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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, electronic piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air, essaying further adventures in our intro music. That was one of Franz Joseph Haydn's Derbyshire Marches played on the electronic piano, and this is your cacodaemoniacally genial host with a Halloween edition of Radio Derb.
I have seen the word "cacodaemoniacal" in print only in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, but it seems to me apt to the Halloween season, and also to the current Presidential election campaign, at any rate to one side of it. Regular Radio Derb listeners will be in no doubt as to which candidate, in my opinion, promises us a trick, and which is more likely to deliver a treat.
Yes, listeners, the spectacle of a Clintocalypse looms, casting its eldritch shadow over our small daily pleasures. "Eldritch" is another Lovecraft word, if you're not familiar. I tried to work "miasma" into these opening remarks, but couldn't find a slot.
What shall we do to be saved? Pay attention, please, and I shall tell you.
02 — The people vs. the politicians. My inspiration for this segment comes from one of the little magazines.
We keep getting told that print journalism is dying on its feet, but the dying seems to be wonderfully prolonged.
Once, visiting my Uncle Fred's house when Fred was well into his eighties, I came into the kitchen to find him polishing his shoes, a beaten-up old pair of brown oxfords. "You should buy yourself a new pair, Fred," I said, in the cheery way you say things to elderly relatives. "You're not that hard up, are you?" (Fred had a reputation as somewhat of a miser.)
Fred contemplated the oxfords with the calm patience of old age. "Oh," he replied at last, "they'll see me out."
I feel the same way about print journalism. It'll be around a while yet. Not newspapers, perhaps, but magazines for sure. They'll see me out.
The economics of the magazine business are a bit depressing, though, at any rate to a thoughtful and bookish person. I recently had to spend half an hour waiting in a doctor's office. There was a stack of magazines. I'm not much interested in medical matters, or golf, or celebrities, so the only thing that looked at all meaty was Vanity Fair. I leafed through it. There were plenty of articles on topics other than diet, golf, and movie stars, but none of them was very interesting; and to get to them I had to wade through an astonishing number of glossy ads for designer clothing, cosmetics, shoes (no brown oxfords), perfumes, and such. I bet Vanity Fair pays its — I really want to say "her" — contributors handsomely, but there's nothing in there I can be bothered to read.
Down at the other end of the print-magazine food chain are the little magazines, with tiny circulations. They carry few ads, sometimes none at all, and pay their contributors miserably. You're not likely to find them in a doctor's waiting room. My life would be darker and duller without them, though. I've advertised some of them here: Literary Review, for example, and The New Criterion.
Well, here's another one: Modern Age, a quarterly magazine put out by ISI, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. ISI was a brainchild, one of the brainchildren, of William F. Buckley, so Modern Age takes a conservative line on politics and culture. It's not precisely on Radio Derb's wavelength: It's much more Christian than I am, and sometimes shows a glimpse of neocon ankle, but I always find something worth reading in it. I can't recall ever taking out a subscription — it's thirty bucks a year in the U.S. if you want to give it a try — but it arrives promptly every quarter, so I guess they're comping me, for which I am grateful.
So here's the current, Fall 2016, issue of Modern Age. The lead article is by Susan McWilliams, who teaches politics at Pomona College, over there on the other coast. Professor McWilliams' article celebrates the 25th anniversary of Christopher Lasch's 1991 book The True and Only Heaven, which analyzed the cult of progress in its American manifestation.
A friend gifted me Lasch's book some years ago, since when I have made several forays into it, without ever finishing it. Here's what Professor McWilliams says, quote:
There aren't many books written at the pitch of The True and Only Heaven these days, books intended for a generally educated audience but that require serious intellectual effort of their readers. The True and Only Heaven is dense and multilayered and argued with sophistication.
End quote. She sure gets that right. I feel about The True and Only Heaven the way I feel about Paradise Lost: great respect, a determination to finish it someday, but not quite willing to put forth that intellectual effort at this particular moment. You could call this sloth on my part … but I'll have more to say about that in the closing miscellany.
The True and Only Heaven has interesting and important things to say about populism in the U.S.A., and Professor McWilliams brings them nicely to bear on the politics of today. I'll leave listeners to discover those gems for yourselves, if you feel inclined.
A couple of remarks in Professor McWillams' piece stuck in my mind. Here's the first one, quote:
In the most recent American National Election Studies survey, only 19 percent of Americans agreed with the idea that the government, inner quote, "is run for the benefit of all the people".
End quote, end quote. She adds a footnote to that. The 19 percent figure is from 2012, she says. Then she tells us that in 1964, 64 percent of Americans agreed with the same statement.
Wow. You have to think that those two numbers, from 64 percent down to 19 percent in two generations, tell us something important and disturbing about our political life.
Second quote, quote:
In 2016 if you type the words "Democrats and Republicans" or "Republicans and Democrats" into Google, the algorithms predict your next words will be "are the same".
End quote. I just tried this, and she's right. These guesses are of course based on the frequency with which complete sentences show up all over the internet. An awful lot of people out there think we live in a one-party state.
There is a dawning realisation, ever more widespread among ordinary Americans, that our national politics is not Left versus Right or Republican versus Democrat; it's we the people versus the politicians.
03 — Noonan gets Trump right and wrong. Here's a different lady commentator, Peggy Noonan, in her October 20th Wall Street Journal column.
The title of Peggy's piece was: Imagine a Sane Donald Trump. The gravamen of the piece was that Donald Trump has shown up the Republican Party establishment as totally out of touch with their base, which is good; but that he's bat-poop crazy, which is bad. If a sane Donald Trump had done the good thing, the showing-up, we'd be on course to a major beneficial correction in our national politics.
It's a good clever piece. A couple of months ago here on Radio Derb I offered up one and a half cheers for Peggy, who gets a lot right in spite of being a longtime Establishment insider. So it was here. Sample of what she got right last week, quote:
Mr Trump's great historical role was to reveal to the Republican Party what half of its own base really thinks about the big issues. The party's leaders didn't know! They were shocked, so much that they indulged in sheer denial and made believe it wasn't happening.
End quote. I'll just pause to note Peggy's use of Steve Sailer's great encapsulation of Bush-style neoconnery: "invade the world, invite the world." Either Peggy's been reading Steve on the sly, or she's read my book We Are Doomed, which borrows that phrase. I credited Steve with the phrase, though, so in either case she knows its provenance, and should likewise have credited Steve.
End of pause. OK, so Peggy got some things right there. She got a lot wrong, though
Start with the notion that Trump is crazy. He's a nut, she says, five times. His brain is, quote, "a TV funhouse."
Well, Trump has some colorful quirks of personality, to be sure, as we all do, but he's no nut. A nut can't be as successful in business as Trump has been. I spent 32 years as an employee or contractor, mostly in private businesses but for two years in a government department. Private businesses are intensely rational, as human affairs go — much more rational than government departments. The price of irrationality in business is immediate and plainly financial. Sanity-wise, Trump is a better bet than most people in high government positions.
Sure, politicians talk a good rational game. They present as sober and thoughtful on the Sunday morning shows. Look at the stuff they believe, though. Was it rational to respond to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. by moving NATO right up to Russia's borders? Was it rational to expect that post-Saddam Iraq would turn into a constitutional democracy? Was it rational to order insurance companies to sell healthcare policies to people who are already sick? Was the Vietnam War a rational enterprise? Was it rational to respond to the 9/11 attacks by massively increasing Muslim immigration? Make your own list.
Donald Trump displays good healthy patriotic instincts. I'll take that, with the personality quirks and all, over some earnest, careful, sober-sided guy whose head contains fantasies of putting the world to rights, or flooding our country with unassimilable foreigners.
I'd add the point made by many commentators, the point that belongs under the general heading: "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps." If Donald Trump was not so very different from run-of-the-mill politicians — which I suspect is a big part of what Peggy means by calling him a nut — would he have entered into the political adventure he's on?
Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific on a hand-built wooden raft to prove a point, which is not the kind of thing your average ethnographer would do. Was he crazy? No he wasn't. It was only that some feature of his personality drove him to use that way to prove the point he hoped to prove.
And then there is Peggy's assertion that the Republican Party's leaders didn't know that half the party's base were at odds with them.
Did they really not? Didn't they get a clue when the GOP lost in 2012, mainly because millions of Republican voters didn't turn out for Mitt Romney? Didn't they, come to think of it, get the glimmering of a clue back in 1996, when Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary?
Pat Buchanan is in fact a living counter-argument to Peggy's thesis — the "sane Donald Trump" that she claims would win the hearts of GOP managers. Pat is Trump without the personality quirks. How has the Republican Party treated him?
Our own correspondent Brad Griffin, here at VDARE.com on October 24th, offered a couple more "sane Donald Trumps": Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee. How did they fare with the GOP establishment?
Donald Trump is no nut. If he were a nut, he would not have amassed the fortune he has, nor nurtured the capable and affectionate family he has. Probably he's less well-informed about the world than the average pol. I doubt he could tell you what the capital of Burkina Faso is. That's secondary, though; a President has people to look up that stuff for him.
Trump has all the right instincts; and he's had the guts and courage — and, just as important, the money — to do a thing that has badly needed doing for twenty years: to smash the power of the real nuts in the GOP establishment. I thank him for that, and look forward to his Presidency.
04 — Temperamental conservatism. The question that's been asked more than any other about Donald Trump is not, pace Peggy Noonan, "Is he nuts?" but, "Is he conservative?"
I'm sure he is: but my definition of "conservative" is temperamental, not political. My touchstone here is the sketch of the conservative temperament given to us by the English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott, quote:
To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.
End quote. That fits Trump better than it fits any liberal you can think of; better also than many senior Republicans. For example, it was one of George W. Bush's senior associates — probably Karl Rove — who scoffed at opponents of Bush's delusional foreign policy as, quote, "the reality-based community." It would be hard to think of a more un-Oakeshottian turn of phrase.
Three weeks ago on this podcast I wondered aloud, "Where is the Alt-Left?" A friend who listens to Radio Derb tackled me on that, along the following lines: "Hey, Derb, I am Alt-Left. I agree with you about human nature, but on a lot of other stuff I'm way left of the conservative movement."
I take his point. I myself have some Alt-Left tendencies. On healthcare, for example, I favor a single-payer system. Of course private fee-for-service practice should be allowed for those who can afford it; otherwise they'll just go abroad for it anyway and we'll lose the business. And of course there should be some kind of deductible worked in to discourage hypochondriacs from mooching the system. Some things are naturally and unavoidably the business of the government, though, to be funded from general taxation: armies, street lighting, and so on. Healthcare is one of those things.
Here I offer my usual challenge to doubters: Name one nation or jurisdiction, anywhere in the world, with a significant lobby arguing for a U.S.A.-style healthcare system. You can't. Nobody in any nation wants our byzantine, illogical, bureaucratic, wasteful, frustrating system.
In fact, if President Trump were to put me in charge of reforming the nation's healthcare system, my methodology would be to study all the systems in use in all the civilized nations of the world, assess them by the healthcare outcomes of those nations and citizen satisfaction, and just copy the best one. It wouldn't resemble the U.S. system: not our system before Obamacare came in, and definitely not since.
Our system is, in any case, largely socialized already, if you factor in Medicare, Medicaid, and the innumerable subsidies and tax boondoggles for group coverage, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and so on.
So on that at least, put me with the Alt-Left, however much I prefer present laughter to utopian bliss — which I absolutely do.
05 — The arrogance of power. A big part of the current upheaval going on in politics all over the West, including the U.S.A., is public disgust with the arrogance, the corruption, and the entitlement mentality of elected politicians.
Example: the Eric Garner case.
In case you don't recall, Eric Garner was a black New Yorker, 43 years old, 6 foot 4 inches tall, morbidly obese, and a sufferer from asthma and some unspecified heart condition. He was a chronic lawbreaker with a rap sheet going back to 1980.
In July of 2014 Garner was making pocket money by selling loose cigarettes on the street without a license. New York police, responding to complaints by legitimate merchants nearby, tried to arrest him. Garner resisted. After some shoving, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, took Garner down with an arm around his neck. The officers held Garner on the ground while he declared several times over, "I can't breathe." The officers called an ambulance, Garner was taken to a local hospital, where he was declared dead.
The city medical examiner ruled that Garner's death was a homicide. That just means that some person killed some other person; it's not a synonym for "murder." It doesn't mean that necessarily any crime at all was committed.
A county grand jury was empaneled to find out whether there was evidence a crime was committed, evidence sufficient to bring Officer Pantaleo to trial. The grand jury determined that there wasn't.
Eric Holder, who was then U.S. Attorney General, thereupon announced that the U.S. Justice Department would do an investigation to determine whether Officer Pantaleo violated Garner's civil rights.
Federal agents based in New York went and did that investigation. After two years of investigating, they declared that there were no grounds to bring charges against Officer Pantaleo.
That was the wrong answer. Since a black career criminal had died shortly after being restrained by a white police officer, as a matter of social justice it is necessary for the white man to be punished. This week Eric Holder's replacement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, took the local agents off the case and declared a new investigation by agents sent down from D.C.
The feds have made it plain they intend to get Officer Pantaleo on some charge or other as a matter of racial vengeance. Bill de Blasio, New York City's communist Mayor, is fully on board, quote: "I'm sure she has her reasons for what she's done, and our message to her is we will cooperate in any way she asks," end quote.
This is the arrogance of power. They are the government; they can do what they like. If they want you in jail, they'll charge you with some offense or other, whether or not you did anything wrong. If they can't get a conviction, at least they'll wreck your life.
It goes without saying that in the two-and-a-half years since his death, Garner has been elevated to a victim of white racism. There have been protest marches, chanting of "I can't breathe," and speeches by Rev'm Al Sharpton. Oh, and Mayor de Blasio had the city pay a six million dollar settlement to Garner's family, notwithstanding the absence of evidence that any city employee did anything wrong to them.
You might think that the moral of the Eric Garner story is, that if you are morbidly obese and suffer from heart and breathing problems, don't struggle with police to resist arrest. If you do think that, you are a shameful bigot, far removed by your white privilege from the oppression that African Americans suffer daily at the hands of racist cops.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I promised you more on sloth, and here it is. October 20th was International Sloth Day. I bet you didn't know that. Well, I didn't either, until after the event; but better late than never.
International Sloth Day was established in 2010 by a wildlife foundation to raise awareness of the plight of sloths, several species of which have already gone extinct. What, you thought it was a celebration of idleness? Shame on you for such subversive thoughts! Get up and do something energetic right this minute!
Although, now I look more closely, the website for International Sloth Day does recommend that on the day you should, quote,
Take the time to slow down … We humans should realize that although we may be the most intelligent of the species, that does not mean there aren't things we can't learn from other species. And who could possibly teach a better lesson about how to relax than the sloth?
End quote. So apparently the connection between sloths and slothfulness is not entirely imaginary. I'm going to have to lie down for half an hour while I think about that.
Item: Three weeks ago I did a segment based on something I'd read at the website Lifezette.com. I said at the time that Lifezette was, quote myself: "a website I haven't yet got a firm handle on so far as its political orientation is concerned, but which has some good interesting posts," end quote.
Several listeners emailed in to tell me that Lifezette is run by Laura Ingraham, who I have described elsewhere as "a fine American lady," and who won my heart some years ago with a tiny personal transaction that seemed to me to reveal innate, natural, unaffected, 24-carat lady-ness.
I'm glad of the information, and recommend Lifezette.com to your attention. I assume Ms Ingraham is also responsible in some degree for the affiliated website Polizette.com, which is also good. Try for example their June 27th post The Hypocrites Have Left the Building, subheading (under pictures of Bill Kristol, George Will, and Jonah Goldberg): "NeverTrump journalists make their GOP exit, and take their credibility with them."
It's good stuff. Check out Lifezette and Polizette, and contribute to the click tally of a fine American lady.
Item: If this coming election brings about the complete disintegration of the Republican Party, what will replace it?
I don't know, but I do now know what name I would like the new party to have. I'd like it to be the Pirate Party.
That is the actual name of an actual political party in another country; a party, furthermore, that may win a national election in voting tomorrow, October 29th.
That's in Iceland, unfortunately. In late polling, the Pirate Party is maintaining a lead over its nearest rival.
For the small number of listeners who don't keep up with Icelandic politics, the ruling party, named the Progressive Party, has had to call an election after the Prime Minister was found to have been involved in serious financial shenanigans — just what you'd expect from people who call themselves "progressive."
The Pirate Party's main pitch to voters has been their demand for an end to government corruption. They also have a libertarian angle on drug decriminalization and internet copyrights. Mainly, though, they are an anti-politician party, seeking to overhaul the country's whole political system.
Says Pirate Party leader Birgitta Jónsdóttir, quote: "We consider ourselves hackers — so to speak — of our current outdated systems of government," end quote.
That's the Pirate Party, another challenge to the entrenched political establishment of a First World country. Good luck to them in tomorrow's vote.
Item: Finally, the news item you've been waiting for. Yes, it's that time of year again: Time for the Miss Bum Bum pageant down there in Brazil.
The 27 finalists were announced last month, and the winner of the pageant, the lady with the most bodacious rear end in Brazil, will be chosen November 9th.
There have been the usual petty controversies. Eight of the contestants, clad in skimpy bikinis with their charms on full display, posed in a tableau imitating Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. A pageant official justified the tableau as follows, quote:
The Last Supper … was where Jesus was betrayed by Judas, because of jealousy, and like it or not the woman with the most votes [in the pageant] is also the target of jealousy.
Hoo-kay. This perfectly rational justification did not prevent some crabbed souls from saying that the tableau was in poor taste.
Poor taste? This is the Miss Bum Bum contest, for crying out loud.
There is an innovation, too: this year's pageant will for the first time include a separate contest for over-55s. I guess the pageant organizers just wanted to introduce a new wrinkle.
Oh, and this year's finalists include a mother and her daughter. The mother is 35 and the daughter is nineteen. That's their ages: the Daily Mail gives their lower circumferences as 43 and 42 inches respectively.
Which of these two callipygian competitors is more likely to take the Miss Bum Bum crown? It's hard to call. The Daily Mail describes them as "neck and neck," although that doesn't seem to me to be the right physiological idiom. Whatever: if either of them takes the crown, the other will be left behind.
07 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for listening; and a very happy Halloween to one and all … except the busybodies and ninnies warning kids and college students not to wear costumes that marginalize designated victim groups or suggest "cultural appropriation."
Concerning which, here's a question for those ninnies. A person in a full burka, nothing visible but the eyes, shows up at a Halloween party. Is this one of our Muslim citizens seeking to join the seasonal festivities, possibly with a costume underneath the burka? Or is it a disrespectful infidel wearing the burka as a Halloween costume in defiance of the rules against cultural appropriation?
Seems to me we have a sociological conundrum here akin to the well-known one about Schrödinger's Cat in quantum mechanics. The only way to resolve the conundrum would be to remove the burka. The wave function would then collapse and we would see either a distraught Muslim or a defiant infidel.
Of course, removing the burka without the inhabitant's consent would be a battery in most jurisdictions, so the criminal law would kick in, too. What a strange society we live in.
Whatever. Next week's Radio Derb will come to you from the H.L. Mencken Club conference in Baltimore, Maryland — or "Balimer, Murruh-lund," as I now know to say. Notables from the intellectual end of the Alt-Right will be present, including the club president Professor Paul Gottfried, who put the expression "Alt-Right" into general circulation. I shall try to persuade some of them to speak to you.
Let's have some signout music. I sometimes give you a clip from a lounge singer at this point. I haven't been very diligent about gender inclusiveness, though; all my lounge singers to date have been male, with the one exception of Ella Fitzgerald, who I think would anyway prefer to have been described as a jazz singer.
Let's redress the balance some. Here is one of the 20th century's best female lounge singers — a lovely voice that got my attention at an early age. This is Peggy Lee singing the Jerome Kern classic, "The Folks Who Live on the Hill."
More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: Peggy Lee, "The Folks Who Live on the Hill."]