»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, April 24th, 2020

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome to the podcast, ladies and gentlemen. This is of course your impishly genial host John Derbyshire, with news and views from a National Conservative viewpoint.

Quite a week for birthdays there:

  • Monday was Hitler's 131st, although I think it's supposed to be bad taste to remember that. It was also Patriots' Day in Maine and Massachusetts, if that helps improve the taste.

  • Tuesday the Queen of England, Elizabeth the Second, turned 94. Elizabeth spent her teen years in Windsor, twenty miles from central London, when that city was being bombarded by Hitler's planes and missiles.

  • Wednesday was Lenin's 150th birthday. Lenin was Hitler's inspiration: Hitler's Nazi Party was organized on explicitly Leninist lines. Lenin probably didn't murder as many people as Hitler; but he did his best, and when he could do no more, Stalin took up the torch. In the immortal lines of Robert Conquest:
        There was an old bastard named Lenin
        Who did two or three million men in.
        That's a lot to have done in
        But where he did one in
        That old bastard Stalin did ten in.
  • Thursday was the feast day of St George, patron Saint of England. It's also traditionally marked as the birthday of William Shakespeare, though nobody really knows for sure. The Swan of Avon, were he still among us, would have been 456 years old.

  • Today, Friday the 24th, seems to be devoid of significance where historical birthdays are concerned. I googled, but kept coming up with Barbra Streisand and quickly got discouraged … This is, however, the first day of Ramadan, if that's your thing.

So, a week of birthdays. Also, if you don't mind my mentioning it, the beginning of my nineteenth year as an American: the date written on my Certificate of Naturalization is April 19th, 2002. And I am writing this in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic. Hm: nineteen, nineteen … Louis Farrakhan, call your office.

Now, turning our eyes from the past to the present, what do we see?

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02 — The moratorium fiasco.     The first thing of real interest we saw, on Monday evening, was a tweet from our President saying, tweet:

In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!

End tweet.

Hallelujah! [Clip:  Hallelujah chorus.] Out here on the Dissident Right, joy was unconfined. We were cheering; we were throwing our MAGA hats in the air; we were dancing in the streets — maintaining a careful six feet distance from each other, of course.

Then on Tuesday we actually got a look at the President's executive order as issued. Our hearts, it turned out, had been too soon made glad. The order was a nothingburger: some perfunctory fiddling with visa categories that have little to do with protecting American jobs.

The eagle-eyed Jessica Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies did a detailed analysis. Quote from her:

However well intentioned, this executive order will provide little relief to Americans. The pause applies to only a few immigrants who represent a tiny fraction (about 5 percent) of total annual admissions, and will actually re-start admissions that have been paused, well before this health crisis is over, and well before the employment crisis is over.

End quote.

To put it less gently: This executive order is just another blast of hot air from our windbag President, accomplishing nothing — actually, on those suspended admissions now to be restarted, less than nothing.

Those huge tranches of guest-worker visas handed out to people coming to take jobs from Americans? No change, even as our unemployment numbers head for the thirty million mark.

You can file Monday evening's tweet with Trump's other empty promises on National Question issues: the building of a big beautiful wall on our southern border, that has turned out to be the repainting of some bollards; taxing remittances to make Mexico pay for the wall, an idea that has sunk without trace along with any other scheme to make Mexico pay, if there was any other; the executive order rescinding DACA that he was going to sign on his first day in office, except that he was mysteriously unable to find his signing pen that day; the other executive order annulling birthright citizenship that he just can't seem to find time to attend to …

This week's moratorium fiasco makes it clear, if it wasn't clear before, that there is nothing to hope for from Trump on National Question issues, even in a major national crisis. He is weak and lazy, easily manipulated by the cynical bureaucrats, lobbyists, and congressweasels of Washington, DC. Up against these people he has no confidence, no strength in his convictions … or perhaps just no real convictions.

And this actually was clear before. It was clear to me, at any rate, after those disastrous televised White House meetings in early 2018 where Trump just agreed with the last thing anyone said, even when it was the opposite of the previous thing he'd agreed with.

The Ever Trumpers are telling us that the White House staff are to blame for gutting the moratorium order. The President had the right idea in that Monday evening tweet, the Ever Trumpers tell us, but it got watered down by the staff members tasked with drafting the order.

As excuses go, that ranks several places below "the dog ate my homework." The White House staff is Trump's staff. If they draft an executive order in some way he doesn't like, he can tell them to go do it over the way he wants it.

We elected Trump, we didn't elect the White House flunkies. Nobody elected them.

The buck doesn't stop on Mark Meadows' desk, or Kellyanne Conway's, or Stephen Miller's, or Jared Kushner's, or Ivanka Trump's. It stops on your desk, Mr President.

Another excuse being circulated around Washington is that, to quote Tucker Carlson, who retailed it on his show the other night, quote:

Officials from the Department of Labor and the Council of Economic Advisors [argued that] the unemployment benefits in the coronavirus stimulus bill were so generous that American citizens would refuse to go back to work because it was easier to just get a government check. And so we have to bring in more foreigners.

End quote.

That's kind of a supercharged version of the notion peeping out from between the lines of articles by immigration fanatics like Bret Stephens and Max Boot: that working-class Americans are dull-witted loafers lacking any spirit of enterprise, no use for anything except drawing a dole, so that the country would be a better place if we just got rid of these useless mouths somehow and replaced them with immigrants.

I don't say there are no such useless, workshy Americans. From my own experience of the nation's labor force, though, which spans a range from dishwashing to investment banking, I don't believe there are many. Most of us want to work.

If Trump found this excuse compelling enough to make him change his executive order, he is utterly out of touch with the country he is President of.

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03 — Did Trump just lose re-election?     If you think I was unkind to the President back there, check out the Twitter posts and the comment threads to news stories about the moratorium fiasco. Representative comment from a Breitbart reader, quote:

Trump's pathetic PR stunt on immigration just cost him my vote. This is the rock and the hard place, and he chose the wrong side, going with big business interests, not the American people. Mr Trump, wrong answer.

End quote.

A lot of Americans feel that way. Probably a lot more will be feeling that way in the fall.

Here's a scenario. You're a young American, married with a couple of kids. You're not particularly political. Three or four years ago you opened a small restaurant in your home town, financed with some savings and a loan from your parents. That kept you busy full-time: way too busy for tweeting or commenting at Breitbart, even if you'd had the inclination.

Then the lockdown killed your business stone dead. You figure that even when it's lifted people won't be going to restaurants much for a while. What are you going to do to support your family?

You got good grades in math at high school, and are deft at finding your way round the internet. Somewhere you saw the slogan: Learn to Code!

You buy some teach-yourself books online and burn the midnight oil all through summer learning HTML, Javascript, C++, and SQL.

By September you're ready for an entry-level coding job. That's when you learn that interviewing for those jobs at local companies is in the hands of managers from India who came over ten years ago on H-1B visas and ascended the corporate ladder to hiring-and-firing positions. They preferentially hire their own countrymen, also on guest-worker visas; and that's what their company bosses want them to do, because guest-workers are cheaper and are tied to the firm for the duration of their visas.

So … you can't get a coding job.

Now November's coming up, and the Presidential election. Guest workers are still flooding in by the tens of thousands. Are you going to vote for a President who dangled an immigration moratorium in front of you six months before, then pulled it away and laughed at the suckers who'd believed him?

That's a rhetorical question.

Things always seem bigger, more important, when they've just happened. That's one of those cognitive biases we're all susceptible to. Making due allowance for that, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Trump's moratorium flip-flop this week may have lost him re-election in November.

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04 — Glimmers of light in the darkness.     Despair is of course a sin. Dum spiramus speramus — while we breathe, we hope. What might we reasonably hope for in this present darkness?

Well, Michelle Malkin draws our attention to this little nugget in the executive order as issued, quote:

Section 6: Additional Measures.  Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.

End quote.

So we have 30 days to make our voices heard: as Michelle says, "30 days to remove this sham ban and demand a full and real immigration moratorium." Speak up — let them hear us!

And as the boss here, Peter Brimelow, has posted: Even with this setback we now at last have the word "moratorium" in general circulation.

This hasn't been the case up to now. As Cousin Peter notes, the previous time our country slipped into mass unemployment, during the Great Recession twelve years ago, the idea of an immigration moratorium to help American workers went totally un-mentioned by the nation's leaders.

Well, when the President tweets a word, however insincerely, that word is in play. Let's keep it in play.

Americans are still, I think, somewhat shell-shocked at the sudden change in our national circumstances. As the weeks pass, though, and the economic problems multiply, they'll be looking for solutions — for policy ideas that have some clear alleviating benefit. A moratorium on immigration, especially of guest workers, fills the bill.

Further to that: If, with the President's help, however unwitting, if we can de-taboo the word "moratorium," we shall be some way forward towards destroying the idea that mass immigration is some kind of moral imperative that only bad people could oppose.

Mass immigration is not a moral imperative. It's just a policy, like tariff levels or farm price subsidies, that we can adjust as we please to give maximum benefit to our citizens.

That's how rational countries decide their policies. That's how we should decide ours.

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05 — Lifeboat ethics.     I'm keeping a wary eye on Africa recently. When this new coronavirus first came up, there was a general vague opinion that Africa would not be seriously affected.

For one thing, the place is warm, and the virus doesn't like a warm climate. For another, Africa is young. The median age in Kenya is 20; in Nigeria, 18; in Niger, fifteen. Median age in the USA is 38; in Switzerland 42; in Japan 47. The virus wreaks most havoc among old people.

Lately, though, I've been reading stories about the economic impact on Africa of all the lockdowns and slowdowns in the developed world.

On remittances, for example — money sent back to the home countries in Africa by Africans working in Europe, America, or the Middle East. Nigeria gets 24 billion dollars a year from remittances; as people are laid off in the host countries, the World Bank says that number will drop by a quarter.

Then there are falling commodity prices — oil only the most-publicized case. A lot of African countries depend on commodity exports. Quote from investment website ccn.com, April 21st, quote:

Nigeria may have one of the worst governments in the world. Even in good times, the country was in poor shape. But now, with oil prices falling to all-time lows, Nigeria is about to go the way of Venezuela and Zimbabwe with total economic collapse.

The Nigerian government depends on oil for 60 percent of its revenue and 90 percent of its foreign exchange. But with prices for several oil benchmarks falling below zero, Nigeria is generating massive losses for every barrel it produces. Add this to a rising debt load, bad economic policies, and political instability, and you have a recipe for disaster.

And while it's natural to mention Venezuela and Zimbabwe in this context, compare the population figures: Venzuela 29 million, Zimbabwe 15 million; Nigeria 214 million. That's nearly five times Venezuela and Zimbabwe together — a whole lot of human misery.

That's just the economic consequences. The impact of the coronavirus itself is unclear. African countries are not famous for rigorous statistics; nor, come to think of it, for excellence in provision of healthcare.

That latter point has led to some interesting sidebar stories. I liked this one, from BBC News, April 23rd. Headline: Coronavirus: Why some Nigerians are gloating about Covid-19.

Who is gloating, and why? It's ordinary Nigerians doing the gloating. The targets of the gloating — the gloatees — are upper-class folk, especially politicians.

Quote from the BBC News story:

These are the kind of people who normally jet off to the UK, Germany, or the US at the slightest headache because Nigeria's state hospitals are poorly funded, run-down, and lack adequate equipment …

But with borders closed and each country haunted by its own Covid-19 nightmare, Nigeria's big men and women are now forced to use their country's hospitals, prompting a stream of taunts and jokes.

End quote.

The Chief of Staff to Nigeria's president actually died from coronavirus April 17th, in a Nigerian hospital.

It's cruel to say it, but you can't help suspect that as the virus seeps out from the elites to the common folk, the gloating will likely turn into something nastier.

The phrase hovering in my mind here is "lifeboat ethics." We're talking about a billion people here, most of them at a low standard of living in badly-governed countries. Serious widespread economic collapse might send a lot of them — and a lot of a billion is a lot — fleeing to refugee camps, or across the Mediterranean — perhaps even across the Atlantic.

With our own nations in recession, our own people clamoring for help, and fears of contagion, shall we keep up our open-handed policy to refugees when refugee numbers swell into the tens of millions? Will the Europeans continue to tolerate charitable organizations unloading Africans in the ports of Italy, Spain, and Greece?

I fear we may find out.

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

Imprimis:  Knowing that I have an affectionate attitude towards numbers, and a long acquaintance with China, I get asked about the virus-related numbers coming out of that country.

Here is an indirect answer. This is a quote from veteran British reporter Timothy Garton-Ash, after a visit to communist Yugoslavia back in 1983. Quote:

Imagine sitting round a table with four apparently sane and civilized men, the senior of whom suddenly remarks: "Of course, the Earth is flat." You expect the others to demur. But no. "Flat," says one. "Very flat," agrees his neighbor. "How else could we walk upright?" exclaims the third. And they all smile at you, challenging dissent.

Far-fetched? If you travel to communist countries as a journalist this is a regular experience. You are ushered into a large government office, greeted with elaborate politeness by the minister or party secretary, seated at a glass-topped table under the marquetry plaque of Lenin. A middle-aged secretary brings in cups of coffee, a plate of small cakes, perhaps a round of schnapps. And then they start quietly telling you these whopping lies.

End quote.

I can relate. The first place I lived in mainland China in 1982 was the town hotel, which was next door to the police station. I used to amuse myself by reading the notices of recent executions posted outside the station. Once, in a conversation with some colleagues at which our Party Secretary was also present, I mentioned a gruesome murder I'd read about there.

The Party Secretary interrupted me. "There are no murders in China!" he barked. I looked round at my colleagues. They were all nodding dutifully.

[Permalink]

Item:  That Timothy Garton-Ash quote I plucked from an old issue of the Spectator — the London Spectator, not the American one.

That gives me an excuse to mention that this weekend's issue of the Spectator is issue number ten thousand. This is the first time any magazine anywhere has produced a ten-thousandth issue.

I let my own subscription lapse some years ago, just for economy; but as a keen reader of, and occasional contributor to, the Spectator through the seventies, eighties, and nineties, I add my congratulations to the many others they must have received.

[Permalink]

Item:  Back to China for a moment. The story of Fang Fang has been getting some attention: in last week's issue of The Economist, and at Daily Mail Online. I've also been hearing about it from my wife, who keeps in touch with China via the WeChat social medium, which is supervised by the communists.

In brief: Fang Fang is a novelist, some of whose books have won literary prizes over there. She's 64 years old, so she was 20 when Mao died and the Cultural Revolution ended. From that you can deduce that she doesn't have too many illusions about China's political system.

Fang Fang was living in Wuhan when the virus first struck. She stayed there under lockdown, posting online diaries of remarkable frankness. Each post was of course deleted by the communist censors; but they are not very efficient, and readers had time to share and copy the posts.

That got Fang Fang an appreciative following in China … until news came out that Fang Fang's "Quarantine Diaries" will be published in translation this summer in Germany and the USA. Now her fan base has evaporated and she gets nothing but hate mail, including death threats. How dare she air China's dirty laundry in foreign outlets?

The Economist writer sees this as a sign that there's been a big shift in opinion over there. Quote:

Fang Fang's co-operation with Western publishers sparks rage because the perceived moral standing of the West, starting with President Donald Trump's America, is in free-fall. When a candid Chinese writer is embraced by foreigners, the motives of all involved are assumed to be suspicious.

End quote. Funny place, China.

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Item:  I am long since resigned to the fact that our legal system has been utterly corrupted by Cultural Marxism. Even so, this story from Slate.com left me with my jaw hanging loose in amazement.

Slate is fully CultMarx-compliant. They started off this story lamenting that, quote: "Donald Trump's Presidency has been a disaster for judicial diversity," end quote.

Then they go to the good news. While the federal judiciary may be going to White Supremacist Hell in a handbasket, out there in the states, Democratic governors are diversifying their state judiciaries for all they're worth.

Slate brings forward its star exhibit. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State has elevated to his supreme court a disabled black lesbian from Trinidad. Black, female, homosexual, disabled, and an immigrant: that's a fiver. Hoo-ee!

The lady's name — really, you can't make this stuff up — her name is Whitener, Grace Helen Whitener.

Would you like to hear about Governor Inslee's two other appointees to his state supreme court? I know you would. Here they are: Raquel Montoya-Lewis, a Jewish Native American, and Mary Yu, an Asian-American Latina lesbian.

I need a drink.

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Item:  Anarcho-tyranny watch: Over in the nation of my birth, the United Cuckdom, two men have been arrested by police for "racially aggravated public order offenses."

So what did they do — burn a cross on someone's lawn? No, worse than that. They have been sticking up posters on lamp posts, bus stops, and bollards around the town of Sheffield protesting Britain's coronavirus lockdown with the words: PUBS CLOSED, BORDERS OPEN.

The news outlet I'm quoting, dissident-right Voice of Europe, does not fail to notice that Sheffield is just eight miles from Rotherham, the town where, for nearly twenty years, gangs of Pakistani Muslim men kidnapped and gang-raped underage English girls while police looked the other way for fear someone would call them racist.

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07 — Signoff.     That's all for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening. If you have been affected by these awful tornadoes down south there, sympathy and condolences from Radio Derb, and may your lives soon get back to normal. Any listeners who want to help, Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is on the job, and there are GoFundMe pages for individual cases: Google "GoFundMe tornadoes," then click "Tools … Any Time … Past week."

For signout, let's have some country music. Here's a family band, the Petersens out of Branson, Missouri, covering the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene."

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I'm beggin' of you, please don't take my man.
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don't take him just because you can.

You can't get any more country than that.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.

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[Music clip: The Petersens, "Jolene."]