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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, from your melodiously genial host John Derbyshire, here with another edition of Radio Derb — where the wise, the good, and the fair go to get their news.
There's somewhat of a personal dimension to this edition. This week I finally paid a visit to VDARE.com's castle in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. The occasion was VDARE's Giving Tuesday, when Peter Brimelow and I, on video, opine about current events, ask for donations, and drink the liquors of our choice: Peter, Texas vodka (yes, there really is such a thing) and me, Old Crow bourbon. The entire video is up on the site, and also on BitChute.
So forgive me if I give over my first couple of segments here to the castle, and to VDARE.
02 — VDARE's folly. Yes, it really is a castle: built from great blocks of rough-cut stone mortared together, with a tower, battlements, and even a dungeon.
Berkeley Castle is in fact what in England we call a folly. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this definition, quote:
A popular name for any costly structure considered to have shown folly in the builder.
With all proper respect to the editors of the OED, I don't think that's quite right. The folly is not the builder's; it belongs to the person who hired the builder. And it's not "folly" in the sense of foolishness or stupidity; it's more like whimsicality or eccentricity. To call some structure a folly isn't necessarily disparaging. In England we mostly like our follies.
The person who hired the builder of Berkeley Castle was a late 19th-century grandee of business and politics named Samuel Taylor Suit, who, I quote from the official history at the U.S. Census Bureau website, quote: "made his fortune from marketing whiskey in little brown jugs," end quote. Hey, there are worse ways to make a fortune.
That was in Kentucky, a state that awards the title "Colonel" to persons who have distinguished themselves in some way, not necessarily military. The title is in the gift of the Governor. Running a distillery is distinction enough to be a Kentucky Colonel. Mr Suit got the title and liked to be known as Colonel Suit.
Well, Col. Suit went into politics. He bought an estate in Maryland, just east of Washington, D.C., and enjoyed a life of wealth and influence through the 1870s. He was Ambassador to Britain for a spell. That estate is today the town of Suitland, named after him.
At some point in his late forties — so this is the last year or two of the 1870s — Col. Suit fell in love with Rosa Pelham, daughter of an Alabama congressman. She was 29 years his junior, so it took some persuading before she agreed to marry him. One of her conditions was, that he should build her a castle. The couple married in 1883; work on the castle began in 1885. Col. Suit died before it was finished in 1895.
Rosa went on living in the castle. Beautiful and spirited, she was also a high-maintenance lady, but unfortunately did not excel at financial management. The castle had to be sold in 1913. It had a number of owners and served a number of purposes until VDARE.com bought it in February this year.
There is a footnote to the history of Berkeley Castle. It's thought, although nobody seems to know for sure, that the West Virginia Berkeley Castle was designed as a scaled-down version of Berkeley Castle in England. That one is not a folly: It's a real castle, built in the 11th century after the Norman Conquest, as a place from which the Normans could keep an eye on the unruly English.
The thing every student of English history knows about that original Berkeley Castle is that it was where King Edward the Second was imprisoned and then murdered back in the fourteenth century, after having been deposed by his wife and her boyfriend.
The method of murder was exceptionally cruel, much too gruesome to be related on a family podcast. The Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe included it in his play about Edward, Act Five, Scene Five, but in a way that gives the play's producer latitude to be more or less graphic. One 20th-century production was so graphic it inspired a witty reviewer to say of the murder scene that, quote: "It will keep you glued to your seat." End quote.
03 — VDARE.com up close. Well, now the Berkeley Castle in West Virginia belongs to VDARE.com, for whom I do these weekly podcasts. Peter and Lydia Brimelow have moved in and spend most of their time there with their three delightful little girls. They have the place set up pretty nicely, and I greatly enjoyed their hospitality Monday through Wednesday this week.
I don't say much about VDARE.com the organization here at Radio Derb, because I'm generally too busy opinionating about the news of the day. Let me just rectify the omission here.
The political faction that has my loyalty, what I call the Dissident Right, is conservative, in the sense of being wary of ambitious social changes, and nationalist, in the sense of believing that American policies, both domestic and foreign, should be designed and executed for the benefit of American citizens at large, not for the benefit of foreigners (who have their own governments to take care of their interests), nor for the benefit of small self-serving cliques of the wealthy and powerful, unless their interests also benefit the general.
So we are National Conservatives — a good alternate name, if you don't like Dissident Right.
Of course the definitions there need qualification and elaboration. Some social changes are good and desirable, especially when the society has been headed off in a wrong direction for a while. Sometimes what's good for a foreign nation is good for ours, too, as in the case of trade sensibly conducted. That's all open for discussion; but we define ourselves by those broad temperamental inclinations: conservative and nationalist.
The house of the Dissident Right, like the House of the Lord, has many mansions, of which VDARE.com is one. I don't think it's vainglorious of me to say that we are the most substantial and effective of those mansions, with high standards of literacy and accuracy in our editing and strong consistency in our views, now stretching back over twenty years of robust advocacy. It seems to me very appropriate that VDARE.com has found its home at last in a castle.
And I must say, seeing the energy and patriotic spirit of Peter, Lydia, and their crew up close this week, it's been a great dispeller of gloom. I left home on Monday hovering on the edge of despair at all the absurd over-reaction to the coronavirus and the farcical shambles of our recent election.
And that was just when I left home. As is happens, the Atlantic states on Monday afternoon suffered the mother of all rainstorms. Imagine your genial host hunched over his steering wheel for a couple of hundred miles, desperately concentrating on the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. Then Interstate 78 was closed down in Pennsylvania because of an accident. The interstate traffic — myself, along with an infinity of thirty-foot trailers shipping for Amazon.com, Walmart, and every other retail outlet — all that heavy traffic was shunted off along two-lane roads, crawling through Eastern Pennsylvania at five miles an hour. I lost the will to live somewhere between Reading and Lancaster.
When I finally reached the castle in late evening, I was a broken man. Peter and Lydia soon revived me. I got a good night's sleep, spent Tuesday setting up the video and learning about the castle, and by the time I left on Wednesday I had a whole new outlook on things.
With VDARE.com, with Peter and Lydia and their helpers, the Dissident Right is in very good hands. It's a privilege and a pleasure to work with these hospitable, smart, enterprising, busy people at keeping the U.S.A. on the rails.
My country, right or wrong.
Onward and upward with VDARE!
04 — U.S. Senate to U.S. citizens: Drop dead. Outrage of the week was surely Utah Senator Mike Lee getting his S.386 bill through the U.S. Senate. S.386 means a massive loosening of the rules for foreign workers to take up white-collar jobs in the U.S.A.
Lee didn't have to break much of a sweat to get his bill passed. He used a Senate rule called "Unanimous Consent," which allows the chamber to pass legislation with no hearings or debate, so long as no Senator objects. No Senator did, not one.
One of my themes about immigration, which I've been airing for at least seventeen years, is that it's really really hard to get people to think about immigration. It's a slow, silent process, working away invisibly in the background of our national life. There's always something more urgent, more dramatic, for politicians to make speeches about. Immigration policy is the classic case of frog-boiling.
The immigration boosters — which nowadays means Big Tech, Big Agriculture, the Fortune 500, and the Chamber of Commerce, with a small and dwindling support chorus of old-style immigration romantics singing about Ellis Island and Famine Ships — the immigration boosters know how reluctant people are to think about immigration. They like that reluctance, so they make us more reluctant by adding yards and yards of fine print to the immigration rules: wrinkles, curlicues, escape hatches, specialty clauses. You need a Ph.D. level of knowledge to master it all.
I've been through the immigration system myself, twice, and I've been writing about it for twenty years; yet still today, when I'm reading some news story about the issue, I get caught by some acronym or piece of jargon I never saw before.
Just to illustrate that point, here are three short paragraphs from an article by Neil Munro at Breitbart.com, December 3rd. Neil's writing mainly about displacement of blue-collar workers here, but the level of jargon is the same for white-collar workers. Quote:
The CEOs are allowed to get green cards for roughly 11,000 blue-collar workers each year via the "Fourth Preference" category of the EB process. The 2018 data showed a work-and-wait workforce of just 737 non-college workers. But the 2020 data shows a work-and-wait population of 7,000 non-college workers.
Let me go through the jargon there. "EB" stands for "Employment-Based." That's a category of Green Cards for permanent residence in the U.S.A.
You can get permanent residence all sorts of ways — for example, by being related to a U.S. citizen. Each way of getting permanent residence is graded into preference categories; for example, in the case of family relationships, by how closely related you are to that citizen. For Employment-Based Green Cards there are five preference levels.
Hoo-kay; so what's "work and wait"? Well, while you're waiting for your Fourth Preference Employment-Based Green Card — and you could be waiting a few years — you can be working here on a guest-worker visa, like the famous H-1B.
So far so good; but then my eye got stuck on SIJ, the Special Immigrant Juvenile status. What the heck is that? All these years reading and writing about immigration, I never heard of an SIJ.
Five'll get ya ten not one U.S. Senator could explain Special Immigrant Juvenile status to you. There are likely about fifteen people in Washington, D.C. who could explain it; and every one of them is an immigration lawyer trying to game the system on behalf of some Fortune 500 client.
(Translation of the phrase "gaming the system": replacing some American worker with a cheaper foreign one.)
That's our immigration system. That's what it's like: a vast tangled knot of laws, regulations, rules, executive orders, and court rulings. If Americans at large knew it in all its cold cash-racketeering dishonesty, there would be massive nationwide indignation.
They don't, though. They have too many other things to worry about — too many to permit them to take a couple of years off to study the difference between EB and SIJ. Our legislators, or at any rate their staffs, should do the studying for us; but they are all bought and paid for by the employer lobbies and AILA … Sorry: That's A-I-L-A, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, whose members go to bed hungry very, very rarely.
There needs to be a great simplification. Someone needs to march into the Temple and overturn the tables of the money-changers. We thought Donald Trump might be the person, but he wasn't up to it.
Still, Trump can even now do the nation a service to stop the immigration system being even more of an assault on middle-class citizens than it currently is. He can veto S.386 when it comes to his desk; or, if the congresscritters try to slip it into some other funding bill, he can veto that bill, no matter what it is. We urge him to do so.
05 — Hypocrisy and absolutism. I mentioned the coronavirus back there, and what I called "the absurd over-reaction" to it. Let me enlarge on that.
You all know about the reaction, whether or not you agree with me that it's been an over-reaction. You know about the lockdowns and quarantines, the shuttering of restaurants, bars, and gyms. You've probably seen some of the protests against it all, like the big one in New York City's Staten Island midweek.
You've also seen the hypocrisy of our ruling class on flagrant display:
I know how I feel about these hypocrite politicians. I'm just having trouble imagining what you think of them if you are the owner of a small business you spent years building up, that has now been put out of business by their crazy regulations.
Isn't it all necessary, though? Wouldn't a lot more people die without those regulations? How do I feel about the possibility that I might be one of them? Or someone I love?
This is where I find myself thinking something's wrong with our deepest instincts. There is a point of balance to be found between carefree carry-on-as-normal and control-freak absolutism. We have not found that point.
Take traffic fatalities as a comparison. The U.S.A. suffers around 35,000 traffic fatalities a year. Every one is of course a heartbreaking tragedy to wives, husbands, parents, children, lovers and friends. Couldn't we get the number down somewhat?
Sure we could. We could go for control-freak absolutism: implement a nationwide no-exceptions speed limit of fifteen miles per hour. That's four times faster than walking: should be fast enough for anybody. Traffic fatalities would drop to a few hundred a year.
So why don't we do this, and spare ourselves those tens of thousands of tragedies? Because Americans wouldn't stand for it. The economy would be crippled: businesses can't move goods at fifteen miles an hour. Even just ordinary citizens would be up in arms: "What, I have to spend four hours driving to check on my granny sixty miles away?"
Sure, we take sensible measures to reduce the toll: speed limits, vehicle inspections, seat-belt laws. In the final analysis, though, we accept that normal life includes some number of deaths, possibly deaths of ourselves or our loved ones. We like normal life, even if it costs many deaths. We don't like control-freak absolutism, even if it saves many lives. We have found the point of balance.
In the case of the coronavirus, we haven't. Instead of seeking for it in a reasonable way, we have defaulted to control-freak absolutism, along with all those displays of hypocrisy from the absolutists.
06 — Pushing back against hysteria. The push-back against what I've been calling control-freak absolutism hasn't all been street demonstrations. There's been some commentary that was both thoughtful and skeptical.
Here for example was John Hinderaker at PowerLineBlog.com, November 21st. John takes the afrorementioned hypocrisy as his starting point. Sample quote:
The real significance of politicians flouting their own rules is that it shows they know those rules are unnecessary or useless. Take the case of Governor Newsom's ritzy dinner. Newsom's guests included the CEO of the California Medical Association, as well as that group's senior vice president and head lobbyist. If these people — privy to all the latest scientific information! — actually believed that COVID is a deadly disease for people in normal health, and wearing masks indoors while social distancing and associating only with one's immediate family would protect them from contracting it, you can be sure they would not have joined in the scofflaw dinner at the French Laundry. Not to protect you, but to protect themselves. [COVID Hypocrisy is the Least of It by John Hinderaker; PowerLine, November 21st 2020.]
It's a pretty good general rule, in fact, that when progressive politicians or pundits are telling you to live your life a certain way, they are living theirs some other way.
Here's something curious from the following day, November 22nd. This came out of the students' newsletter of Johns Hopkins University. It's a study by Genevieve Briand, an economist at Johns Hopkins — in fact, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master's degree program there.
Ms Briand analyzed the numbers for total deaths in the U.S.A. from all causes, and claimed that, quote from her:
These data analyses suggest that in contrast to most people's assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States. [A Closer Look at U.S. Deaths Due to COVID-19 by Yanni Gu; Johns Hopkins Newsletter, November 22nd 2020.]
Ms Briand's numbers, and the conclusions she draws from them, have been criticized, and Johns Hopkins has since retracted the paper. Reuters has also published a fact-check of the deaths-from-all-causes numbers and drawn conclusions that likewise contradict Ms Briand's findings, although it's not clear they are using her data. They point out, for example, that there are quite long lags in death numbers being reported to the CDC, so that numbers even for earlier in 2020 are not final.
Fair enough, and perhaps there are excess deaths in there somewhere. I have to say, though, that some of the Johns Hopkins critique looks muddled to me. There are sentences in there I read twice without understanding what they meant. Sample, quote: "an increase in excess deaths is not represented in [Ms Briand's] proportionalities because they are offered as percentages, not raw numbers." End quote. Eh? If there's an increase in raw numbers, wouldn't there also be an increase in percentages?
Whether Ms Briand is right or wrong, it's salutary to see those year-by-year numbers for deaths from all causes. A tad short of three million Americans die every year, from coronavirus or — far more often — from something else. There is no armor against fate.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: OK, race and sex. First, race.
Harvard University has posted a job advertisement for an Associate University Librarian for Anti-Racism. The salary will be from $133,300 to $240,300, depending on qualifications.
What will he do, this Librarian for Anti-Racism? He will, edited quotes:
engage as a thought-leader … change systems, structures, policies, practices and individual behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism … create an antiracism team and lead a library-wide antiracism council.
I asked a friend passing through, recent graduate of a prestigious Chinese university, if they have positions like that over in China. It's been a while since I saw anyone laugh so much.
Item: Across the pond, meanwhile: Undergraduates at Manchester University in northern England want to ban the word "black" from their course materials, at any rate in its negative connotations: "blackmail," "black sheep," "black mark," and so on.
I don't see how you can hold the line at "black." Don't all colors have negative connotations some of the time? "Blue" for sad, "green" for envy, "yellow" for cowardice, "white" for whitewash — and of course a host of other things. There is nothing positive about whiteness.
And contrariwise, "black" can be positive. If your finances are "in the black," they're healthy. "Black letter law" is the surest, most dependable kind.
Seems to me this whole project needs work.
Item: Race and … what else did I promise you? Oh yes, sex.
All I have here is that actress Ellen Page, who I must say I've always found rather attractive, has decided she's really a guy. She's now Elliot Page.
This stuff quickly gets complicated, though. Ms Page — sorry, Mister Page — has a wife, name of Emma. I mean, she had this wife when she was female. So … is Emma going to change sex too, making them two married guys? They're not telling.
On approximately the same topic, I note the passing on November 20th of British writer Jan Morris, whose three-volume history of the British Empire is, in my opinion, a masterpiece of popular historical writing.
Jan Morris was originally James Morris. She transitioned to female in her mid-forties, after 23 years of marriage and five children. James' wife Elizabeth, mother of those five children, stayed with Jan following the transition, and survives her.
Jan wrote a book about the transition, which I have not read, although perhaps I should. Still, I've read a lot of her other stuff over the years, and thought her a very good writer: adventurous, often funny, and full of insight.
I mention this because, as a fan of normality, I'm always tempted to scoff and make jokes about this business of being confused as to your sex. Jan Morris is there to remind me that it's not just a silly fad among the Wokerati, nor a form of mental illness. You can be smart, brave, witty, well-read, thoughtful, and useful to your fellow human beings, and yet think that your mind is a different sex from your body.
I really should read that book …
Item: Radio Derb's congratulations to Mr Uunona, winner of a regional election in Namibia, a former German colony in Southwest Africa. Mr Uunona bears the unfortunate given names Adolf Hitler. He blames his father, who was not, Mr Uunona tells us, altogether up-to-date on world affairs.
People in far places are sometimes like that. There was a player on the ten-pin bowling circuit in Hong Kong circa 1972 named Hitler Wong.
We forget that Hitler was in power for several years before he started invading other countries and generally misbehaving. During those years a lot of people in places like Africa and China got a vague impression of Hitler as a pretty good guy, and never paid enough attention to subsequent events to revise that impression.
A lot of Chiang Kai-shek's supporters were like that — hey, Hitler beat up on the communists! — and just never updated their understanding. Hence … Hitler Wong.
Item: From unfortunate given names to an unfortunate last name: Condolences from Radio Derb to Mr Akbar Zeb of Pakistan.
The 55-year-old Mr Zeb is a professional diplomat. He was packing his suitcases to take up an appointment as Pakistan's ambassador to Saudi Arabia — a pretty nice gig, I would think.
Alas, it's all fallen through. Mr Zeb's credentials were in order, but his name wasn't.
Pakistan's a Muslim country, and their naming conventions use lots of Arabic words. That "Akbar" for example — Mr Zeb's first name — is Arabic for "greatest," as in "Allahu Akbar!"
Pakistan has a spoken language of its own, though: Urdu, an Indo-European language not related to Arabic, although they use Arabic script to write it. Mr Zeb's last name seems to be Urdu, not Arabic. I can't discover what it means, but it's nothing that's offensive to Urdu-speakers.
In Saudi Arabic, however, "zeb" is a slang word meaning "penis." The Saudis are puritanical, at any rate in public, so "Greatest Zeb" is not welcome there. Well, not in the halls of diplomacy …
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and most particular thanks to all who helped us by donating to this week's fundraiser.
For sign-off music this week, let's go back to West Virginia. The musical glory of West Virgina arises from its fiddlers. I intend absolutely no offense to pianists, guitarists, flautists, harpists, cellists, or vocal stars of any fach. There is simply no doubt about it: When you think West Virginia and music, you think fiddlers.
Here's one of the greatest: Clark Kessinger at the Newport Folk Festival in 1966, when he was seventy years old. Just for once I'm sorry this is only a podcast, not a vidcast: Half the fun of the performance is in watching Clark's moves as he fiddles. Let me tell you, a West Virginia fiddler needs good flexible knees. In fact, at 1m35s into the clip on YouTube that I took this from, Clark stops fiddling altogether and breaks into an impromptu little dance.
Ladies and gentlemen: Clark Kessinger playing the tune "Sally Ann Johnson."
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Clark Kessinger, "Sally Ann Johnson."]