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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 commonsensically genial host John Derbyshire with your weekly ration of venom, vitriol, and valetudinarianism.
Next year's presidential election, with less than a year before the primary voting starts in earnest, looks to be … interesting.
The Democrats have no plausible candidate on deck. Neither Joe Biden nor his Vice President rises to the level of "plausible." Presumably there are some ambitious young Senators or Governors who might try, but I don't hear any names spoken of repetitively.
The GOP meanwhile has two strong candidates, but they form a logical knot. If Trump wins the primary he will lose the general to pretty much anyone who stands against him — anyone more plausible than Joe or Kamala, so … anyone. If Ron DeSantis wins the primary some large number of Trump voters will stay home in disgust come November — likely enough to swing a close election in favor of anyone more plausible than … well, you know the rest.
So before a Democrat faces off against a Republican there's going to be some nasty fighting in the party ranks. Wait, did I say "going to be"? It's already started.
02 — Trump-DeSantis-Bragg-Ukraine. Did Ron DeSantis just wobble? He is alleged to have done so.
Here is one of the allegators, a tweeter with the handle "FischerKing," March 23rd. Tweet:
Straight talk on DeSantis. Why did he completely flip his position in a day on Ukraine? MONEY. He doesn't have any himself. To run for POTUS he will need many large donors, some of which come from military-industrial complex, connected to neo-cons. His flip is bad sign.
So the alleged wobble is on the Russia-Ukraine war. Last week Ron DeSantis responded to a request from Tucker Carlson to clarify his position on the war. Here is part of his response, quote:
While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them. The Biden administration's virtual "blank check" funding of this conflict for [inner quote] "as long as it takes," [end inner quote] without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country's most pressing challenges.
The Governor ruled out really serious weapons like F-16s to the Ukrainians — anything that might risk us getting into a hot war with Russia. He also ruled out encouragement of regime change in Russia, observing correctly that any replacement for Putin would likely be worse.
He also slammed the Biden administration for pushing Russia into an embrace with China and for fortifying Russia's energy production while shutting down our own.
We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted.
That was isolationist enough for me. I liked DeSantis before; I liked him even more after hearing that, especially when it raised squawks of outrage from Uniparty world-savers like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio.
That was last week, though. This week DeSantis gave an interview to Piers Morgan for Fox News. When Morgan asked him about Ukraine he spoke at more length, and in a way that, say the allegators, moved him closer to the Uniparty warmongers.
He told Morgan that his dismissal of the war as a "territorial dispute" had been mis-characterized. It was wrong of Russia to invade, he said. It had been wrong of them to invade Crimea in 2014. He also called Vladimir Putin a loser, quote: "a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons," end quote.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see a whole lot of daylight between last week's DeSantis position and this week's. If I'm not missing something, this must be diehard Donald Trump supporters warming up for the GOP primaries next year.
Or it may be Democrats playing four-dimensional chess: talking down DeSantis because they figure he'd be harder to beat in the general, so they want Trump to win the primaries.
Four-dimensional chess may also be what we're seeing with the indictment of Trump we were told to expect this week, but that has been postponed, apparently because of difficulties with the grand jury.
When we first heard about the indictment it seemed straightforward enough. The Ruling Class will of course do anything they can to destroy Trump. It's been their primary goal for years.
Here was a credible charge: paying off a whore to avoid bad consequences in a political campaign. Here was a willing tool: a dimwitted black race-communist District Attorney for an appropriate jurisdiction. Ready … aim … fire!
Once it was in the open, though, problems quickly developed. The charge was not so credible after all: it had been considered by previous prosecutors, including radical-left Trump-hater Cyrus Vance, Jr., but either rejected or, in Cyrus Vance's case, kicked down the road to his successor. That successor was none other than Alvin Bragg, the current Manhattan D.A.
There has been more unravelling. The star prosecution witness was Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen; but Cohen's own former lawyer trashed Cohen's testimony so effectively that even a Manhattan grand jury seems hesitant to indict.
The case for indictment isn't playing well with key politicians, either. Chuck Schumer, the senior U.S. senator for New York and a hard-core Trump-hater, has been conspicuously silent about it.
Congressional Democrats have been overheard muttering that D.A. Alvin Bragg screwed up by going for an indictment of Trump on the weakest of potential charges. Bragg, they say, should have waited for stronger cases — mishandling documents, tax shenanigans, etc.
Stepping back and looking at the whole mess, it seems to me we have developed a serious imbalance here, an imbalance between our legal system and our political system.
In my December Diary at VDARE.com a few weeks ago I asked the question "Why is lawfare legal?" That was in relation to the endless preposterous requests from New York State Attorney General Letitia James — another black race-communist — for documents and explanations, and the huge legal fees we are incurring trying to comply with her requests.
We didn't do anything wrong; it's just a fishing expedition — lawfare. As I wrote, quote:
No doubt the A-G would be very happy to discover that we have been guilty of some picayune legal transgression; but failing that, she can at least hope to bankrupt us through those legal fees. Lawfare.
The process is the punishment. Donald Trump must know all about it.
Trump of course has a big staff to gather the documents and supply the explanations for him, and plenty of money to pay his lawyers. Still I find myself asking: Is this how we want to conduct our politics?
In a civilized nation politics should not of course be conducted via warfare; should it be conducted via lawfare?
What about capable, patriotic citizens contemplating a run for the presidency — Ron DeSantis, perhaps? Watching all this lawfare, might they perhaps be concluding it's all more trouble than the presidency is worth? Especially if the lawfare goes on for years after you've left the White House?
Joe Biden, our current president, may be facing some lawfare of his own. It's plain that when Vice-President he did some major influence-peddling to enrich himself and his family. Republicans in Congress are already warming up the lawfare machine.
I have a suggestion to make, one I hope will turn us back to a more civilized relationship between law and politics. Here's my suggestion.
In the blessed event that a Republican wins the presidency in 2024, let his very first action on assuming office be to pardon Joe Biden and his family members for the crimes they committed during Biden's Vice Presidency and after.
That would be symbolically even more potent than Gerry Ford pardoning Richard Nixon in 1974. Ford and Nixon were both Republicans; and Nixon was a far better, far more honest man than Joe Biden.
For a new Republican president to pardon a Democrat predecessor would be a major declaration that our politics at the highest national level would thenceforth be conducted by open debate and discussion, not by lawfare.
Just a suggestion. If you don't like it, OK … but please don't sue me!
03 — Welcome back, Dr Freud. The more our understanding of genetics advances, the stiffer becomes the resistance in the public sphere to any suggestion that the adult human being is created mainly by nature, and only secondarily by nurture.
As an example of the stiffening of that resistance, check out this report at The New York Times, March 22nd. Headline: Not Your Daddy's Freud. It's about psychoanalysis making a comeback.
If you haven't kept up, Sigmund Freud was an Austrian physician who, in the years around 1900, developed a system of talk therapy for mental disturbances and built an elaborate metaphysical theory in its support.
A lot of Freud's ideas and the words he used to describe them entered common usage in the middle decades of the last century: "complexes" of various kinds (Oedipus, inferiority, castration), "denial," the "id," "projection," "repression," "super-ego," "transference," and others.
You still sometimes hear these words and phrases, but nothing like as much as we did fifty or sixty years ago. Back then great numbers of people in the Western world, and probably a few outside it, believed that Freud had accomplished a scientific breakthrough. He had, they believed, figured out how the adult human personality is formed.
The biggest factor in its formation, he taught, was the influence of other human beings, especially in the family during childhood. Biology hardly entered into it; genetics was barely even a science when Freud was writing. On the nature-nurture spectrum, Freud was way over on the nurture side.
Not everyone was impressed. In 1967, when public acceptance of Freud's theories was at its height, the novelist Vladimir Nabokov told an interviewer that, quote:
Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts. I really do not care.
Science popularizer Martin Gardner, writing in 1984, applied a word-formula at least two hundred years old. Freud was correct and original, said Gardner; but where he was correct, he was not original, and where he was original, he was wrong.
Around that time, the mid-1980s, psychoanalysis collided with the new psychoactive pharmaceuticals and came off worse in the collision. A key encounter was the Osheroff case, settled in 1987.
Ray Osheroff, himself a practicing physician — a kidney specialist — fell into depression in his early forties. He checked himself into a psychiatric hospital named Chestnut Lodge, in Maryland. The treatment he got there was purely psychoanalytic; Chestnut Lodge did not prescribe any drugs.
When several months of psychoanalysis had failed to improve Dr Osheroff's condition, his mother persuaded him to transfer to a different hospital, one that prescribed antidepressants. After three months he was better.
He sued Chestnut Lodge for negligence and malpractice and eventually, in 1987, got a big fat settlement. Quote from one newspaper report on the case, quote:
In the lawsuit, the 20th century's two dominant explanations for mental distress collided.
Put it another way, nature collided with nurture, and nature won. Psychoanalysis lost much of its prestige right there.
It had lost its prestige with me a decade or so previously. As narrated in my May Diary last year, I had submitted to Freudian analysis myself in my early thirties and come away deeply unimpressed. (And I was surprised to find, doing an internet search when writing that last year, that my analyst was still in business in May 2022.)
But now, according to that March 22nd New York Times article, psychoanalysis is making a comeback. The article actually refers to a "Freudaissance" — like a renaissance, see? Sample quote:
Around the country, on divans and in training institutes, on Instagram meme accounts and in small magazines, young (or at least young-ish) people are rediscovering the talking cure, along with the ideas of the Viennese doctor who developed it at the turn of the 20th century.
Does this have anything to do with our current social obsessions about race and class? Of course it does!
We read in this Times piece about something called the Holmes Commission, quote: "convened in 2020 by the American Psychoanalytic Association to investigate systemic racism within institutional analysis in the United States," end quote. And then, quote:
The commission, along with work by the group Black Psychoanalysts Speak, and an influential 2016 documentary called Psychoanalysis in El Barrio, have argued that analysis is a powerful tool for addressing buried racial and class trauma.
That's the source of all our mental problems, you see: the stuff we're determined to not remember — to repress. Massacres of the indigenous people, slavery, patriarchy, Jim Crow, Emmett Till, … all that stuff. But here's the cure: psychoanalysis!
Why do the wokesters describe themselves as "progressive"? Progressive? They want to drag us backwards.
04 — Why are lefties unhappy? Please note that I'm not scoffing at all kinds of talk therapy there, only at Freud and his theories, and the "couch culture" that developed out of them in mid-20th-century America. (It didn't have anything like as much purchase elsewhere).
That New York Times article I worked from in fact gives a friendly mention to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — CBT — describing it as, quote:
considered the gold standard in treating anxiety and depression by many mental health professionals, with the strongest empirical support.
I should note that the "many" in that quote is not a synonym for "all," perhaps not even for "most." The long-term curative effects of CBT are much debated. It does have a big cheering section among mental-health professionals, though; and one acquaintance of mine, who for years suffered from depression and was cured by CBT, is a keen enthusiast.
CBT has no truck with the unconscious mind, Greek myths, or childhood traumas. It works on conscious thoughts and behaviors — just explaining to the patient how his style of thinking is leading to psychic distress.
It's less expensive that traditional psychotherapy, not least because it's wa-a-a-ay less time-consuming. Woody Allen, at age 35, told Dick Cavett he'd been thirteen years in classical Freudian psychoanalysis. Quote: "Eight years I was on the couch and five years I was allowed to sit up and face him and have a chat …" CBT is generally done in ten or a dozen sessions.
CBT isn't hostile to pharmacological treatment, either; your CBT therapist may end up writing you a prescription, or handing you off to a doctor who can.
CBT came to mind when I was reading this article in the current issue of American Affairs Journal. The author, Musa al-Gharbi, teaches sociology at Columbia University. His topic here is the "well-being gap" between liberals and conservatives. Sample quote:
Why is it that liberal teens are more consistently depressed than conservatives? Why might familial education correlate with heightened depression for liberal youth? Why was there a spike in depression (and a growing ideological divergence in depressive affect) after 2011, corresponding with the onset of the "Great Awokening"? This essay will provide a deep dive into the literature on the relationship between ideology and subjective well-being in the hopes of shedding light on possible answers to these questions.
And I should say it's not just teens that Dr al-Gharbi is writing about. Further quote:
The well-being gap between conservatives and liberals is not unique to youth. The gap manifests clearly across all age groups and is present as far back as the polling goes. In the General Social Survey, for instance, there has been a consistent 10 percentage point gap between the share of conservatives versus liberals who report being "very happy" in virtually every iteration since 1972 (when the GSS was launched).
It's a long article: well over five thousand words — fourteen pages of an average book. The conclusion is, as Dr Johnson would have said, one of those in which nothing much is concluded. Quote:
It's a scientific fact that conservatives tend to be happier and more well-adjusted than liberals, and ideological gaps in well-being have expanded since 2011. The implications and applications of these realities remain wide open to interpretation.
So why did this article bring CBT to mind? Well, one object of CBT therapy is what psychologists call locus of control. "Locus" is just the Latin word for "place."
Those factors that determine your fate, your destiny, your life events: where are they located? Most to the point: Are they outside you, beyond your control? Or inside you, subject to your will?
Mid-20th-century psychiatrists studying depression found that depressed people typically believe in an external locus of control. Depressed people are, they themselves believe, buffeted around helplessly by external forces over which they have no control. They are anxious about what will happen to them next — happen to them. The anxieties accumulate into depression.
When CBT therapists come across this they work to re-locate the patient's locus of control back to his own will, his conscious volition. They don't try to deal with dark forces of resistance lurking in the un-conscious mind, planted there by childhood traumas, forces that only thirteen years of therapy at four hundred dollars an hour will uncover and destroy.
The ideas about society that progressives cherish and that young Americans are taught in their schools and colleges seem almost designed to promote an external locus of control. How can I determine my own destiny, carve my own path through life, when the mighty forces of white supremacy, toxic masculinity, climate change, et cetera, are all arrayed against me? I can't control those things! It's hopeless!
As Dr al-Gharbi writes, quote:
Liberals tend to be troubled not just by the state of their own nation and community, but by the plight of animals and nature, of people and events in other countries, by hypothetical and projected future trends as well as historical injustices — most of which the typical person has little-to-no meaningful control or influence over. This can be a source of significant depression or anxiety (or "moral distress" to borrow a term from health care).
So there you are, you lefties: Work on your locus of control. Take inspiration from a poet:
It matters not how strait the gate,
05 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: We out here on the Dissident Right are supposed to be seething with "hate." Speaking for myself, I never mastered the art of seething, but I do nurse some hate.
My hate is localized, concentrated on small features of the world. Here is a thing I hate with particular intensity: the United Nations.
Should I ever attain supreme power in the U.S.A., I shall order the U.N. building to be demolished with high explosives — after, of course, fair warning has been given for the occupants to evacuate. I think fifteen minutes should be about right.
Then, when the rubble has been cleared and dumped into the Mariana Trench, I shall order the vacant site to be seeded with salt and plowed under.
Some such thoughts always occur to me when I read news stories about the U.N. Here's one: Daily Sceptic, March 20th, headline: Net Zero Must Be Brought Forward by a Decade to Stop "Climate Time Bomb", Says U.N.
Net Zero is a term of art in the "climate change" cult. A free, prosperous nation has attained Net Zero when it contributes no so-called "greenhouse gases" to the atmosphere. Poor countries and despotisms need not strive for Net Zero.
So that's the latest ukase to us from the U.N., that gathering of First World mediocrities with insufficient influence to get a real position and Third World mediocrities posted abroad by their uncle the president-for-life so they can't cause trouble at home.
I can't improve on the Daily Sceptic's comment, quote:
Here we go: ratchet up the fear and alarm to accelerate the abandonment of cheap, plentiful, reliable energy and the standard of living it creates for billions in favour of expensive and unreliable renewables that will hold development back in much of the world and keep people in poverty.
Did I say fifteen minutes to evacuate? Make it ten.
Item: Across the pond in the U.K., actually in Wales, there is a super-duper new prison for Category C male inmates. I had to look that up … here we go:
Category C: Prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who have neither the resources nor the will to make a determined escape attempt.
The prison doesn't sound bad at all. Quote:
The prison, previously dubbed "the U.K.'s cushiest jail" by an MP, gives inmates access to a wide range of education and training services, vocational qualifications, access to a full-sized sports hall, weights and fitness room and outdoor pitches, and several methods of being able to communicate with friends and family in the outside world.
That's not all it gives access to. The Daily Mail reported March 12th that eighteen female guards at the prison have been fired for having illicit affairs with inmates. Three of the female guards are identified in the story. Their ages are 27, 27, and 26. All three are reasonably good-looking.
Where does one start with the stupidities on display here? I guess with the stupidity of hiring 27-year-old female guards to manage male criminals, most of them similarly aged.
Plain common sense seems to have left the Western world altogether. Shall we ever get it back?
Item: There's been a little flutter of stories about Vladimir Putin using body doubles.
I don't see why he shouldn't and I don't understand why it's news. Don't dictators always use body doubles? Even a constitutionally-elected leader could be excused for using a body double when his country's at war.
The thing I really don't understand, though, is: How are body doubles not easily identified by facial-recognition software?
When covid started up I recall reading studies about how the software could identify people at an impressively high success rate even when the people were wearing masks, which I thought quite amazing. Putin wasn't wearing a mask in any of the pictures I saw, yet the face-bots couldn't validate him. Huh?
06 — Signoff. That's this week's portion, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention; thank you for your emails, and apologies for being so far behind dealing with them; and thank you thank you thank you for your donations and gifts.
This Sunday, March 26th, is a melancholy anniversary. It marks precisely fifty years since the death of Noël Coward, who ranks high up in the all-time list of those who made contributions to the public sum of harmless pleasure.
Coward wrote thirty-four plays — many of them musical — at least twenty short stories, a novel, four volumes of autobiography, and the lyrics to at least 276 songs. If you, like me, are a not-very-musical bookworm, I recommend the short stories to your attention. Most are very good, with a deep knowledge of human nature.
As I said, music is not really my strong suit. I only know the Noël Coward songs that everyone — well, every Brit over forty — knows: "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans," "Some Day I'll Find You," "London Pride," … That's about it, except for one more I'll get to in a moment.
Leafing through those 276 song lyrics in fact, it's sad to think how many have sunk without trace. Coward himself would have had something resigned but witty to say about that, I'm sure. The more I leaf, in fact, the more I find myself thinking that as a poet he was quite good; so perhaps the failure was in the music.
He was often ingenious, too. For example: He wrote at least one song about a song: "Let's Do It," a spoof on Cole Porter's famous number of the same title.
Heck, I'll read you the second refrain. This is Coward, not Porter; and these are the American lyrics. A lot of Coward's songs had different lyrics for Britain and the U.S.A. Quote:
Our famous writers in swarms do it,
OK. I said I'd left one song out from the Coward songs I actually know. It's my favorite; I used some of it to sign off my 2009 book We Are Doomed. Yes: there are bad times just around the corner.
Unless the bad times come on us much sooner than I expect, there will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Noël Coward, "There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner."]