• Play the sound file
[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, harpsichord & kazoo version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your nominally genial host John Derbyshire with our summary of the week's news, as filtered through National Conservative sensibilities.
Dr Johnson said a man will turn over half a library to make one book. I don't turn over any libraries to make my weekly podcast, but I do read as much news and opinion as I can to find material I think commentworthy, and to check against my own ideas and modify them when I find I've been wrong.
In all that mass of stuff I read, there's often one piece that stands way above the rest. This week that one was Michael Anton's essay "They Can't Let Him Back In" at a website named compactmag.com, previously unknown to me.
Anton is the guy who wrote "The Flight 93 Election" back in 2016, one of the most politically influential opinion columns ever published. He subsequently served in the Trump administration.
This new essay, "They Can't Let Him Back In," is a must-read. The "Him" there is of course Donald Trump. Anton lays out likely scenarios for the next 2½ years, based on the hypothesis that the regime will do anything at all, up to and including a military coup, to prevent another Trump presidency.
I'll say no more except: Read that article. It's brilliant.
02 — Hard hearts and hypocrisy. My colleague Allan Wall posted something on Wednesday about illegal aliens who die trying to cross our southern border. They drown crossing the river, they die from thirst or exposure, they fall when trying to scale border barriers, they suffocate in smugglers' crowded, unventilated trucks, and so on.
Allan doesn't offer much sympathy. Quote from him:
Yes, the U.S.-Mexico border is a humanitarian disaster. The solution is not an open border. The solution is to get control of the border. That, of course, is not the policy of the Biden Administration.
Allan won't get any arguments from me about what he says in that piece. I'm on board with him a hundred percent. I will, though, warn him that he's setting himself up there to be portrayed by open-borders progressives as a hard-hearted monster.
How do I know this? Back in February 2006 I was having some exchanges with Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online. One of my exchanges included the following, quote:
In between our last two posts I went to Drudge to see what was happening in the world. The lead story was about a ship disaster in the Red Sea. From the headline picture, it looked like a cruise ship. I therefore assumed that some people very much like the Americans I went cruising with last year were the victims. I went to the news story. A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don't care about Egyptians.
That earned me a spell of infamy. Commentators all over were gasping in horror at what a shameless brute I was for not caring about Egyptians.
It was quite a spell. Five years later, save-the-world neocon Peter Wehner brought it up in an argument about U.S. aid to Africa. Gentry liberals of course went nuts. For a while there I was the poster boy for Callous Conservatism, the guy who didn't care about dead Egyptians.
Although responses weren't all negative: Daniel Larison in American Conservative wrote a good supportive piece. Sample quote:
We usually consider it normal to be fairly unconcerned about the fate of strangers even in our own metropolitan areas, which might be less justifiable, but modern humanitarian politics dictate that we must be deeply moved and compelled by the suffering of people, with whom we have no connections, on other continents. Derb's reaction is perfectly natural and normal, and confirms what Dr. Fleming has had to say about natural affinities, charity and the [inner quote] "pornography of compassion." [End inner quote.]
End quote. The "Dr. Fleming" there is veteran paleocon Thomas Fleming, formerly editor of Chronicles magazine.
Reflecting on all that sixteen years later, on the rights and wrongs of it, the furthest I'll walk back what I wrote is to admit I was tactless.
Social harmony, in any society, requires a certain seasoning of hypocrisy, so long as we all understand that's what it is. When a perfect stranger greets me with "How are you?" I understand that he most likely doesn't care at all how I am; and he understands that I understand, and I understand that he understands that I understand, and so on. It's a tiny, harmless hypocrisy that just makes our social interaction softer and smoother.
Reading a news item about Egyptians being drowned and murmuring, "How dreadful! Those poor people," is another one of these little excusable hypocrisies. Saying out loud that you don't care about dead Egyptians is a breach of the code, although a tiny one. Some truths are best left unspoken, so long as they are understood.
So, what about these people dying while trying to cross into our country illegally? I have to say I don't think polite hypocrisies are totally appropriate here. These people are dying in the course of committing a crime, like a burglar in your house falling down your stairs and breaking his neck.
Yes, I know: some of those dying are little kids who don't know they're involved in a crime. For them, the little hypocrisies of concern are appropriate, and I'll nod along with them. They're still hypocrisies, though.
We all know those lines from the poet John Donne, quote:
Each man's death diminishes me,
It's a noble sentiment, but not a true one.
We are of course all going to die, and each death is a sad loss for family, friends, and colleagues. The death of a child is especially distressing to those who knew him. Beyond that small circle, though, who feels diminished?
If the deceased was a public figure, admired or loved by millions, those millions may indeed feel themselves diminished. Public figures like that are, however, only a minuscule portion of those who leave this life every day.
And yes: strictly personal feelings aside, our natural tribal emotions can be stirred more when we hear of our own countrymen dying than when it's foreigners. My emotions are stirred more thinking about the tens of thousands of deaths among Americans caused by fentanyl smuggled across the border than by Guatemalan illegals dying of thirst in the southwestern desert.
Still, the overwhelming majority of deaths go unnoticed by the overwhelming majority of us, their fellow human beings. How could it be otherwise?
There has been war going on in the Congo more or less continuously since the late 1990s, with a death toll so big it's not known even to the nearest million. It's barely been mentioned in our media. Have you felt diminished by those untold millions of deaths? No, me neither … Oops, there I go again.
And the deaths of illegal aliens trying to gatecrash civilized countries is something we are going to see a lot more of in years to come; at our own borders and in Europe. Random headlines from the past few days:
Get ready for a lot more news stories like that — a lot more — these next few years, as more and more Third Worlders abandon their own hopeless countries and seek to enter ours.
We can harden our hearts, or we can let 'em all in. Is there a third option? I don't see one.
03 — The mills of Floyd. You know about the George Floyd case, of course. Floyd was a low-life Minneapolis street hoodlum and junkie who, hyped up on narcotics, passed a counterfeit bill then put up a struggle when four cops tried to arrest him. The lead cop, who was half Floyd's weight, subdued him and called for assistance. Floyd died while they were waiting.
What he died from is unclear. The County Medical Examiner did an autopsy the next day. He reported finding no evidence of life-threatening physical damage — brain bleeding, fractures, asphyxiation. The Examiner didn't say so, but probably Floyd's heart gave out from the stress of the situation on a metabolism juiced up with fentanyl. I don't really know, though; and so far as I can figure, neither does anyone else.
That Medical Examiner's report got him a visit from anti-white black activist Roger Mitchell, who had himself been Chief Medical Examiner in Washington, D.C., and deputy mayor of that sinkhole to boot. Mitchell told the County Medical Examiner he should change his report if he knew what was good for him, and the report was accordingly changed.
And that, children, is why you now routinely see respectable news outlets speak or write about, quote, "the killing of George Floyd," or "George Floyd, murdered by police."
Hey, religions need their martyrs, their saints and their demons, and citizens may eventually tire of hearing about Emmett Till and seek a replacement.
Though the mills of Floyd grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; and yes, they're still grinding.
The four cops who arrested Floyd have of course been hit not only with state charges — murder, manslaughter, aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter — but also with federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights. And this is not double jeopardy, absolutely not! If you think it is, you are an ignoramus with no understanding of law or the Constitution!
Where the state charges are concerned, the lead cop, Derek Chauvin, got a 22½-year sentence last June. One of the cops pleaded guilty on the state charges and is awaiting sentencing. The other two cops pleaded not guilty and will go on trial in October. That'll be 2½ years after Floyd died. If you think that violates their Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial; again, you're just showing your ignorance.
This week's news concerns federal charges against the four cops. They were all found guilty earlier this year; we're now in the sentencing phase. Chauvin, the lead cop, got 21 years, to be served concurrent with the state sentence. The other cops got 2½ years, 3 years, and 3½ years.
Don't think for a minute that the mills have stopped grinding, though. Some of those sentences are less than the federal guidelines, which has caused much indignation among Floyd cultists and contestants for the Ghetto Lottery. There will be appeals, civil lawsuits, and Heaven knows what else — Constitutional amendments, I wouldn't be surprised.
Meanwhile, still no news of any further developments in the Tony Timpa case …
04 — Our Suez moment (cont.). Talking two weeks ago about our military having recruiting problems, I mentioned a comment my son made. He was four years in the army, 2013-17, and he raised a factor that hadn't occurred to me: that a lot of soldiers come from military families.
That prompted a listener to send in this, from a military news website, July 14th. Headline: Fewer Military Families Would Recommend Uniformed Service, Survey Finds.
This survey was carried out last year by the Military Family Advisory Network, which researches issues affecting military families. They compared it with the same survey conducted two years earlier, in 2019. Just two years, mind.
One result was that that when asked if they would recommend military life, only 62.9 percent of military and veteran families replied in the affirmative. That's down from 74.5 percent in 2019, a drop of 11½ percent.
When civilians were asked the same question they broke positive-negative about the same as two years ago. So it's the military families who are turning negative.
Quote from the report:
Responses from those who said they would not recommend military life centered around five major themes: that it is not family-friendly; the pay is low compared to the stress of the work; bad leadership; benefits like healthcare are not worth the struggles of military life; and the frequent moves and deployments.
My son was right, too. I hadn't realised what a family affair it is, joining the military. The report quotes some figures from 2011. For American adults overall under the age of forty that year, thirty-nine percent had an immediate family member who served. For veterans in that bracket that year it was sixty percent.
The report didn't talk about the factors I've surmised are contributing: the girlification of our forces and negative approaches to masculinity, the futility and purposelessness of our recent wars, and so on. I've got to think those are in play, too.
Recruiting problems are so bad our military bosses are talking about drawing down troop strength in some theaters.
That's awful. So we may have to reduce our troop numbers in Italy, where we have over 12,000 personnel in place to thwart the return of Mussolini. Or in Japan, where we have sixty thousand — including twenty thousand marines — in case the Japanese decide to have another go at creating a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Good Heavens!
All right, I'm being facetious. It's defensive, though, against darker thoughts. I do believe that we're in a waiting stage before a godawful collapse — a collapse, that is, of U.S. worldwide military dominance.
As I've mentioned more than once, I've been here before, seeing the Suez Crisis in 1956. As I said in one of those previous mentions:
[Clip: For the United States, China's re-taking of Taiwan will be a Suez moment: the psychological equivalent of the 1956 humiliation of Britain and France by Egypt and the Americans. Until the Suez Crisis, the phrase "British Empire" was still taken seriously. Suez gave that phrase some color of irony, a color that deepened rapidly. Two years later May 24 was downgraded from Empire Day to Commonwealth Day.
The only thing I'd add to that today, a year and a half later — other than to observe that I would swear I can already hear the tinkle of devaluing U.S. dollars — the only thing I'd add is that our Suez moment may not be China's taking of Taiwan. It may be some unforeseen development in Europe, or the Middle East, or Northeast Asia.
For foreign powers who'd like to bring us to that Suez moment — and there are certainly more than one of them — there could hardly be a better time. The stupidity, incompetence, and weakness of our national government are plain to see.
Xi Jinping would have seen it, or at any rate heard it, on Tuesday this week when he had a 2½-hour phone call with our president. Why on earth did Biden's handlers allow this? Stupidity and incompetence, I guess.
Our Suez moment. It's coming.
[Tick tock tick tock tick tock …]
05 — Climate Change Schadenfreude. Some climate-change news. It looks as though Germany may stall on its plan to abandon nuclear power altogether by the end of this year. The reasons are of course the energy crunch caused by the Russia-Ukraine War and the looming prospect of a winter energy crisis.
Believe it or not the Germans used to get a quarter of their electricity from nuclear power. They had seventeen nuclear power stations operating.
Climate alarmism was always strong there, though. Perhaps this is just part of the longstanding German inclination to naturdienst and jolly group hikes through the mountains and woods, [Clip: Faleri, falera, …] Yes, danke schön, that's enough.
After the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan, the Greens seized the moment. Eight nuclear reactors were shut down right away, and the German government promised to decommission all reactors by the end of 2022 — this year.
Now, with Vladimir Putin doing to oil and gas exports what we naughty little boys used to do to Dad's garden hose, the Germans are having to rethink. We climate skeptics have exactly the right word for how we feel about this: schadenfreude. And look: it's a German word!
The Germans could have done better these past few decades by emulating France. France has more than fifty working nuclear reactors with plans for six more. They get seventy percent of their electricity from nuclear, and they export electricity in normal weather conditions.
As dumb as the Germans have been in this zone, they've been nothing like as dumb as our present administration.
When Joe Biden first came in and spent a morning cancelling everything the Trump administration had done to bring us to energy independence, I thought it was just a blind determination to get as fast as possible to the World of Null-T — to eliminate, revoke, or annul everything of any kind, in any policy area, associated with the hated T-Man.
But no: Ending our energy independence was done consciously and deliberately to hasten us on the way to Green Utopia. Our own climate alarmists got at Biden, or whoever pulls Biden's strings, and turned him into a climate warrior.
To the degree the poor old fool can be said to believe in anything, Joe believes in the climate-change hysteria.
I don't; and hysteria is what it is. Of course the climate's changing. It always has and always will.
Climate change brought down the Roman Empire, or at the very least helped, according to some very plausible theories. The Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age that followed have been well documented.
"A tiny blip in oceanic temperature can alter atmospheric temperatures for a thousand years," one historian of weather tells us. A twitch of the Sun's corona or a big volcanic eruption can have far more effect on the climate than five hundred years of coal burning, and there's not a durn thing we could do to prevent either.
Climate change is natural and eternal. It's like … well, the weather. We have to cope with it, as our ancestors somehow coped, with technology far inferior to ours. You can't stop it; you just have to manage it.
Oh, what's the use? The Germans have been dumb, and we're being dumber. Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Name of the week. A friend who sends me a lot of interesting stuff sent me something that, on a first glance, didn't look at all interesting. It was an obituary published in the Wall Street Journal last week, July 23rd in the print issue. My friend urged me to read it all the way through.
The deceased was a chap named Carleton Varney, an interior designer. Why would I want to read 800 words about an interior designer? I of course had preconceptions as to words and phrases I would find, and I wasn't disappointed. "Flamboyant"? Check. "Longtime companion"? Check.
It was only in the antepenultimate paragraph that I saw my friend's point. I'll read you the entire paragraph. Quote:
Mr. Varney's survivors include a sister, three sons and a grandson. His marriage to Suzanne Lickdyke Varney ended in divorce. She died in 2018.
The Lickdykes, I see when licking … sorry! I mean looking … when looking them up are an old and distinguished New York family with many very worthy social, cultural, and military contributions to the life of our nation. I just can't understand why I never heard of them before. I'm sure I would have remembered.
Item: I'm flattered to know that Rishi Sunak, one of the two contenders for leadership of Britain's Tory Party, and thence Prime Minister, is a Radio Derb fan.
Britain has, as I have often reported, been plagued by Third World opportunists entering the country illegally after crossing the English Channel from France in boats supplied by people smugglers. Short of declaring war on France, whose government is of course complicit in the matter, there isn't much the Brits can do to stop the boats, so they have to take care of the illegals somehow. They've been putting them up in hotels and old military facilities, but options are running out.
Here on Radio Derb I've suggested hulks — unwanted old ships that could be fitted up as floating detention facilities, as used to be done back in the day with surplus criminals.
Well, Rishi Sunak has, so to speak, come on board with my idea. He has …
Ah, wait a minute. Reading down the Daily Mail story a bit further, I see that Mr Sunak got there first. Back in 2020 he proposed housing the illegals in cruise ships.
So this is a case of great minds thinking alike, not appropriation of my own powerful thoughts.
Whatever. I wish Mr Sunak well with his proposal, and in his campaign for the Tory leadership.
There never was — well, not in the modern world — a country more steeped in Christianity than the Ireland of my youth. The 1951 census showed only 64 atheists in the Republic of Ireland. They could all have met together in one of those famous Dublin pubs. This intense devotion to the Church continued into the 1980s.
That was 2009. You wouldn't think things could get much worse for the Church in Ireland, but listen to this: The Irish government is going to establish anti-prayer zones across the country, areas where a person can be jailed for praying.
This is part of the abortion wars going on over there. Devout Roman Catholics gather outside abortion clinics or at pro-abortion rallies, kneel down, and pray the rosary. Pro-abortion mobs, assisted by Antifa — yes, they have Antifa in the Emerald Isle — throw eggs at them, drown out the praying with bullhorns, and in some instances have threatened them with death.
The big political parties are all on the side of Antifa and the mob, just like here. Hence this proposed legislation for anti-prayer zones — all in the interest of maintaining public order, you understand.
Coming soon to an American jurisdiction near you.
Hulagu didn't off as many people as his grandpa did. Genghis is estimated to have killed from five to ten percent of the world's population — around forty million people. Modern Mongolians, as I've been telling you, revere him.
Hulagu did, though, perform the Sack of Baghdad, possibly the most thorough and murderous sack of any city anywhere at any time. Baghdad at the time — mid-13th century — was the huge, rich, beautiful, political and cultural center of the Abbasid Caliphate, one of the high points of Islamic civilization.
The entire population of the city — around a million — was killed or enslaved. The River Tigris ran red with blood. Then, when there was no more killing to be done, the Mongols looted the magnificent House of Wisdom, a great center of learning. Soon the river turned black with ink from the priceless manuscripts dumped into it.
If the Mongolians of today ever get woke, they will of course be ashamed of Hulagu and all he did. To judge from the way they feel about Genghis, though, I'm betting there are statues of Hulagu all over Mongolia, schools named after him, and pop songs written about him. Mongolians just don't seem to be into historical guilt.
07 — Signoff. That's all for this week, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention, and for your emails and donations. Stay well, stay cool, and don't take any wooden nickels.
Some signout music. As an American by choice, there are a great many things I love about America. One of the things I've loved longest — from long before I became an American — is the Great American Songbook.
Here's a favorite: "In the Still of the Night." It comes with a slight mystery, though. There are at least three songs with this same title; Hoagy Carmichael's (1932), Cole Porter's (1937), and Fred Parris' (1956). The mystery is: How did music publishers get away with three different songs having the same title? Weren't there any copyright lawyers active in the mid-20th century?
Whatever. Of the three songs, Cole Porter's is of course the most lovely and literate. So here it comes.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Ella Fitzgerald, "In the Still of the Night."]