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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, harpsichord'n'kazoo version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your robustly genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you yet another edition of Radio Derb.
This has been one of those weeks without any single major story dominating the news; at any rate, not one that stirs me to passion. What follows will therefore be more in the nature of a potpourri of lesser stories, garnished with random reflections from your host.
The first of those lesser stories will concern the damn wretched annoying coronavirus, which we now plainly see as Satan's gift to the Democratic Party. Before I get to that, however, I just want to do a promotional segment not related to any particular story, concerning the state of our nation as described by a very percipient observer.
So first: promotional segment.
02 — State of the Nation. What I shall promote is the monthly magazine The New Criterion, currently celebrating its fortieth anniversary. Yes, I know, I have promoted The New Criterion before, more than once. It's a favorite of mine, all right? Neither VDARE.com nor I myself have any financial interest in it.
They've been running a series of long opinion pieces under the heading "Western Civilization at the Crossroads."
Now here, in the current issue, comes the fourth essay in this series. It's by Michael Anton of Hillsdale College, best known as the author of the "Flight 93 Election" article of September 2016, which helped get Donald Trump elected that year.
This latest of Michael Anton's essays is subtitled "Unprecedented." Like the others in this series, it is long: north of five and a half thousand words. It is, though, brilliant in the way it lays out what ails us as a nation and a society.
The author is steeped in historical and classical learning. What he has to tell us is, as that subtitle says, that our current malaise is unprecedented. Sample quote:
No nation in recorded history has ever willingly opened its doors to millions of immigrants only to insist that they must never adapt to the traditional ways of their new country — indeed, insisting that they forever remain as foreign as the day they arrived. Similarly, no country in recorded history has ever welcomed millions with the message that their new country, along with its existing citizens, are inherently evil and out to get them.
Anton works his way through to a somewhat gloomy conclusion, passing along the way through many chambers whose decor will be familiar to Radio Derb listeners. The Cold Civil War, for instance. Edited quote:
The matter becomes even more complicated when one reflects that this is mostly an intra-white civil war. One group of whites pronounces the entire white race evil, seeks policies to hurt it, but somehow exempts itself. So far, these upper-caste whites have found ways to protect their own privilege but haven't developed consistent rhetoric to defend that privilege. They appear to believe that no matter how much anti-white poison they vomit or how many destructive policies they enact, none will ever blow back on them … This situation, too, is unprecedented.
Please don't imagine I am saying that Michael Anton has borrowed ideas from me. He knows far more history and political science than I do, and has no need to borrow from anyone. We share a basic temperament, though; and scanning the current national scene, we come to much the same conclusions.
If you don't currently have a subscription to The New Criterion, I urge you to get one. Yes, their cultural coverage is very wide: not just our political culture but art, concert music, drama, poetry, … there will be pages in any issue that you'll want to skip right over. They are doing God's work there, though; or, if you are an atheist, civilization's work.
I'll close this segment with the paragraph that I ended my 2001 encomium with, just three weeks after 9/11. Quoting myself:
It is good to know that The New Criterion, just embarked on its twentieth year of publication, is out there defending reason, sense, science, tradition, and the divine revelation of true art. I wish them twenty years more, and then twenty more after that; for this war, unlike (let us hope) the other one, is a war that will never be won, as long as there is fool's gold to be dug from the rocks, and fools to buy it.
My reaction precisely. I've been telling you for over a year now how deeply boring I find the whole pandemic business. We may in fact be at, if not well past, the point at which my grumbling about how boring covid is to me is more boring to Radio Derb listeners than my own actual boredom.
The pandemic is a huge feature of our national life today, though; and the ruling class has been very ruthlessly using it to assault our liberties — those few liberties that the reformers of the past sixty years have very graciously allowed us to keep.
So instead of just futile grumbling, I'm going to see if I can extract some meaning from it all by way of a brief stroll through language and literature.
Here's a word you don't see much nowadays: "valetudinarian." The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word to mean, quote:
A person in weak health, esp. one who is constantly concerned with his own ailments; an invalid.
Among the illustrative examples they give is this one, from Sir Leslie Stephens' 1880 biography of Alexander Pope, quote:
Naturally, he fell into many of the self-indulgent and troublesome ways of the valetudinarian.
Bertrand Russell had this to say about Schopenhauer in the History of Western Philosophy, quote:
His outlook has a certain temperamental affinity with that of the Hellenistic age; it is tired and valetudinarian, valuing peace more than victory, and quietism more than attempts at reform, which he regards as inevitably futile.
Jane Austen, in her novel Emma, says of Emma's father that, quote:
having been a valetudinarian all his life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man in ways than in years.
I have always thought vaguely of the word "valetudinarian" as a Dickens word. Sure enough, the young Charles Dickens gave us a valetudinarian in Sketches by Boz.
This was fat, red-faced Mrs Bloss, who, responding to an advertisement, applied to rent a room in Mrs Tibbs' boarding-house. "Money isn't no object whatever to me," she told Mrs Tibbs, "so much as living in a state of retirement and obtrusion."
She continued with, further quote:
I am constantly attended by a medical man … I am going through a course of treatment which renders attention necessary. I have one mutton-chop in bed at half-past eight, and another at ten, every morning.
The rental was agreed upon and Mrs Bloss took her leave. Quote:
She accordingly walked slowly down the stairs, detailing her complaints all the way; and Mrs Tibbs followed her, uttering an exclamation of compassion at every step.
When she has gone, Dickens remarks, quote:
It is almost superfluous to say that the lady whom we have just shown out at the street-door … was exceedingly vulgar, ignorant, and selfish.
Note please that valetudinarianism is not the same as hypochondria. A hypochondriac's ailments are imaginary; a valetudinarian's are real, and his whole life revolves around them.
Well, these literary excursions are a lot of fun; and I think listeners will agree that it's a pity that a word as useful as "valetudinarian" — come on, we've all known cases — it's a pity that such a useful word has fallen into what Dickens would call desuetude. But what's my point here?
My point is to wonder if the U.S.A. has become a valetudinarian nation, "constantly concerned with our own ailments."
Have we? Have we, like Alexander Pope, fallen into "the self-indulgent and troublesome ways of the valetudinarian"? Are we, like Mr Woodhouse, "without activity of mind or body, … much older … in ways than in years"? Are we, like Mrs Bloss, "vulgar, ignorant, and selfish"?
It's natural to be concerned about your health, but it is indeed "vulgar, ignorant, and selfish" to be too concerned about it. You take a few sensible precautions, then get on with life as best you can.
George Orwell suffered from TB all his life, and died from it at age 46; but in a 1940 autobiographical note to an American publisher he declared that, quote:
My health is wretched, but it has never prevented me from doing anything that I wanted to, except, so far, fight in the present war …
That is a sensible and, well, healthy attitude that I think we should all try to cultivate. I was going to add "manly" to my adjectives there; but with Mrs Bloss in mind, I don't think there is anything gender-specific here.
As well as being sensible and healthy, Orwell's attitude also has a flavor of the ornery, of kicking against the pricks.
I love ornery, and have always thought of it as a very American characteristic. I've tried to cultivate it as part of my lifelong effort to Americanize myself, although I'm not naturally an ornery person.
Here's an example of me trying to cultivate orneriness.
I live in the outer suburbs of a small town with lots of pedestrian crossings. They all have those annoying WALK / DON'T WALK signs, with a button you have to press, then wait for the WALK sign to come on before you can step into the road.
I can never be bothered. I carefully check the traffic from all directions. If it's clear, I cross, whatever the damn fool sign is showing.
That's what I mean about taking sensible precautions; but having taken them, you act according to your own will.
Does this philosophy, which I've been practicing for decades, slightly increase my chances of an untimely death? Possibly; but the act of exercising my will in defiance of a dumb machine makes the trade-off psychologically worthwhile to me.
Are we losing our orneriness? Are we, our nation, getting old, tired, and valetudinarian? Possibly so.
I grew up thinking of the U.S.A. as a young, vigorous nation. Even back then, though, this country was, constitutionally speaking, quite old. How many of the world's nations still have the written constitution they adopted more than two hundred years ago? Sure, we've made lots of amendments; and sure, we had a Civil War; but after 232 years the original constitution has never been trashed. How many countries can say that? I make it none.
We forget how unusual constitutional stability is. Mainland China is on its fourth constitution since 1949. While the U.S.A. has been flourishing under our 1789 constitution, France has been through a monarchy, a republic, an empire, monarchy again, republic again, empire again, republic yet again, foreign occupation, another republic, and then yet another one, all five of those republics having different constitutions.
While nations in the geographical sense can endure for centuries — millennia, in China's case — in their constitutional forms nations have lifetimes, just as human beings do. They get old and tired and … valetudinarian.
Is that what's happening to us? Amidst this endless fretting about a flu virus, I wonder.
04 — Is that why it's called "Black Friday"? Whether we're a valetudinarian nation, I leave with you. We have sure become a lawless nation, though.
You've seen the video clips and read the news stories. Gangs of looters spent the Thanksgiving weekend looting retail stores in our cities: Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Home Depot, Best Buy, Apple, pharmacies, jewelry stores, … Not all of these were big chain stores. Some, especially the jewelry stores, were single-outlet family enterprises.
Cops made a few half-hearted arrests here and there, but no perps were detained for long. After Thanksgiving Day lootings in Los Angeles the LAPD made fourteen arrests. Reporting on this a week later, the LA Times said, quote, "none of the 14 suspects remains in custody." End quote. One was a juvenile, the others were all bailed out or released without bail.
So far as we have been permitted to see, the looters are all black. No surprise there: To a fair first approximation, all crime in the U.S.A. is committed by blacks.
Hence the cautious, hands-off approach by police and prosecutors. If black looters were held indefinitely in jail the way those white January 6th protestors have been — except of course, I mean, for the one shot dead by a black cop — the city's crime stats would not display equity. That would be terrible — plain evidence of white supremacy!
Well, it gives new meaning to the term "Black Friday." Our underclass is taking the concept of free stuff to a whole new level. Welcome to Jim Snow America.
President Biden's spokes-bot, the very lifelike Jen Psaki, was asked about the causes of all this looting at a presser just yesterday. The person asking was Fox News reporter Peter Doocy.
The automaton first blamed Donald Trump. He hadn't supplied enough federal funding to local police departments, you see? Joe Biden is going to be much more generous!
Hoo-kay. Doocy followed up with: "Does the president still think that crime is up because of the pandemic?" The bot evaded that, now blaming the Second Amendment somehow. Doocy pressed the question: Did Ms Psaki think the pandemic caused the looting? Yes, she finally told us, she did.
So that's the administration's explanation for the looting. Nothing to do with looney-tunes prosecutors obsessed with "equity" in arrests and incarcerations.
You see how she's been programmed? Whatever calamity she's asked about, she'll first blame it on Trump, then on the Second Amendment, then on covid. Doocy didn't pursue the matter further. If he had, Ms Psaki would have fallen back on climate change. I could have coded up her responses myself in COBOL.
05 — The Feds follow immigration law! Even before looting became de facto legalized, we were quite comprehensively lawless in one area of national policy. I mean of course immigration.
If you wanted a pictorial illustration of the word "lawless," you couldn't do better than those battalions of Haitians walking into the U.S.A. in September, in defiance of our laws.
That's just the visible tip of the illegal-alien iceberg, though. Unknown millions of foreigners — very likely tens of millions — live in our country without ever having been given authorization to do so. Border jumpers and visa overstayers live and work here, using our publicly-funded systems for health, education, and policing, bringing forth children — does anyone even have an estimate of how many? — who are automatically given citizenship.
That birthright citizenship is at least legal under the currently prevailing interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Section One. It's none the less crazy for all that, and would not be legal if either of our big political parties had enough of a spine to challenge it.
This present administration has declared openly, brazenly that it will not permit enforcement of the people's laws on immigration in a long and not exhaustive list of "protected areas," loosely defined. You want "loosely defined"? I got "loosely defined." Quote from the DHS directive:
Schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools, and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events.
"This isn't a booze party, Mr ICE officer, this is an education-related activity. Hey, take your hands off me! Lawsuit!"
There should be impeachment of Biden and Mayorkas for failing faithfully to execute the laws, as they promised to do in their oaths of office. Again, though, we come up against the congressional spine deficiency.
In all this lawlessness, I'm happy — not thrilled or delighted, but happy — to report the administration having taken one small step back towards respect for the law.
Monday, December 6th, they will resume Donald Trump's Remain in Mexico policy. This is the one, hammered out in agreements with Mexico, that people who cross the southern border claiming asylum have to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed.
What's actually being resumed is a weaker version of Trump's policy. It will apply to asylum claimants from the Western hemisphere, but only in a very limited way to others. Also, the DHS has to complete processing within six months, and help the claimant get legal counsel.
And the administration didn't retreat on this out of the goodness of their hearts. When they stopped the Trump program in January, Texas and Missouri sued to have it reinstated. A Texas federal judge agreed with them and the Supreme Court wouldn't hear the administration's appeal. Biden & Co. have worked up a new appeal, currently pending in the court system. If this appeal stands, the admin's told us, they'll end the program immediately.
So they're following lawful process here. The U.S. government, following lawful process on an immigration issue — wonders will never cease!
06 — Crime data is racist! As well as becoming a lawless nation, we have become a quite seriously stupid nation. Open reporting of what Basil Fawlty called "the bleeding obvious" now brings forth shrieks of disbelief and outrage.
Case in point: This lengthy report at the MarkUp website. MarkUp describes itself as, quote, "a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change our society," end quote. Is that word "nonprofit" code for "George Soros," as is so often the case? I haven't been able to discover.
Thursday this week MarkUp published a report about PredPol crime prediction software. PredPol takes in reported crime data for a city and uses it to predict which neighborhoods are most worth the attention of the police, thus improving the efficient use of police manpower.
Guess what: The neighborhoods where high numbers of crimes are predicted by PredPol are overwhelmingly black, or to a lesser degree Latino. I guess the people who coded up the system forgot to program in equity.
For example: Two neighborhoods in Plainfield, New Jersey are less than a mile apart and have the same area. PredPol predicted only eleven crimes for one of the neighborhoods; for the other it predicted 1,940. The first neighborhood there was 63 percent white; the second was zero percent white. Equity crash!
As I hinted: We are in the realm of the bleeding obvious here. MarkUp isn't happy about it, though. To their credit, they attempt a quantitative exercise to show that PredPol is unreasonably biased. They come up with two supporting arguments:
Neither argument is utterly implausible for some effect on the numbers, but eleven against 1,940? Come on.
Police departments are getting shy about PredPol, though, and some have stopped using it. Quote from MarkUp:
Of the 38 U.S. law enforcement agencies in our analysis, only 15 are still PredPol customers — and two of those said they aren't using the software anymore, despite paying for it.
Have those police departments found PredPol unsatisfactory in some way, or are they just cringing before the race bullies? It's not clear. Further quote from MarkUp:
Even PredPol's original partner, the [Los Angeles Police Department], stopped using the software last year.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Tuesday this week Éric Zemmour announced that he will be a candidate for President of France in their election next April.
I first heard about Zemmour last month, from a francophone friend whose political sympathies match closely with my own. Zemmour is, my friend told me, a National Conservative such as we Americans can only dream of.
Not being much concerned about French affairs, I did not give Zemmour much thought. Then this afternoon, Friday afternoon, as I was setting up to record the podcast, my friend sent me a ten-minute YouTube clip of Monsieur Zemmour announcing his candidacy. It was one of the most stirring and eloquent political speeches I have ever heard.
Listeners, I urge you to watch that speech. Zemmour speaks in French of course, but there are running English subtitles. Here's how you get it.
[Added when archiving: Here in the podcast there followed some spelled-out instructions on putting the URL for M. Zemmour's speech into your internet browser. If you're just reading the transcript those instructions are superfluous; I've already provided a link.]
That'll get you there. It's ten minutes and it's simply brilliant. If there is anyone as smart, well-spoken, fearless, and patriotic as Monsieur Zemmour in American public life, I urge him to step forward and offer himself to voters for 2024.
Item: Back to the theme of us having become a stupid nation. You'll recall that three years ago a black TV actor named Jussie Smollett staged a hate crime, claiming to have been beaten up by white devils wearing MAGA hats, calling him rude names, and leaving him with a noose round his neck.
And people — including some respectable, highly-paid journalists — believed him!
To believe a tale like that is beyond stupid. Can anyone think of an anti-black hate crime this century that wasn't a hoax?
The noose is a clear tell. Likewise spray-painted insults, counterclockwise swastikas, and "KKK" mis-spelled. OK, I made the last one up … but I wouldn't be surprised.
It is surely a well-known fact by now that the demand for anti-black hate crimes far outstrips the supply.
Well, this week Jussie went on trial facing six counts of felony disorderly conduct for lying to police. If convicted he faces up to three years in jail. Yeah, right, that'll happen.
When I was reporting this at the time I turned to the defendant's namesake, 18th-century English novelist Tobias Smollett. He did not disappoint, quote:
I think for my part one half of the nation is mad — and the other not very sound.
End quote, and just so.
Item: Finally, a news item from the old country, actually from the picturesque county of Gloucestershire. Headline: Bomb squad called to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital after man gets WWII mortar stuck up his bottom.
The story concerns a Gloucestershire chap, described as a "military enthusiast," who for some reason has a collection of live WW2 ordnance. Tidying it up, he placed this mortar shell upright on the floor, then slipped and fell on it at such an angle that it went up his rectum. Well, that's his story and he's sticking to it.
As usual with stories of this kind, the real fun is in the comment thread. Just a few.
Comment: "Is this what they mean by a tail gunner?"
Comment: "Thank goodness he was seen by a crack team of medical professionals."
Comment: "What a bummer!"
Et cetera, et cetera. Feel free to add your own.
08 — Signoff. That's all I have, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and welcome to December.
Yes; Thanksgiving is past and we are heading into the season: Christmas, New Year, my daughter's birthday. Then Chinese New Year, the Year of the Tiger, commencing on February 1st. The tiger is Mrs Derbyshire's birth year on the traditional twelve-year cycle; but if I were to tell you any more than that I'd be in peril of being smacked over the head with a cast-iron wok.
And in mid-January, in between our New Year and China's, the Derbs will, God willing, greet the arrival of our first grandchild, so some excitement is building up here.
OK, some sign-out music. I feel in the mood for something country. And no, this is not another excuse to go browsing nubile young ladies playing stringed instruments. The principal performer here is neither young, nor nubile, nor female. Come to think of it, I'm not sure this counts as country music. On a strict classification, I think it's American Traditional. Whatever; It caught my fancy and I am much obliged to the friend who sent it to me.
So here is Leroy Troy with Marty Stuart in support, singing "Five Pounds of Possum."
And there will of course be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Leroy Troy, "Five Pounds of Possum."]