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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome once again, listeners, from your statically genial host John Derbyshire, here to bring you VDARE.com's weekly summary of the news, garnished with some skeptical commentary.
This week's podcast begins with three bulletin items — items, I mean, about the podcast itself.
First bulletin item: This coming Monday, May 27th, marks Radio Derb's fifteenth birthday. Our first podcast went out on May 27th, 2004.
I don't know if that makes Radio Derb the oldest podcast continuously on the airwaves — cyber-waves, whatever they're called — but I'll bet we are the longest-running podcast with a dissident-right flavor. I'll allow that the flavor was somewhat muted in the early years, when Radio Derb was hosted by National Review, but I don't recall fudging my commentary on that account. If I thought some topic would bring the censor's axe down on me, I just left it alone. I was often wrong in my predictions — you're doing pretty well in the commentary business if you're batting .500 — but I was never dishonest.
If you want to check those statements for yourself, every single podcast of these last fifteen years — 689 of them — has its transcript archived on my personal website, johnderbyshire.com. All but one of them include the original sound file. (I don't know why that one sound file went missing.) Go to johnderbyshire.com, click on "Opinions" in the box at the right, then on "Radio Derb" on the "Opinions" page.
A word of caution about those transcripts. I've been toiling away to get them under a standard format, breaking up too-long paragraphs, recovering dead hyperlinks, and so on. Also purging out Adobe Flash, which I used for audio delivery until recently. Adobe will stop supporting Flash next year. This is slow work, though, and so far I'm only up to November 2009. I estimate I'll be finished with it around the middle of next year.
That's my first bulletin item. Happy Birthday, Radio Derb! You are now a fifteen-year-old adolescent, self-conscious and ornery.
Second bulletin item: In celebration of Radio Derb's fifteenth, I shall be taking a week off. My lady and I shall in fact be taking a road trip, up to the frozen tundra of Ontario and Quebec to visit friends and see sights, leaving the homestead in the capable hands of Derb, Junior.
So, once again, no Radio Derb on May 31st. Our next podcast will be on June 7th, when I myself will be one year older.
Should one week without hearing my mellifluous tones be too much for you to bear, you can of course go to johnderbyshire.com and listen to Radio Derbs from the past.
Or, if you want a half-hour of even deeper wisdom, also on my website, under the "Readings" link, you can listen to me read Samuel Johnson's fine long poem "The Vanity of Human Wishes," one of the great world masterpieces of pessimism. My reading clocks in at 29 minutes 33 seconds, so that's half an hour with 27 seconds left over for unrestrained weeping.
And if you want to hear the Latin original that inspired Johnson, a couple of pages later there is my reading of Juvenal's Tenth Satire, which includes all the dirty bits. Nit-picking emails about my pronunciation of Latin will be ignored. I say it the way my schoolmasters taught me.
Third bulletin item: Speaking of my personal website, for precisely the same number of keystrokes, but without the bother of having to remember the spelling of my name, you can go there by keying in the URL "dissidentright.com." I own that URL and I have set it to automatically redirect to johnderbyshire.com until I can figure what I want to do with it. The URL "dissidentright.org" works, too.
OK, that may have been my longest intro ever. Let's get to the week's events.
02 — The 2019 AmRen conference. The first event of the week for me was the annual conference of American Renaissance, held in the lovely Montgomery Bell state park near Nashville, Tennessee last weekend.
I've been saying what I'm about to say every year for a while now, so I guess it's a cliché. Clichés are true, though, so I'll say it again: The AmRen conference gets younger and livelier every year.
At the banquet Saturday evening I found myself sitting next to a 19-year-old attendee listening to a 23-year-old speaker at the podium. AmRen is most definitely not a geezer show.
You can read AmRen's own summary of the conference at their website. The transcript of my talk was published here on VDARE.com May 19th. I haven't yet seen conference videos posted online, but no doubt that's in the works; check the AmRen site for notifications.
I gave my talk at 10:30 Saturday morning. It ended on somewhat of a downbeat, so I was looking to Jared Taylor to cheer us up with his 2 pm address. Jared didn't disappoint.
I'll admit that when the conference schedule had come out the week before, I'd greeted the title of Jared's talk with a sad smile. The title was: "Why we are winning."
Huh, I thought in that sour, negative way of mine; that's like General Lee giving a talk on "Why we are winning" while Sherman was marching to the sea. Anti-white open-borders multiculturalists control Congress, the White House, the judiciary, the media, the corporations, the internet, the schools and colleges, … How exactly are we winning?
In the event, Jared made a good solid case, resting it on the rising distrust among ordinary Americans of the media and the deep state, supported by awareness of the growing nationalist movements in Europe. I came away feeling much more hopeful. Catch the video of Jared's talk when they post it; he is really a very good, uplifting speaker.
Thanks to the AmRen folk for organizing this lively, instructive conference. Thanks also of course to the staff and management of the inn at Montgomery Bell, who are invariably cheerful and polite, and to the law-enforcement officers of the state of Tennessee, who kept the small squad of crazy-anarchist protestors well corralled.
And of course, thanks to the attendees, who included a surprising number of Radio Derb fans with kind words, and even some gifts, for yours truly. Thank you, thank you! I hope everyone got home safely.
Onward and upward with American Renaissance!
03 — The damp squib Presidency. In his AmRen speech on Saturday Jared Taylor described our President as a "damp squib" and said that we, the Dissident Right, have little to hope for from this Presidency.
It's hard to argue with that. The surprise of Trump is how ineffectual he's proving. I had supposed he might get some things wrong, commit some big clumsy blunders, but I never thought he'd just be spineless and ineffectual. That's what he's been, though.
Typical example from this week: A tweet dated May 21st. Quote:
I am very disappointed that Mexico is doing virtually nothing to stop illegal immigrants from coming to our Southern Border where everyone knows that because of the Democrats, our Immigration Laws are totally flawed & broken. Mexico's attitude is that people from other countries, including Mexico, should have the right to flow into the U.S. & that U.S. taxpayers should be responsible for the tremendous costs associated w/this illegal migration. Mexico is wrong and I will soon be giving a response!
I'm sorry, Trumpists, but that's just pathetic, in so many ways.
"I am very disappointed" is schoolmarm talk: "I am very disappointed in you, Johnnie. You can do much better! What will your Mommy say?"
Wagging a finger in little Johnnie's face like that is appropriate when you are the schoolmarm and Johnnie is a misbehaving eight-year-old. When you are the world's greatest economic and military power and Johnnie is a middling nation with one-third of your population and one-eighth your GDP, it sounds feeble and silly.
If a lesser nation vexes a greater nation, there are things the greater nation can do, on a wide spectrum from taxing remittances or imposing tariffs at one end to declaring war at the other.
And has Little Johnnie actually done anything wrong here? Why should Mexico expend effort and money stopping illegals coming to our border when we're such fools as to let them in, which of course we are? Mexico has problems of its own. They're supposed to deal with our problems as well?
And then that blustering "I will soon be giving a response!" It sounds like poor impotent old King Lear:
I will do such things,—
The protection of our borders is not up to Mexico, Mr President. It's not their business, it's our business, and we should attend to it.
Nor is it entirely a matter of congressional inaction, deplorable as that is. There are plenty of things that you, as Chief Executive, could do yourself: Ryan Girdusky responded to that very same tweet of yours with a helpful list.
Will you do any of those things? Or will you just tweet and bluster?
Those are rhetorical questions. I know the answers. So do the Mexicans.
04 — May is out. One side consequence of rising nationalism in Europe occurred today, Friday. This was the announcement by Theresa May, Britain's Prime Minister, that she will step down as leader of her party, the Conservative Party, on June 7th. There will then be a lame-duck interlude of a few weeks while the party elects a new Prime Minister.
I couldn't help thinking of the old English country saying: "Cast not a clout till May is out." The word "clout" there means a cloth, an item of clothing. The saying means: "Don't shed your winter clothing until the end of May." That's the common understanding, anyway. Some people insist that "May" there actually refers to the mayflower, so that the saying really means: "Don't shed your winter clothing until the mayflowers are blooming," which I think happens in early May.
Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. May is out, or soon will be.
It's hard to believe that history will look kindly on Mrs May's Prime Ministership. She came in three years ago following David Cameron's resignation. Cameron resigned because the Brexit referendum vote went against him. He was a Remainer; he didn't want Britain to leave the European Union.
Curiously, Mrs May was also a Remainer. Well-nigh the whole British establishment was. It would have made sense, following the referendum, to pick a Leaver as Prime Minister, but they were too thin on the ground in governing circles. That Brexit vote of June 2016 was a real populist upsurge by ordinary people against the establishment, metropolitan elites, and special interests.
So for three years, against her own inclinations, Mrs May struggled to work out a deal with the EU, a deal that split all the differences between Leavers and Remainers. It couldn't be done, of course; the differences are too fundamental. You either have a sovereign nation, making its own laws and treaties in its own legislature, or you are one province in a supranational state, with key decisions made for you by foreigners.
It's a difference that can't be split. Watching Mrs May flailing around this past three years trying to square all the circles got to be embarrassing. I've actually been feeling sorry for her … Well, when I wasn't laughing at Tracey Ullman's impersonations of her.
What the Brexit vote called for was a tough, fearless, ruthless leader, one with a set of cast-iron gonads — a Margaret Thatcher, in other words. Unfortunately leaders like that don't come along very often. That's not Mrs May's fault, and I'm sure she did her best.
It hasn't helped Mrs May that the polls leading up to elections for the European Parliament have shown her party, the Conservative Party, polling dismally among British voters, with Nigel Farage's Brexit Party doing far better.
The Brits actually voted on Thursday; but other countries in Europe vote Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, and the counts for earlier votes, like Britain's, are kept secret until Monday so later votes won't be influenced. So we won't know how Brits actually voted until next week, but it looks bad for the Conservatives.
05 — Europe's nationalists. Britain aside, how well will nationalist parties do in these Euro elections?
I wouldn't be looking for any miracles. Yes, there are some good strong nationalist leaders in Europe today pushing back against mass immigration and multiculturalism. Overall, though, there remains that problem of the ceiling that I've mentioned before — the limit of twenty to twenty-five percent of the vote that it seems hard for nationalist parties to break through.
Here are the top ten votes for a nationalist party in European national elections — not European Parliament elections, these are the latest national elections in each country.
That's not the whole story. In some countries the nationalist vote is split with other parties; in Hungary, for example, with Jobbik. There are some subtractions to make, too, since some of those national elections took place. Austria's Freedom party, for example, got mixed up in an ugly scandal and seems to be holed below the waterline.
There are some big historical differences of opinion, too: for example, over attitudes to Russia, which are much more negative in Eastern Europe, for reasons not hard to figure.
And Britain aside, nobody much wants out of the EU. It was a Franco-German racket from the beginning; those guys won't be leaving. The poorer, weaker nations of the EU have all been thoroughly bought.
So as I said, don't be looking for miracles when the Euro Parliament vote-counts are published next week. The best to hope for is that as nationalist sentiment edges up towards that 20-25 percent ceiling, the big old center parties will make moves to co-opt it.
"Center" there doesn't just mean "center-right," either. As our own James Fulford noted the other day, Denmark's center-left party, the Social Democrats, are now taking a strong line against mass immigration from the Middle East and Africa.
Milton Friedman famously observed to Peter Brimelow back in 1997 that you can't have free immigration and a welfare state. The center-left parties of Europe, who were the founders and guardians of their nations' welfare states, may be waking up to that simple fact.
06 — As hath been in times past. The Third Duke of Norfolk, an English aristocrat and big political playah back in the 16th century, was one of history's great reactionaries. He looked with scorn on what he called "the New Learning" — which he understood to mean the notion that laymen like himself should be well-educated. Education, in the Duke's mind, was for priests.
His most famous remark, dear to the hearts of reactionaries everywhere, was in response to a colleague who chided him for not knowing the Bible very well. Sniffed the Duke, quote:
I never read the scripture, and never will read it; it was merry in England afore the New Learning came up; yea, I would all things were as hath been in times past.
End quote. That is the true reactionary ideal: perfect stasis, nothing ever changing, all things as hath been in times past.
It's not exactly my ideal, I hasten to say, though I sometimes boast of reactionary tendencies. I'm all for some progress in scientific understanding — like the progress in pharmacology that is currently sparing me the horrors of old-style chemotherapy, not to mention an early death. Social progress too: As a working-class lad, I'm much obliged to the early-20th-century social reformers whose efforts got me a free college education.
The Third Duke's aphorism keeps coming to mind, though, as I slowly work up through those old Radio Derb transcripts.
I was reading and re-formatting some from 2009 this week — from ten years ago. It's hard not to notice that in key aspects of our national policy, stasis rules. The issues I was commenting on ten years ago are the same ones I'm commenting on today.
Example, one of many: Radio Derb for October 29th, 2009. Heading: "Welfare for illegals." My comment concerned a story in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. The story told us that the anchor babies of illegal aliens had been poorly served by welfare agencies because their parents feared deportation. However, quote;
In the past few years there has been a push to better inform these parents, by social service agencies and nonprofits.
Those poor anchor-baby kiddies, denied full welfare benefits just because their parents are scofflaws.
That was me a couple of days ago, polishing up a Radio Derb transcript from ten years earlier. Then later that same evening I watched some TV news. There on my TV screen was Ben Carson, our Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, up in front of the House Financial Services Committee.
The Chair-critter of the committee, Maxine Waters of California, waxed indignant about Carson's, quote, "recent cruel proposal to terminate housing benefits for families that include individuals with mixed immigration statuses." End quote.
Let me translate that for you. The topic here is illegal aliens living in public housing. You may think that's a thing that shouldn't happen, that public housing should be for Americans, but thinking that just betrays you as a hate-filled racist bigot filled with hateful hate. In fact it's been happening for decades.
The poster gal here, as Michelle Malkin reminded us the other day, was Barack Obama's appalling Aunt Zeituni, who, much aided of course by the fact that she was Obama's aunt, gamed the welfare and immigration systems nine ways to Sunday before going off to join the Choir Invisible in 2014, leaving dead and flattened in the roadway the quaint old idea that we are a nation of laws, not of men and their aunts.
Well, going back to Chair-weasel Maxine Waters, what she meant by the phrase "individuals with mixed immigration statuses" in public housing was illegal aliens together with their anchor babies. The babies are of course U.S. citizens by virtue of our current, clinically insane, jurisprudence on the 14th Amendment.
So the issue before the Financial Services Committee the other day was the same one I was kicking at ten years ago: welfare for illegal aliens via their anchor babies. The only difference I can perceive between now and then is that congress-ninny Waters and her Democratic colleagues like Carolyn Maloney are more brazen, more shameless now in their mockery of our laws and our citizenship than they would have dared to be ten years ago.
That aside, the Third Duke of Norfolk would have loved this spectacle. All things today are as hath been in times past.
It's the same with other aspects of our national policy. How long has Radio Derb been asking out loud what the heck we are doing in Afghanistan? Eleven years at least. We're still there and I'm still asking.
Everywhere you look at our nation's politics, the overwhelming impression is one of stasis. We're stuck in a rut, in several ruts. All things are as hath been in times past.
That's gladdening to the hearts of reactionaries like Maxine Waters and Carolyn Maloney, no doubt, but the rest of us would like to see a little forward movement. Just a little? Please?
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: More feeble equivocation from our damp-squib President.
In a Fox News Channel interview with Steve Hilton aired last Sunday Trump backed away from compulsory E-Verify as a way to stop the employment of illegal aliens. They were talking about the forthcoming Kushner plan on immigration reform.
[Clip: Hilton: And one thing that people have speculated about was that it might include E-Verify. Is that going to be in there?
So … forget about E-Verify, the one really potent weapon in our arsenal to stop illegal aliens — including the sixty percent of illegals who have flown in and overstayed visas — to stop them from taking American jobs. It's too tough!
Item: Just listening to myself talking about Mrs May back there, I may have been too kind to her and her party. Britain's Conservative Party hasn't done anything conservative for decades. David Cameron's proudest achievement, the one to which he devoted most political capital, was pushing homosexual "marriage" through parliament in 2013.
Mrs May has been just as bad on cultural issues, if not worse. She has not lifted a finger against the banning and de-platforming of dissident voices. Indeed, as the boss reminds me, she banned Jared Taylor from entering Britain, or at least did nothing to stop her underlings banning him.
So yes, I was too charitable. See, that's the problem with us older chivalrous types when faced with a female politician. We're too nice!
Well, whaddya know: Creationists are still around. I got a small email bag on that segment. I shall deal with it — patiently and politely, of course! — in my monthly diary. Here I just want to note a response from the Discovery Institute, the creationist think-tank over in Seattle, still in business apparently.
This response was from David Klinghoffer, whom I remember very dimly from across the editorial table at National Review. The gist of it is that I am a hatefully hateful person full of hate, and that this is the fault of Charles Darwin in some way I can't be bothered to figure out.
Whatever. What came to my mind when reading David's remarks was one of those witty exchanges we used to get in Britain's parliament before it filled up with bores and hacks. The exchange took place in 1978 between Dennis Healey, a scrappy, sharp-witted bloke serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e. Treasury Secretary) and Geoffrey Howe, an exceptionally courteous and mild-mannered fellow serving as shadow Chancellor.
The milquetoast Mr Howe had offered some long murmured critique of Healey's economic policy. In rebuttal, Healey told the house that being criticized by Howe was, quote, "like being savaged by a dead sheep."
08 — Signoff. That's it. ladies and gents; and once again, there will be no Radio Derb next week. We'll be back on the air June 7th, God willing an' the Creek don't rise.
This year is, as I've noted elsewhere, unusually rich in anniversaries. You can almost pick a day at random and it'll commemorate something. Today, for example, May 24th, is the 200th birthday of Queen Victoria.
For the full nostalgia rush you need something more recent of course. Here's one that gives me the rush: May 25th 1969. That was the U.S. release date for the movie Midnight Cowboy. In London, where I was actually living that year, the movie came out on September 25th, just three weeks after Easy Rider.
It was a standard point of discussion among us twenty-somethings at the time as to which of those two movies was cooler. The avant-garde crowd favored Easy Rider; those of us of a more conservative temperament preferred Midnight Cowboy.
I re-watched Easy Rider in 2015 and poured scorn on it in Taki's Magazine. Sample quote:
I'd forgotten how obnoxiously daft the 1960s counterculture was. Watching Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper act out their rebellion against bourgeois conformity, I wanted to put on a suit and tie, light up a Chesterfield, and mix myself a martini.
I can't recall having re-watched Midnight Cowboy, but it still glows in memory after fifty years. I have no doubt it was way the better of those two movies. Archer Winsten, the New York Post movie critic at the time, called Midnight Cowboy, quote, "an epic of the underside, a masterpiece of small lives and meager ambitions," end quote. I think that's exactly right.
I had never been to New York City at that point, so the New York of Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman became New York for me, and I'm sure for millions of other provincial youngsters around the world. When I actually arrived in the city four years later and quickly fell into destitution just like Joe and Ratso had, the mental map supplied by Midnight Cowboy helped me survive, I am sure.
Ah, memories, memories. Today's New York Post has a two-page commemorative piece about Midnight Cowboy by the newspaper's Arts Editor Barbara Hoffman (who may or may not be related to Dustin Hoffman, I don't know). It has lots of interesting factlets I didn't know. I didn't know, for example, that Bob Dylan wrote "Lay, Lady, Lay" for Midnight Cowboy, but was late delivering it and they'd locked in the movie soundtrack already.
Sorry, I'm rambling. Sometimes the past just takes over. Radio Derb will be back, refreshed and facing the future, two weeks from now. Here to sing us out is, of course, Harry Nilsson.
[Music clip: Harry Nilsson "Everybody's Talkin'."]