»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Saturday, August 8th, 2015

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, piano version]

01 — Intro.    And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your solicitously genial host John Derbyshire with another edition of the world's best-loved podcast.

Many listeners have emailed in with anxious queries about our new location and the fate of my eager young research assistants Mandy, Candy, and Brandy. At present I can only tell you that matters are rather up in the air. We are broadcasting from a makeshift studio set up here on my own estates in Long Island; but the expenses of relocation, investing in new equipment, and so on have imposed constraints. Not to mince words, dear listeners, but no longer being under Taki's patronage, and with my family and domestic staff to support, money is tight. Do you have any idea how much pool boys demand nowadays?

We shall do our best to restore the Radio Derb facilities to their former grandeur, but I have warned the girls that there may be pink slips in their future. All help will of course be most gratefully received; there is a donation page on the VDARE.com website.

I shall keep you apprised of future developments. In the meantime, let's get to the week's news.

The big news item this week was of course Thursday evening's debates among the leading Republican presidential candidates. I missed the first debate, which featured the seven lowest-polling contenders, but I read up on it afterwards. I did watch the second debate. I'll start off this week with some debate notes.

02 — Too many cucks spoil the broth.     A key phrase in immigration discussions, one I have deployed myself many times, is the one popularized by the late great Enoch Powell, who leaned hard on it when talking about the subject. The phrase is: "Numbers are of the essence."

Nobody cares if ten thousand Mexicans settle in the U.S.A. If ten million settle, a lot of Americans care, and quite rightly. Numbers are of the essence.

I think it's time we applied that key phrase to presidential-candidate debates. A debate between three or four contenders is manageable and instructive. Thursday evening's main event demonstrated that a debate with ten participants does not work. Ten is too many. Numbers are of the essence.

Aside from the difficulty of remembering who said what and who's a governor, who's a senator, who's the libertarian guy, who's the evangelical preacher, they just don't get enough time to say anything. One minute for answers, thirty seconds for follow-ups? Thirty seconds for a closing statement? It takes me thirty seconds to clear my throat and focus my eyes.

All right, I'm a geezer; but not many of these guys are spring chickens. Median age up there on stage for the main event was 56. Trump, whom everyone was watching, is 69. He get max Social Security next year. Four of those ten guys are over 60; later this month, after Mike Huckabee's birthday, it'll be five.

And in this particular case those 30- and 60-second limits matter more than normally. The actual things the candidates say of course matter, but less so than before. A key feature of the current public mood is skepticism about professional politicians and their promises. Of course we all take politicians' promises with a grain of salt, and always have, but this election cycle is at peak cynicism.

A big part of that is the immigration issue. It's dawned on a lot of Americans that managing the matter of who gets to settle in your country, shouldn't really be a difficult thing with modern technology; yet our political classes seem chronically unwilling to do it. And yet, while their unwillingness becomes ever more glaringly obvious, they still chirrup at us about "securing the border."

So much more than usual we're inclined to discount the words that come out of these guys' mouths and focus our interest on whether there's any chance they will actually do what they say they'll do. We're scrutinizing character. And that's hard to do when they're being given to us in short bursts.

So, format-wise, low marks from Derb here. We weren't going to learn much from these people in 30- and 60-second sound bites.

03 — Trump lives!     The thing we all wanted to know from the main debate was, would Donald Trump self-destruct?

It was on the cards. This was a new format for Trump, and he's been showing signs of nervousness.

He's also got a fine line to walk. His success so far has been as the candidate who isn't a politician, the anti-politics candidate. That's gotten him great poll numbers from people who think politicians are out of touch. Trump's polling numbers are especially good among non-college graduates, people in industries like construction who've seen their jobs swallowed up by mass immigration.

There's a ceiling on that appeal though, and it's not a high enough ceiling to get Trump elected President. The paradox of his position is that to break through that ceiling, he needs to come across as more of a politician.

As fed up as we all are with professional pols, we have certain deep expectations of the people we hire to do work for us. If I hire in a roofer to fix the leak in my garage, I'm not pleased if he shows up in a leopardskin jumpsuit with his hair dyed turquoise.

The generality of voters, especially middle-class, college-educated voters, expect a certain demeanor from people running for office. They expect some gravitas. Let's face it, Trump has a gravitas deficit.

That's the fork he's in. If he ramps up the gravitas, the voters currently cheering him on might start thinking: "Oh, he's just like the other damn pols after all," and fall away. If he stays the bad-boy candidate, he's stuck under that ceiling.

And that's where he's still stuck after Thursday night's debate.

Trump fortified the credentials he's already got. He owned up frankly to his willingness to run Third Party — no shucking and jiving there. He unashamedly admitted strategic use of the bankruptcy laws; ditto about making political contributions all over. He jeered at Megyn Kelly's blathering about some absurd "war on women," where a professional pol would have run for cover. All good stuff, and I love Trump for it. He has to find a way through that ceiling, though.

My advice to Trump would be to work gradually, cautiously towards the expectations of gravitas over the next few months, but avoid sudden changes. In future debates he should continue to be the spoiler and mocker, but tone down the bumptiousness just a tick or two more each time.

04 — The National Question is still radioactive.     The National Question didn't get as much of an airing as I'd hoped in Thursday night's debates. Unless I missed something, birthright citizenship, chain migration, affirmative action for immigrants, an immigration moratorium, and the status of Puerto Rico all went unmentioned.

I conclude that the National Question is still radioactive. Legal immigration went almost completely unmentioned. The exception here was Rick Santorum, who said he'd reduce legal immigration by 25 percent. That counts as sensationally bold in the milk-and-water apologetics that passes for public conversation about immigration, but it's actually rather feeble. What's really needed is a moratorium. Still, credit to Santorum for even venturing that close to the plutonium.

Here's a question nobody was asked in these debates, and that I guarantee nobody will be asked in future debates:

Suppose Congressional leaders agreed to a moratorium on all immigration for settlement and all guest-worker visas like H-1Bs, with sensible tightly-defined necessary exceptions, in return for a blanket amnesty on persons currently here illegally. Would you approve that deal?

Now that's a real immigration question, a real meaty bit of political decision-making to confront a candidate with. I can think of half a dozen similar. Another example: Puerto Rico is, in all but name, a colony of the U.S.A. Should we really be in the colonialism business? Why shouldn't Puerto Rico be independent?

Questions like these — frank, reasonable questions about our nation, about its very nature, about what it'll be like for our grandchildren to live in — can't be raised. The acceptable zone of public discourse is too narrow, too constrained, too constipated.

Instead, watching these debates, you hear college-radical gibberish from the questioners about a "war on women," and empty assurances from the candidates that they will "secure the border" — Scott Walker actually said that on Thursday, quote: "I believe we need to secure the border," end quote. Sure you do, Governor, sure, sure. Not even Donald Trump mentioned legal immigration.

The reason for this narrowness isn't hard to find. Both the ideological left and the major business lobbies have harnessed the earnest, moralistic tendencies in American culture to their own purposes. Denying settlement rights to persons who want to settle here would be unkind. If you want to do that you are a bad person. Behind all the moralistic flimflam you can, if you listen carefully, hear the ker-ching of cash registers and the low murmur of Trotskyite study groups; but most people don't listen that carefully.

So, not much here for immigration patriots.

05 — Candidates say the darnedest things.     Just a few mopping-up notes here, from my debate jottings.

Again to the issue of numbers and timing. Talking on your feet, it's easy to say dumb things. When you're talking on your feet under pressure like that, it's double easy, even for experienced speakers. So there were a few say-what? moments.

Rand Paul for example told us that, quote: "The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over!" You sort of knew what he meant, but the senator needs to check his dates there. Revolution: ended in 1783. Bill of Rights: 1789.

And then Donald Trump, quote: "We don't beat Japan, with their millions and millions of cars coming into this country, in trade." Japanese cars flooding into America was a great candidate talking point forty years ago, but time moves on, Donald.

That's all forgivable where the individual speakers are concerned; but again, the format really didn't help.

A different point: It's always worth thinking about the Vice-Presidency when watching these things. A lot of these people, especially down at the no-hoper level, are trying not so much for the top spot on the ticket as the second one. Being Vice President is a pretty nice gig. You get a car and stuff; and you have a fair shot at parlaying Vice President into President.

So a no-hoper for the top spot but who comes over decently well in the debates, can hope for that. A couple of them were almost visibly doing so: Bobby Jindal and Carly Fiorina.

It helps that we are probably moving into an era where it'll be seen as absolutely necessary for one of the two faces on the ticket to be either nonwhite or female.

With that in mind I was looking for Ben Carson to register as one of the Vice-Presidential aspirants. In the event he didn't register as anything much. Carson seems like a very nice chap, and he's welcome to dinner at my gaff any time; but he's out of his depth in politics. "God wants a flat tax …" say what?

The other fourteen contenders in Thursday's debates are all pale and male, so Jindal, who's brown, and Fiorina, who has ovaries, are good prospects for the VP slot. If you want to put money on that, I'd say go for Jindal.

06 — A segment about nothing.     So much for Thursday night's debates. Now, by way of punctuation, here is a sort of non-segment — a Seinfeld-show segment, a segment about nothing.

Well, not really about nothing. It's actually about the diplomatic agreement reached on July 14th in Vienna over Iran's nuclear-weapons development between Iran and the six-nation negotiating squad. I just have nothing to say that I haven't said before.

Was this agreement newsy? I guess it was; and when Radio Derb returned to the podwaves last week a lot of listeners were expecting us to pronounce on it. When we didn't, I got disappointed emails.

Just in hopes of quelling the emails, I'm going to replay here my remarks about this issue from our last April 4th podcast. My views haven't changed. Quote:

I am fatalistic about nuclear proliferation. With Pakistan and North Korea already nuclear, why should I believe that Iran getting a bomb adds anything significant to my chance of being nuked or EMP-ed? If we wanted to stop crazy nations from getting nukes, the time to do it was twenty years ago. That ship has sailed.

My nuclear policy for the U.S.A. would consist of, one, having far more nukes than anyone else on the planet; two, having really good "signature" technology for determining where a nuke originated, and three, making sure all the world's troublemakers know about one and two.

I really don't see that Iranian nukes are any of our business. We are coming up to the 400th anniversary of the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in Europe in 1618. That was a terrible conflict, driven by religious and national passions. Steven Pinker, in his book about violence through history, gives the death toll at seven million, equivalent to 32 million today.

Plainly the Middle East, which in its political development is running about 400 years behind Europe, is heading for some similar catastrophe. If nukes are deployed, 32 million dead is probably about right, perhaps somewhat on the low side.

Europe survived the Thirty Years War, and the Middle East will survive whatever's brewing up between Sunnis and Shias. Do we have a dog in this fight? — or as my friend Andrew Stuttaford says, do we have a god in this fight? I don't see it.

Given the stupidity of our politicians, if we do get involved, we'll screw it up somehow, as we did Vietnam and Iraq. Let's just stay the heck out of the whole stinking snake pit.

07 — The complacency trap.     Speaking of things nuclear, Thursday this week was also the 70th anniversary of the atom bomb being dropped on Hiroshima.

As I'm sure listeners all know, three days later a second atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The bombs killed some number between 70 and 120 thousand people immediately. Some similar additional number died in the next three months; and some unknown, but probably similar number again died in the months and years following.

In the seventy years less three days since the Nagasaki bomb, no nuclear weapons have been used by anyone, anywhere. That's a remarkable thing.

How about the next seventy years? Is our run of nuke-free luck going to continue?

There are good reasons to doubt it. Since Hiroshima we've gone from one nuclear nation to nine. At least six of the nine — Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea are uncertain — are thermo-nuclear; which is to say, they have hydrogen bombs as well as atom bombs. On a linear extrapolation, seventy years further on there'll be eighteen; but of course one should never assume linearity. The correct extrapolation might be exponential.

This is, after all, 1940s technology we're talking about: like valve radios, ferrite-core computers, and car windows you wind down with a handle. For all we know there may be some breakthrough in physics or robotics next week that means you can make a nuke in your garage.

And there's the complacency trap. In New York City right now we're going through a crime wave. The last one was back in the early 90s. New Yorkers reacted by electing two no-nonsense, bussinesslike mayors, who got the crime rate down and kept it down. That made New Yorkers complacent. They forgot the bad times, and elected a cop-hating left-liberal mayor. So now we're back with rising crime.

The complacency trap. Some things need eternal vigilance; but unfortunately humankind is not very good at eternal vigilance.

So this coming seventy years, my bet is, we'll see a couple of cities go poof! here and there. Please let it not be here.

Which brings us back to immigration, to border control and rights of settlement … which in turn brings us right back to the complacency trap …

Health tip of the week: Some of the worst effects of radiation sickness can be alleviated by doses of potassium iodide. You can buy potassium iodide from Amazon.com in 65mg tablets with a five-year expiration. They're not expensive. Buy some. Put them in your medicine cabinet.

08 — From the police blotter.     New York city crime, ah yes.

Let me just ask you: Does your cynicism about the reporting of race and crime need a booster shot? Well, that's what Radio Derb's here for.

I'm looking at the New York Police Department Daily Blotter here in the August 6th edition of the New York Post. Whaddawe got?

Altogether there are seven crime stories on the blotter. In descending order of heinousness, heinosity, whatever: A home invasion with robbery and assault on an elderly woman, an attempted rape, a nonfatal shooting, two store robberies, an arrested turnstile jumper who struggled free from the arresting officer and escaped, then last and, yes, least, a bicycle rider who shoved a bus driver with his bike when the driver wouldn't let it on board the bus.

Number of perps: twelve, eleven male and one female.

Seven of those twelve perps appear in security camera photos. Unfortunately the photos are poor quality. Just from the photos, two of the perps are clearly black, the others could be any race. But hey, they'll fill out that information in the stories for us, right? [Laughter.]

Nope: in 700 words of reporting, the race of a perp is mentioned only once, thus, quote:

The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5-foot-9, with short, blond hair and wearing a gray T-shirt and white shorts.

End quote. That white male was the cyclist who shoved his bike at the bus driver, leaving the traumatized driver with, quote, bruises and scratches.

Compare the description of the woman in one of the store robberies, quote:

A woman approximately 5-foot-6 and in her mid-30s … wearing a black T-shirt, multicolored sneakers and leggings.

End quote. No, I didn't cherry-pick Thursday's crime blotter from a week's worth; it was just convenient to hand, and the statistics there are perfectly routine.

As I said, any time your cynicism about media crime reporting needs a recharge, we're here for you.

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

Imprimis:  It's been far too long since we ran a story on the Miss Bum Bum pageant, held in Brazil every year to select the lady with that nation's most pulchritudinous posterior, most delectable derrière, most glamorous glutes, handsomest heinie … well, work your own alliterations here. Yes, bottoms are very big in Brazil.

The actual pageant takes place in November; so as with our own much less enthralling presidential election, it's early days yet. Un-like our presidential contest, there is so far no contestant coming out of left field, shaking up the establishment candidates by saying outrageous things, and racking up jaw-dropping poll numbers. If there were one, presumably her name would be Donaldina Rump … And of course, if other contestants felt insulted by her comments, the dignified thing to do would be to turn the other cheek.

Anyway, while the pageant itself is still three months away, hopeful contestants from Brazil's various regions have already been putting their best foot forward (although that can't possibly be the right expression …) in the streets of São Paulo. Quote from the Daily Mail, Britain's Newspaper of Record, quote:

Bending down to allow plenty of photos of their peachy behinds, the models were busy raising awareness of the start of the online voting stage of the competition. The public must decide which of the 27 women will be allowed to compete in the November final.

Competition is fierce as only 15 of the buxom beauties will be allowed to take part in the final.

End quote. Let's just hope this year's Miss Bum Bum pageant will maintain a properly elevated tone, and not be marred by any incidents of bad taste such as occurred last year.

Based on the pictures in the Daily Mail of the ladies taking a crack at the Miss Bum Bum title, I'd say Miss Mato Grosso has to be among the favorites. Is that actually a region of Brazil, Mato Grosso? Yes it is; and looking up the name in my Portuguese-English dictionary, I see it translates as "great bush." That strikes me as a bit odd for the name of a region, in a nation whose own name is most commonly linked nowadays with a certain cosmetic waxing procedure …

Let's hasten on to the next item, shall we?

Item:  We all know the conventional pieties on education. Schools fail because we don't spend enough on them! We need to spend more!

OK. Except that the personal-finance website WalletHub has just done a good rigorous analysis of public-school spending and quality nationwide, ranking the results by state. They ranked quality on 13 different metrics, not just test scores but drop-out rates, student-teacher ratio, bullying, safety, and so on.

Key point: Washington, DC has the highest dropout rate, the lowest math test scores, the lowest reading test scores and the lowest average SAT scores in the entire country. The District's overall rank on "School-System Quality" was 49th out of 51. For "Safety" the District ranked 51st out of 51.

Yet in per-student spending Washington, DC is way up there, ranked 14th out of 51. Strange, huh?

Five years ago I reviewed Bob Weissberg's book Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, whose title by itself tells you most of what you need to know about public schooling in America.

Nothing much has changed in these five years, certainly not the conventional pieties; nor the width of the gulf that separates the conventional pieties from reality.

Item:  Top of the New York Times hardcover bestseller list this week is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I know that Radio Derb listeners are a bookish crowd who like to keep up with cutting-edge literary trends, so by kind permission of Mr Coates' publisher I am privileged — yes, privileged — to be able to read you a short extract from Between the World and Me.

This is the dramatic opening of Chapter 849, actual quote:

[Clears throat]: Black. Black. Black. Blackety-black. Blackety-blackety-black. Blackety-blackety-blackety-blackety-blackety-blackety-blackety-black! Black? Bla-a-ack! Blackblackblackblackblackblackblackblackblackblackblackblack. Blackety-black! [Andante]: Black … black … black … black … [Accelerando]: Black, black, black, blackblackblackblack … [Allegro]: Blacketyblacketyblacketyblack, blackblackblackblack, …

10 — Signoff.     That's it for this week, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and for putting up patiently with the slight glitches and adjustments as we changed hosts there.

Here's a ditty to sing us out. Longtime listeners know I have a soft spot for 19th-century popular songs. Well, the other evening I finally got around to watching the 1993 Ron Maxwell movie Gettysburg.

Thumbnail review: pretty good. The battle scenes are realistically chaotic. Most of the dialog sounds right, with only a few intrusions of late-20th-century PC flapdoodle. The main historical problem is that Joshua Chamberlain's self-promotions are taken at face value. Corrective quote from Prof. Guelzo, quote:

It takes nothing away from the tenacity of the fighting … to say that the drama of Little Round Top has been allowed to run away with the reality. Credit for defending it belongs primarily to Gouverneur Warren, Strong Vincent, and Patrick O'Rourke, and only after them to Chamberlain. But the others faded from view for reasons that left the stage open to the former Bowdoin professor.

End quote. History isn't just written by the victors: It's written by those among the victors who survive to write it, and can write, and have easy access to publishers and editors, as a Bowdoin professor has.

End of thumbnail movie review. The main point here is that the mid-19th-century ballad Kathleen Mavourneen is heard in the background at a key point.

That got my attention. It was one of my Dad's favourites. He had a vinyl disc of the great Irish tenor John McCormack singing it. So there you are, that's our exit music this week.

More from Radio Derb next week.

[Music clip: John McCormack, "Kathleen Mavourneen."]