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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, traditional instruments version version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air with our first podcast of 2021! Greetings, listeners, from your diuturnally genial host John Derbyshire.
Well, New Year's Eve was a bit of an anticlimax, wasn't it? For many years there our custom was to welcome in the New Year with another couple, old friends in the next town who we've known since all our kids were little. Then last year that couple went to Florida for the holiday, so the Derbs were thrown back on our own devices. Rather than sitting at home watching some dumb TV spectacular, we signed up for the New Year's Eve show at a local comedy club.
That was great fun, though you want to be sure you have a ride home booked well in advance. That was last year, though. This year the comedy clubs are all closed down — well, except for the one on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
So it was the dumb TV spectacular for us last night. Boy, was it dumb! C-list celebrities mumbling at each other through face masks, some thunder-thighed high yaller broad doing suggestive things with her hand mike, commercial breaks for cars, patent medicines, cars, gadgets, and cars, zzzzz …
We made it through somehow though, with the help of a bottle of supermarket champagne, and now we're in another new year. What always comes to mind at this point is the old New Yorker cartoon of two ancient Romans in togas, standing in the Forum, one of them saying to the other: "There I go, still writing 'B.C.' on my checks."
The thing you've heard at least 2,021 times by this point is: "That was the worst year ever. The new year can only be better!"
No argument from me on the first point there. 2020 was indeed full of unpleasant surprises. The Derb household was not spared. Just this last week Mrs Derbyshire confessed that she is not, in fact Chinese, as I have been supposing for 34 years. No, she's a Jewish girl from Brooklyn. It's amazing what cosmetic surgery can do. Oh, there she goes passing the studio door: Sholem aleykhem Honey … Eh, perhaps I didn't say it right. If you ask me, this whole identity business is totally out of control.
On the second point, though, I beg to differ, as will anyone who's absorbed the spirit of true Derbian pessimism. Let me explain … No, let the girls explain.
[Clip: "There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner."]
02 — Georgia run-offs. There's a couple of sharp corners coming up next week: the Georgia runoff elections for the Senate on Tuesday, and certification of the Electoral College vote in Congress on Wednesday. I'll take them in turn. First, Georgia.
I'm sure you know the deal, but here's a brief reminder. Both of Georgia's seats in the U.S. Senate are up for popular vote. The senior senator, Republican David Perdue, failed to get over fifty percent of the vote November 3rd, so he has a run-off against Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff. The junior senator, Republican Kelly Loeffler, placed second behind her challenger, Democrat Raphael Warnock, on November 3rd, but again Warnock didn't make fifty percent so there's another run-off.
If you subtract out those two seats, the Senate breaks fifty Republicans, forty-eight Democrats. It follows that if the Democrats win both seats on Tuesday, the balance will be precisely fifty-fifty, with the Vice President having the tie-breaker vote. Since the Vice President is well-nigh certain to be Kamala Harris, that gives Democrats total control of the federal legislature. If the Republicans take one of the seats or both of them, they have enough of a majority to vote down at least some of Joe Biden's program.
Obviously this is a big deal for both parties. Boxcar-loads of money has been spent promoting the candidates, especially Democratic candidates Ossoff and Warnock. Each of them has raised over a hundred million dollars this past two months, making them the best-funded Senate candidates in our history.
Most of that funding is from out-of-state, with big blue cities — San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles — leading the charge. It's not hard to figure out why. The ruling class — Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood — very much want Democrats to control the Senate. For one thing, Democrats are cheaper to buy than Republicans. For another, Republicans are boring old white guys like your Dad, nothing like as cool, interesting, and diverse as Democrats.
The Republicans in these races, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are not all that old: 71 and 50, respectively. They're not all that boring, either. There is nothing much in either of them to warm the hearts of National Conservatives — see Chris Roberts' account at American Renaissance — but they've both been decently loyal to President Trump, and not much worse than Trump himself has been on our issues: immigration, law and order, the cultural revolution, foreign wars.
So what are the prospects? The betting websites, for people who put their money where their mouths are, show Warnock overtaking Loeffler just last week, ahead of her 55 to 45 Friday afternoon. Perdue is ahead of Ossoff Friday p.m., but the gap is closing fast. It was 66 to 33 in Perdue's favor on Tuesday; Friday it was 54 to 46. So Perdue went from 33 ahead to eight ahead in just three days, with four days to go. This doesn't look good.
It doesn't help at all that we have drifted further than ever from a straightforward, rational voting system. That would be one where, unless you have some clear and checkable reason for submitting an absentee ballot — you're in hospital recovering from an operation, perhaps — you show up at a polling station on the specified day, identify yourself to the officials, and cast your vote.
How absurdly primitive! Nowadays, with a boost from the virus panic of course, you are thought eccentric if you cast a vote in person on polling day. By New Year's Eve — so that's five days before polling day — over three million votes had already been cast: two million in person, close to one million by absentee ballot.
With all the complications implicit in that, and all the multifold opportunities for chicanery we saw being field-tested November 3rd, close races like these two in Georgia are really hard to call.
They may in fact remain uncalled long after the polling booths close. Here is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 26th, edited quote:
[We] interviewed more than a dozen state officials, voting rights experts and party leaders who are quietly gearing up for a tortured election aftermath …
So this time next week, shall we know who won Tuesday's run-off elections? Don't bet on it.
03 — Certifying Biden. Happy birthday to Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who turned 41 yesterday, Thursday. That makes him the youngest sitting senator.
Senator Hawley is in the news this week not for his birthday but for announcing that he will object to the Electoral College certification process due to be carried out next Wednesday, January 6th. What's up with that?
Well, Article II of our Constitution says that once the members of the Electoral College in each state have met and recorded who they're voting for, the lists are sealed and sent to the President of the Senate, which is to say the Vice President of the nation, which is to say, in the current case, Mike Pence. Then that person calls a joint session of both houses of Congress to count all the votes and tell us who got elected President and Vice President. That's what's due to happen on Wednesday.
The joint session of Congress is held in the House chamber, congressmen and senators all together, just like at the State of the Union speech, but minus the judges and generals and Lenny Skutniks. How they are going to manage it this year under social distancing protocols, I have no idea. Perhaps they'll Zoom it, I really don't know.
Whatever: Layered on top of the basic Constitutional requirements there are some laws. One of those laws says that if at least one senator and one House member submit written objections to a state's Electoral College votes, the House and the Senate must retire to their separate chambers for two hours of debate. Then each chamber votes on whether to count that state's votes.
Well, we've got the senator there, and we have House members also objecting — dozens of 'em, led by Mo Brooks from Alabama's Fifth. So Wednesday we'll be off to the races. The congresscritters and the senators will withdraw to their respective chambers and ponder whether or not to reject the Electoral College counts from states where hanky-panky is suspected — Josh Hawley named Pennsylvania in particular.
What happens if they do reject some state's numbers? Don't worry about it. There is zero chance that will happen. The House is controlled by Democrats, duh. The GOP controls the Senate, but there are enough Mitt Romney clones in the senatorial GOP to quash Josh, by gosh.
In that case, isn't this all just theater? Not at all. The November 3rd election was a shambles. What proportion of that was deliberate chicanery and what proportion just confusion caused by the huge increase in mail-in voting, it's hard to judge; and whether there was enough dubious stuff to swing the result nationwide, likewise. It was a disgrace, though, and tens of millions of voters are mad as hell about it. They naturally want their legislators to make a fuss, so that's what Hawley, Brooks, and the others are doing. If that's theater, it's theater in a perfectly reasonable cause.
Although it has to be said, this being politics, that there is a political dimension to the gambit. Nothing wrong with that; politicians gotta politic; and if the ones promoting causes I support politic more successfully than their opponents, I'll cheer them on.
The politics in this case is the politics of 2022 and 2024, and of Donald Trump. Trump has a huge base of popularity. Over 74 million of us voted for him in November. In Gallup's annual survey, done in the first weeks of December, Trump came out as the most admired man, with eighteen percent of respondents naming him thus. Only fifteen percent named Barack Obama.
For those coming next election cycles, 2022 and 2024, GOP candidates are going to have to do some serious strategizing about how, and how much, to appeal to that Trumpian base. Trump himself will be around, and I can't imagine he'll keep out of the fray. He may actually run himself in 2024; but even if he doesn't, he'll be hovering over the battlefields like one of those gods in The Iliad.
Those candidates won't be able to ignore Trump. They may seek his support; they may try to keep him at arm's length; they may try to split the difference; what they won't be able to do is ignore him. The calculations are already being made; the positions are being taken.
"What did you do, Mr or Ms Candidate, on January 6th, 2021?" won't be the question at the front of voters' minds two or four years from now, but it'll be in play. The strategizing has already commenced.
04 — Brexit at last. At 11pm last night Greenwich Mean Time, Britain left Europe. Wednesday the British parliament had approved a deal negotiated by Boris Johnson's goverment, so Brexit became a reality at last.
It's somewhat of a messy reality, but that was bound to be the case. Britain's a foreign country now where Europe is concerned, and vice versa. Brits will need passports and visas when travelling to Europe, and again vice versa.
Some things are still not really settled. Fishing rights were a big sticking point. Some kind of agreement was reached, but it's only good for five years, then has to be re-negotiated. Britain's commercial fishermen are seriously unhappy.
The messiest bit of the mess concerns Northern Ireland. It remains part of Britain, under the authority of the Crown, while the Irish Republic remains an independent state within the European Union. Not just "within": the Irish of the Republic l-o-ove the EU.
Republican sympathizers in Northern Ireland, who are legion, are similarly disposed, as are some who'd call themselves Loyalists — loyal to the Crown, that is — but who liked living in a Britain under EU rules, especially agricultural rules, and aren't sure how things will go now.
How things will go at first is, as an almighty fudge, with Northern Ireland continuing to follow some of the EU rules on trade just so they don't have to have a hard border with the Republic, which nobody wants. To make this work, there'll have to be customs controls between Northern Ireland and the British mainland, which likewise nobody wants, but which is just seen as the lesser of two evils.
A lot of people, and you can include me, suspect that everyone will get fed up with the fudge quite soon and there'll be politicking for a referendum in both North and South to unite the island at last. There are already rumors that the government of the Republic is planning such a referendum for this year.
How would that play out? There'd be hot opposition from the Loyalist rearguard, and likely some political violence. This isn't 1970, though. Mass immigration to both islands, and the same cultural revolution we've been undergoing here, have pacified and globalized the Irish and the British both.
I don't like that myself. Too much has been lost. I wish the British had stayed British and the Irish, Irish. Looking back forty or fifty years, though, at the price Northern Ireland paid for ethnocentrism, it may be that in that one patch of land, globalism is the least bad outcome.
05 — Our lawless nation. Yet more evidence, if more were needed, that we live in an increasingly lawless society showed up in New York City news outlets last week. Here's the story.
December 24th last year … sorry: 2019, December 14th 2019, in the Bronx, sixty-year-old Juan Fresnada was out walking with a friend when a group of teenagers attacked them. Fresnada was knocked to the gound, kicked, stomped on, and pounded with a garbage can. He died from his injuries three days later.
One of the teenagers, name of Jordon — that's J-O-R-D-O-N — Jordon Benjamin, was arrested and charged with manslaughter. He seems to have been 15 at the time. He was held in a juvenile center, but freed in March by a judge of the Bronx Supreme Court, Justice Denis Boyle, as part of a policy prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. The authorities didn't want teenage muggers catching COVID-19 — Heaven forfend!
So that was March this year … dammit, last year, 2020. Forward to December 14th. Apparently there had been no progress on the manslaughter charge. Jordon Benjamin had been roaming free since March. At this point in his roaming, December 14th, he encountered a young woman, Amya Hicks, and slashed her in the stomach.
Jordon Benjamin, now aged 16, was arrested three days later and charged with felony assault and attempted assault, and misdemeanor weapons possession. At his subsequent arraignment he was — wait for it: this is the punch-line — he was released without bail by that same judge. He's now strolling around the streets of the Bronx in freedom again.
The race angle here isn't hard to figure out. Justice Boyle is white; everyone else in the story is black. The pictures accompanying the news story don't show Amya Hicks, the girl who got slashed; but there's an interview with her mother, whose name is Tynisha Smith and whose age is given as 33. We don't know Amya's age, but presumably she's at least a coeval of Jordon's, so her Mom's was a teen pregnancy.
We're down among the black underclass here. That means the killing of Mr Fresnada and the slashing of Ms Hicks are your fault, Whitey. It's only right and fair that little Jordon is out free.
That seems to be the approach taken by the authorities, anyway. I'll leave you to play the head games about what would have followed if Jordon Benjamin had been white, with the same black victims.
This was just an inside-page story in a local newspaper. It goes with so many other things, though: the coddling of illegal aliens, the legalization of shoplifting in California, the free pass usually given to Antifa and BLM rioters, …
How did we become such a lawless nation? The same way the guy in Ernest Hemingway's book said he'd gone bankrupt, I guess: "Gradually and then suddenly."
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Some news from Down Under. Advance Australia Fair, that's the national anthem of Australia, contains the line "For we are young and free." That is of course a gross and humiliating insult to the indigenous peoples of Australia, who were building up the country for tens of thousands of years before white colonists showed up in the 18th century and destroyed all their achievements.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that as of January 1st 2021 the anthem will no longer be sung like that. How will it be sung? Radio Derb has obtained a preview, for your pleasure and instruction.
[Clip: Aborigine war dance.]
Item: The Japanese have a genius for working with wood. I am told there are entire large wooden houses in that country, put together with no use at all of metal nails.
As an amateur woodworker myself, I'm impressed. Now I am double impressed, having just read that Japan is building a wooden space satellite. That's right: a satellite made of wood, current launch schedule sometime in 2023.
Quote from the news article, edited quote:
Having reached the end of their lives … satellites face one of two fates.
What's wrong with that second option? you may ask. Well, the aluminum in the satellites burns up into teeny particles of aluminum oxide, hanging around in the stratosphere for years disrupting the ozone layer. That causes climate change, so the environment collapses and WE SHALL ALL DIE A LINGERING DEATH! just as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been warning.
When a wooden satellite burns up on re-entry, though, the only waste products are good old wood smoke, which Mother Nature is used to and doesn't mind.
I call b-s on that. I think the Japanese are making up the disaster story. They just like doing fun things with wood.
The project has Radio Derb's full support none the less. Making space satellites from wood has a nice back-to-nature sound to it.
I'm still holding out against smartphones, just will not buy one of the wretched things. Now, having read this story, I'm going to soften my position a wee bit. When the Japs market a smartphone made of wood, I'll be first on line out there in front of the Apple store.
Item: For the inmates of New York City, it's just one darn thing after another. The latest horror: squirrel attacks. Story from Patch.com, December 28th, headline: Vicious Squirrel Attacks Rattle Rego Park Residents.
Rego Park is a pleasant middle-middle-class district in the borough of Queens, heavily Jewish, good school results, low rates of teen pregnancy, … you get the picture. It's one of the most suburban parts of New York City: lots of detached one-family houses with lawns and trees.
Plainly the trees are the problem. Trees, squirrels. From the news story, edited quote:
Rego Park residents are complaining that a pack of pugnacious squirrels are attacking them unprovoked.
As a suburban homeowner myself, I sympathize. It may clarify things for the residents of Rego Park if I tell them the Chinese word for "squirrel": sōng-shŭ. That translates literally as "tree-rat." And that's all you need to know about squirrels. Tree rats.
Item: Haven't had any bowling news for a while, so this item is welcome. I think the last time I mentioned the noble sport was August last year … I beg your pardon: August 2019, when I admired the bowling prowess of Radio Derb's dear friend and patron, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan.
Well, here's a news story from the lanes. A 17-year-old from Modesto, California, has reached championship levels after bowling several perfect games. He's made the national championships four years in a row, and just recently placed in the top five of a tournament in Arizona.
OK, so why is this newsy to anyone but the dwindling number of competition bowlers? Well, because this lad is blind and deaf.
Wait: If he's blind, how does he know what spares to pick up? Well, he has a spotter who tells him, that's how. If you want to know how the spotter tells him, our hero being deaf, I don't know. Some system of tapping on his palm, if I remember that Helen Keller movie correctly.
As a sometime league bowler myself, back in the seventies, I am genuinely impressed. I wish this lad many further successes, with lots of cash prizes.
The comment thread to this story was heavy with boomer relics recalling Tommy, the Pinball Wizard in the 1969 rock opera of that name.
[Clip: The Who, "Pinball Wizard."]
This bowling champ's name is not Tommy, it's Jacob. What snagged my attention, though, was his surname: Goddam. That's the guy's surname, Goddam: G-O-D-D-A-M.
I used to know a relative of his. This was in Hong Kong many years ago. There was an elderly local fellow in my acquaintance who'd spent a few years in Canada. He hadn't learned much English, but he had learned the word "goddam," and used it at least once in every sentence. We all called him Mr Goddam. I'm glad to know his clan is flourishing over there on the Left Coast.
'Scuse me, I have to take a phone call. It's my auto mechanic, Steve Holycrap.
Item: A childhood in mid-20th-century England leaves you with a lifetime sensitivity towards snobbery.
It was a class society. There were innumerable markers of class: the way you spoke, the way you dressed, your grooming, your table manners, which sports you were interested in, and so on. You had to be taught it all at a young age, so you could find your way around in society.
My own family lived in public housing and my parents never had any money. For complicated reasons, though, they considered us to be a cut above the neighbors, who in turn considered us to be "stuck up." We lived among people who were unambiguously working-class; but we I think were, at least in our own minds, lower-lower-middle-class. A key word in my childhood was common. "Don't play with those Tompkins boys," my parents would say. "The Tompkins are common."
The U.S.A. isn't anything like as class-conscious as that. The race business sucks up a lot of the psychic energy that we used to invest in class. We do have classes, though. The late Tom Wolfe was an acute observer of class in American life. I swear, he could almost have been English.
It's too bad Tom isn't among us to pass comment on this week's flap about Melania Trump. Her husband, our President, tweeted on Christmas Day his anger that Melania, who actually worked as a fashion model before she wed, had not once, in four years as First Lady, featured on the cover of a major glossy women's magazine. Michelle Obama, who was a lawyer before she wed, had appeared on twelve, including three covers of Vogue, the premier fashion magazine. Melania Trump, to the best of my knowledge, never featured on the cover of any law magazine.
It's no mystery to me. It's just snobbery. I can hear the editorial conferences at Vogue when Melania's name came up.
"How about the First Lady? She was a working fashion model, after all."
07 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention; thank you for your comments and criticisms; most of all, thank you for supporting VDARE.com and our cause of National Conservatism.
And now it's 2021. As I intimated in my introduction, I have no very great hopes for the year. In among the public failures, disappointments, and possible catastrophes, however, there will as always be friendship and laughter, love and forgiveness, useful work done and knowledge gained. Let's look forward to those things. Onward and upward!
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Peter Dawson, "Auld Lang Syne."]