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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 scrupulously genial host John Derbyshire, taking an exercise break in the frigid February sunlight from the dungeons of Tax-Preparation Hell.
Yes, it's that time of year. There are, the proverb tells us, only two certainties in this world: death and taxes. After a couple of sessions with the accountant, I find myself honestly wondering which is worse.
It is therefore with relief that I turn to the political news, the more so as this week's big news concerns a topic I'm interested in and knowledgeable about: immigration. Immigration is also, of course, the principal interest of our website here, VDARE.com.
So: three full segments on Joe Biden's immigration bill, which was presented to the public on Thursday. Here we go.
02 — Non-comprehensive immigration reform. Yes: Thursday this week the new administration brought forth a bill on immigration for federal legislators to debate and decide on. The bill comes in two versions, one for the Senate and one for the House, although the texts are well-nigh identical. Both versions are 353 pages long.
My boss Peter Brimelow sent me the House version on Thursday to use as a basis for my commentary. I obediently settled down to read the thing.
Whadda we got? Heading:
To provide an earned path to citizenship, to address the root causes of migration and responsibly manage the southern border, and to reform the immigrant visa system, and for other purposes.
Hoo-kay. Don't we already have an earned path to citizenship? From the wording there a naive person might assume we don't. We do, though. I know we do. I myself trod that path from 1985 to 2002.
All right, let's see what's actually in the bill. Bending to my duty, I commenced reading. Passing over the table of contents and definitions of terms, I came to page 10: Title I, Subtitle A, "Earned path to citizenship." OK, this should explain it. I read on. Uh-huh … OK … Got that, I think … Uh-huh … Mm-huh …
By page 17 I was deep in the weeds.
SECTION 1102. ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS OF LAWFUL PROSPECTIVE IMMIGRANTS.
Hang on here: How many of these paragraphs are there in Subsection (a) of this new Section 245C amending the Section 1101 amendment to Chapter 5 of title II of 8 U.S.C. 1255? Er … six altogether, although Paragraph 5 has two Subparagraphs.
At about this point, listeners, I lost the will to live. In my defense, I'll wager that I had already read more of the bill than any of the congresscritters who'll be called upon to vote on it.
I resolved to do the best I could from secondary sources — that is to say, by poaching from the commentary of other pundits more fluent in Congressperanto than I am.
That's a shameful thing to have to confess; but my shame in this case was much assuaged by seeing, as one of the first things these more knowledgeable commentators all said, that the bill stands no chance of becoming law.
Why is that? Well, here you have a conflict of strategies.
The holy grail for open-borders lobbyists — which is to say, all of the well-funded business and ethnic lobbies — the holy grail has always been "comprehensive immigration reform." That's understood to mean a bait-and-switch model, a retread of Ronald Reagan's 1986 law giving both sides what they want: mass amnesty to please the lobbies, firm controls on employment and border security as boob-bait for the Bubbas. Once the law's enacted, the amnesty rolls ahead but the firm controls melt away quietly under judicial action and executive inaction.
All these efforts failed; but hope springs eternal in the open-borders breast. With majorities in both houses, Biden's people — how naturally we say "Biden's people," as if the President were just a holographic image, which he might as well be — with Democrats in control of Congress, Biden's people figured it was time for another try at "comprehensive immigration reform."
It actually isn't, though. With the Covid pandemic, caravans of thousands assembling in Central America, and doubts about Mexico's continuing fortitude in preventing those caravans crossing Mexican territory, a lot of Democratic congresscritters are getting spooked. Here was Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat, talking this week to Politico.com, quote:
Our party should be concerned. If we go off the rails, it's going to be bad for us. Biden is going to be dealing with a minority in Congress if he continues down some of these paths.
What to do, then? The lobbyists have to be appeased; and it would be really, really nice to have a big fat tranche of new Democrat voters in place before November 2024.
And I should say before proceeding that while I'm flinging around the time-honored expression "comprehensive immigration reform" with gay abandon, this week's bill is not actually a good fit for that term, as I have defined it. Most to this point: There does not seem to be any boob-bait for the Bubbas. Where are they, those clear promises to secure the border, punish employers of illegal aliens, and the rest?
The optimistic assumption must be that the Congressional drones who drafted this bill know that we know how bogus those promises were in past efforts at "comprehensive immigration reform," and decided that it wasn't worth their time to go on lying. I call this the optimistic assumption because it does at least signal a slight increase in honesty.
The solution to the difficulties with "comprehensive immigration reform": piecemeal reform. The magic word here is "reconciliation." Here's an explanatory quote from the New York Times, February 17th, quote:
[Open-borders activist Loretta Praeli] and other proponents … called on the President to promise that he would … use a budgetary tool known as reconciliation to enact smaller components of the legislation even as he pushes ahead with the larger effort.
Reconciliation is supposed to be restricted to issues of government tax and spending. Since well-nigh everything Congress does has some effect on those issues, though, the rules are highly fudgeable. Legalizing illegal aliens would obviously affect tax revenues, for example — let's reconcile!
So although this 353-page comprehensive reform bill is, by general agreement, a dead letter, expect a strategy shift to lots of itty-bitty bills squinched through the reconciliation process to effect the desired results.
What are the desired results? Next segment.
03 — The Crush American Workers Act. As I have already confessed, for the details of what is proposed in this big, comprehensive bill, and which bits will be picked out and finagled through into law via reconciliation, I have relied on reports from other commentators.
I've tried to be fair-minded in my choice of commentators: just as examples, Neil Munro and John Binder at Breitbart.com for the Americans First viewpoint, Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post and Scott Bixby at the Daily Beast for the immigration boosters.
I have to say, though, that it's a lot easier finding commentary from our side than from the other. Given the huge consequences for our nation — for our children and grandchildren — inherent in any kind of change to immigration law, you'd think that commentators from every point of the opinion compass would be all over this week's bill.
No: take it from a guy who's been looking for good incisive commentary from all over, trying hard to suspend his own preferences when searching. America Firsters are way more interested in this bill than the Chamber of Commerce front men are. That's what you might call meta-information: information about the information.
OK, the Bill, executive summary: Crush American workers, especially white-collar college-graduate types. If there are still any deluded souls out there who look on the Democrats as the Party of the Little Guy, here's one more wake-up call for them.
This bill amply demonstrates that the Democrats, as instantiated by the current administration and its congressional cohorts, are the party of the big corporations, their media shills, and the college rackets hungry for foreign students paying full tuition. The little guy, if he's a U.S. citizen, can go pound sand. This is true for both blue- and white-collar workers.
With blue-collar workers the issue is strongly linked to illegal immigration, which dominates the public conversation. This week's bill deals with illegals in a way that looks designed to be chopped up into piecemeal bills for the reconciliation process.
And notice a sneaky extra gift for illegals in the first three of those four categories — for the "Dreamers," the TPS's, and the farm workers. They get amnesty and green cards, which in the normal way of things would mean that after five years on the green card they could get citizenship. However, for these favored groups — CIS estimates their numbers at 3.5 million — for them, the wait period is only three years.
Why such a trivial change? Ah, you see, if these groups can be amnestied by reconciliation this year, they can be citizens by November 2024. Three and a half million grateful new voters!
On the white-collar side the bill is flagrant and ruthless. Quote from Neil Munro at Breitbart:
Biden's amnesty bill would allow CEOs to dangle not just 75,0000 [green] cards each year — but millions of green cards to millions of white-collar workers around the world.
So if you are a young American just about to graduate from college, loaded down with student-loan debt, looking for a good white-collar job, fuhgeddaboutit. The big firms won't hire you. They can get a foreign worker much cheaper with those no-limit work permits.
And while he's toiling away under that work permit, waiting the statutory period for one of those no-limit green cards, Johnny Foreigner is tied to the company like an indentured servant, unable to change employers.
Short title of this week's bill, as given in both the House and the Senate versions: The U.S. Citizenship Act. Honest title: The Crush American Workers Act.
04 — Why didn't Trump legislate? As a footnote to those two segments, we could fairly ask: Given that there are these two approaches to legislating immigration reform — on one hand the big "comprehensive" bill, on the other hand the piecemeal reconciliation jiggery-pokery — given that there are two legislative strategies available there, why did the Trump administration attempt neither?
It's true, and to Donald Trump's credit, that he did some effective things to secure the borders and protect American workers. He did them by executive action, though, and Biden's people are now busy undoing them. There is no substitute for legislation. Why didn't the Trump administration legislate?
They could have tried either strategy. They could have put a 350-page bill out there with every aspect of real, patriotic immigration reform spelled out in it, to get everyone talking about it. Or they could have gone the piecemeal route, jiggling away with legislative tricks to get key things done.
They tried neither. Why?
The answer was all too plain in that sorry televised White House meeting in January 2018, which I reported on at the time. To jog your memory, there were 25 legislators at the meeting with Trump, 16 senators and 9 house-critters, from both parties. I computed their median immigration grade as recorded by the NumbersUSA rankings: the median was between D and D-minus.
Trump was an utter squish in that meeting. The low point was when Kevin McCarthy, a NumbersUSA B-plus, had to step in to prevent Trump giving away the farm to Dianne Feinstein.
From that point on I knew it was futile to expect much good on immigration from the Trump administration. I'm surprised we got the little we did get.
Yes: It seemed like a good idea in 2016, to support a Presidential candidate from totally outside the Washington swamp — most especially, from outside the corrupt and worthless halls of Congress. It was a good idea in principle; the candidate just wasn't up to it.
Assuming, which I think is more likely than not, that this new administration crashes and burns Jimmy Carter-style, the hope for 2024 must be that somewhere in Congress there is a mole: a senator or congressman who knows his way around the place, knows all the tricks and anfractuosities — things like reconciliation — but who has been quietly biding his time, posing as a regular swamp-compliant front man for the big lobbies, but who is a Trumpist at heart, determined to put America and Americans first, if he can get in a position to do so.
I'm going to be carefully watching the inmates of Capitol Hill this next four years in hopes of spotting that guy — or, genuflecting to my Margaret Thatcher commemorative mug, that gal.
If I can't spot him, her, or xim, I'll be buying my plane ticket to Uruguay. Without that guy, I can't see any hope for the U.S.A.
05 — America, the Can-Do Nation. Growing up in a different country sixty-odd years ago, looking across the Atlantic with a mix of admiration and envy, my starting impression of America was as the Can-Do Nation.
That wasn't just me, it was a common perception, and had been for a century or more.
Fifteen years ago in The New Atlantis magazine I did a long appreciation of the early French sci-fi writer Jules Verne. In it I passed some comments on Verne's 1875 novel The Mysterious Island, in which a group of Americans get stranded on a desert island.
I quoted George Orwell's observation that, quote, "A list of the objects in a shipwrecked man's possession is probably the surest winner in fiction, surer even than a trial scene." End quote. Then, referring to Verne, I wrote, quote from self:
Verne's castaways have one of the shortest such lists: the clothes they are wearing, a single match, two watches, the dog's metal collar, and one grain of wheat. They are Americans, though, and this was the beginning of the era — it ended with the Apollo program — when the U.S.A. was seen by foreigners, certainly by Verne, as the can-do nation, populated by ruggedly self-reliant types who could turn their hands to any practical task.
Verne's castaways certainly fit this stereotype. In no time at all they have a forge, a brickworks, a pottery kiln, and a glassworks up and running. Ah, those Americans! What can't they do?
With that old sentimental impression of this as the Can-Do Nation, I always raise an inward cheer when we pull off some difficult technological feat.
Well, Thursday this week, we did. NASA's Perseverance rover landed successfully on Mars for an extended mission. The landing — a complicated business involving heat shields, retro rockets, and the rover suspended by cables from a secondary vehicle — went without a hitch.
Perseverance — "Percy," for short — is quite a beast: 10 feet long, 7 feet high, and weighs 2,260 pounds. That's bigger than our previous Mars rovers: most recently Curiosity, which landed in August 2012, weight less than 2,000 lbs, and Opportunity, landed February '04, weight a mere 400 lbs.
Things have been busy around Mars this month. February 9th the United Arab Emirates put a satellite into orbit around the planet, though with no plans for a landing. This orbiter is called Hope, which Google Translate tells me comes through as Amal in Arabic, so I guess that's the more formal name.
And the Chinese are up there, too. Their ship is called Tiānwèn, "Questions for Heaven," a reference to ancient Chinese literature. Tiānwèn slipped into Mars orbit February 10th. It has a lander, weight 530 lbs, but they won't be attempting a landing until later in the year.
Watching the landing of our Perseverance on Thursday, it gladdened my heart to see the control center erupt in cheers and high-fives of jubilation, just like in the old Apollo days. Some things you never tire of seeing. Somewhere in another place Jules Verne was cheering, too.
Top of the list of tasks assigned to Perseverance is of course looking for signs of life on Mars. We landed the rover in a crater that has some geological signatures suggesting it once held water. "Once" was three billion or so years ago; but if indeed there was liquid water there once, and if living organisms dwelt in the water, Perseverance should be able to find some chemical traces.
We currently have no real clue how common life is in the universe. For all we can tell, the nearest living things to us could be in some galaxy a billion light years away; or they could be right next door, on Mars. We just don't know. So finding traces of life on Mars would close a huge gap in our understanding. If you care about human knowledge, its scope and limits, that is exciting.
So here's a cheer for Perseverance, and for the teams of Americans who got it safely to its destination. Let's see what it turns up; and let's applaud ourselves for still being, in some spheres at least, the Can-Do Nation.
06 — The Lone Grid State. In all too many respects, of course, we are the Can-No-Longer-Do Nation.
Politicians like to pull out the word "infrastructure," and to promise us they are going to work wonders of improvement on our roads, our railroads, our airports, our water and power and gas supplies, our sewage systems.
And yes, things do get done, at a local level anyway. My own little township here on Long Island has been upgrading the street drainage systems, with interesting results. My basement still floods after heavy rains, but not as often as it used to. Hey, it's something.
At the state and national level, though, improvements are few and far between; and when they are carried out, the consequences as often as not are negative.
The unfortunate people of Texas have discovered that this week. There's been a major cold snap, as a result of which millions of Texans have lost power, and in some cases also water. There have been at least twenty deaths from hypothermia and from carbon monoxide poisoning of people using charcoal grills to heat their houses, or running their cars in attached garages.
When this news came out I was baffled. When I think of Texas I think of oil. It's the oil state. Stick a shovel in the ground, oil is going to spurt up at you, right? How can a place like that run out of power?
Reading up on it, I learn to my chagrin — having just praised my own town's efforts at infrastructure improvement — I learn that the main problem in the Texas case is localism.
Texas is the only one of the 48 contiguous states with its own power grid. The other 47 states all belong to one or other of two humongous multi-state grids, one covering the east of the U.S.A., the other covering the west, both regulated by Ferc, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Texas's lone grid is managed by Ercot, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Given the current fiasco, they might want to drop that word "reliability" from their name.
I did not know any of this. Am I going to re-think my fondness for state's rights and localism? Eh, maybe a little bit … later.
There's been some nyah-nyah from climate-crisis skeptics, among whom I number myself. Texas has been following the fashion for renewable energy sources — wind power, solar power. Those windmills jam up in extreme cold, though, and solar panels covered with snow don't deliver much electricity.
I enjoy seeing climate-catastrophe alarmists discomfited just as much as the next reactionary, but this doesn't actually seem to be the biggest part of the problem. Kare-11, a news outlet in the midwestern north, reports that states like Minnesota, which get a lot of cold weather, have all their energy-generating equipment cold-proofed in ways that Texas … doesn't. Of all the power Texas has been losing, only 39 percent is from renewables. The non-cold-proofed coal and gas-burning power plants are most of the problem.
Texas would be better off not losing that 39 percent for sure, but the other 61 percent would still have been a major state catastrophe.
Well, my sympathy goes out to Texans in their current distress, and I hope the state politicians get their act together — the ones, I mean, who aren't partying in Cancún.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Rush Limbaugh died on Wednesday. I'm a bit ashamed to say, as a paid opinionator, that I never had any opinion about Rush. While vaguely supposing he was a Good Thing and on the same side as myself politically, I somehow went through the past thirty years without once listening to his radio show.
This is all the more puzzling because I am generally behind social trends and Rush the radio voice was an old-school relic whose survival into the internet age is a bit of a mystery. As a relic myself — I still don't own a smartphone — I should have nursed some instinctive solidarity with Rush; but I just didn't.
How did Rush survive so well and so long into the age of social media? I guess the answer must be that what he did, he did really well. I apologize to the world at large, and to Rush's innumerable followers, for not having paid better attention to it.
Rest in peace, Sir.
The department getting the chop is Humanities. That's also the name of one of the degree programs being canceled; the other is Visual Art Education. Those two programs are among fifteen that aren't meeting enrollment targets; seven others of the fifteen will be merged into other programs.
I'm sorry for the academics being let go there, and I'd dearly like to know, but haven't been able to find out, whether the programs that have survived include junk courses with names ending in "Studies" — Raza Studies, Women's Studies, and so on.
The particulars of this case aside, though, I'm glad to see signs that the college bubble may be about to pop. Far too many youngsters are in college who'd be happier, more productive, and less vulnerable to "social justice" fads if they were training in some practical skill, or working for a living. So I'm raising a small, qualified cheer for this one.
Item: February 15th had more than the average significance for your genial host. It was the fiftieth anniversary of Decimal Day, when Britain switched from pounds, shillings, and pence to decimal currency.
I was just a few months into my career as a mainframe computer programmer. After a few weeks of training courses I found myself in a programming shop in London coding up the conversion. It wasn't exactly a baptism of fire. The coding was pretty straightforward.
The main issue we had was with the new halfpenny. For some fool reason the morons who'd ordained the change thought that the new penny, worth 2.4 old pennies, was too big a unit, so they added a halfpenny. It was a damn nuisance, mucking up all the spacing on our printed reports.
The change itself was unpopular and unnecessary: part of Prime Minister Edward Heath's drive to make Britain up-to-date, efficient and shiny, like those wonderful Europeans whose Common Market Heath so wanted us to join. How'd that work out? For that, Britain scrapped her quaint but perfectly serviceable old currency.
All that aside, February 15th 1971 was kind of fun. The organization I worked for — it was Britain's telephone company — sailed through the changeover without any disaster. I don't recall us in the programming shop standing up and cheering and high-fiving like those guys in Mission Control, but we were pretty pleased with ourselves.
I got promoted to a bigger, newer, much more powerful machine, with sixty-four kilobytes of main memory! Good times …
Item: If you watch Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News you have probably seem Miranda Devine. She's a fairly frequent guest on Tucker's show.
Miranda is actually a columnist at the New York Post, and a darn good one. I urge you to look up and read her February 17th column on the appalling double standard in our justice sytem when it comes to dealing with rioters. Sample, quote:
When violent anti-cop rioters were arrested in last year's "summer of rage," high-profile Democrats donated cash to bail them out, left-wing lawyers defended them pro bono and sympathetic judges and DAs bent over backward to let them off scot-free.
Read it all, please, and understand how politicized, how corrupted our justice sytem has become — how dismally far we have drifted from equal justice under the law.
Item: Aysha Khanom, a female of indeterminate race, had a job teaching at a university in Britain. Calvin Robinson, a male of Caribbean ancestry who I would judge to be a quadroon, is a conservative political commentator over there.
Ms Khanom lost her university job after posting a tweet in which she said, quote:
Calvin Robinson does it not shame you that most people see you as a house [bleep]?
What is that bleep concealing? It's concealing a word that was so shocking to Ms Khanom's employers, they fired her for tweeting it; so shocking that the Daily Mail, in whose February 18th online edition I read this story, asterisked out most of it.
They actually printed the unprintable word as "n***o." So I guess it was actually "negro," like in "United Negro College Fund." Apparently "negro" is now a taboo word.
Who can keep up with this stuff?
A long-time listener spotted this online advertisement while, he swears, he was searching for something else. Yeah, right. The ad appears on Sephora.com, a marketing website for beauty and bathroom products. The ad is for Brazilian Bum Bum Cream, actual trade mark Sol de Janeiro. Quote from the ad:
This luxurious body cream melts into skin with an award-winning formula infused with powerful, caffeine-rich guaraná and a Brazilian blend of skin-loving ingredients. Smooths skin and brings a soft shimmer for that coveted Brazilian Bum Bum Cream effect and absolute body joy. Scented with addictive notes of salted caramel and pistachio.
I have ordered a jar of this substance for Mrs Derbyshire. I urge you to do the same for your significant other. Keep the Miss Bum Bum spirit alive!
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and particular sympathies from Radio Derb to those of you in Texas. Stiff upper lip down there!
When I'm asked whether VDARE.com is "white supremacist" or "white nationalist," my stock answer is that we are anti-anti-white. We push back, politely but firmly, against the belittling and insulting of white people that is now well-established as part of this country's civic religion.
We make a special point of redressing the balance of news reporting on inter-racial crime. If you knew nothing but what is presented to you in the mainstream media, you would believe that black Americans tiptoe around in fear of snarling whites looking to assault them. Huge numbers of Americans do believe that. It's a lie, contradicted by all facts and statistics.
To take a fact at random: The U.S.A. runs a visa lottery, officially called the Diversity Visa Program, handing out 50,000 green cards a year — that is, permanent residence — to people from all over the world. Twelve million people applied for tickets in the most recent lottery. In the last breakdown I can find for successful applicants by nationality, covering 2012-16, 42 percent were from Africa. Ethiopia, Congo, Nigeria, and Cameroon were all in the top ten countries.
If the U.S.A. is such an awful place for blacks, why are so many black Africans keen to get residence here? If it's just ignorance on their part, how many, having tried to settle here and encountered our "systemic racism," how many return back to Africa unable to bear all the "white-supremacist" oppression here? (Answer, of course: practically none.)
(In parenthesis I'll say that this diversity visa lottery is a seriously stupid idea, one of the least defensible aspects of our current immigration policy. That does nothing to weaken the point I just made, though.)
We want demographic stability and honest reporting about race. That's us, that's VDARE.com. In our dream America, black citizens would enjoy full rights and liberties and equality under the law. If that resulted in unequal outcomes on some metric — a failure of "equity," in present-day cant — we'd assume that the cause was innate race differences, unless the contrary could be rigorously demonstrated.
In that spirit, we happily applaud black Americans who achieve at high levels, although no louder than we'd applaud brown, red, yellow, or white Americans with equal achievements. We have mixed feelings about Black History Month; but since we're in the silly thing we may as well signal our virtue by signing off with a high-achieving black American.
From the middlebrow operatic repertoire, my favorite region of the cultural terrain, here's one of Rossini's best, sung by Kathleen Battle — who, little-known fact, once contemplated a career as a mathematician.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Kathleen Battle, "Una voce poco fa."]