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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your unobtrusively genial host John Derbyshire, broadcasting to the world from our auxiliary studio here in New York.
Yes, listeners, I have been in the States this week to attend the Bartley Dinner on Wednesday in Washington DC; actually at the Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a drone's flight from the White House. Let me start with a brief report on that event.
02 — Derb does DC. Back in the mid-1970s there was a young Englishman with an enquiring mind, just finding his feet in the U.S.A.; falling in love with the place, in fact, and shaking off the last remnants of his youthful European leftism.
Keen to figure out what kept this nation immune from the social and political ailments infecting his home country, our young friend took out subscriptions to conservative magazines, including a fairly new arrival called The American Spectator, which printed in a unique broadsheet format. The editorial in each issue was titled "The Continuing Crisis" and was written by Bob Tyrrell, the magazine's founder and editor.
Four decades on, Bob Tyrrell's still the editor-in-chief of The American Spectator (though there was a brief interruption a few years ago that I'll pass over in silence), and he's still writing those editorials, still titled "The Continuing Crisis." If you want to quibble that anything that's continued for forty years can't really be called a "crisis," go argue with Bob.
Every year the magazine has a dinner-slash-fundraiser in Washington, DC with conservative speakers from politics and the media. This event is named for the late Bob Bartley, who ran the Op-Ed pages of the Wall Street Journal through the last third of the 20th century, and who is something of an icon to conservative journalists. So this Wednesday was the Bartley Dinner.
The dinner and the speakers are only part of the fun, of course. This kind of occasion is also a great time to meet old friends and do some networking.
So from a social point of view the event was very enjoyable, and I offer my thanks to the organizers for putting on a great show. The speakers were eloquent and upbeat, and the overall mood was cheerful, optimistic.
I have to confess, though, that I came away at last in a pensive mood, somewhat melancholy in fact.
I'll try to explain. While I do, please bear in mind that forty-year acquaintance with The American Spectator: forty years that I — and they, and America, and the world — have lived through.
03 — Partying with Reaganites. To put it as briefly as I can: The speakers at the Bartley Dinner on Wednesday were talking Reaganism; and the people they were talking it to, the attendees at the dinner, excepting a handful of malcontents like myself, were Reaganites.
It was once again morning in America. This is a country full of promise, the speakers told us: an exceptional country, whose people nursed a spirit of personal liberty, free enterprise, limited government, self-support, and trust in a providential deity.
Two things about all that. One: It's hard not to get swept up by it. Sitting there in a dining hall with a couple hundred cheerful, laughing, applauding Americans, some of them personal friends, with a delicious dinner in your belly, washed down with three or four glasses of wine, the optimism is infectious. The U.S.A. is a great country that has done great things. Heck, if it wasn't for the U.S.A., I'd be speaking German, or possibly Russian.
But — second thing to be said — it's all unreal. While I was smiling, and laughing, and applauding with the rest of them, there was a little soundtrack going on an inch or two in from my left temple, saying things which, if I could have gotten up on that stage and said them to the hall, would have had them throwing dinner plates at me.
Yo guys, Reagan left office 26 years ago, an entire generation. Reaganism's had no purchase since then, none whatsoever.
And Reaganism is a white thing. Take a look around this hall. Rand Paul, in his keynote speech, quoted Martin Luther King and called for a conservative movement that, quote, "looks like America." Really, Senator? That's really what you're going to try for? Bend yourself into a pretzel trying to coax away another one or two percent of the black and Hispanic vote while conservative non-Hispanic whites go begging for attention and stay home on election day?
Non-Hispanic whites were 79 percent of the population when Reagan took office. When he left we were 76 percent. Today we're 62 percent. You're talking to a dwindling demographic, Senator. Or rather, you're talking over them, over their heads, ignoring them, talking over their heads to people who will never vote for conservative policies in any numbers. We know that because we've been trying it for decades. The name Jack Kemp mean anything?
And let's face it: When Reaganism was actually in power, under the actual Ronald Reagan, it never really had the courage of its convictions. To quote from its most perceptive analyst, David Frum:
By the end of the 1980s, denial was no longer possible. As wasteful as the federal government undoubtedly is, there is no feasible way to lighten its burden other than by yanking goodies away from the voters. As Conservatives absorbed the failure of the Reagan gambit, their interest in the whole tedious budget business visibly waned. Permanent reductions in taxes required endless, dogged resistance to the acrimonious demands of insatiable interest groups — not only unappealing groups, like welfare mothers, but attractive, patriotic, Republican groups, like veterans, farmers, and the elderly. Who wanted to say "no" all the time? Who wanted to alienate the Reagan Democrats? Who wanted to concede leadership of the conservative movement to nerds with calculators?
End quote. Yes, guys: personal liberty, self-support, and limited government are sweet and noble dreams. I dream them along with you.
Then, when the feast is finished and the lamps expire, when the band has packed up and the tables have been cleared, then I'm heading down F Street to the Metro station in a chill February wind, halfway through Barack Obama's second term.
04 — The United States of Hodgepodgia. Speaking of Barack Obama: Our president made some very revealing remarks in an interview with the leftist website Vox.com.
The proprietor of Vox.com, 14-year-old Trotskyist Ezra Klein, asked Obama if he worried about American political parties just becoming racial voting blocs. Klein didn't phrase it like that, of course: He dressed it up in a lot of postmodernist flimflam about "structuring people's identities," but that's what he asked.
In reply, Obama said the following, among other things.
I don't worry about that, because I don't think that's going to last … Over the long term, I'm pretty optimistic, and the reason is because this country just becomes more and more of a hodgepodge of folks … The Republican party, even the most conservative, they have much less ability, I think, to express discriminatory views than they did even 10 years ago. And that's a source of optimism. It makes me hopeful.
End quote. Note in passing the President's affection for that word "folks." He uses it a lot: nine times in the Vox interview. It's his way of deflecting the charge that he's just a faculty-lounge bloviator who's never had a real job, never created any wealth, never got his hands dirty at anything, and never had to exert himself much, relying on fawning white liberals to lift him up. "You see," he's saying when he uses that word "folks," "You see, I'm in touch with ordinary working people. I've struggled as they struggle. I know their concerns, I feel their pain." It's all bogus, of course. Obama's never had to struggle against anything more challenging than an ill-fitting tuxedo.
Anyway, to the main point, look at how he gives the game away there. When Obama says "discriminatory views" he means any views at odds with the Cultural Marxist narrative: at odds with the idea that diversity is our strength, that all human groups have precisely identical statistical profiles on all personality traits and abilities, that all evidence to the contrary is the result of malice by resentful straight white males, and so on.
He celebrates the fact that these dissenting views are less and less tolerated; or to put it another way, that freedom of expression is being hammered out of existence. He attributes this development to the fact that we are becoming more heterogeneous, more of a "hodgepodge."
Yep, that's us: The United States of Hodgepodgia. Sixty years ago, when the country was ninety percent white European and ten percent black, we were such a damn failure, weren't we? Hodgepodgization will make us harmonious and successful, though, never worry, just like other hodgepodge nations: Yugoslavia, perhaps, or Iraq. The future is bright, Comrades!
05 — Fifty shades of paradox. A word about porn, if I may. Listeners of a sensitive or nervous disposition, please don't be alarmed. Radio Derb is a family podcast. Far be it from us to open the sluice gates of salacity and bring blushes to maidens' cheeks. I just want to comment on a couple of news stories and pass some remarks of a social and historical nature.
First news story: The movie-fication of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The book, which I have not read, apparently concerns a young woman's lovestruck domination by a rich businessman, who subjects her to various kinds of indignities in pursuit of sexual pleasure. Possibly the author was inspired by the late Joan Rivers, who once said, quote: "I haven't had sex for so long, I can't remember who ties up whom."
Reviewers have not been kind. Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B-minus, sample quote:
Nobody in the movie has visible genitals … Nobody sweats, nobody strains, nobody loses control or even fakes losing control by simulating an orgasm.
End quote. The reviewer does allow that the actors are good-looking and stylishly-dressed: but that's also true of TV commercials for breakfast cereal. So if you think it would be neat to sit through two hours of Wheaties ads, Fifty Shades of Gray is for you, otherwise not.
Second news story: The Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue features, on its cover, a young model in a skimpy bikini, the bottom part of which she is holding down to expose the foothills of the mons veneris.
There has been some minor fuss over this. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation wants retailers to remove the magazine from public display shelves and checkout lines. The cover picture is pornographic, they say.
They have a point, and I personally don't think the thing should be on open display where kids can see it.
That aside, though, I always wonder who the swimsuit issue is for. I know who it used to be for. It used to be for adolescent boys and lonely adult men to masturbate to. I can't believe that's still the case, though.
For one thing, why would any masturbator shell out $4.99 for a still picture of a bikini model when there are action videos of actual sexual congress in every conceivable configuration available for free on YouPorn?
For another thing, my impression is that the rising generation is not very interested in sex. My acquaintance with adolescent boys, admittedly rather limited, suggests to me that they are much too busy playing Call of Duty and watching Game of Thrones to waste time dallying with Mrs Palm and her five lovely daughters.
Among human activities, in fact, sex is losing its market share. This is something of a paradox.
Human beings today are much more sexually attractive than they used to be, thanks to much improved standards of health, hygiene, and grooming; but this seems not to have led to any actual increase in coitus.
A hundred years ago there was no Brazilian waxing, most people got enough hot water to bathe in only once a week or less, skin diseases were rampant, and there was no proper detergent to get clothes clean: yet not the fitchew nor the soiléd horse went to't with a more riotous appetite than our hairy, dirty, smelly, pimply forebears. Researching my own family history I was astonished at the number of illegitimate children women had, in an age when the social penalties were drastic, and unmarried people were segregated by sex, and women's intimate charms were further shielded by layers of heavy dress material, petticoats, pantaloons, and bloomers.
Now, in our hygienic, depilated age of free mingling at school, work, and play, we can less and less be bothered to make the beast with two backs. In Japan, the most hygienic and depilated nation of all, sex is disappearing so fast it's endangering the world economy, as Radio Derb reported a couple of weeks ago.
Carl Djerassi, the chemist whose work made the birth control pill possible, died on January 30th this year at the age of 91. Once he realized what he'd started, Mr Djerassi probably thought that the decoupling of sex from procreation would lead to a huge increase in sexual activity. Well, there was the Sixties; but much of that was just talk, and the rest was mostly the youthful energy of the Boomers. It didn't last.
The poet Philip Larkin famously said that "sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three." What I'm wondering is: "Does sexual intercourse still thrive, in the year 2-0-1-5?" Just wondering.
06 — Don't just do something, stand there. There's a game of chicken going on in Congress over funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
The House of Representatives, which is Republican-controlled, passed a bill to continue funding the DHS until October, but with amendments attached prohibiting funds to be used in pursuit of the President's executive orders granting mass amnesty for illegal aliens. That bill was then put before the Senate, where the Republicans have a majority, but not enough of one to get past procedural maneuvering by the Democrats, who are of course united in support of the President.
So the bill's come up before the Senate three times, but the Republicans have not been able to get it passed with those pesky amendments attached. Current funding for the DHS runs out February 27th.
The common opinion in Washington is that the House Republicans should have gamed this for the three or four moves ahead to see that these amendments were bound to cause this impasse. Now they're going to have to back down, or face public obloquy for shutting down the DHS. It's a sure win for the Democrats, people are saying.
I yield to utter cynicism here. Would it make any difference to the security of our homeland if the DHS were defunded? In matters of immigration and border control, the executive branch won't let them do their work anyway. The Department Secretary Jeh Johnson is another lefty stooge from the Mulatto Mafia. Send him home to watch TV.
Aren't there ongoing projects vital to our safety that need to be kept going, though? I doubt it. The other day I attended a talk by a fellow from the Center for Security Policy. The topic was protecting America's power generation infrastucture from EMP. That's Electro-Magnetic Pulse, a surge you get in power apparatus when a major solar storm hits, or when hostiles explode a nuke high abover the atmosphere.
The booklet that accompanied the talk is on my desk. You can buy one yourself from Amazon for six dollars. It's titled Guilty Knowledge, subtitle "What the U.S. Government Knows About the Vulnerability of the Electric Grid but Refuses to Fix."
Bottom line: People like the guy giving the talk have been banging away for years at this issue, which could cause tens of millions of deaths. Nothing ever gets done. And yes, this is in the purview of the DHS.
The DHS, like most of the federal government, is a waste of space. Shut the damn thing down.
07 — Support President Fillmore! I'm afraid my schedule was disrupted by the Washington trip, ladies and gents, so I have time for just one more segment, and shall have to pass over our closing miscellany of brief items.
The topic here is Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of these United States. President Fillmore does not have a big fan club, except in Buffalo, New York, where he practiced law and is regarded as a hometown hero. Buffalo has various places and institutions named after Fillmore, and there is a statue of him outside City Hall.
Fillmore was President in the early 1850s — an accidental President, taking over when Zachary Taylor died from eating too many strawberries at a July 4th party.
The great issue of the day — this was the decade before the Civil War, remember — was the expansion of slavery. The United States was growing, acquiring new territories. Should slavery be allowed in these territories, or not? In some of them? Which ones? Who should decide?
The controversy was damped down some, although not definitively settled, by a package of bills collectively known as the 1850 Compromise, which Millard Fillmore signed. One of those bills was the Fugitive Slave Act, giving slave owners the right to recover slaves who'd escaped to a free state or territory.
That, today, 165 years later, has gotten President Fillmore into trouble with the NAACP. The Buffalo branch has asked elected officials to deny any future requests to attach Fillmore's name to anything.
Someone should tell them to go pound sand, although I doubt anyone has the guts to do so. My impression is that Fillmore did his lawyerly best with the Compromise, but the disagreements he was trying to resolve were fundamentally intractable, as the outbreak of war eleven years later proved.
Anyway, he was President under the Constitution as it stood. I can't see any reason he shouldn't be honored like other Presidents, and I would dearly like to see someone, sometime stand up to these self-righteous busybodies.
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Short measure this week, I'm afraid, as a result of my road trip.
Concerning which, I should say a word of appreciation to John Ratzenberger, featured speaker at the Bartley Dinner. John played the character Cliff Clavin in the old Cheers show on TV, and has done a lot of voice-overs for animated movies. American Spectator always tries to get one showbiz conservative as a speaker, which is not easy as there aren't many of them. John fulfilled the role this year.
He did it very well. He's a witty and entertaining speaker. John started out in life as a carpenter, and has done good and useful work trying to promote skilled trades and the revival of high school shop classes. You can support that work if you want to by a donation to the Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs Foundation, who have a website under that name. Thanks for a great talk, John, and keep doing what you're doing.
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]