»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, March 29th, 2024

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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, from your unmistakably genial host John Derbyshire with observations on the passing scene.

It is Good Friday as I record this; Sunday, March 31st is Easter Sunday. I hope nonbelieving listeners will excuse a slight scriptural coloring to this week's podcast. If you find that objectionable, blame Donald Trump. You'll see what I mean in a segment or two.

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02 — Underdog Trump.     I opened last week's podcast wondering what would happen on Monday, March 25th, when Trump was supposed to come up with a half-billion dollar bond or forfeit much of his property empire.

That half-billion-dollar judgment was of course the outcome of a New York State case against Trump for overvaluing properties in hopes of getting better terms on loans. Since he repaid the loans in full and on schedule, it was a victimless crime, the prosecution obviously driven by vindictive Trump-hatred on the part of New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the judge in the case, Arthur Engoron.

Still, this time last week it looked as though Donald Trump was in deep trouble.

Then with one bound he was free! A state appeals court reduced the bond figure by sixty-one percent, well within Trump's ability to pay.

So now the prospect of Letitia James and her accomplices being able to loot Trump's property is on hold until September. That's how long Trump has to file an appeal on the original judgment; and that means that a ruling on the appeal will most likely not be made until after the general election this November.

Given that the senior judiciary of New York State leans hard over to the left — the smirking communist Arthur Engoron is by no means out of place among them — there's been some speculation about why the five-judge panel who let Trump off the hook by reducing the judgment acted as they did.

A common theory is that the ruling class fears that Letitia James' anti-Trump jihad went somewhat too far with this case. They may feel that Judge Engoron was a particularly bad choice to sit in judgment on it. Engoron's sneering, giggling demeanor during the court proceedings made it all too clear that the fix was in.

Letitia James and Arthur Engoron had between them accomplished something remarkable: they had made Donald Trump an underdog.

People like an underdog. Not all people — certainly not in Trump's case — but enough people, enough voters, to upset the ruling class's political calculations for the November election.

So perhaps those five judges on the appeals bench had words whispered in their ears by senior Democrats — Barack Obama, perhaps, or Bill Clinton, or Chuck Schumer. Not Mrs Clinton, who isn't smart enough to play these games, and surely not Joe Biden, who isn't smart enough to find his way across a room without help.

Well, it's all speculation. I don't think it's far-fetched, though. The sight of Trump's grand properties being emptied out and shuttered by the DMV Lady might indeed have given Trump a November boost, especially if by that time it was clear that James intended to enrich herself and her friends from the deal.

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03 — Trump and the Cross.     Whatever happened behind the scenes there, Donald Trump is out campaigning again, cheerful and irreverent as ever.

On Monday the 25th he was actually in another Manhattan court house for a hearing on a different case. This is the one about Trump having supposedly paid hush money in 2016 to a woman he'd had an affair with, so she wouldn't embarrass him before that year's election.

The role of Letitia James is here being played by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, another radical black progressive Trump-hater. The judge in the case, Juan Manuel Merchan, is yet another social-justice lefty, an immigrant from Colombia whose wife and daughter are Democratic Party campaign workers. The political nature of all these proceedings is hard to miss.

That hearing on Monday in the hush-money case was just procedural; Trump actually goes on trial in the case April 15th. It'll be interesting to see whether the Establishment does some more ear-whispering to kill this case, too.

Whether they do or not, Monday's hearing turned up an amusing little bit of Trumpiana.

While actually in the courtroom, Trump posted on his social media platform a communication he said he'd received from an unidentified person comparing him to Jesus. This related not to the hush-money case but the other one, the Letitia James / Arthur Engoron case that delivered the half-billion-dollar judgment.

According to Trump, this unidentified person wrote, quote:

It's ironic that Christ walked through His greatest persecution the very week they are trying to steal your property from you. But have you seen this verse …?

End quote.

There followed some verses, plural, from Psalm 109. This is one of the so-called imprecatory psalms in which King David unloads bitter curses on his enemies. Trump's correspondent seems to be reassuring him that his enemies will come to a sticky end at last, as David's did.

Brief sample, quote:

As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord, and of them that speak evil against my soul.

End quote.

You may reasonably be skeptical about this. Nobody thinks Trump is a man of deep Christian faith. I doubt he could tell you the difference between an imprecatory psalm and a fire alarm.

He does, though, have a quirky but, I think, sincere allegiance to Christianity in the abstract as a key prop of social stability. He's what is sometimes called a "cultural Christian."

For sure he hasn't hesitated to use Christian themes in support of whatever message he is putting out. He surely knows he has strong support among Christian evangelicals, and he's played that as any other politician would, although sometimes clumsily.

Assuming this unidentified correspondent is a real person, not a figment of Trump's imagination, I think he got a bit carried away there. The comparison with Jesus is a stretch, if not a blasphemy. King David's a better fit, but …

Well, we really shouldn't take this episode too seriously. It's political light relief, that's all.

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04 — Epic Trump.     All that said, there is getting to be something impressive about Trump's energy and determination, about the way he just keeps barreling forward through or over these roadblocks the elites put in his way.

I'm not a big Trump fan, as I've made clear many times. I can't erase the memory of those televised White House gatherings in early 2018 when Trump just agreed with whatever the last Swamp critter in the room had said. His treatment of Jeff Sessions was disgraceful, and a big negative for the furtherance of his program.

I shall vote for Trump in November if the Establishment allows me to; but I shall do so with my fingers crossed and silent prayers that Trump has learned something about working the levers of power, will appoint to his cabinet people who actually agree with him, and won't alienate loyal and useful subordinates just out of petty personal spite.

Still there is, I repeat, something impressive about Trump's progress through the news. Scott McCay expressed what I mean more eloquently, writing in The American Spectator March 5th.

Trump's dogged opposition has, says McKay, quote, "an epic classical flavor," end quote. He goes on to write, longer quote:

He's the aging — but not aged or infirm; that's Biden — warrior of the country class, bearing all the scars of past battles and defeats. He's the man who has won his wisdom hard and promises the completion of the renaissance unjustly denied him by that vituperative cabal victimizing the people with inflation, illegal immigration, global insecurity, and national demoralization. He's against what seems to be the whole world but is really just a hollow and decaying elite who increasingly lie, cheat, and steal as a creed. ["Trump's Reelection Effort Is Becoming the Hero's Journey" by Scott McKay; The American Spectator, March 5th 2024.]

End quote.

That's right. With Trump we are getting a story, an epic. My Oxford Companion to English Literature defines an epic as, quote:

A poem that celebrates in the form of a continuous narrative the achievements of one or more heroic personages of history or tradition.

End quote.

Heroic? Well … There is certainly selflessness there, of a kind. With all the wealth he's accumulated, Trump could have relaxed back into an old age of golfing, partying, helping his kids, and attending to his lush estates. He didn't have to put himself through all these indignities.

And an epic needs to have a villain, some person or evil force personified that the hero must struggle against: sometimes losing, but emerging triumphant in the end.

Villainy was surely on plain display in Judge Engoron's courtroom: the judge himself sneering and cackling, confident that the whole power of the administrative state was behind him, while Attorney General James squatted there impassive, betraying her inner self with only a slight, steady, creepy smile.

Trump's not a verbal person. His utterances don't always make sense. He sometimes blunders in word or deed. Still he plows on, surmounting all the obstacles, swatting aside all the elites can throw at him. It's impressive, and it's a story — yes, a kind of epic.

Perhaps one of our nation's poets will write it up properly in iambic pentameters … assuming any of them knows what iambic pentameters are.

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05 — Trump on heroism.     I said back there that Donald Trump, if not devout, is none the less a "cultural Christian," showing a proper respect for Christianity as a key support of our national culture.

Similarly, while you can argue about whether Trump is a true hero, he shows proper instinctive respect for true heroes — a respect by no means universal among our ruling classes.

That was unmistakably on display yesterday, Thursday, here in New York.

Earlier in the week a young city police officer, Jonathan Diller, had been shot dead by a career criminal, a guy with 21 prior arrests. Officer Diller's funeral is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, a couple of towns over from me here on Long Island.

Yesterday, Thursday, was the wake, likewise out here in the 'burbs. Hundreds of police officers were present, along with Officer Diller's widow, their one-year-old son, and other family.

And Donald Trump, who flew in for the occasion. He got a warm greeting from the assembled law enforcement, but spent much of the time with the widow and family members, according to the county executive who was present.

Cynical politicizing of a personal tragedy in pursuit of the law'n'order vote? I guess there are people who will say that, although I don't believe it myself.

Yet even if that's the case, Trump's visit still makes a revealing contrast with a ruling-class extravaganza being conducted at the same time a few miles away in Manhattan. This was a fundraiser for Joe Biden's presidential campaign held at Radio City Music Hall, attended by not only Biden but also Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Everybody who's anybody was at the event and the Biden campaign organizers are boasting about the, quote, "most successful political fundraiser in American history," end quote. They claim to have raised $25 million from the five thousand attendees.

Showbiz was of course represented in quantity. Stephen Colbert, who is some kind of TV personality, quipped that, quote:

This is an extraordinary occasion because three presidents have come to New York — and not one of them is here to appear in court.

End quip. Ha ha ha ha! Hunter Biden, who was in the audience, was probably laughing loudest of all.

Did Biden, Clinton, Obama, Colbert, or any of the other ruling-class names up on that stage betray any awareness of Officer Diller's wake going on a few miles away in the city suburbs?

Not a trace of it. The White House press secretary told reporters that Biden had spoken with New York City Mayor Eric Adams by phone to express his condolences for Officer Diller's death, but wouldn't say if he'd called the family. The assumption has to be he didn't.

A policeman? Living in the suburbs? These are not our kind of people, my dear.

We are Donald Trump's kind of people, and he has an instinctive decency in dealing with us.

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06 — Disaster watch.     There have been a couple of major horrors this past week, one terrorist and one mechanical. I'll take them in turn.

The terrorist horror happened in Russia around 8 pm local time last Friday, March 22nd. This was at Crocus City Hall, a huge concert venue — it can accommodate more than six thousand people — in Krasnogorsk, a suburb of Moscow.

A Russian rock band named Picnic was about to take the stage for a sold-out show when several gunmen started shooting at the crowd, then set fire to the building.

The actual number of attackers is given differently in different reports. "At least five" was what I first heard. Then my Sunday newspaper reported Russian authorities saying they'd detained eleven suspects. I don't know what the latest count is.

Four suspects appeared in a Moscow court Sunday charged with terrorism. They were all citizens of Tajikistan, a Central Asian republic that used to be part of the U.S.S.R. but is now independent. The population is 98 percent Muslim, almost all of them of the Sunni persuasion. Afghanistan borders Tajikistan on the south. The Crocus City Hall attackers were heard shouting Islamic slogans.

That was the terrorist horror. The latest figure for people killed is 140. Crocus City Hall seems to have been destroyed by the fire. So yes: a horror, for sure.

The mechanical horror was here in the U.S.A. around 1:30 Tuesday morning when a container ship out of control hit supports of the Francis Scott Key Bridge that spans the entrance to Baltimore harbor from the Atlantic.

The entire bridge came down. Amazingly, there was almost no traffic on the bridge. Local police had caught a Mayday call from the ship and closed off the whole span. However, six construction workers were doing night-shift work filling potholes on the bridge. The bodies of two of them have been recovered; the other four are presumed dead.

This is a huge economic calamity for Baltimore. Last year more than fifty million tons of foreign cargo passed through the port. The stevedores, who are mostly just hired on a daily basis, have all been laid off. The insurance claims being talked about are in the billions.

The interesting thing about both these stories to me was the explanations on offer.

Before proceeding, I should explain to new listeners that I belong to the deeply unimaginative portion of humanity, the portion whose eyelids grow heavy and whose breathing slows if you try to explain a conspiracy theory to them.

Descended as I must surely be from William of Ockham, I favor the simplest, most parsimonious explanations for things and events, including human events. To those of us that way inclined, these two horrors both come under the heading "Stuff Happens."

I do not of course believe that we should make no efforts to prevent horrors like a terrorist assault or a bridge collapse. We should, and we do, try to take all possible precautions against both. Given the imperfection of all human things, though, once in a while we shall fail. Then … stuff happens.

To judge from social media, a great many people find this approach lamentably passive and incurious. These are the conspiracy theorists; and before the newsprint ink is dry on dramatic stories like these, they will have cooked up theories to explain them in terms of dark hidden forces, secret cabals seeking national or political advantage, or the machinations of unpopular minorities.

Both of this week's stories fell into that pattern. One remarkable aspect of the conspiracy theorizing is that Ukraine has been prominent in both.

Russian despot Vladimir Putin, speaking on Monday, allowed that the terror attack on the concert hall was perpetrated by radical Islamists. But who, he asked, gave the orders?

Quote from him:

Who benefits from this? This atrocity can only be a link in a whole series of attempts by those who, since 2014, have been at war with our country using the neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv as their instrument.

End quote.

Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Putin's Secret Police, enlarged on that. The attack was, he said, staged by America, Britain and Ukraine.

Our own security services are telling us that we had advance intelligence of the attack, and shared it with Russia; so Putin may be just covering for his own security failure.

(If it was a state security failure, then it shares that feature with the October 7th attack by Hamas into Israel. What's the matter with these security services? Are our security services similarly undependable?)

Much more remarkable was the attempt to link the Baltimore bridge disaster to Ukraine. This was the work of an X user with the handle Lord Bebo. Dipping into a website about shipping in the Baltic, Lord Bebo turned up a 52-year-old Ukrainian sailor, name blanked out, who had captained the Dali, the ship that hit the bridge.

See? It was Ukraine! Lord Bebo speculated that perhaps this Ukrainian captain was vexed at our delay in getting aid to his country.

The fact-checkers at Snopes.com pointed out that, (a) the Ukrainian guy had been captain of the Dali for only a few weeks back in 2016, and (b) regardless of who was captain of the ship on Tuesday, when sailing out from the harbor it would have been under the control of a pilot, a Port of Baltimore employee.

That scotches the Ukrainian-in-control story. Still, if conspiracy theories are your thing, Snopes.com notes that, quote:

Pundits blamed virtually anyone and anything — from Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives to COVID-19 lockdowns.

End quote.

So conspiracize away to your heart's content. I'm going to take a nap.

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07 — Miscellany.     And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.

Imprimis:  I can't myself see anything wrong with making fun of mean black ladies, especially when they're as mean as Letitia James.

However, to ward off suspicions of racism, I'm going to go on record as stating that whatever the threat to our personal convenience and the general social order posed by mean black ladies, it pales by comparison … Wait a minute … "It pales" … that doesn't sound right. … Er, it's a bagatelle — there you are, a bagatelle, which I don't believe is any particular color — that mean black lady threat is a bagatelle by comparison with the threat posed by nice white ladies.

Case in point: Jeff Bezos' ex-wife, 53-year-old MacKenzie Scott. Ms Scott did exceptionally well from the 2019 divorce, taking home 35 billion dollars in Amazon stock. She has since give scads of that money away to charities.

What charities? Need you ask? This is a Nice White Lady we're taking about here. An analysis of the latest $640 million in donations shows that, in the Daily Mail's careful phrasing, quote, "at least half of that money tilts in one direction," end quote.

Further edited extracts from the Mail report, quotes:

Most glaringly, amid the biggest catastrophe at the US border in decades, Scott has given $122 million to funds supporting illegal migrants … Another $117 million was gifted to at least 67 so-called "prisoner advocacy groups" … Perhaps most controversially, $18 million of the $72 million earmarked for LGBTQ causes goes to funds that help out transgender athletes amid a culture war over preserving sports for biological women … At least $18 million of Scott's cash will go out to groups promoting clean energy projects …

End quotes.

So: cartloads of cash for illegal aliens, convicted criminals, guys pretending to be girls so they can get swimming trophies, and climate-change cultists.

Ah, the menace of the Nice White Lady!

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Item:  Kyle Rittenhouse is having a curious career as the object of Black Lives Matter protestors.

He showed up the other day to give a talk at Western Kentucky University, invited by the local chapter of Turning Point USA. Several hundred people gathered outside in protest, chanting and carrying placards with messages like RACIST KILLER, CONDEMN WHITE SUPREMACY, and WHITE PRIVILEGE SHOULD NOT CANCEL OUT MURDER.

To judge from the news pictures I saw the protestors were majority black, with a fair complement of white females — who I presume were all very nice — and a scattering of white males with neckbeards.

It would be interesting to know what proportion of these protestors thinks that any of the three guys Rittenhouse shot, two of them fatally, were black. Unfortunately no-one was taking a poll. (The number who were black was, in case your memory has dimmed, zero.)

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Item:  One day in the late Spring of 1955 my Dad showed up at the school I attended. I was in the British equivalent of fifth grade.

It was highly unusual for Dad to show up at my school. I think that was the only time it ever happened. Why was he there? To take me to the movies.

That was astronomically unusual. Dad very rarely took me to the movies, and only at weekends. What was going on?

What was going on was The Dam Busters, a 1955 British movie about the RAF bombing raids on German dams in 1943. German industry depended heavily on hydroelectric power, so the idea was to deprive them of that while also flooding out factories and mines.

The raids, carried out by a unit called 617 Squadron, were a moderate success, but aircrew casualties were heavy.

Nineteen fifty-five Britain was still in the afterglow of victory, with much particular pride in the wartime exploits of the RAF. The Dam Busters was the highest-grossing movie in Britain that year. My Dad wanted to see it, and he wanted me to see it.

Why am I recalling this? Because John Richard Bell, the last surviving member of 617 Squadron, just died.

Bell didn't actually fly on the Dam Buster raids. He joined 617 Squadron a few months after the raids. He had a distinguished military career, though, and could fairly be called a war hero.

John Richard Bell died on March 18th, seven days short of his 101st birthday. Rest in peace, Sir.

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Item:  I used the term "cultural Christian" up back there in reference to Donald Trump. I'm not sure it's a perfect fit for The Donald, but it's always well to remember that religious identification spans a broad spectrum, from the deeply devout to the merely social.

My favorite illustration of this, and the one that comes to mind when I use the phrase "cultural Christian," is the British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, who in 2005 was ennobled as Lord Rees of Ludlow.

As well as being a distinguished scientist, Lord Rees is a fellow pessimist. Back in 2003 he published a book arguing, at book length, from a deep base of scientific knowledge, that the human race will not survive the 21st century.

Three years after that a different author, biologist Richard Dawkins, published a book titled The God Delusion promoting what was then being called the New Atheism. The first chapter of that book includes the following, quote:

The present Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, told me that he goes to church as an [inner quote] "unbelieving Anglican … out of loyalty to the tribe." [End inner quote]

End quote.

Now that's a cultural Christian.

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Item:  Again on the scriptural theme. Having referred to the Book of Psalms back there, I can't resist quoting here the ditty I learned in childhood as an aid to remembering who wrote what in the Old Testament. Quote from memory:

King Solomon and King David
Had very merry lives.
With many, many lady friends
And many, many wives.
But when old age came on them
With its many, many qualms,
King Solomon wrote Proverbs
And King David wrote the Psalms.

End quote.

Sorry: as I said, I couldn't resist.

In fact some of the Psalms are obviously later than David … but I won't let that spoil a nice ditty.

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08 — Signoff.     That's all, listeners. Thank you for your time and attention, and apologies again to unbelievers for the religious references there.

And one more here. This being Easter, a hymn is appropriate. Here's an old favorite of mine, one of Charles Wesley's, which means it's close to two hundred years old.

With demography never far from our thoughts nowadays, I note in passing that Charles' parents had nineteen children, ten of whom died in infancy. Charles was number eighteen. His much more famous older brother John, who founded Methodism, was number fifteen. Oh, and their mother was herself the youngest of her parents' twenty-five children.

Birthrate-wise, we in the modern world are not even trying.

Here's the Joslin Grove Choral Society to sing "Christ the Lord is risen today."

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.

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[Music clip: Joslin Grove Choral Society, "Christ the Lord is risen today."]