00:59 Pastor Joe addresses our soul. (Biden’s speech address.)
11:43 How do you solve a problem like The Donald? (Channeling Cromwell.)
17:16 Clingers… Deplorables… Semi-Nazis… (Enemies of the people!)
20:22 Albanians in the news. (Not sending their best.)
23:44 What are we doing in Iraq? (Don’t ask Congress.)
26:54 Blacks having fun. (Carnival time in London.)
30:26 Winnie the Pooh goes feral. (Where’s Tigger?)
31:40 Sad story from Brazil. (World’s loneliest man.)
32:48 Michael Gorbachev RIP. (His two blunders.)
35:19 Back to the Moon? (Artemis fail.)
38:02 Educational collapse. (Top to bottom.)
41:12 USA leads the way. (In pumpkin paddling.)
42:39 Signoff. (For Dead Heads.)
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome, listeners. This is your succinctly genial host John Derbyshire with another romp — well, more of a stagger, really — through a week's-worth of news.
I have an extra musical treat for you this week, listeners, at the beginning of Segment 3. Before I can get to it, though, here is some spiritual sustenance — food for our souls, from the principal spokesman for our state religion.
02 — Pastor Joe addresses our soul. Sketching out the plan for this edition of Radio Derb earlier in the week, I assumed that the president's Thursday evening address to the nation would be the headliner of the week, so I reserved my first segment for it.
That was a mistake on my part. The speech wasn't of any national significance. It was a partisan rant, of the kind that is appropriate to a party convention.
The advertised topic of the address was "the continued battle for the soul of the nation," and that gives the game away. When a politician today talks about "the soul of the nation" you can be sure he's going to tell us how good and righteous altogether he and his people are and how evil the opposition is.
Commentator Marc Thiessen, who is smarter than I am, foresaw this and wrote very incisively about it in a column at The Washington Post on Thursday, before the speech. Sample quote:
As a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, I helped write numerous presidential prime-time addresses to the nation. Every single one of them was to discuss either military action, a national tragedy or a major policy initiative. [Biden is disgracing the institution of the prime-time presidential address by Marc A. Thiessen; The Washington Post, September 1st 2022.]
Thiessen then lists, president by president, all of the prime-time presidential addresses of W, Obama, Clinton, Poppy Bush, Reagan, and Trump. They all conform to that pattern: national, not political.
W on Hurricane Katrina; Obama on the Boston Marathon bombing; Clinton on our operations in Somalia; Poppy Bush on a balanced-budget amendment; Reagan on the Challenger explosion; Trump on the pandemic; those issues all had a political dimension, of course, but in their prime-time addresses those presidents presented them as of equal concern to all of us.
(Thiessen does allow that Trump's delivering his Republican National Convention acceptance speech from the Truman balcony was, quote, "controversial," but I don't recall much controversy. A candidate's acceptance speech is political by nature, everyone understands that in advance.)
Further quote from Thiessen:
Biden is the only president in more than four decades to ask the major news networks to preempt their prime-time programming just weeks before an election and broadcast a campaign speech whose stated purpose is to attack the opposition party.
The big TV networks figured out in advance the same thing Marc Thiessen did, and most of them turned down the White House request. I think only CNN and MSNBC covered the speech live.
I switched on my TV at 8 p.m. as I usually do to catch Tucker Carlson. There was Tucker, talking mainly about something else, with occasional inset pictures of Pastor Joe addressing our spiritual concerns in odd corners of the screen.
What about the content of the speech? Both The Washington Post and The New York Times offered summary takeaways — four takeaways in both cases. The Post's four takeaways were:
The New York Times' four takeaways, written up by the paper's congressional correspondent Jonathan Weisman, were:
So there, according to two of the regime's foremost media outlets, are eight takeaways for you to ponder.
And yes, Pastor Joe really did say "a beacon to the world." And of course the speech was full of whoppers. Quote:
MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election.
"The rule of law"? You mean our immigration laws, which Biden's administration — with the eager co-operation of jurisdictions all over run by Biden's party — refuse to enforce?
"The Constitution"? Including those pesky bits in Article Two about the Electoral College, and the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of "a speedy and public trial"?
"Recognize the will of the people" and "accept the results of a free election"? Like Biden's party failed to do for four solid years following the 2016 election, telling us the result was rigged by Russian interference?
But this is to parse the babbling of an idiot — sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The definitive put-down of a president's speechifying was given to us a hundred years ago by William McAdoo, President Wilson's Secretary of the Treasury, describing the speeches of Warren Harding, quote:
His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea; sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly as a prisoner in their midst, until it died of servitude and overwork.
That is first-class rhetoric. I happen to think, though, that Warren Harding was one of our better presidents and that Harding's speeches, although a bit gassy, were generally good. Check for yourself; there are plenty of them on the internet.
For sure, when you compare a Harding speech to the mean, spiteful, illiterate drivel we got from Pastor Joe on Thursday, it's hard not to think that our standards for presidential oratory have undergone a catastrophic decline this past hundred years.
03 — How do you solve a problem like The Donald?
[Clip: How do you solve a problem like The Donald?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means The Donald?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the-wisp! A clown!
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell him.
Many a thing he ought to understand.
But how do you make him stay
And listen to all you say?
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
Ok, how do you solve a problem like The Donald?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?]
And they say there's no musical creativity any more!
Well, I'm always glad to give a shout-out to Sound of Music fans. A lovely movie, a Derbyshire family favorite back when the kids were little. People acquainted with the background history tell us that the Nazi takeover of Austria was, as one of them expressed it to me, "more like a wedding than a rape"; but hey, creative license.
The question looms, though: What are we going to do about Donald Trump?
Ann Coulter posed that question very eloquently in a podcast on her Substack account, August 29th. I hope Lady Ann won't mind if I offer you a brief extract, just to give the flavor.
[Clip: I noticed a big shift from some of the diehard Trumpsters I know, across the income spectrum and across all kinds of spectrums. So I thought: "OK, phew! Finally we're done with the scourge and we can get on to, to the next Republican."]
"Trump's Done" is the name of that podcast, from someone who, more than any other one person — well, except Hillary Clinton — who helped to get Trump elected in 2016. Trump being Trump, Lady Ann got kicked in the teeth for her trouble, so you might say that's resentment speaking. Her observations agree with mine, though, and I think she's right. Trump's done.
Done, but unfortunately not gone. There he is on Drudge. There he is in my morning newspaper. Trump is all over; a different thing from just being over.
Here he is, there he is, upstairs, downstairs, in the front yard: preening, blustering, accusing, promising, … and yes, endorsing, with increasingly mixed results. You could ask Sarah Palin about it.
People voted for Trump in 2016 for all sorts of reasons; but some big slab of the electorate swung to him because of his promise — chanted at every Trump rally, repeated many, many times by the man himself — to "Build the wall!"
The other reasons to vote for Trump — most powerfully the very low quality of the other presidential candidate — were in play all over again in 2020. Among those voters who'd ticked the ballot for Trump in 2016 on the strength of his "build the wall!" promise, however, there were many who remembered the old childhood ditty:
Fool me once, shame on you;
Fool me twice, shame on me.
Some number of those voters stayed home in 2020. I don't know the actual number, but it may well have been big enough to get us Joe Biden, even without all the mail-in voting and absentee-ballot shenanigans.
Dismissing the Rump Parliament 370 years ago, Oliver Cromwell told the members, in among some other vituperation which I don't think appropriate to Trump's case, Cromwell said, quote:
Go, get you out! Make haste! … In the name of God, go!
04 — Clingers … Deplorables … Semi-Nazis … Enemies of the People! Taking a wider view, it's a cliché, yes, but it's true: we're more bitterly divided than ever — well, since 1861.
I don't see how you can dispute the fact that it has been the Democratic Party hammering the biggest wedges into that division. We are fourteen years on from when Barack Obama told a campaign fundraiser in 2008, referring to small-town Americans whose jobs had gone abroad, that, quote
They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Those words of Obama's, sympathetically intended but indisputably condescending, lit such a candle in America that day, as it seems, shall never be put out. Just eight years later Hillary Clinton famously told an audience that:
[Clip: You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call "the basket of deplorables." (Laughter, applause.) Right? (Laughter, applause.) They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that, and he has lifted them up.]
Now here we are six years further on and we've advanced further from "bitter clingers" by way of "basket of deplorables" to "semi-fascists." That was the term Biden used, referring to Trump supporters, in an off-camera but well-reported address to donors in Rockville, MD. Quote:
It's not just Trump, it's the entire philosophy that underpins the — I'm going to say something — it's like semi-fascism.
That's been the trajectory: "bitter clingers," then "basket of deplorables," now "semi-fascists," all in just fourteen years. How many more years will it take to get us to "enemies of the people"? No more than five, would be my guess.
05 — Albanians in the news. Across the Pond, Albanians are in the news.
The several thousand illegal aliens landing on the southern shores of England every month apparently include a high proportion of that nationality, Albanians.
Albanians, I am sorry to say, don't have a good reputation in Europe. I truly am sorry to say it as I used to have an Albanian colleague here in New York, a very smart and perfectly trustworthy guy who I liked a lot. Furthermore, the travel websites give Albania a good press: friendly people, good food, excellent beaches, safe and cheap.
For some reason, though, the common stereotype over in Europe is of tough, lawless mountain men with no very great regard for other people's property. News pictures from these stories about illegals crossing the Channel from France to England seem to bear that out. I guess Albania is not sending its best.
Perhaps we should cut the Albanians some slack. They spent most of the Cold War under the rule of a chap named Enver Hoxha, one of the nastier kind of communist dictators. Comrade Hoxha must have kept himself pretty busy: his memoirs run to thirteen volumes — seven thousand pages.
When he wasn't memoir-izing, Hoxha was persecuting religious believers, purging Party comrades, torturing dissidents, and running forced labor camps with many thousands of inmates. A strict Stalinist, he fell out with the USSR after Khrushchev's anti-Stalin speech and threw his lot in with Mao's China. Then when Mao died and China turned to reform under Deng Xiaoping, he fell out with China and went it alone until he himself died in 1985. Not for nothing was Cold War Albania tagged "Europe's North Korea."
After the Iron Curtain fell there were some years of disorder, but in the 21st century Albania's been doing OK. Living standards are good, unemployment's low, politics is no more unstable than ours. So why do so many Albanians want to leave? It's not clear to me, and the British news reports don't help much.
If I have any listeners in Albania or the Albanian diaspora, I'm genuinely curious to hear what's going on.
06 — What are we doing in Iraq? We're just seven months away from the twentieth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which commenced on March 20th 2003. How's Iraq doing?
Apparently they've been having a spot of bother. If you follow the news you probably saw some stories about fighting this week in the Green Zone of central Baghdad, where the government offices are. What's up with that?
I intended to do my journalistic due diligence and read it up thoroughly so I could tell you, but my eyes kept glazing over and I didn't absorb much. Shi-ites, Sunnis, ISIS, Iranian-backed militias, … Sorry I'm losing concentration again. Why should I care about tribal warfare among savages?
I did learn that we, the U.S.A., still have two and a half thousand troops in Iraq. They're supposed to be in non-combat roles, advising and training, but I assume they'll fire back if fired on. That would count as combat, wouldn't it?
And I did stay conscious long enough to take in some comments from a respectable academic national-security website concerning the legal justification for our staying in Iraq. No problem where international law is concerned, they say, but, quote:
U.S. domestic law justifications are weak at best, relying on stretched interpretations of the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) and of the president's authority under Art. II of the Constitution.
International law I find hard to take seriously: powerful players are always going to do as they please with no fear of going to jail.
I do, however, think our government should respect domestic law. If U.S. domestic law justifications for our continuing operations in Iraq "are weak at best," why isn't anyone in Congress challenging them?
But yes, that's a rhetorical question …
07 — Blacks having fun. If you think it's only American blacks who can't get together for a fun event without it descending into wanton violence, you don't know about the Notting Hill Carnival.
This is a Caribbean street festival held over a two-day period, a Sunday and Monday, at the end of August in Notting Hill, a district in West-Central London. The district is pretty well gentrified now. A house with a garden will cost you around five million dollars; a one-bedroom apartment goes for eight hundred thou to over a million.
Back in the mid-20th century, though, Notting Hill was kind of slummy. Blacks from the Caribbean settled there in quantity, and Britain's first big race riot happened in Notting Hill in 1958. It was partly in reaction to the riot that the carnival was started up in the 1960s.
The carnival starts out merrily enough, but soon degenerates to the urban black norm. The gentry types who now inhabit Notting Hill board up their windows and leave town for the duration. Local stores and businesses all close. The police hate the event. They keep demanding that it be relocated to one of London's spacious parks where the carnival-goers would be easier to control, but the municipal authorities are terrified of being called racist, so nothing gets done.
This year's Notting Hill Carnival was held last weekend. The butcher's bill: one killed, six others stabbed but survived, 209 celebrants were arrested and 74 police officers were assaulted.
I expected to see that one fatality described as "an aspiring rapper." No: in the news reports he was an actual rapper, although The Independent qualified it somewhat to "rising star rapper." The name of the deceased was Takayo Nembhard. He was 21 years old.
You might think that after that 1958 riot, and perhaps looking across at the situation in the U.S.A., you might think the Brits would have learned something, but they didn't.
In the matter of race, nobody ever learns anything. To learn something you'd have to notice things; and as our own Steve Sailer has taught us, noticing things is bad.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: A new genre of horror movies seems to have emerged: belovéd fictional kiddie's characters turned into monsters.
Leading the way is this new production Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. Deserted by Christopher Robin, that plump teddy bear and his companion Piglet go feral with a slasher attack on a woodland cottage full of vacationing young women.
I'd like to know what Tigger was up to while all this was going on, but the news stories don't tell us.
You can of course have fun thinking up similar transformations of longtime children's favorites: Little Crack House on the Prairie, Bambi's Revenge, and so on. If Pippi Longstocking goes trans, though, I'm outta here.
Item: What a sad story that was from Brazil, about the last surviving member of an aboriginal tribe being found dead in his hut, deep in the Amazon rain forest.
He seems to have died from natural causes and to have been about 60 years old. We don't know his name. In the mid-1990s, when he was around thirty — in the prime of life — there were six other people in his tribe, but they were all shot dead by ranchers advancing the agricultural frontier. Since then he lived alone, unable even to speak to anyone as there was no-one left who knew his language.
Such a melancholy fate. May he rest in peace, and may those ranchers burn in Hell for ever.
Item: Michael Gorbachev died on Tuesday at the age of 91. Seeing his name in the news media, I could only summon up three words in connotation. They were: glasnost, perestroika, and Chernobyl.
Chernobyl was a one-off catastrophe. Gorbachev coped with it as well as you could expect the leader of a corrupt, sclerotic state apparatus to cope; he shouldn't be blamed for it, although of course he has been. It's the other two words, glasnost and perestroika, that sum up his legacy.
Glasnost means "political liberalization"; perestroika means "economic liberalization." Srdja Trifkovic, obituarizing Gorbachev over at Chronicles magazine on Wednesday, argues that Gorbachev's great blunder was trying to do the two things at the same time. Quote from him:
A successful economic transition requires a stable and predictable domestic political environment — even authoritarian, if need be.
Trifkovic offers many examples: Deng Xiaoping, Pinochet, and so on. I think he's right, though we'll be waiting a while yet for political liberalization in China.
Actually Trifkovic gives that as only one of Gorby's two great blunders. The other one was believing all the many, many verbal — always verbal! — assurances from U.S. and European politicians that there would be no eastward expansion of NATO. That might be the blunder that gets us all killed …
Item: Another anniversary on the horizon: Wednesday, December 14th 1972 was the day the Apollo 17 Lunar Excursion Module lifted off from the Moon with astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt on board to return to Earth — fifty years ago this coming December.
Gene Cernan, the last person to walk on the Moon's surface, died five years ago at age 82; Harrison Schmitt is still with us, aged 87.
If you had told those of us following that event that no human beings at all would visit the Moon in the subsequent fifty years, we would not have believed you. After fifty years of advances in electronics, manufacturing technology, and propulsion systems, surely by 2022 we'd be taking weekend breaks in the Sea of Tranquillity, wouldn't we?
The current U.S. administration tells us that we shall go back to the Moon in 2025. They have a program to do this, a program named Artemis. In Greek mythology, Artemis was the sister of Apollo — geddit?
The main launch vehicle, Artemis I, was scheduled for an unmanned test launch on Monday; but the launch had to be scrubbed because of a technical problem. It's been rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon, Saturday 3rd.
There's been some mockery about Monday's launch being scrubbed, but that's not totally fair. You can't be too careful with a big expensive piece of equipment like that. The Apollo launches sometimes had issues, too. Apollo 17 itself was held up for two and a half hours by a technical glitch.
As a space geek from w-a-a-ay back, I wish the Artemis program all success, and look forward to seeing their astronauts walk on the Moon in 2025 … if the ChiComs don't get there first.
Item: I gaped in disbelief at the list of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity bureaucrats at the University of Michigan. There are a hundred and twenty-six of them at salaries from $42,000 up to, dear God, $431,000. Total salary tab: over fifteen and a half million per annum.
U.Mich. has 31,000 undergraduates; so Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity costs around $500 per undergraduate. You may think that's a bargain; I call it grand larceny.
So far as it is possible to guess the sex of these parasites from their names, a hefty majority are female — I'd guess it's four or five to one.
The comment thread following that list tells us there is nothing unusual about U.Mich. in this regard.
Meanwhile down at the other end of the education spectrum, there has been wailing and gnashing of teeth over this year's first test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, reported in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. These are tests given to nine-year-olds in our schools. Results for other grade levels will come out in November. Quote:
Average scores in reading for 2022 declined to 215 out of a possible 500, falling five points from 2020. Math scores fell seven points, to 234. The results mark the largest drop in reading scores since 1990 and the first decline in math scores since the test began in 1971. Math and reading scores for the exam are now at their lowest levels since the 1990s.
"History is a race between education and catastrophe," wrote H.G. Wells a hundred years ago. If he was right, the current state of American education, from top to bottom, suggests that the race is pretty much over. At this point surely the smart money is on catastrophe.
Item: Finally, hearty congratulations from Radio Derb to Duane Hansen of Syracuse, Nebraska. Mr Hansen celebrated his 60th birthday last week by paddling 38 miles down the Missouri River in a giant pumpkin named Berta.
We still await official recognition from Guinness World Records, but if certified this will break the previous record for pumpkin paddling which, as you will no doubt recall, was set by Rick Swenson of Grand Forks, ND, who paddled a pumpkin 25.5 miles down the Red River in 2016. We haven't been vouchsafed the name of Rick's pumpkin.
In related competition news, the lamest joke about pumpkin-paddling came from The Guardian newspaper, quote "It might look like fun — but you'd butternut try this at home."
09 — Signoff. That's all for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and I hope you all enjoy yourself on Labor Day. The Mrs and I are going to a clambake, whatever that is. Something to do with clams, presumably; and that's fine, I like clams, although I don't really see why you would bother to bake them. I guess I'll find out.
Going back for a moment to Lady Ann's podcast, she got my attention when she was talking about Trump's recent rallies. The top decks of the stadiums, she says, are empty, the lower decks thinly populated. It's not the case, as it once was, that everyone from the area comes out to see Trump.
[Clip: No, it's the same … They're like Dead Heads; they're following him from place to place. He sings the same songs and woo-hoo! they're in the same costumes … I was a Dead Head so I'm familiar with the phenomenon. It was a lot of fun. I'm sure the Trump Heads are having a lot of fun, but it isn't indicative of a movement that's sweeping the nation.]
I never knew Ann was once a Dead Head — meaning, of course, a follower of the rock music band The Grateful Dead.
I never engaged with the Dead at all myself; the last rock band I had any interest in was Electric Light Orchestra, and that wasn't exactly a passionate engagement. It was actually in the early 1970s when I was conducting some experiments with pharmaceuticals — strictly for scientific interest, of course. I can report that ELO provide the ideal musical accompaniment to an acid trip … but that's by the way.
Although a Grateful Dead ignoramus myself, I have a listener who is an enthusiastic Dead Head. He has very kindly provided me with some clips; so in gratitude to him, and in homage to Lady Ann, I shall sign off with one.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: The Grateful Dead, "Brown-Eyed Women."]