBC.
(If you're a Republican you can take consolation from the fact that even Wednesday's night's twenty million was way short of the twenty-four million that Fox News pulled in back in August 2015 for the first GOP debate that year featuring Donald Trump.)
So, what did Radio Derb think of the event? I have two full segments on it. First, though, by way of introducing those segments, let me just revisit my comments of a few months ago about President Trump's chances of re-election.
02 — Correlation of forces (cont.) When the 2020 election campaign first got seriously under way, back in June last year, I did a summary of the correlation of forces as things stood then, and concluded that Donald Trump would likely lose his bid for a second term.
That little bit of commentary turned out to be one of those that sticks in people's minds. Ever since, around once a week, someone has asked me whether I've seen any reason to change my opinion. Short answer: no. Long answer: this segment and the next two.
Before proceeding, though, I'll just digress, not for the first time, with some words about about how some people find empirical thinking to be unnatural.
In that prediction last June I made it as clear as I knew how to make it that my conclusion — that Trump will lose in 2020 — was unwelcome to me. I'm a Trump voter. I didn't and don't want him to lose. It just looked to me, on the evidence of the time, as best I could weigh it, that he would.
That brought in some emails yelling at me for being anti-Trump. A lot of people can't distinguish thought from feeling. If I think X is the case, I must wish it to be the case.
I don't know what to say to responses like that, so I ignore them. And I hasten to say there there weren't all that many; not enough to tip me over into the level of misanthropy expressed by Jonathan Swift, the guy who said, quote:
The bulk of mankind is as well qualified for flying as thinking.
I will, though, take the opportunity to restate the wise words from Chapter Seven of my tremendous 2009 bestseller We Are Doomed. Yes, here it is: The Empiricist's Lament, quote:
The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the approval of those around us; we want to get even with that s.o.b. who insulted us at the last tribal council. For most people, wanting to know the cold truth about the world is way, way down the list.
End of digression. So I was a Trump voter last June when I predicted he'd lose the 2020 race, and I am still a Trump voter.
Let me just review my reasons for thinking, eight months ago, that Trump will lose.
I noted that:
OK, forward four years. What does the polling look like? Yesterday Quinnipiac University published a poll of those three critical states, the polling done just before Wednesday's debate.
Executive summary: In Wisconsin, Trump polled ahead of all the Democratic candidates by seven to eleven points, but in Michigan and Pennsylvania he trailed them all by as much as six to eight points, or in a few cases tied them within the margin of error. For a sitting President, that's not very good.
On the second point, the demographic drift continues, thanks to the population policies of the last several administrations under Presidents of both parties.
On the third point, about the media not taking Trump seriously in 2016 until it was too late, that won't be an issue this year. The media, and their allies in the academy, the courts, the bureaucracy, and social media, are well-coordinated and acting in concert. They will do everything they can to swing the result against Trump.
And then there's the quality of the opposition. That's what was on display for us this Wednesday evening.
03 — Beware the Bloombergshchina! The pundits' consensus on Wednesday's debate was that Michael Bloomberg lost bigly. My Thursday New York Post put a picture of Bloomberg on the cover page with Band-Aids all over his face. Tucker Carlson on Thursday was crowing and chuckling over what he called Bloomberg's "humiliation."
I'm sorry, but I think there is some serious wishful thinking going on there. I watched the whole debate with keen attention, and I didn't think Bloomberg came out of it too badly.
Perhaps I'm judging on a different metric from Tucker and the New York Post subs. My basic metric is: craziness. Measured thus, the only two candidates up there on Wednesday night who struck me as non-crazy — as reasonably normal people, not hires in from Clowns-R-Us — were Bloomberg and Klobuchar.
Unfortunately today's Democratic Party is not a safe space for normal people. This is especially true in matters related to race and sex. That's where Bloomberg got into trouble. On race and sex, he wasn't crazy enough, and couldn't convincingly fake being crazy enough.
So he had to do an unconvincing walk-back of his 2015 remarks about crime in New York City. Back then he had noted the thing we all know: that to a good first approximation, all violent crime in New York — or any other city — is committed by Sun People, which is to say blacks and Latinos. Stopping suspicious-looking young male Sun People and frisking them for illegal weapons is an excellent crime-prevention strategy. It worked really well.
That of course is total heresy nowadays. Not just in the Democratic Party, either: I'm not holding my breath waiting for Tucker Carlson to speak frankly about race and crime. For Democrats, though, it is super-heresy, and Bloomberg had to do his best to recant. His best wasn't very good.
And then there are those non-disclosure agreements between Bloomberg and various women he had offended in some way. Here we are back with the weird moral hysteria of the MeToo movement, which is basically a lawyers' ramp — a very successful scheme by the Trial Lawyers' Associations to monetize bad manners.
Most of the events covered by those non-disclosure agreements probably don't even rise to the level of bad manners. Most were likely just office banter, of the kind that was common thirty or forty years ago.
I can speak from experience here, having worked in much the same milieu as the younger Bloomberg. My boss at First Boston, which I joined in the mid-1980s, was Wally Fekula, who had worked with Bloomberg at Salomon Brothers until they let Bloomberg go in 1981. Wally liked to boast that he had been the last Salomon employee to give Bloomberg's hand a farewell shake as he headed out to the elevator.
We went to work every day in that environment — the back offices of a Wall Street firm — all through the eighties and nineties. I know the kind of guy-gal talk that went on, in office hours and at Christmas parties and other let-your-hair-down events. It was loose, often ribald, but perfectly harmless, and not taken amiss by anyone so far as I can recall. The women gave as good as they got.
Nowadays, though, banter of that sort would get a guy fired on the spot, with a big fat harassment lawsuit to follow.
That's not Bloomberg's fault. It's just a change in our times — a change for the worse, if you want my opinion. God damn to hell the Trial Lawyers' Associations! Bloomberg, with those non-disclosure agreements, is just taking the sensible precautions a guy with deep pockets has to take in a world gone mad.
Listening to myself there, I sound sympathetic to Bloomberg. Again, though, I'm just trying to record facts. No way am I a Bloomberg voter. I want an immigration moratorium; Bloomberg wants wide-open borders. I'm an NRA life member; Bloomberg wants to repeal the Second Amendment.
And I share some of the fears expressed by Gregory Hood over at American Renaissance. There has been much head-shaking and eye-rolling at the prospect of both big-party tickets putting forward a self-financing billionaire Presidential candidate in November. As Gregory points out, however, Bloomberg and Trump are two very different guys.
Trump is lazy, inattentive, and easily swayed by the last authority figure that spoke to him, as we saw in those disastrous televised events of early 2018. So far as he has any ideas at all, he is mostly on our side; but he hasn't sufficiently mastered the machinery of executive politics, or perhaps just isn't interested enough, to actually do very much on our behalf.
Bloomberg is much more driven and able to concentrate. A Bloomberg White House would be busy 24/7 doing all sorts of things, all of them destructive of our liberties. Let me quote from Gregory Hood, edited quote:
He's not just a politician, but an oligarch who commands a vast financial and media empire. He would have almost unimaginable power if he were President, and everything in his past suggests he will use it … We know he would go after mostly white gun owners, and I have little doubt he'd pursue "white nationalists" too.
The suffix -ina … is extremely productive in the extended forms -shchina and -ovshchina to denote unfavourably a state of mind or a political, social or artistic movement or trend.
And now let this be the first place you were warned of the looming threat of a Bloombergshchina, in which all the executive and judicial powers of the centralized state are used energetically and ruthlessly to crush all dissent from politically correct orthodoxy.
04 — Debatable Trump. Just a footnote to the foregoing.
Gregory Hood wrote that it's a good thing Bloomberg doesn't know how to debate. Other commentators took the same conclusion from Wednesday night's event.
Fair enough; but how good a debater is Donald Trump one-on-one? Presumably he will be expected to debate whoever the Democrats nominate for this fall's election.
My vague recollection of him on the debate stage in 2016 is that he wasn't very good; but I thought I'd check back on my commentary at the time to see what I said.
Now I'm wishing I hadn't.
At this point I'm going to exercise podcaster's privilege and just splice in some Radio Derb commentary from four years ago. This was October 21st 2016 (so I guess three and a half years ago). I'd been watching a one-on-one debate, Donald Trump versus Mrs Clinton. Over to 2016:[Pips.]
Trump has at least put forward sensible, patriotic proposals to re-orient our immigration policies towards the interests of Americans. The trouble is, he doesn't seem to remember having done so.[Pips.]
OK, we're back here in 2020. Bear in mind please that the disastrous debate performance I was reporting on there was against Mrs Clinton. That lady did not rise to national prominence by winning debate championships. She rose to national prominence by being Bill Clinton's wife. She's not smart or quick-witted, not much of a debater; yet she ran circles round Trump there.
So how do I guess Trump would fare one-on-one against Michael Bloomberg or Amy Klobuchar? Don't ask.
My advice to the President is the same today as four years ago: Do not engage in any televised debates, Sir.
As China's economic output remains literally frozen, a new report suggests that many Chinese companies — which never factored for this type of calamity — don't have enough capital to cover wages, or have delayed or stopped paying workers, suggesting that the [coronavirus] outbreak has left businesses on the brink of disaster.
Untold numbers of Chinese people are basically under house arrest. My wife was just on WeChat with an old classmate who lives near Chongqing in southwest China, six hundred miles from Wuhan. The classmate says only one member of the household is allowed out at a time, on a prescribed schedule, to do food shopping.
As ZeroHedge points out, the ripple effect on international businesses could be dire. If people aren't getting to work, they're not getting paid. If they're not getting paid, they're not spending on smartphones, on Starbucks coffee, on Tesla cars.
You hear people say that a totalitarian government like China's is just what you need to deal with a major internal crisis like this. "They can just do what needs doing," people say, "without fussing about legalities."
I don't believe it. Yes, the ChiComs can impose draconian rules on people's movements, drag disobedient citizens from their homes and throw them in trucks, seal off whole districts, and put up makeshift hospitals in a matter of days. The downside is that the arbitrary brutality and economic disruption makes the nature of the regime plain to see, where previously people didn't have to think about it too much.
This past twenty-odd years, as China has barreled forward in a continuous economic boom, Chinese people have been able to put out of their minds the fact that their country is ruled by brutality, fear, and official lying. When times are so good, you just shrug and get on with life. When I was there in September last year people seemed laid-back and happy, with very little of the grumbling and cynicism I remember from the 1980s. The place was stable.
Coronavirus has pushed China towards a zone of instability. The ChiComs will likely respond by ramping up the lies and brutality. Probably it'll work; but it won't get them back to the cheerful good order I saw last year.
And this is just to speak of metropolitan China, the Chinese homeland. Who knows what effect the coronavirus panic is having in the occupied territories of Tibet and East Turkestan? What if there is some sudden secondary crisis out there — the death of the Dalai Lama, perhaps (he is 84)?
The first two decades of this century were a great time to be Chinese. Hundreds of millions were pulled up from poverty. For the urban Chinese middle classes, each year was better than the year before.
That's not likely to continue. My guess is, the 2020s will not be a great time to be Chinese.
On the upside, as one of the commenters at ZeroHedge points out, all that enforced idleness under house arrest might do wonders for China's cratering fertility rate …
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: In that segment back there on Trump's dismal debating skills, I mentioned the immigration plan he put forward for the 2016 campaign. That plan makes depressing reading now, four years later.
Nationwide e-verify … Mandatory return of all criminal aliens … Defund sanctuary cities … Criminal penalties for overstaying a visa … End birthright citizenship … Put American workers first … Remember that plan of yours, Mr President? Any of it?
And now we read in the Washington Post, February 20th, that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told a private gathering in England that the administration wants more immigrants. The Post quotes Mulvaney as saying, quote:
We are desperate — desperate — for more people. We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we've had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants."
That is totally contrary to the spirit and the wording of Trump's 2016 plan, as Daniel Horowitz spelled out in withering detail at Conservative Review today.
Will Mulvaney continue in his job as acting White House chief of staff? Or will he be summarily fired for expressing ideas so utterly at odds with the President's signature 2016 campaign proposal, probably the one thing more than any other that got Trump elected?
Item: A hardy perennial here at Radio Derb is the prospect of transatlantic boat people: people-smugglers in Africa packing their customers in boats and sending them over to us. With GPS and modern navigation systems, the Atlantic is not such a formidable barrier.
I've been sounding the alarm on this for years, pointing out that the U.S.A. has already received its first African boat people, when fourteen illegals from Senegal were rescued off Cape Cod back in February 2007.
All right, it hasn't actually become a pressing issue yet, but there are reasons to think it will. Here is one of those reasons.
A hundred and fifty miles off the coast of West Africa are the Canary Isles, which belong to Spain. Here's what Associated Press had to say about that, February 19th, quote:
The deadly Atlantic route from northwest Africa to the Canary Islands has become increasingly popular among migrants desperate to reach European soil following an increase in migrant controls in western Mediterranean routes between Morocco and mainland Spain further north.
So last year, 66; this year, same period, over a thousand. Yes, they're a mere one-twentieth of the way from Africa to North America, but it'll only be a matter of time before the people-smugglers figure out a way for them to just keep going.
Item: I've noticed before how social justice activism has a way of producing more problems than it solves — more, and usually worse problems. The classic case is the pressure on banks to make it easier for poor minorities to get home loans. The banks buckled; the poor minorities got their loans; then, when the economy took a downturn, they couldn't finance them and ended up homeless.
Latest in this sorry catalog of not leaving well enough alone is the Boy Scouts of America. Overwhelmed by child-abuse lawsuits, the BSA has filed for Chapter 11.
This was the perfectly predictable end result of activists pushing for BSA to admit homosexual scoutmasters. Scouting has been a magnet for adult perverts since its founding: Robert Baden-Powell, who got the whole movement started with his unfortunately-titled book Scouting for Boys back in 1908, was plagued with them.
The relentless pressure to loosen the prohibition on homosexual scoutmasters led to a weakening of the ban, with a formal lifting of it in 2015, somewhat qualified. At the same time, the BSA's long rearguard action to keep the prohibition caused massive loss of public, church, and corporate sponsorship. Result: more sex abuse lawsuits, less money to fight them.
Ann Coulter tells the dismal tale in her February 19th column. As a follow-up to my commentary on Wednesday's candidates' debate, I just wanted to add an item Ann missed. Michael Bloomberg, according to Wikipedia, was an Eagle Scout.
07 — Signoff. And there you have it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and let's all look forward with eager anticipation to next Tuesday's candidates' debate in Charleston, SC — followed, of course, one week later, by Super Tuesday.
Let's have a song to play us out. I started off my January Diary with a long segment on mustaches. After reading that, my VDARE.com colleague Barton Cockey directed my attention to a song from the 2014 Seth MacFarlane movie A Million Ways to Die in the West. Barton notes that the song is adapted from an 1864 Stephen Foster original. I hadn't seen the movie and didn't know the original. I'm glad to get acquainted with both. Thank you, Barton!
There will be more from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: "If You've Only Got a Moustache."]