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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your aurorally genial host John Derbyshire.
It's been a great week for us bloviators — lots of meaty news topics for us to get out teeth into. First, though, let's step back and take a brief consultation with the Swan of Avon. No, not Avon Cosmetics; Avon the river. Don't they teach you anything in school nowadays?
02 — The first thing we do …. One of Shakespeare's most famous lines is the one in Henry VI Part 2 where Dick the Butcher says: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
Whether Shakespeare was himself in sympathy with that sentiment has been much debated. It's a very elementary error to identify an author's views with the utterances of his characters. If that were invariably a match, we'd have to suppose that an author who created a convincing villain must himself have been a villain.
On the one hand, Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare's play is not a sympathetic character. He is one of the leaders of an anarchist mob trying to overthrow the established order. Shakespeare was no friend of anarchy. In his time, when even well-organized nations like England had no standing army and no police forces, anarchy was a real and present threat. Any lunatic with a grievance and a persuasive speaking voice could raise a mob and start burning the houses of gentry types like Shakespeare. If the choice was between too much liberty and too much order, bourgeois 16th-century Englishmen were unanimously on the side of order.
On the other hand, the Shakespeares were a litigious family. The very few hard facts we have about Shakespeare's life come mostly from surviving legal documents, of which there are plenty. One case the Bard was involved in dragged on for twenty years.
Given that he was a person chronically tangled up with the law like that, I can't believe Shakespeare did not, at several points in his life, entertain the thought that he put in the mouth of Dick the Butcher.
Haven't we all entertained that thought, actually? Is not the word "ambivalent" tailor-made for the way we lay people feel about the law and lawyers?
Here's a personal anecdote. Some years ago my number came up for jury service. I found myself in a room with twenty or thirty other citizens. Out front were two lawyers, charged with selecting a jury from among us, to sit on a case they were involved in.
I'm sorry to say I had a bad attitude. In a Q&A exchange with one of the lawyers I made some negative remark about lawyers in general. The guy punched right back. "I hear that a lot," he said. "I get it. You don't like lawyers … until you need us." Pow! — knockout punch. The guy was right, of course, and I was wrong. Nobody much likes lawyers, until you need one. I'm sure Shakespeare, who was much smarter than I am, understood that.
All that came to mind the other day while I was reading about an online debate held by The Economist magazine across the week June 18th to 25th. Debate topic: Should people be free to choose the country in which they live?
It's a straightforward question, using plain English words in proper grammatical order. But then, you could say the same of: Should New York City abolish all restrictions on parking? Or: Should private ownership of thermonuclear weapons be permitted? Or: Should parents be allowed to kill, cook, and eat their children?
I'd put The Economist's debate topic in the same category as these other lunacies. It's nuts. Yet this very respectable journal, The Economist, offers it as a debate topic in all earnestness. Even more incredible, on the final vote, 31 percent of those who followed the debate — total voting number thirteen and a half thousand — 31 percent of them, nearly one in three, want to abolish national borders.
Not all readers of The Economist are actually economists. I'm a subscriber myself. It's just inertia on my part. I grew up in the age of weekly newsmagazines, got hooked on that, and The Economist is the nearest surviving thing that's still worth reading.
There's no doubt, though, that the abolition of borders, which is to say the abolition of nations, is taken as a serious position by a lot of professional economists. You may think it's nuts, and I may think it's nuts, and the prospect of it's being taken up by, say, China, or by, say, India, or by, say Russia, or by, say, Japan is absolutely, utterly, and indisputably zero; but Professors of Economics discuss it earnestly among themselves, with graphs and charts and furrowed brows.
What a bunch of loons! I think Dick the Butcher had a point; he just picked on the wrong profession.
03 — Good riddance to Justice Kennedy. That segment was a bit rambling, I admit, but it did touch on two topics very much to the fore in this week's news. First topic: the law and lawyers. Second topic: the abolition of national borders. I'll take those topics in turn, spreading my remarks over several segments.
Issues of the law came to the front of our minds because, in the first place, Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court announced his retirement, and in the second place, that same court rendered a couple of newsworthy opinions.
Concerning Justice Kennedy's retirement, the keynote remark was the one tweeted Thursday by Adam White at the Hoover Institution, tweet:
When a single judge's retirement turns the entire political world on its ear, we ought to consider that perhaps the Supreme Court has claimed too much power in our republic.
End tweet. Indeed we ought. I'm no jurist; but Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence is distinguished from other knotty intellectual specialties — quantum mechanics, molecular biology, or literary deconstructionism — in this key regard: that its broad general principles should be, must be, accessible to the mind of any citizen not certifiably retarded (or whatever the current PC euphemism is). Citizens need to respect the law, and it's hard to respect something that's beyond your powers of comprehension.
In the American version, one of those broad general principles is that major social or political changes not be enacted without democratic audit. That principle gets violated a lot.
Three years ago this week, for example, the Supreme Court handed down a decision legalizing homosexual marriage. It was a 5-4 decision.
All four of the dissenting justices in that case noted that the decision subverted our democratic process. If we, the people, want a social change of that magnitude, redefining an institution as historically fundamental as marriage, the Constitution provides a means for us to get it: by Constitutional amendment. Such a thing is not for unelected judges to impose.
Those four dissenters in the homosexual marriage case were Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. Justice Kennedy was not among them; indeed, he wrote the majority opinion, kicking the democratic process to the kerb and imposing a massive social change on the nation by judicial ukase.
Just on that basis alone, my reaction to the news of Kennedy's retirement has to be: Good riddance! A few more years of Kennedy-style jurisprudence and the Court would have been legalizing pedophilia. I hope President Trump will nominate a good solid constitutionalist to replace Kennedy.
The buzz following the Kennedy announcement was that liberal GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska might refuse to back an anti-abortion nominee. With the Senate as finely balanced as it is, that could sink the nomination.
However, a spokesperson for Senator Collins said on Thursday that she would not apply that, or any other, litmus test in evaluating a nominee. Quote: "She always looks at their judicial temperament; qualifications; experience; and respect for precedent, the rule of law, and the Constitution," end quote.
Ah, the holistic approach! Perhaps Senator Collins is angling for a job in the Harvard University admissions office.
The huskies haven't yet arrived from Alaska with news of Senator Murkowski's position, but at week's end the prospects for a conservative nominee getting confirmed look good.
04 — One of the worst ideas of the 20th century. And yes, the Supremes handed down a couple of decisions that, if they didn't exactly have us conservatives dancing in the streets, did warm our stony hearts by a degree or two.
The better of the two decisions was on public-sector employee lobbies. Regular listeners know that Radio Derb objects to using the word "unions" in this context. To speak of "unions" is appropriate only in the private sector, where employees need to organize to ensure a fair share of their employers' profits. When public sector employees organize, it is to lobby for higher wages and better benefits paid for from general taxation. That's a different thing.
Regular listeners likewise know that I consider public sector so-called "unionization" to have been one of the worst ideas of the 20th century — a product in fact of the 1960s, like so many other really, irredeemably bad ideas.
Well, the first of this week's notable Supreme Court decisions was Derbish in that regard. The ruling concerned what are called "agency fees." If you are a public-sector worker but you don't want to pay dues to your so-called "union," you could, prior to this ruling, be forced to pay an "agency fee" in lieu of your dues.
Mark Janus, an employee of the State of Illinois, objected to this. These public sector employee lobbies are really just appendages of the Democratic Party. Why, asked Mr Janus, should he be obliged to pay for the promotion of political views he disagrees with? Didn't that violate his First Amendment rights?
Yes it did, ruled the Court by a 5-4 majority, Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Breyer dissenting. The scope of the ruling is limited. It doesn't apply to real unions — in the private sector, I mean. It also doesn't apply to federal employees, as the law on federal employment doesn't allow agency fees.
Still, it's a blow against one of the most corrupting influences in American life: the manipulation of state and local legislatures by well-funded public-employee lobbies. The lefties are mad as hell about it, that's reason enough to celebrate.
The other noteworthy ruling is less consequential but still a positive. This one upheld the President's ban on incoming travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. That's pretty small potatoes from a National Conservative point of view, but welcome none the less, not least because the lefties are mad about this one, too.
This was also a 5-4 ruling. Who were the four dissenters? Who do you think? Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Breyer — just as with the ruling on public sector employee lobbies.
I don't know about you, gentle listener, but I find it hard to ward off cynicism here. We're supposed to believe that the Supremes are towering legal intellects, pondering deep issues of equity, justice, and constitutionalism in an aery realm of impartial philosophizing about abstract principles. How strange it is, then, that in case after case those justices of a liberal temperament vote liberalism while those of a conservative temperament vote conservatism.
Sure, you get a maverick justice voting the other way now and again, usually on some nit-picky point peripheral to the main issue. A justice who does this often enough can in fact win a power niche for himself as the "swing justice" — Anthony Kennedy did exactly that. Never underestimate the attraction of power.
More often than not, though, the Supremes just vote their personalities. This isn't philosophy or higher mathematics, it's just temperamental venting. Jurisprudence, fiddlesticks.
05 — Halls of uselessness (cont.). It's great that we have the chance of getting another conservative Justice on the Supreme Court. What would be even greater would be if Congress would occasionally stir itself to rap the Court over the knuckles, as Article III Section 2 of the Constitution gives them authority to do.
That's probably expecting too much, though — like asking the congressweasels to actually declare war before we go drop bombs on someone.
The uselessness of Congress was on display again this week when the last feeble attempt to do something legislative about our immigration mess staggered out onto the floor of the House and expired with a pathetic whimper.
This was Speaker Paul Ryan's amnesty bill giving permanent residence to two or three million illegal aliens in return for [crickets chirping]. The miserable thing went down to defeat 301 votes to 121, nearly half the GOP representatives voting Nay.
A point of satisfaction here is that Ryan's amnesty bill got 72 votes fewer than last week's Goodlatte bill, whose amnesty was smaller and which contained some actual declarative proposals for better enforcement.
It would be pleasant to think that Paul Ryan is embarrassed by the loss. At this point, however, Ryan is beyond the reach of embarrassment. I doubt he cared less what happened to his bill. His mind is fully occupied with measuring up the drapes and planning the color scheme for the handsomely-appointed lobbying office he will occupy on K Street next year … Or possibly here in New York on Park Avenue, across from his old colleague and former GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
The defeat of this mass-amnesty bill doesn't make the nation any better, it only stops things getting a whole lot worse. It does mean, though, that there will be no legislation on immigration or border issues in this Congress, which means none until next year.
That means that if anything is to be done over the next half-year about the tens of thousands of illegal aliens flooding into our country every month, it will have to be done by the Executive — in the teeth, of course, of unrelenting hostility from the Judiciary.
And that means that nothing much will get done. Following the President's June 20th executive order that incoming children can't be separated from their parents (or adults posing as their parents) and looked after in HHS child-care centers, those children have to be detained with the adults in adult lock-ups.
Two problems with that. Problem One: Suitable detention facilities don't exist in anything like the numbers required. Problem Two: There's a line of federal judges round the block to tell the President that keeping kids in adult facilities is even more inhumane than the HHS arrangement.
So at last adults and children alike will just be let loose, and we're back to good old catch-and-release for the swelling numbers of invaders who have a child with them — supplied by the people-smugglers on payment of a modest fee, more often than not, I'm sure.
A President can do a lot with executive orders. What President Trump did with his June 20th order was open wide the floodgates to mass illegal inflows from Central America.
For a glimpse of what that is going to mean, let me take you on a short trip to New York City — to the Bronx, northernmost of our five boroughs.
06 — Bronx tales. This is a three-part story from the Bronx.
Part One. The name here is Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, fifteen years old, hacked to death on the evening of June 20th by a Dominican street gang, the Trinitarios. Quote from the New York Post, June 24th, quote:
Surveillance video from the Cruz and Chiky grocery shows Guzman-Feliz being dragged out of the [store] by his hood.
It was all a case of mistaken identity. The gangbangers were looking for a different guy they wanted to hack to death. Young Lesandro seems to have been of good character. The gang has actually apologized to the boy's family via social media.
Several arrests have been made. Mugshots have been posted in local newspapers, though I advise not looking at them for too long if you're susceptible to nightmares.
There have also been backgrounder stories on the gang, the Trinitarios. Quote from one such:
Like their fiercest rivals, a crew called Dominicans Don't Play, the Trinitarios recruit heavily in the hardscrabble hallways of city public high schools, and maintain a young membership, averaging in the teens or early 20s, police sources said.
There are around two million Dominicans in the U.S.A. today, of whom half arrived after 1990. The Dominican Republic itself has a population of ten million. And yes, it's a foreign country. We have never been under any obligation at all to grant settlement to any Dominican at all not the spouse or dependent child of a U.S. citizen. I guess someone just thought that mass Dominican immigration was a good idea.
Part Two. The name here is Fernando Levano, 37 years old. Mr Levano appears to be some variety of Hispanic, most likely Dominican or Puerto Rican, though I can't find precise details. June 18th he was standing on a street corner in the Bronx when he was sucker-punched by 22-year-old Luis Rivera.
The punch was so hard Levano suffered brain damage. Eleven days later he still hasn't regained consciousness, and may die. As he lay unconscious in the street, three unidentified passers-by emptied his pockets. Then Rivera, the assailant, returned and took cellphone pictures of his victim, apparently as souvenirs.
It's getting nasty in the Bronx. Homicides are up more than ninety percent this year over the same period last year. More than ninety percent.
Part Three: The political establishment in the Bronx got sucker-punched itself Tuesday night. A big piece of the borough, just to the east of where Part One and Part Two took place, is represented in Congress by ten-term machine politician Joe Crowley, ranked fourth most powerful member of his party — the Democratic Party, of course — in the House of Representatives, and considered a strong contender for Speaker if the Democrats take the House this November.
Tuesday the Democrats had a primary, and Joe Crowley lost. Winner in the primary — and therefore the next House member for this district — was 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ms Ocasio-Cortez is of course a Latina, born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. She is also an ardent leftist. She campaigned on free healthcare, guaranteed federal jobs, the abolition of ICE, … the whole nine yards.
NumbersUSA grades Joe Crowley F-minus on recent immigration votes in the House, but that didn't help him. It doesn't exactly make him stand out from the crowd, anyway: 83 percent of Democratic House members are F-minus and another twelve percent plain F.
Well, that's my three-part story: a grisly gang killing, an exceptionally heartless street assault, and an old-school Irish-American machine pol sent into retirement by a young Latina Bernie Bro, Bernie Sis, whatever.
What do we learn from this, comrades? What we learn is that if you grant settlement to millions of Latinos and Latinas, you end up with Latino gang culture, Latino street crime, and voters hankering for Latino socialism.
The open-borders boosters tell us that Latinos are natural conservatives: church-going, family-oriented folk. Give 'em a generation or two, we've been told for decades now, just give 'em time, they'll assimilate as good patriotic Americans.
What we in fact see is a big piece of one of our major cities turning into a Caribbean or Central American slum ruled by gangs, whose voters want Cuban- or Venezuelan-style socialism.
07 — The road to lifeboat ethics. Here's a noble principle that's been utterly debased by globalist fanatics: asylum.
There's nothing wrong with the principle. You're a courageous, outspoken opponent of a totalitarian government — a Solzhenitsyn, a Liu Xiaobo. They throw you out, as in Solzhenitsyn's case; or you just get old or sick, or fearful for you family. We give you refuge.
Or you are no-one of intellectual standing, just a citizen who believes something your rulers don't want you to believe — something they're likely to torture or kill you for believing. We'll give you sanctuary; we'll give you asylum.
Over the years, though, the globalists have cheapened and debased the word. People claim asylum now because their boyfriend beat them up; or they lost their job; or just because they live in a crappy country and want to live in a decent one.
In Europe the phrase "asylum seeker" has been dragged so low it's just a synonym for "illegal alien." Those Mediterranean boatloads of well-fed, fit-looking young black-African men with cellphones and designer polo shirts — they are "asylum seekers."
Well, maybe not for much longer. Today, Friday, leaders of the EU, the European Union nations, agreed to consider talking about having discussions about revising Europe's rules on asylum. This is under pressure from populist leaders like Austria's Sebastian Kurz and Italy's Giuseppe Conte, who are fed up with the globalist "asylum" rackets.
Here in the U.S.A., as the number of asylum claims soars up into the stratosphere, Jeff Sessions has been tightening up the rules, to shock and horror from globalist outfits like the New York Times. We may soon get back to the true meaning of asylum.
We may in fact sail right on past that point to a no-asylum position — to what the late Garrett Hardin called "lifeboat ethics." As the numbers in sub-Saharan Africa swell and life down there becomes more unpleasant and less sustainable, we may face the choice between lifeboat ethics and civilizational extinction.
I wouldn't altogether rule out the possibility that we'll be so crazed by globalist humanitarianism we'll choose extinction. With a strong enough belief system in play, mass suicide is always on the cards.
I of course hope it doesn't come to that. And the word "we" in those last few sentences refers only to Europe and European-derived civilization. East Asian civilization — Japan, China, Korea — already practices lifeboat ethics.
I personally hope we can cling on to some minimal remnant of the asylum ideal. I'd hate to see us turn away the next Solzhenitsyn or the next Liu Xiaobo. If push comes to shove, though, I'll settle for lifeboat ethics.
And I do believe push will come to shove. I'd say ten to fifteen years on current trends. Given some unseen catastrophe — an asteroid hits central Africa, Brazil descends into civil war — it could happen overnight. We could be just one disaster away from lifeboat ethics.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Just when you think we must surely have reached Peak Crazy you read something like this — from, of course, San Francisco.
Mountain View is a well-off outer suburb of San Francisco, median house or condo value over a million dollars, population half non-Hispanic white, the rest roughly half Hispanic, half Asian, actually more Asian than Hispanic.
This isn't the Bronx: this is gentry liberals in million-dollar houses honoring a foreign scofflaw.
Peak Crazy? Not yet.
Item: All sixty-three million of us Trump voters are Nazis, according to some talking head on TV the other day.
That gets an eye-roll from me. I grew up among people who'd struggled and suffered to defeat the Nazis. You want to call me a Nazi, come and say it to my face, jackass.
If it's Nazis you want, though, here's a real one: Heinrich Himmler, chief of Hitler's SS, and a key figure in carrying out the Holocaust.
Ancient history, right? Well, not that ancient. Did you know — I only just found out myself this week — that Himmler's daughter died last month? Himmler himself chomped down on a cyanide capsule when captured by the Allies in 1945, but his daughter lived on to age 88.
She seems to have been loyal to her Dad, working in later years to help old SS men evade justice. Bizarrely, though, she was employed by the Bundesnachrichtendienst, postwar Germany's equivalent of the CIA, in the 1960s.
Himmler's daughter. He called her püppi, "little poppet." Sometimes the past just doesn't seem that long ago.
First one: Barry Gibb, the last surviving of the three Bee Gees brothers, was knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. He is now Sir Barry.
My generation almost precisely: Sir Barry is a year and three months younger than me. Heartfelt congratulations from me to him.
Pop music is of course a matter of taste, but I'll venture to suggest that very few pop groups of their period — the late 1960s through late 1970s — added as much to the public stock of harmless pleasure as the Bee Gees. On an idle evening recently I sat through a repeat showing of one of their later concerts on a local PBS station. Of the twenty or so numbers they performed, every one was familiar. Did any other group turn out that many memorable songs?
Thank you, Sir Barry. Long life and good health to you; and belated condolences on the loss of Maurice and Robin, both of whom died much too young, aged 53 and 62.
Item: Finally, just one more from my generation. Not only my generation, my land of birth; so apologies to non-Brits here.
Monday this week was the fiftieth anniversary of the death of comedian Tony Hancock. That was by his own hand: His personal life was a train wreck.
Hancock did TV and movie work, but he owes his immortality to his radio show, Hancock's Half Hour, which ran on BBC radio through the later 1950s and was a huge hit with the British public. It was a sitcom, with Hancock as a somewhat seedy lower-middle-class shlub for whom the world never quite came up to his expectations. It was very English.
Comedy of course doesn't have much of a shelf life. Whether Hancock's strange, slightly surreal charm is still appealing sixty years on, I'd prefer not to find out, though the Beeb has archived his shows on the internet and you can try them for yourself if you're inclined. I'll stay content with the fond recollections.
09 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and a very relaxed and convivial Fourth of July to one and all!
For signoff music, what else could it be but the Bee Gees? Here's one, an old favorite of mine for sentimental reasons, written by Sir Barry himself.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Bee Gees, "In the Morning."]