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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! New Year greetings, listeners, from your contumaciously genial host John Derbyshire.
This week's Radio Derb will I'm afraid be briefer than usual, for technical reasons. Our cable service provider chose today, Friday, to have an outage, so for several hours we had no telephone, TV, or internet service. Those were the hours when I customarily trawl a myriad websites in search of items to pass comment on.
Without the internet I have had to make recourse to this week's back copies of the New York Post, which my indispensable wife saves to use as packaging filler and fire-starters.
Which prompts the thought that when paper newspapers disappear, which they most likely will over the next few years, not only will reactionary geezers like your host be deprived of light reading matter over their breakfast Quaker Oats, we shall also have lost all the small secondary functions that newspapers fulfill.
In his book Doctor in the House, British writer Richard Gordon wrote about being a medical student in London just after WW2. In those days a medical student's training included midwifery, and working-class Londoners had their babies at home. So Gordon and his fellow students were sent out into the slums to deliver babies. Essential to the purpose were, one, boiling water for sterilizing surgical instruments, and two, newspapers to deliver the baby on. Apparently — I'm just telling you what the guy wrote, I've never checked this — apparently the most sterile item in a working-class London household circa 1950 was a recently-delivered newspaper.
Well, well; under these straitened circumstances, I think I may be forgiven for rambling a bit. The news is the main thing, though; so without further ado, with a brief nod of thanks to Mr Rupert Murdoch for supplying what my internet provider couldn't, here we go.
Wait: Do I still have access to Ethel? … Yes, I do.
[Clip: Ethel Merman, "Let's go on with the show.".]
02 — The singer and the song (cont.). Big political news this week was the new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, who comes with the epithet "veteran journalist." The book isn't generally available yet, but advance copies have been going out for review.
Wolff quotes many, many people across the past few months telling him how dysfunctional Trump's White House is, and how stupid and obnoxious the President himself is. It covers the 2016 election, too, with similarly negative quotes from insiders about what a Chinese fire drill the Trump campaign was.
A lot of the most colorful quotes come from strategist Steve Bannon, who joined Trump's campaign in August of the election year, and was dropped from the White House staff in August 2017.
What should we make of all this? First, I haven't read the book. Second, I'd never heard of Michael Wolff before this week. Third, I'm not personally acquainted with any of the other players here; and since a lot of this stuff is personal, I'm just guessing from a distance about that aspect of things. So I can only comment at a high level of generality.
Bear in mind, to begin with, that I'm the guy who once wrote a column titled "Journalists are scum." That was hyperbolic, of course. Some journalists are pleasant people. They do thrive on sensationalism, though, on applying bright colors to the dull gray areas of the public life — which means, in point of fact, most of it.
I don't doubt that Trump can be obnoxious. He's a native New Yorker — Whaddaya want, jackass?
He's also rich and successful. All rich and successful people are sometimes tempted to the point of view that the rest of us are losers who don't know squat. How often they yield to that temptation is a matter of individual personality.
My own experience of rich and successful people is sadly limited; such as it is, though, it leads me to believe that a rich and successful person who never looks down on his un-rich, un-successful fellow humans as clueless losers, is a rare critter indeed, who probably belongs on the calendar of saints.
And obnoxiosity at the Trump level is a generous obnoxiosity, tolerant of obnoxiosity in peers. Trump's world is one of dueling obnoxiosities: not necessarily personal, just business.
Here's one of the stories we've heard from coverage of Michael Wolff's book. Quote from the New York Post:
Following reports that [Ivanka Trump's husband Jared] Kushner had tried to set up a private communication channel with the Kremlin, Bannon called Ivanka a [inner quote] "f--king liar," [end inner quote] in front of the President.
That sounds true to me — very Trumpish, even though it goes against the grain of other things we've heard, and that Michael Wolff says, about the President's partiality to his children.
That his children are, in their general sensibilities, metropolitan liberals seems to be one of the main points of contention between Trump and Bannon. In the matter of not suffering fools gladly, Bannon is easily Trump's match; but un-like Trump he regards all metropolitan liberals, without qualification or favor, as fools.
Inevitably one finds oneself taking sides here: Trumpite or Bannonite. I'm going to declare myself, with a major qualification, a Bannonite. I like Bannon's strong nationalism and his skepticism of traditional postwar American conservatism, with its missionary globalism and its fantasies about private-enterprise healthcare provision.
That's not to endorse the guy, who has played his hand badly. I don't think it's a coincidence that "Steve Bannon" rhymes and scans with "loose cannon." I'd add the same qualification to my support for Trump, though. The President does sometimes come across as coarse and ignorant.
What I'm saying is that Bannon is a better Trumpist than Trump. I like Trumpism more than I like either guy. I dream fondly of a well-mannered, well-read politician of the traditional gray and boring type — a Coolidge or an Eisenhower — who is a dogmatic and unwavering Trumpist.
I love the song, but I'm not crazy about either Trump or Bannon as singers. I want my politicians and their advisers to have the right ideas, but I also want them to be firm, cunning, and effective in making those ideas national policy and law. I want a gray, boring, politically skillful Trumpist.
03 — The DACAthlon. Boy, they're dragging out this DACA thing, aren't they? Where are we up to this week?
As Radio Derb's been reporting, there are two issues in play here: Funding the government, and resolving the DACA business — those 800,000 illegal aliens who were given temporary work permits, probably illegally, by Barack Obama … and who are not, by the way, to be confused with "Dreamers." "Dreamers" are illegals who would have been beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, except that Congress has never been able to pass it. There would have been two million of them.
The two issues, DACA and funding the government, have two different deadlines for congressional action. For funding the government, Congress has to pass a law before midnight January 19th, two weeks from today. For DACA the deadline is March 5th, eight and a half weeks from today, when President Trump's extension of Obama's probably illegal order expires.
That second one isn't really a deadline inasmuch as if Congress does nothing, Obama's order just expires, and beneficiaries of it become regular illegal aliens, subject to deportation and with no legal right to work.
That would actually be my preferred solution. The open-borders lobbies are mighty in the land, though, including in Congress and the media, and they will go to the mat to prevent it from happening. The President, too, seems to have convinced himself, or been convinced, that the DACA illegals have to be amnestied; so it's not probable that March 5th will come and go with there having been nothing done on DACA.
It does seem that the immigration issue has at least been decoupled from the funding issue. Congress will pass another Continuing Resolution on or before January 19th without any reference to DACA. Congressional Democrats now have it clear in their minds that shutting down the federal government to help illegal aliens would not play well in the country.
Thwarting President Trump's immigration reforms — a border wall, an end to chain migration and the "diversity visa lottery" — on behalf of illegals is another matter. Democrats and open-borders Republicans are now working hard on that.
Thursday this week the President met with some Republican senators for opening discussions on immigration legislation. I don't have a full list of the senators he met with, but it included — and as I name them I'll give you their grades on immigration from NumbersUSA — it included Senators John Cornyn of Texas (C-minus), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (F-minus), James Lankford of Oklahoma (D), and Charles Grassley of Iowa (C-plus). That's a median grade of D-minus.
Thursday's meeting was with Republican Senators. Next week the President is meeting with a bipartisan group of Senators to have further discussions on a DACA-plus-immigration-reforms bill. Since every single Democratic Senator is an F-minus, the median represented at next week's talks should be down in the F's. Let's be optimistic and say F-plus.
These are the people deciding the future demographics of the U.S.A., the nation our children and grandchildren will live in. This is the key issue, the major issue for our country at this time — the issue that won Trump the Presidency. Polls show major public support for the President's stated positions.
The decision-makers, though, are the Cs and Ds and F-minuses in the U.S. Senate, bought and paid for by the cheap-labor lobbies and ethnic-grievance groups. I'm going to repeat my prediction of two weeks ago. We shall end up, sometime before March 5th, with a bill giving amnesty to the DACA illegals in return for an end to the "diversity visa" lottery and a new paint scheme for the border posts.
04 — How serious countries do immigration enforcement. While we dicker around with legislation that panders to foreign scofflaws and tiny cosmetic changes to border procedures, serious countries enforce their laws.
Exhibit A: Israel. The Prime Minister of that country, Benjamin Netanyahu, refers to illegal aliens as "infiltrators." Israel's illegals mostly come from East Africa, Eritrea and Somalia. Five years ago the numbers had reached 60,000, bringing with them the usual elevated levels of crime.
That's when Israel put up a big beautiful wall across the Sinai Desert, cutting infiltration from Africa to zero. The Israelis followed up with campaigns of expulsion. When sending countries refused to take back infiltrators, Israel just bribed other African countries to take them.
Twenty thousand have now gone, forty thousand still to go. The twenty thousand seem to have been low-hanging fruit, the ones easiest to deport. Now it's getting harder; so the Israelis are getting more determined.
The deal until recently was that illegals were offered $3,500 to go back to their own countries; or, if the home country was too dangerous, they'd be given a plane ticket to one of those bribed countries, said to include Uganda and Rwanda. Illegals who refused this deal would be put in prison.
Now, though, the government is worried about prison overcrowding, so Netanyahu says they should just be forcibly expelled. Quote from him:
The infiltrators have a simple choice — to cooperate with us and leave voluntarily, along a respectable, humanitarian and legal path — or we will have to use the other tools available to us, also according to the law. I hope they will choose to cooperate with us. Every country must maintain its borders, and protecting the borders from illegal infiltration is both a right and a basic duty of a sovereign state.
As Steve Sailer reported here at VDARE, the Israelis have even deported a guy from Kenya who claims to be a convert to Judaism. When opposition party legislators accused the government of racism, the Interior Ministry official responsible replied, quote: "Do you want half of Africa coming here?"
That's a serious country with a real government looking after its citizens.
Exhibit B: Japan. Japan is actually loosening up on immigration; but that's relative. They've set up a strict points-based system, like Canada's, for highly-skilled foreigners to get permanent residence. They are not such fools as to link it to a system of chain migration, though, with brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, uncles and aunts pouring in.
And their performance on refugees is stellar. In 2016 they got 10,901 asylum applications. They accepted 28, a rate of 0.26 percent.
Again, these are serious countries with real governments looking after their citizens. Look, listen, and envy.
05 — A Bernie for 2020. New York City's communist mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to his second term of office on Monday this week. De Blasio was re-elected in November with 67 percent of the vote. That, however, was on a 22 percent turnout — an all-time low.
The way it works is, when there are big issues making New York voters unhappy — crime especially — ordinary citizens come out and vote. Rudy Giuliani beat David Dinkins in 1993 on a 55 percent turnout. Absent those big issues, it's mainly city and state workers who turn out, much encouraged to do so by the public-sector employee lobbies (which I refuse to dignify with the name "unions").
And crime in New York City now is at record lows. Why is that? Quote from Fidel de Blasio:
We have brought police and community together like never before, we have dedicated ourselves to a vision of true neighborhood policing, and it works.
That's just de Blasio blather. This mayor tried, in his first year in office, to neuter the city police force; but then two city cops were murdered by a Black Lives Matter activist and the NYPD rebelled against the mayor. He backed down, and the Department resumed serious policing.
That's one factor in keeping crime low. Another, as Heather Mac Donald has documented, has been the reduction in young male American blacks in the city. To a first approximation, "crime" means young male American blacks. With the gentrification of old black neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant, there are now fewer blacks altogether; and the blacks New York City has are less American, more immigrant — Africans and West Indians.
None of that is going to stop Vladimir Ilyich de Blasio taking credit, of course. He needs to take all the credit he can, as he has grand plans for political self-advancement. He was in Iowa last month — you know, Iowa: the state that kicks off Presidential primary voting. If you were a Bernie Bro in 2016 but worry that Bernie will be too old for 2020, here's a younger, sprightlier version of Bernie for you.
Hizzoner made the point rather explicitly at his swearing-in ceremony on Monday. Who swore him in? None other than Bernie Sanders himself, the junior Senator from Vermont. Bernie is actually a native of New York City. He grew up in Brooklyn; but finding the borough not diverse enough to hold his attention, he moved to Vermont in 1968.
Quote from Bernie at the swearing-in:
We're here to thank Bill de Blasio for leading this city, and making it one of the most progressive cities in the United States of America.
End Bernie quote.
Yes indeed, New York City is the Progressive ideal: Lotsa rich legacy Americans, lotsa poor immigrants to wait on them, and a small middle class mainly on the public payroll.
Good luck with those political plans, Mr Mayor. I'm sure they'll go over real big in Iowa.
06 — Restless in Iran. I feel obliged to say something about these recent demonstrations in Iran, but I drag myself to the task reluctantly. I don't care what happens in Iran, and I can't see why any American should care.
Seeking inspiration, I went to the smartest writer I know on Middle Eastern affairs, David Goldman at Asia Times. In a piece dated January 3rd David opined at length and at depth, drawing on his astonishing store of financial, economic, and political knowledge.
The overall impression of the piece is that Iran is very badly governed. They have, for example, mismanaged their water resources, causing artificial droughts and shortages. Their military expenditures, mainly on the war in Syria, are far beyond what the country can afford. The banking system is insolvent; the pension and welfare systems are near collapse; unemployment and emigration are soaring.
Iran's demographics are lousy, too. Quote from David:
Fertility … has declined to between 1.6 and 1.8, the lowest in the developing world.
I was puzzled, though, to see David saying that, quote:
Iran is the first country to get old before it got rich.
That's what everybody was saying about China ten years ago; so Iran's at best the second country with that distinction.
You have to feel a bit sorry for Iran. They had a lousy twentieth century. They spent the first half of that century being kicked around by bigger, stronger nations: Britain, Russia, Turkey, the U.S.A. Then they had a quarter-century of crude autocratic rule under the Shah.
The 1979 revolution put the mullahs in power. They'd barely got their torture chambers properly equipped, however, when the war with Iraq broke out — the war of which Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said, "It's a pity both sides can't lose."
That war dragged on through most of the 1980s, with horrendous WW1-level casualty figures. It was followed with some democratization measures and attempts at reform, but the elections were dubious and the mullahs stamped on reform.
It's a sad thing, to see a country in such a condition. I still can't see it's any of our business, though.
Our neocons of course disagree. They can't wait to repeat their triumphs at bringing peace, stability, and prosperity to Iraq and Afghanistan. The rest of us have learned some humility from those adventures.
A nation — especially a nation as old as Iran, which is 4,000 years old — is a very complex organism. For a foreigner, it's a lifetime study. Britain and America are cousin nations, but after forty years here I still bang my shins now and then against particularly American ways of seeing things and doing things. I've been engaged with China for most of my adult life, and married to it for 31 years, but I've barely scratched the surface of Chinese culture.
So I wish the Iranians well from a distance, but I hope our own government will leave them alone to sort out their own problems.
I'll register a note of skepticism, too, concerning the thing you often hear about that part of the world: that there's some old-fashioned history to be played out there, rival regional powers struggling for mastery over each other and their lesser neighbors. Iran's rival in this scenario is of course Saudi Arabia.
Color me skeptical. These demonstrations in Iran look to me like angry young people wanting a piece of the post-industrial action: cell phones, designer boots, hedonism, celebrity culture, and jobs in air-conditioned offices. With those impulses bursting out, and fertility at below replacement levels, I don't see a replay of the great European wars over there.
More likely, I think, is ructions in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates like those we are now seeing in Iran.
We laugh now at Francis Fukuyama announcing the End of History twenty years ago. On a local scale, though, history can end: I don't see France and Germany going to war against each other soon.
Yes, there's history to be played out in the Middle East; but mighty armies struggling for regional mastery? That kind of history? Nah, don't see it.
07 — Down with white-informed civility! Our own Cultural Revolution has entered new territory, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal January 2nd by journalist Steve Salerno.
The target here is "white-informed civility." The revolutionaries intent on opening our eyes about this are two professors at the University of Northern Iowa.
Iowa — hey, perhaps Bill de Blasio does have a shot at taking the state!
In an article in the Howard Journal of Communications these professors argue that civility, as currently practiced in America, is a white construct. The purpose of it is to patronize and, yes, marginalize students of color by bypassing the race talk that is supposed to take place before anything else can be talked about.
In other words, explains Steve Salerno, the Wall Street Journal commentator, by trying to avoid microaggressions against blacks, you are committing a microaggression. You are not, quote, "acknowledging the reality of the oppressed."
This is of a piece with a broader campaign I've been noticing: the war on color-blindness.
Have you been thinking that color-blindness is a virtue? That it is good citizenship to train yourself to look past race when dealing with individuals, to seek out the human qualities that can be found in all races, even though perhaps with different statistical distributions?
Well, you have been totally wrong. Our Red Guards want you to know that race is the first thing you should notice, and the first thing you should address, when interacting with a fellow human being. You don't put him at ease by ignoring his race; you put him at ease by acknowledging it. You put him at ease by opening with a recognition of your relative statuses: you, the white guy, as the privileged oppressor, and he, the nonwhite guy, as the oppressed victim.
In the academic context — the paper under discussion is by two college professors, remember — I think Steve Salerno gets to the crux of the matter. Quote:
A cynic might conclude that the unstated goal is to make it possible for students of color to succeed academically by talking about nothing but color, thus allowing race to infect whole areas of inquiry to which race is irrelevant.
"A cynic might conclude …" Well, I am that cynic. Because of the low mean IQ of American blacks, the proportion of them that can do real academic work is small, much smaller than the corresponding proportion for nonblacks. To see blacks present in the academy in such tiny proportions would, however, be distressing to liberal whites; so blacks have to be given make-work — fake pseudo-disciplines where they can get college credits for talking about their own blackety-blackety-blackness.
"Communications," to judge from the contents pages of the Howard Journal of Communications, seems to be one of those disciplines.
So remember: To be truly "woke," to be fully compliant with the latest release of Cultural Marxism, drop that condescending mask of color-blindness, shuck off that patronizing "white-centered civility," and open every conversation by "acknowledging the reality of the oppressed."
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Here's one for fellow opera fans. You'll recall the opera Carmen ends with the heroine, hot-blooded Gypsy girl Carmen, being stabbed to death by her jealous lover José.
That won't do in the present age, when women scurry about in constant terror of being assaulted by men. A new production of Carmen, opening this weekend at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino opera house in Florence, Italy, will therefore have a different ending. In this production, Carmen grabs a pistol from José and shoots him with it.
I think there's a slippery slope here. What about the bullfighter Carmen's hooked up with? If I were running the Florence chapter of the Animal Rights League I'd be calling for him to get his comeuppance, too. So right after Carmen shoots José, the toreador comes crashing down from the flies stone dead, having been tossed clean out of the bullring by the triumphant bull …
Come to think of it, how about the famous scene in La bohème where his hand meets hers as they're groping around in the dark, and he breaks into "Your tiny hand is frozen …" How did he know she'd be receptive to that? There was no proper negotiation. I call that an unwanted advance. I want a new production where Mimi cries "rape!" …
Item: Have you ever wondered why devout Muslim men wear those extravagant beards? Well, here's your answer.
A Turkish preacher, a preacher of Islam that is, speaking on TV in that country, explained that men should wear beards because otherwise they might be mistaken for women. Quote from him:
If you see a man with long hair from afar you may think he is a woman if he does not have a beard. Because nowadays women and men dress similarly. God forbid! You could be possessed by indecent thoughts.
I dunno; there's something wrong with those people, just something not right …
Item: Finally, Chelsea Clinton has denied being a worshipper of Satan. This followed Ms Clinton's having somehow got on a Twitter thread belonging to the Church of Satan. When she did a broadcast tweet wishing happy new year to everyone, the Church of Satan saw it and wished her happy new year back.
That escaped from the Twittersphere and Chelsea had to deny she's a Satanist. "I am not a Satanist," she told us.
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and apologies again for the spare and truncated podcast this week.
Next week's Radio Derb will, I vow, be the full-service deal, with wax, detailing, and full interior clean.
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]