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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome, listeners. This is your differentially genial host John Derbyshire, and that was a fragment of Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1.
This was, and I guess still may be, a busy news week. First and foremost here in the U.S.A. has been the terrible hurricane in Florida. This week's also seen the end of the federal government's fiscal year and FBI agents rebelling against politicization of that agency. Abroad there has been the destruction of Russia's undersea gas pipeline and Mussolini rising from the grave in Italy … or descending from the scaffold, perhaps, according to your point of view.
I shall have words to say about all those things as time permits. First, though: as well as being a busy week in news, this has been a stirring week in commentary. So let me start with some second-order commentary — I mean, commentary on commentary.
02 — The Blank Slate triumphant. Two commentators in particular got my attention. One was British writer Ed West on Substack. Ed's piece is titled "The triumph of the blank slate." You may need a subscription to read it, I'm not sure. If you do, and don't have one, I'll send a free text copy to anyone who'll come and help me move furniture. More about my furniture-moving issues in my September Diary, upcoming at VDARE.com.
Just to remind you: The Blank Slate view is the view that when discussing human nature we should, as Steven Pinker expressed it, "see no genes, hear no genes, speak no genes."
Ed West is wondering aloud a thing that I myself often wonder: How can it be that as the human sciences advance further and further in debunking that view, as careful scientific research over and over again tells us that the slate is not blank, Blank Slatism somehow just keeps going from strength to strength in the sphere of socially-approved public discourse.
No such thing as sex! No such thing as race! Everyone is equally smart! Everything is equal to everything else, except when socially constructed! The actual science tells us that is all nonsense; but the authorities in our universities, political establishment, media, and business corporations are now unanimous that it is unquestionable truth … while, out of the other side of their collective mouth, telling us to "Trust the science!" in the one narrow, limited zone of epidemiology.
Why should we trust the science in that one small zone while ignoring it in behavioral genetics or intelligence testing? Why are we supposed to believe that men can get pregnant when we're forbidden to believe that some people are innately smarter than others?
That's what Ed is chewing over in this column posted today. Unfortunately the column ends thus, quote:
I'm afraid I've fallen to the temptation to run a two-part article, and this is Part One. Part Two will follow tomorrow.
So for Ed's conclusions we'll have to wait until tomorrow, Saturday. That's past the Radio Derb posting deadline, so I'll have to continue this bit of second-order commentary next week.
03 — Is there a Right to Revolt? I told you that two commentators got my particular attention this week. Ed West was one of them; the other was Michael Anton, one of our best conservative pundits.
Michael Anton is a former Trump Deputy National Security Advisor and an occasional acquaintance of mine. He it was that wrote the famous "Flight 93 Election" essay in the Claremont Review of Books a few weeks before the 2016 election, urging readers to vote for Donald Trump. Given the prominence that article attained right before the election, and the narrowness of the vote margins, it is entirely possible (though I don't see how you could prove it conclusively) that Michael gave us the Trump Presidency.
Be that as it may, Michael fired off another broadside on Monday under the title "What Does Fidelity to Our Founding Principles Require Today?" This one you can read free of charge at the American Greatness website, although I still need some help with furniture if you're nearby.
This essay is in the grand tradition of mocking establishment conservatives like Britain's Tories and our own GOP for their meekness and ineffectuality in the face of leftist advances.
That tradition goes back further than I knew. Michael, who is much better read in political science than I am — better-read than well-nigh anyone, in fact — takes as his keynote a longish quote from G.K. Chesterton, a quote that was new to me.
I'll give you the whole thing. Here is Chesterton writing in 1924 about Britain's Constitution. (Yes, Britain does have a Constitution; they just never bothered to write it down as a single document.)Quote from Chesterton:
The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.
Once again, that was written in 1924, very nearly a hundred years ago. That tradition — the tradition of a dissident conservative mocking the limp uselessness of establishment conservatism — is therefore at least a hundred years old. And I'm probably being naïve here. A person better-read than I am in political science (Michael Anton, for example) could probably cite examples from Periclean Athens or ancient Assyria. Whatever; there is definitely a tradition.
The late Sir Keith Joseph, a colleague of Margaret Thatcher's, used to speak of "the ratchet effect": When the left is in power they advance their goals, but when the right takes power they just hold things steady at the position to which the last batch of progressives advanced.
I like to think that I made a small contribution to this line of thought when, on a National Review cruise back in 2004, I told a lounge full of subscribers that instead of standing athwart History crying "Stop!" establishment conservatives were just limping along behind the juggernaut whimpering, "Would you mind slowing down a little, please?"
Having struck that keynote, Michael builds up a case for a thoughtful, carefully qualified Right to Revolt. Quote from Michael:
I maintain it as axiomatic that you can't have natural rights without a right of revolution, just as you can't have the founding without an actual revolution, and since you can't have the regime of the founders without natural rights, you can't have the founding principles or the founders' regime without a right of revolution. Each piece is integral to the machine. Remove one, and the whole thing collapses in self-contradiction.
Read the piece for yourself — please: It's an important contribution to our national conversation by a thoughtful patriot deeply well-read in history and philosophy.
The final paragraph left me smiling. Here Michael is speaking about establishment conservatives. Quote:
To be fair, the conservatives can muster strength when they see a real threat to their position. You can be sure that, if you so much as glance in the direction of wondering if the right of revolution exists — even in theory — there a conservative will be, armed and ready … to shoot you in the back.
04 — Crime: Establishment GOP speaks. On the same general theme; if you had been in my kitchen Tuesday morning watching me scarf down my breakfast oatmeal alongside that morning's New York Post, you would have seen a weary little smile cross my face as I was perusing an op-ed on page 27.
This op-ed is about crime. In the propaganda battle leading up to the November midterms, the Republican Party is attacking the Democratic Party as soft on crime. The Democrats and the mainstream media — yes, I repeated myself there — are complaining that those attacks are racist.
The writer of this op-ed is arguing that Republican anti-crime propaganda is not racist, just legitimate policy criticism. That's a fair thing to argue. Given that the average Establishment-GOP operative would rather pluck out his own eyeballs with salad tongs than be called a racist, it's very likely true.
The opinionator here is actually Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and my former boss there. Rich is a decent guy so far as personal character is concerned; but he is Establishment-GOP down to his boot-heels, and keeps a set of salad tongs close to hand.
What caused me to smile was Rich's desperate race denialism. Sample paragraph, quote:
Crime isn't a racial issue; it's about affording all Americans, and especially vulnerable communities, the protection they deserve from lawlessness. Obviously, violent crime is not a blight on the lives of white upper middle-class people.
"Vulnerable communities." Which communities are those? From the following sentence it would seem to be communities that are not "white upper middle-class." Hoo-kay: How about communities that are white working-class or white lower-middle-class? I guess they suffer some crime; but the perps I see in videos of street criminality almost never look like white working- or lower-middle-class types.
And when white working- or lower-middle-class communities do suffer serious crime, who are the criminals?
The Mayfair district of northeast Philadelphia is only 19 percent black, with 43 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic. Doesn't sound like "white upper middle-class," but still pretty white, definitely not ghetto.
Why do I mention Mayfair? Because there was a nasty little episode of mob crime there last Saturday evening. A crowd of around a hundred young people, some thought to be only ten years old, swarmed and ransacked a Wawa convenience store in Mayfair.
There's plenty of video footage of the event. On a basis of perfect equity, 43 percent of the looters should be white, because that's the proportion of whites in Mayfair. Is that what the video shows? See for yourself, it's been all over the internet. But "Crime isn't a racial issue," and don't you dare say otherwise.
In his next paragraph Rich tells us that, quote:
In Milwaukee, according to the tracker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 87 percent of the victims of homicide this year have been black or Hispanic.
In the following paragraph Rich takes us to, yes, Philadelphia, to tell us that 92 percent of that city's 1,750 shooting victims this year have been black or Hispanic.
But "Crime isn't a racial issue." Absolutely not! No way! Shut up, racist!
Sorry, Rich, but crime is a racial issue. Black Americans are present in the crime statistics at big multiples of their proportion in our population; and that fact is driving a lot of public policy.
The policies of de-institutionalization and "bail reform," for example — the policies that are letting known violent criminals walk away free from their court appearances. The sacralization of blacks makes it intolerable to progressives that blacks are over-represented in statistics on prison inmates. Solution: Stop sending black criminals to jail! What the heck, crime is just a social construct anyway.
That is actually how our progressive elites think. They have taken the logic so far that, as I opined back in January when commenting on the Ahmaud Arbery case in Georgia, we now have four different systems of criminal justice:
Crime is a racial issue. The pretense that it's not is distorting our jurisprudence and making our big cities uninhabitable. Instead of jailing fewer black criminals in pursuit of "equity," we should be jailing more in pursuit of safe streets and equal justice under the law.
If establishment Republicans are afraid to say that — to say that we should be sending more blacks to jail — they deserve all the scorn Michael Anton heaps on them. And yes: when you're around those establishment Republicans, watch your back …
(Just a footnote to that. If you go to The New York Post website looking for that Rich Lowry op-ed that I was reading on Tuesday in my print copy of the newspaper, the website has the column date-stamped as Monday. This happens a lot, I don't know why. It's not my fault!)
05 — Happy new fiscal year! The end of September is the end of the federal government's fiscal year. That means it's my annual opportunity to paste in my 2013 short course in federal budgeting. Here we go.
The way things are supposed to work is, the President proposes a budget for the coming fiscal year in January or February. The House and the Senate debate the President's proposals and come up with their own; they get together and nail down a final congressional budget resolution; and then they pass the necessary appropriations bills based on the resolution. That should all be done by the time the fiscal year opens in October.
Thank you, 2013 Derb. And this year of course it's happened again. The Senate passed a Continuing Resolution by 72 votes to 25 on Thursday; the House just this afternoon voted approval 230 votes to 201, ten of those 230 votes coming from Republicans.
This Continuing Resolution extends current federal funding levels until December 16th. That of course means it will be up for renewal after the November midterms. The composition of Congress won't actually change until January 3rd, but if Republicans do well in the midterms that may have a spine-stiffening effect on the scattered few GOP congresscritters that have spines.
Some of those vertebrate Republicans, notably Representative Chip Roy of Texas, were agitating among their colleagues these past few weeks for a No vote on today's Resolution. Quote from a letter circulated by Representative Roy:
This unbridled spending is being weaponized by President Biden's administration to chip away at the liberties of the American people and target patriotic citizens that do not share the administration's extreme, far-left worldview.
End quote; and God bless you, Congressman.
What the man wrote there is true enough; but congressional Democrats are in lockstep and there aren't enough Republicans to thwart them. Onwards to November.
06 — Hurricane Ian. This week's biggest domestic news was, and still is, Hurricane Ian, which has caused terrible devastation in Florida and is lashing the Carolinas as I speak.
Natural disasters like this don't give opinionators much to opinionate about unless relief efforts are badly managed, which so far they don't seem to be, thank goodness. We of course sympathize with our suffering fellow-citizens. There's a mass of websites where you can make donations to help them; your local news outlets will tell you how to find those websites.
The general solidarity in the face of a calamity like this of course doesn't stop people trying to find a political angle. The key phrase in this instance has been "climate change."
Yes: global warming, caused by those uncouth hillbillies driving their gas-guzzling pickup trucks to church, has made these hurricanes worse, or more frequent, or both worse and more frequent.
Has it? The evidence looks thin to me. Climate changes: that isn't news. There have been cold spells and warm spells all through history, sometimes severe ones. Do we really know that stuff we are doing affects these current wobbles, and how?
Thursday's New York Times tried to make a case, but it didn't look very persuasive to me. Their key graph, captioned "Category 4 and 5 Atlantic hurricanes since 1980," did show a slight uptick in the time-series average from one a year in 1980 to average two a year in 2010, but nothing much since.
And do we really understand the underlying mechanics of these changes? The Times brings in some experts to tell us why global warming makes hurricanes worse; but reading their explanations, and having many times watched scientists in debate, I found myself thinking there are likely experts out there left un-consulted by the Times who would make a contrary argument.
Perhaps global warming, if it's happening, will mean fewer hurricanes, or milder ones, or both fewer and milder ones. Do we really know?
But look: I started out there sniffing my disapproval of people politicizing the calamity, and here I am politicizing it myself.
I'll stop. Let's give sympathy and encouragement to those afflicted by this hurricane, nag the authorities to provide appropriate relief, and offer whatever private support we can; and leave the politicizing to low-IQ news anchors at CNN.
07 — Pipeline sabotage. The main item in foreign news this week was the sabotaging of the Nord Stream pipelines which carry natural gas from Russia, along under the Baltic Sea to Germany.
This is a real whodunit. The perp hasn't confessed and no-one knows who it is. Everyone has a theory, though.
Ukraine, Russia, and the U.S.A. lead the guessing stakes as culprits, with several improbable suggestions filling out the field: Poland, Finland, Norway, the Baltic States. I haven't yet seen Burkina Faso blamed for the deed, but I'm sure some conspiracy theorist somewhere is working on it.
Leaving out the improbables, I can't see much of a case for Russia having done it. If they want to suspend gas supplies to Western Europe they can just turn them off at the faucet. If they just want to intimidate the Euros, there are plenty of ways to do it without trashing a project that Russia's own Gazprom, a majority state-owned company, has spent billions on.
Ukraine obviously has most to gain from the deed; but the two explosions far apart on two different pipelines would be hard to pull off unnoticed for a country with negligible naval power and separated from the Baltic Sea by two hundred miles of other nations' territory.
That leaves the U.S.A. The case against it having been the U.S.A. has not been helped at all by the video clip we've all seen from back in February of Joe Biden at a news conference telling the room that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, quote from Joe: "then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it … I promise you, we will be able to do that."
It's not likely Biden had any idea what he was talking about, though. When does he have? And that was a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz specifically about the Nord Stream 2 project and its capabilities.
If you watch the entire four-minute exchange on C-SPAN, the idea that Joe was contemplating explosive sabotage with Chancellor Scholz standing a few feet away looks a lot less plausible.
The speculation that scares me most is that Biden's White House is as disorganized as the President's brain, so much so that Deep State Russia-haters like Victoria Nuland have slipped the leash of presidential authority and are operating autonomously. In matters of foreign policy, the crazy Deep State neocons may be our government now. That is a scary thought.
Whoever did it, the pipelines are seriously out of action. Seawater will be inside them now, corroding the pipes from the inside.
And we have had a reminder of how vulnerable our globalized world is. A few months ago I read Andrew Blum's book Tubes, which is about the hardware that supports the Internet, including thousands of miles of undersea cables. Bad actors with some basic submarine technology could do a serious number on the world economy.
This was a warning, whether or not it was meant to be.
08 — Britain sinks. How screwed is Britain? Listen and I shall tell you.
As I'm sure you know — as you certainly know if you follow Radio Derb — Britain has, like the U.S.A., a wide-open southern border.
For the past four years economic migrants from the Middle East and Africa, enriched recently by a tranche from Albania, have been crossing the English Channel from France in rubber dinghies supplied by trafficking gangs, aided and encouraged of course by the French government, to effect illegal entry into the U.K.
The numbers have been swelling year by year. Last year's total — just short of thirty thousand — was surpassed last month: predictions for this year's total are around fifty thousand.
None of Britain's Conservative Party governments this past four years under Theresa May, Boris Johnson, or the new hire, Liz Truss, has shown much concern about this, in spite of polls showing high levels of public anger.
The opposition Labour Party is even less interested than the Tories. Labour had its annual conference this week. The party leader, Keir Starmer, gave a speech. I don't know how long it took him to give it, but the speech transcript is there in full on the Labour Party website. It runs to almost five and a half thousand words.
I did Ctrl-F on "migr" but only got one hit, quote: "I will revitalise public services and control immigration using a points-based system." End quote. Just to cover all bases, I did some Ctrl-F searches on "asylum" and "refugee": no hits, no hits.
Yes: Britain, just like her cousin nation over here, has two main political parties, neither of which gives a flying fandangle about illegal aliens pouring in.
Whatever the new Prime Minister thinks of illegal aliens, she's very enthusiastic about legal ones. She and her Treasury Secretary, a Ghanaian chap named Kwasi Karteng, are, quote from the London Spectator, September 25th:
preparing to expand the number of economic sectors to be declared as suffering from labour shortages and thus permitted to bring in both skilled and unskilled workers from abroad. Not only this, but they are also pushing for a trade deal with India that will involve "open access" immigration arrangements.
"Open access" to immigrants from India, population 1.4 billion, annual GDP per capita eight thousand dollars and change. What could possibly go wrong?
And then there's this from the place once known as England.
There is a port city in the west of England named Bristol. Bristol has a lovely old church, the church of St Mary Redcliffe. People have been worshipping there for more than eight hundred years.
St Mary Redcliffe church has some fine stained-glass windows, including a four-panel window depicting the story of the Good Samaritan. That window was dedicated to the memory of Edward Colston, a 17th-century local dignitary, Member of Parliament, and benefactor of the church.
Unfortunately Colston was, like most notables in 17th-century European port cities, involved with the slave trade. [Scream.] Obviously that four-panel window must go. First, though, the church needs to come up with a replacement.
A competition has been held. Winners have been announced. Their designs for the four panels have been publicized. These designs will be created in stained glass and installed at the church next year.
The winning design for the third panel shows a rubber dinghy at sea with twenty people crowded into it, an obvious reference to the scofflaws coming across the English Channel these past four years. One of the people in the dinghy is apparently Jesus Christ.
That's how screwed Britain is.
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, but the conjunction in this week's news of the Nord Stream pipelines and the ascent of Giorgia Meloni as Italy's Prime Minster-presumptive have put me in mind of a very silly old joke.
A bunch of workers, most of them first-generation immigrants to the U.S.A. are sitting around having their lunch break. The question goes round: Which woman, of all the women in the world, would you most like to spend the night with?
The question comes to Luigi, an Italian immigrant. Without hesitation he replies: "I wanna spend-a the night with Giorgia Pippalina!"
The other workers look at him in bafflement. "Who?" "Never heard of her."
Luigi shakes his head in disbelief. "You never heard of her? She's-a right here in the newspaper — front-a page!"
He produces a copy of the New York Daily News. Front page headline: "Five Men Die Laying Georgia Pipeline."
"Giorgia Pippalina, that's a real woman! She's-a the woman for me!"
Item: And how about Ms Meloni — who, having brought that daft joke to mind, I shall now have difficulty not referring to as Giorgia Pippalina.
Well, obviously I'm delighted at the victory of a fellow National Conservative and immigration skeptic. She's smart, eloquent, and seems to be politically gifted. I hope she gets confirmed as Prime Minister.
I'm not getting my hopes up too high, though. The thing that Italian politics — and particularly the Prime Ministership — the thing it's most famous for is instability.
Joe Biden is our 14th President since WW2. Britain has had 17 Prime Ministers in that same span. If confirmed, Giorgia Pippalina … I beg her pardon: Ms Meloni, if confirmed, Ms Meloni will be Italy's 45th Prime Minister since WW2. I wish her all the luck in the world.
10 — Signoff. That's all, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening; and thanks, too, for your many communications — to which, as usual, I am way behind in responding. My apologies for that.
For signout music, I feel like offering you something Italian, I don't know why. Here is a clip from the most Italian song I know. It also has — I think — the most unlikely subject matter of any song I know. It's about a funicular, which is a type of cable car: precisely, the one that began operations on Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy back in 1880.
The opening of the Mount Vesuvius funicular was a grand occasion, and this song was composed especially for it. This being Italy, the lyrics are actually about romantic love — a young man is comparing his significant other to a volcano. You can't get any more Italian than that.
And yes, this Mount Vesuvius is the same one the one that wiped out Pompeii in a.d. 79. It also wiped out the funicular several times; the Italians gave up and stopped rebuilding it after WW2.
The song is still with us, though. Just savor the sheer unrestrained Italian-ness of it, delivered here by the Big Guy himself. No, no, not Joe Biden; this is the late great Luciano Pavarotti.
Ce ne saranno altri da Radio Derb la prossima settimana.
[Music clip: Luciano Pavarotti, "Funiculì Funiculà."]