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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your canonically genial host John Derbyshire, here to bring you news of the hour.
My first duty this week is to offer my thoughts on President Biden's big Wednesday speech. Most of what I have to say is, believe it or not, negative. Striving for balance, I have tried hard to think of something on the other side, something charitable I could say, something free of cynicism and sourness. Here's what I came up with.
The president was much better focused than I expected. With only one or two exceptions, his sentences followed each other in logical order. Not even once did he totally lose his way and stand there staring silently at us, as I feared he might. He did not mistake the House Speaker for his wife, did not forget what the Department of Defense headquarters is called, and did not utter the phrase "dog-faced pony soldier" or anything similar. He was calm and collected for over an hour at the podium.
Wonderful stuff, that adderall.
02 — Stalinesque extravaganza (cont.) Oh Lord, no! Please make it stop, please make it stop.
The State of the Union speech, that is. Yeah, yeah, I know: Joe Biden's Wednesday speech wasn't billed as an official State of the Union address, but I don't see how you can say it wasn't one.
Here's the constitutional justification for a State of the Union address, Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, quote:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient …
That's what the president was doing. The format was the same as in a publicly billed State of the Union speech, with congresspeople from both chambers present, also representatives of the judiciary and military. There was a formal response from the opposition party.
How was this not a State of the Union speech? By virtue of not being billed as one? The Constitution doesn't say anything about how the event should be billed. This was a State of the Union speech.
I've been expressing my boredom and disgust with the State of the Union speech for, according to my archives, at least fourteen years, and I don't feel like repeating myself. As now ritually performed it is, as I sputtered in my 2009 classic We Are Doomed, a Stalinesque extravaganza, and a disgrace to a commercial republic of free men.
Can't we put a stop to this? I'll take my chances with Global Warming, Islamic terrorism, hyperinflation, war with China, and the Heat Death of the Universe if we could just pull the plug on this revolting imperial charade.
The requirements of the Constitution could be fulfilled perfectly well by a written message, mailed off from the White House to the congresscritters and delivered to them to read through over their lunch. It was thus fulfilled for most of the nation's history. Then the idea somehow took hold that the president is not merely the elected head of one of the three branches of one of our levels of government, he is the Son of Heaven, Little Father of the Peoples, Defender of the Faith.
This is not republican government, this is imperial despotism. Why isn't there a popular uprising against this? Me, I'm burned out and unwell, not up to the organizational task, but there must be younger and more vigorous patriots who could get a movement going among the general public to put an end to this ridiculous aggrandisement of the clowns and mediocrities we elect to the presidency. What's the matter with people?
It only needs a slight Constitutional amendment. Article 2, Section 3 just needs amending from the present form of words, as above, to:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress a written Account of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration, likewise in writing, such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient …
There you go. Fixed it — removed, from the regular business of our federal government, a gross insult to our nation's core principles.
I don't want a God-Emperor. I don't want a Little Father of the Peoples. I don't want a Great Helmsman. I want the nation competently governed and the laws faithfully executed, with a minimum of fuss and ceremony. Can we please, please get rid of this filthy abomination, the State of the Union speech?
03 — Public poetry, public prose. A possible riposte there would be, that conservatives, such as I claim to be, cherish the traditions of our culture, the ways of our forefathers. Now, one of those traditions is the tradition of swaying public opinion by means of skillful rhetoric.
That's a real tradition, going all the way back at least to the ancient Greeks. Pericles, Demosthenes, Cicero (who one of my schoolmasters insisted on pronouncing "Kee-keh-ro"), Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount, … they belong to the deep roots of our culture, moving events with the power of words.
Shouldn't we cherish and encourage that tradition of fine speechifying? Doesn't it enrich our public culture and bring us together as a nation?
To that I would reply that there is a difference between public poetry and public prose, and a proper occasion for each. Fulfilling the Constitutional requirement of Article 2, Section 3 calls for prose.
Most of our presidents have understood that — well-nigh all of them up to Woodrow Wilson. Even those who tried for rhetorical excellence when addressing Congress didn't attain it: Lists of historically great speeches never include State of the Union Addresses. The occasion is just too mundane. Heroic rhetoric is out of place.
You typically get a great speech in a time of existential crisis. The ancient Athenians, Americans in the Civil War, the Brits after Dunkirk, knew they were in such a time. Nobody feels that way nowadays.
Sure, I know, you hear the phrase "existential crisis" every day of the week on regime media. Global warming is an existential crisis; covid is an existential crisis; the rise of China is an existential crisis; systemic racism is an existential crisis. If the term had been current ninety years ago, I'm sure there would be someone on record as saying that the death of vaudeville was an existential crisis.
According to Joe Biden on Wednesday, protestors in the Capitol building January 6th constituted an existential crisis. Actual quote from our president:
The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test of whether our democracy could survive.
Problem is, the phrase "existential crisis" has been worn threadbare by over-use. We may indeed be in an existential crisis; but we don't feel it in our guts the way Brits felt it in 1940, or Americans in 1863 and 1775, or Athenians in 431 B.C. When we do, orators will come up to inspire us with soaring rhetoric.
Meanwhile we have the deficit, a flu epidemic, misguided foreign adventures, and some serious problems of internal disorder: all things to get argumentative about, but none of them existential, whatever Joe Biden or the CNN talking heads tell us.
If we have a genuine existential crisis, it is federal failure to enforce our immigration laws. That's a slow-motion, frog-boiling existential crisis, though. People don't feel about it the way they feel about an enemy in plain sight, and the ruling class can easily manipulate public opinion to mute open discussion of it.
If a fine rhetorician were minded to make a stirring public speech about the danger of mass immigration, he might be deterred by the example of Enoch Powell in Britain fifty years ago. Powell, who was a gifted public speaker, made just such a speech. For that he was demoted by his party managers and shut out of high-level decision-making.
Still, as Peter Brimelow has pointed out, our political system is different enough from Britain's that that speech might be worth making anyway. Where is that fine rhetorician?
It sure isn't Joe Biden. You'd think that after a longish lifetime on the public stage, Biden would have developed some rhetorical skills. Well, if he did, he's since lost them.
Excuse me; I'm going to need an entire new segment to toss and gore Biden's speech.
04 — Our rhetorical crisis. Wednesday's speech was an incoherent sprawl of stitched-together clichés. I think the only one Joe missed was "coming out of the shadows," the usual way to promote amnesty for illegal aliens. I was waiting for it, but it never came. Perhaps Biden just forgot.
Did I say clichés? Biden's speech went way beyond clichés, into rhetorical territory so burned-over and barren I don't know why the scattering of congressfolk there weren't groaning in pain. "You can't yell fire in a crowded theater," said Joe. For Heaven's sake: My high school debating society was making fun of that back around 1960.
Then Joe followed up with, quote:
I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue, I think it's a Republican issue.
Got that? Not a Democrat or Republican issue, a Republican issue. That's not semantic or rhetorical malpractice, that's rhetorical malpractice. Oh sure, we know what he means; but there are well-established ways to express that meaning without sounding stupid: you can say "small-'r' republican" for that second usage. Biden so plainly did not do that, the New York Times transcript of the speech prints both occurrences of the word "Republican" in that quote the same way, with capital "R."
Heck, Joe garbled his own campaign slogan, quote:
We have to do more than just build back better — than just build back, we have to build back better.
I guess we should be thankful the old fool didn't say "bill black butter" or "blue bluck blatter."
And then this gem, edited quote:
Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure … permanent protection for immigrants who are here on Temporary Protective Status who came from countries beset by man-made and natural-made violence and disaster.
Get that? I'll leave aside that the actual name of the designation is Temporary Protect-ed Status, not Temporary Protect-ive Status. I'm long past expecting senior federal officials to know squat about one of the federal government's primary responsibilities.
So leave that aside and just savor the president's legislative proposal: aliens given Temporary Protected Status — a high proportion of them in our country illegally when something dire happened in their country — these aliens in Temporary Protected Status should be given permanent protection.
Why? Yes, I know: some of these aliens granted Temporary Protected Status have been here for decades, long after the crisis in their home country was over. They are de facto under permanent protection against deportation. That, however, is only because of the feds' negligence in enforcing the people's laws. The protection may be de facto permanent, but it's de jure temporary — it says so right there on the USCIS website, and our courts have agreed.
What is the rationale for changing the temporary protection to permanent protection by legislation? Why does that rationale weigh more heavily than our government's duty to enforce our laws? Why does anything in the federal realm weigh more heavily than that?
Not only is grandiose State-of-the-Union-style speechifying by the president to Congress an outrage in itself, this particular instance of it was an ungainly mess of contradictions, clichés, and non sequiturs. Whether our republic is facing an existential crisis, I'll leave open; but we are sure as heck in a rhetorical crisis.
05 — A black Jeb Bush? In a typical display of moon-booted virtue signaling, the Republican Party put forward their only black senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, to respond to the president.
I knew nothing about Senator Scott, and I now, after ten minutes internet browsing, know only a little more than nothing. That browsing included the transcript of his Wednesday night speech, which I didn't sit through live.
If there's a Republican who comes to my attention nowadays, the main thing I want to know is: What kind of Republican is he? Is he an open-borders, neocon, front man for the cheap-labor lobbies? Or is he a principled patriot willing to buck the party bosses and spit in the eye of the regime media?
The key issue is of course immigration. I did Ctrl-F for "immigr" on the speech transcript: no hits. Hmm. Try Ctrl-F "border." That got one hit, quote:
Weakening our Southern borders and creating a crisis is not compassionate.
Compassionate? That sets off a whole carillon of alarm bells … and excuse me while I pause here to mark up my bonus points for being the first VDARE.com contributor to use the word "carillon" … thank you.
OK, compassionate. Anyone remember "compassionate conservatism"? The name George W. Bush ring any bells, not necessarily a whole carillon? George W. Bush? [Boo, hiss.] Exactly.
The only proper object of the federal government's compassion is the American people. I don't want my government to practice cruelty, certainly not on children; but if foreigners and/or their children violate my country's laws by entering illegally, or remaining illegally after their visas have expired, I want them repatriated swiftly and humanely. Private persons who feel compassion towards these trespassers should by all means be allowed to offer them private relief, but not in any way that interferes with the repatriation process.
I'm guessing Senator Tim Scott doesn't agree with that. But let's give the guy a fair chance; let's go over to NumbersUSA and look up his report card on immigration legislation.
Here things get weird. Scott was in the House of Representatives for two years, 2011 to 2013, thereafter in the Senate. So that's two years in the House, eight years in the Senate.
OK, what are his congressional report card grades on immigration? When I go to the NumbersUSA website and look up his "Career" grade, it's A-plus, with As and A-pluses all the way down on particular immigration-related sub-issues.
But then, when I click on the "Recent" tab for his votes in the Senate, 2019 to 2021, he's a D-minus! There are just three grades on particular sub-issues: a D on "Reduce Unnecessary Worker Visas," another D on "Reduce Illegal Jobs and Presence," and, oh dear, an F-minus on "Challenging the Status Quo."
I haven't yet been able to make much sense of that. Is the fact of his senior colleague in the Senate being Lindsey Graham something to do with it? Senator Graham is a career C-minus, also a recent C-minus. Did Senator Scott get a stiff talking-to from the South Carolina Republican party bosses? Is there something peculiarly rotten about the South Carolina GOP?
I don't know, and shall reserve full judgment until I do. Meanwhile I have tagged Tim Scott in my mental file as definitely not a black Josh Hawley (who is both a career and a recent A-minus on the NumbersUSA report cards). Tim Scott, unless I turn up evidence to the contrary, is probably more like a black Jeb Bush.
06 — Defund the feds! The main thrust of Joe Biden's speech was of course that he wants the federal government to do lots of new things, financed by new taxes and bigger deficits.
Leaving aside the financial issues there: even if there weren't any financial issues, I don't want the feds doing more than they currently do. I'd be very happy, in fact, if they would stop doing a lot of the things they currently do. They do way too much; and a lot of what they do is either directly harmful to our liberties, or of dubious constitutionality, or both.
We see this nearly every day. Last week I ranted about, one, the Civil Rights Division of the federal Justice Department, and two, the FBI. What have those two particular federal agencies been up to in the seven days since I ranted?
Well, we learned that the Justice Department had prosecutors — presumably from the Civil Rights Division — standing by to immediately hit Derek Chauvin with charges of violating George Floyd's civil rights, in the event Chauvin was acquitted in his state trial. And in fact, even though Chauvin was found guilty, they're going to hit him anyway, just in a more leisurely fashion. The same for the other three cops accused with Chauvin.
In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the black burglar shot dead in Brunswick, Georgia in February last year while violently resisting a citizen's arrest, the feds — and again, this is presumably the Civil Rights Division — aren't even waiting for a state verdict: They've brought federal hate crimes charges against the three citizens involved, I guess because hating burglars is now a federal crime.
This is double jeopardy. What else is it? Yes, I know what the Supreme Court has said; but if this isn't double jeopardy, the term has no meaning.
Nobody in the U.S.A. is today being deprived of any civil rights by any public authority; yet we still carry this relic, this Civil Rights Division, as if nothing had happened since 1957. Get rid of it!
The FBI? Well, after last year's triumph at the Talladega NASCAR track, when fifteen — count 'em, fifteen — FBI special agents carried out that successful investigation of a noose at Bubba Wallace's garage stall, the FBI has been on the lookout for other possible outrages that need investigating.
This week they found one: Rudy Giuliani, known to be a class enemy because of his close association with Donald Trump, cats-paw of the Kremlin. Wednesday this week a squad of FBI agents came hammering on the door of 76-year-old Giuliani at six o'clock in the morning, to seize all his electronic devices.
Meanwhile the agency continues to show no interest at all in investigating Antifa and BLM, who have committed vandalism and arson against numerous buildings, including federal buildings.
Again, I don't want to defund the police; but I very, very much want to defund the FBI, which is an enemy of our liberties. Should the GOP recapture Congress in the 2022 mid-terms, this should be a first order of business. No, make that the second order, right after disbanding the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
07 — Localism, yeah! The news on our liberties isn't all bad. The federal government is in the hands of anti-white totalitarians, but out at the state level there are encouraging signs of resistance.
From progressive — that's their self-description, progressive — website The American Independent, April 27th, I learn that several state legislatures have bills in progress to restrict what public schools may teach their students about sex.
Tennessee's Republican Governor Bill Lee got such a bill on his desk yesterday from the state legislature. This bill requires 30 days notice to parents and guardians for any lessons mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation, and lets students opt out of that lesson without penalty. I haven't heard yet that Gov. Lee has signed it.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, has a similar bill on his desk. He's already signed a bill to stop males competing in women's sports. And Montana's Governor Greg Gianforte, another Republican, was sent a similar bill by his state legislature last Friday. No news on his signing it yet.
[Added when archiving: On the audio I mis-identified Gov. Gianforte by his middle name, Richard. Sorry, Gov. A friend in Montana also reminds me that this Governor has signed into law two bills relating to illegal immigration, both of which had previously been vetoed by Democratic governors. One bill rules out sanctuary jurisdictions, the other mandates that ICE detainers be honored.]
Protecting women's sports has been the motive for a Florida bill, passed this Wednesday night and now on the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who is not only a Republican, he's one of Radio Derb's favorite Republicans.
West Virginia has also moved to protect women's sports, Governor Jim Justice signing a bill into law yesterday, Thursday. Governor Justice is nowadays a Republican, too, notwithstanding he ran as a Democrat in 2016.
Republican Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma has been busy this week. He's signed bills that limit abortions, make it harder for cities to defund their police departments, and — here I'm just quoting Fox News — "reaffirm in state law that the Second Amendment right to bear arms [inner quote] 'shall not be infringed' [end inner quote] by federal, state or local authorities," end quote. I'm not precisely clear what that means, but it's said to make Oklahoma a Second Amendment sanctuary state, which sounds great to me.
Oklahoma has been leading the pack in sensible legislation recently. Last week Governor Stitt signed a bill making it a misdemeanor for rioters to obstruct traffic, and another to outlaw doxxing of public officials, including law enforcement. That got progressives so angry, more than two dozen of them stormed the state capitol and had to be ejected by state highway patrolmen. Lucky for these protestors the capitol doesn't have its own police force, like the federal capitol in DC, with the right to shoot unarmed protestors without warning.
I reported back in February that Critical Race Theory is being pushed in Oklahoma public schools. A couple of bills were put before the state legislature to ban this, but both were apparently killed in committee by jellyfish Republican legislators. I'm told the Resistance aims to keep trying, though.
So yes, there is resistance out there in the states, and it seems to be rising. All strength to them! Perhaps the Tenth Amendment isn't a totally dead letter yet.
08 — Are we racist or not? President Biden, in his Wednesday speech, quote:
With the plans outlined tonight, we have a real chance to root out systematic racism that plagues America.
Senator Tim Scott, in his response, quote:
America is not a racist country.
Hmm. Well, here's a data point. New York Times, April 29th, headline: Only 8 Black Students Are Admitted to Stuyvesant High School.
Stuyvesant High School, I should explain, is one of a handful of New York City public high schools that, by state law, admits students strictly by results on an exam, which anyone can apply to take. Top scorers on the exam get into these elite, specialized high schools.
And yes, only eight Black students got offers to Stuyvesant out of 749 spots. Another one of these specialized high schools, Staten Island Technical High School, had 281 freshman seats to fill; just one black student was accepted.
Brooklyn Tech, third of the most rigorous of these schools, made offers to 64 Black students, out of a total freshman class of 1,607 — almost four percent. New York City is 25 percent black.
How about Asian students? Oh, you had to ask, didn't you. Quote from the Times:
Over half of the 4,262 offers this year went to Asian students.
There are two factors in play behind these strange disproportions.
Factor one is race differences in IQ. Any kind of rigorous written exam, like the one for admission to these specialized high schools, is mainly an IQ test, so Rushton's Rule of Three applies: Asians do best, then whites, then blacks.
Factor two is social strategizing on the part of smart black kids. If you're black and decently smart, you will be agressively courted by high-class private high schools keen to diversify their intake. None of these expensive private schools wants the embarrassment of an all-white student body. They are desperate to darken up the class photographs in their advertising brochures. Your parents can't afford the fees? Hey, we'll waive them.
So now your choice is (a) try for entry to one of the specialized schools like Stuyvesant, or (b) skip that demanding exam and accept the invitation from high-priced Tony Prep.
If you go with (a) and pass the exam, you'll spend four years doing serious brain work among working-class Asian nerds. If you go with (b) you'll mix with offspring of the city's movers and shakers, and graduate with some great social contacts. And you won't have to learn calculus!
Everyone in New York understands all this, but of course the establishment has to pretend not to. Quote from the city's schools chancellor Meisha Porter, who is of course black, quote:
I know from my 21 years as an educator that far more students could thrive in our specialized high schools, if only given the chance. Instead, the continued use of the Specialized High School Admissions Test will produce the same unacceptable results over and over again.
The city's communist mayor Bill de Blasio tried to get the state legislature to eliminate the exam three years ago, but they wouldn't. Coming up to the end of his term-limited term this fall, he's under pressure to try again.
So who is right, the president or Senator Scott? See if you can figure it out.
09 — Michael Collins, RIP. This should be our closing miscellany of brief items. I'm running late today though, and have to wrap up.
I will only pause here for a moment to note the passing of astronaut Michael Collins, the guy who had to stay orbiting the Moon in the Apollo 11 command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin got all the glory down on the lunar surface.
Collins was 90 years old when he left us — another sad reminder, as if we needed one, of how long it has been since we were a nation of engineers and adventurers who could do amazing things like sending men to walk on the Moon. But hey, today we have Twitter, mask mandates, and Critical Race Theory, so it's all good.
Michael Collins' wife pre-deceased him in 2014; so, I am sorry to read, did his son. He's survived by two daughters and seven grandchildren. God bless them all, and the memory of a great American.
10 — Signoff. That's all I have for you this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your time and attention; and from my listeners in Turkmenistan, who I know are legion, I beg forgiveness for forgetting to acknowledge that nation's new national holiday last Sunday: Dog Day, honoring Turkmenistan's national dog, the Alabay.
Flipping through the news early this week, my eye fell on a wee story from Ireland. No, I don't know how things are in Glocca Morra, which in point of fact does not exist. I did, however, read of some nasty brush fires on the hillsides of County Down, following a dry spell, with the skies there last weekend filled with smoke and the night lit up with flames.
I said "hillsides" there, but should properly have said "mountainsides." These are the Mountains of Mourne, or Beanna Boirche if you want to get seriously Irish about it. Once I've told you that, fellow devotees of early-20th-century popular music will know what's coming up to sign us out.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: John McDermott, "The Mountains of Mourne."]