02m09s SOTU brings forth a hero. (Light in the darkness.)
07m54s Trump to U.S. citizens: Drop dead. (The Swamp has taken over.)
13m16s Democrats promise lemonade oceans. (The ancient dream.)
18m30s Two cheers for Norman Thomas. (Bismarck and TR, too.)
22m40s Asymmetrical Multiculturalism. (Why do we put up with it?)
30m32s Bezos exposing Pecker exposing Bezos exposing. (Famous for his packages.)
31m53s New emojis! (And sound advice from Hemingway.)
33m59s Increase your word power. (Never too late.)
35m53s Udmurtia greets Year of the Pig. (With a pig-out.)
38m02s Albert Finney, RIP. (I just got through praising him.)
39m35s Sign-out. (That old watch chain.)
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
Tuesday this week was New Year's Day on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. We are now in the Year of the Pig.
See what I did there? I committed an act of cultural appropriation! Among those offended by my thoughtlessness is one Kassy Cho, who runs something called BuzzFeed World Instagram account—don't ask me. Tweeted Ms Cho on Wednesday, tweet:
friendly reminder that you don't get to celebrate lunar new year unless you're literally from a country that does or if you are invited by someone who is from a country that does
End tweet. I'm not sure that applies to me, unless Mrs Derbyshire's greeting me on Monday morning with the words: "Clean up your study and help me set up the dining-room, we have people coming" counts as an invitation. I celebrated anyway, with a full house of family and friends; and my invitation to Kassy Cho would be: Go boil your head, lady.
02—SOTU brings forth a hero. President Trump dashed my hopes this week by giving a full-dress State of the Union speech to Congress and various other notables—Supreme Court justices, military chiefs, and worthy persons of one kind or another not on the public payroll. Those worthy persons are the ones we've come to refer to as Lenny Skutniks.
Just two weeks ago on this podcast I was crowing over the likelihood that, thanks to the government shut-down, we would be spared this horrible imperial spectacle, this Stalinesque extravaganza.
No such luck. Same preposterous spectacle; same grandiose promises and pronouncements from the President; same standing ovations from his party after every damn punctuation mark; same sullen scowls from the other side at particularly contentious points.
I deplore the whole thing. It's a disgrace to the very idea of republican government. Our President is not a Pharaoh. He's not the Son of Heaven, scattering blessings o'er a grateful land. He's not the General Secretary of the Communist Party, shepherding us all forward into a radiant future. He's a functionary we've hired for a short period to head up one of the three branches of our federal government. I wish he would do some of that, instead of reading gassy speeches someone wrote for him.
Concerning the Lenny Skutniks, I likewise long to hear that one of them has refused the invitation to participate in this totalitarian charade. Jean-Paul Sartre turned down the Nobel Prize for literature; Gregory Perelman refused the Fields Medal prize money; isn't there anyone who can decline an invitation to be applauded by a hall full of corrupt, stupid congresspuppets, half of them drunk?
Let me hasten to add that I intend no disrespect to Lenny Skutniks—certainly not to the actual, original Lenny Skutnik, who did a very brave and selfless thing. The same applies to others being applauded up there in the gallery Tuesday night. Buzz Aldrin's name will be remembered long, long after the names of everyone else in that chamber, along with my name and your name, have been lost in the rubble of history; and rightly so.
I'm only regretting that they don't see what I believe I see: the utterly un-republican—small "r"—nature of the spectacle as it's developed.
I may even have an ally here in the original Lenny Skutnik. In an interview with Politico three years ago, just before Barack Obama's last State of the Union address, 66-year-old Lenny was asked if he still watches the event. Quote from Lenny, slightly edited:
I watch the SOTU, to see who's gonna be the guests. They get carried away with too many guests … Today they're talking about the Obama administration—they want to get some Muslims in there, a Syrian refugee. What's he trying to do? Piss everybody off? He's an activist president. He's nuts.
End quote. Later in the interview Lenny drops a hint that he will likely vote for Trump that November. I hope you did, Lenny. Enjoy your retirement!
And this year's Lenny Skutniks did actually include one person whose feelings about the federal government's annual act of self-glorifying narcissism accord precisely with mine. This was of course eleven-year-old Joshua Trump of Delaware, invited by the First Lady because he'd been bullied at school on account of his surname. Parked in the gallery there while the President droned and the congresslackeys cheered, young Joshua soon lost interest and fell asleep.
Joshua is a true hero of the republic. All patriotic citizens should follow his example.
I want people to come into our country, in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.
End quote. That is a complete repudiation of numerous statements Trump made before, during, and in the months after the 2016 election campaign, when he committed himself to protect American workers by reducing legal immigration. Now he wants immigrants to come, quote, "in the largest numbers ever." That's a 180-degree turn, and a smack in the face to millions of citizens who took him at his earlier word.
Most of public talk about immigration is conducted at an infantile level—moralized, emotionalized, romanticized. Evil leering white men from the movie set of Deliverance resent polite, hard-working brown people from south of the border and lock up their children in cages … You know the script.
There are a few small clearings in the rain forest of moralistic gibberish, though; places where immigration issues—social, cultural, economic, patriotic—are weighed rationally among thoughtful people with honest disagreements. One position you encounter a lot if you frequent those clearings is: legal immigration good, illegal immigration bad.
That's a reasonable position that can be sincerely held. It can also be in-sincerely held; for example, by business lobbies who want to replace free citizen software developers with cheaper indentured workers from India to reduce their labor costs.
I say again, though, that the legal-good, illegal-bad position can be held for unselfish motives. People will even make an economic case for it. I don't myself find that case persuasive; but not everybody saying "legal-good, illegal-bad" is a cynic on the make.
Those business lobbies are mighty powerful, though; and they seem to have captured the Trump administration. The week before Trump's State of the Union address, his Department of Homeland Security issued revised guidelines for the issuance of H-1B visas. That's the visa for those indentured guest-workers from India, to replace middle-class American office workers.
The new H-1B guidelines seem to have been written by the business lobbies, then just approval-stamped by DHS. John Miano—who, with co-author Michelle Malkin, wrote the book on current legal immigration—posted a scathing review of the new guidelines. Sample quote:
These regulations might best be called "The Swamp Has Taken Over the Trump Administration."
John speculates on the political consequences. He tells us he's been getting calls from worker activists who supported Trump in 2016. They want to know about possible primary challengers for 2020.
Of course, those activists don't have Trump's ear. The White House doesn't return their calls any more. John Miano doesn't have Trump's ear, either. Neither do Michelle Malkin, or Ann Coulter. Neither do I, neither do you. It's those business lobbies who have his ear.
The question Trump should ponder is: How many general-election votes do those business lobbies bring with them?
Some of them are doing exactly that. Last week Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts launched their Green New Deal program, and several Democratic Presidential hopefuls have already declared their support for it.
Some points from the program.
Yep, that's the dream of socialism. I wonder if Senator Markey and Representative What's-her-name realise how very old that dream is. The great Soviet dissident, mathematician Igor Shafarevich, in his book The Socialist Phenomenon, traced it all the way back to the slave rebellions of antiquity.
The dream has been with us ever since. It leaked into Christianity as the doctrine of the Second Coming, when an era of peace, justice, and plenty will be established, to last a thousand years. From that we get the adjectives "millennialist" and its Greek equivalent "chiliastic."
This utopian dream is not particularly Christian, though, nor even exclusively Western. The leaders of peasant rebellions in ancient China often preached millennialist ideas. These ideas seem to be a universal feature of human thought everywhere, in all times and places.
One of my favorites in this general line of thought is the early 19th-century French philosopher Charles Fourier, who promised that in a future socialist utopia, the oceans will be turned into lemonade. He was in dead earnest, and provided details of the necessary chemical transformation.
Ah, the radiant future!—a phrase, by the way, that was coined, or at any rate popularized, by Trotsky. It's all a lie, or course, whether it comes from Joachim of Flora, Charles Fourier, Trotsky, or Ed Markey and Alexandria Thingummyjig. The everlasting peace, justice, and plenty have a way of ending up as slave labor camps, mass killings, starvation, and the crushing of independent thought.
If you seek those oceans of lemonade, you end up with at last with present-day Venezuela, if you're lucky. If you're un-lucky you end up with the Khmer Rouge.
Perhaps that's the intention all along, at some unconscious level. Igor Shafarevich thought so. Quote from him:
The death of mankind is not only a conceivable result of the triumph of socialism—it constitutes the goal of socialism.
05—Two cheers for Norman Thomas. Just to clarify here: I of course know that the house of socialism has many mansions, and that millennarian socialism, like the program laid out in this Green New Deal, is an extreme version. Not all socialists believe in lemonade oceans, or want to guarantee security to people who are unwilling to work.
What you might call "ordinary" socialism, and what its proponents like to call "democratic socialism," is comparatively sensible. I don't say you have to agree with it, but it's not crazy, like the program of Senator Markey and the Puerto Rican gal.
Nor is it new. Bismarck gave Germans some basic socialism in the 1880s: government health insurance, old age and disability insurance. Nobody ever called Bismarck a left-wing firebrand. Likewise Teddy Roosevelt, who ran on similar issues in 1912.
And then there was Norman Thomas, standard-bearer of American socialism through the second quarter of the 20th century. Thomas wasn't a lemonade-oceans guy; he just wanted better living and working conditions for ordinary people. He ran for President six times on a socialist ticket, every Presidential election from 1928 to 1948.
Thomas never won the Presidency, of course; but his tireless campaigning must have helped acceptance of New Deal socialist reforms. He boasted at the end of his life—he died in 1968, about a mile from where I am sitting—that all the social reforms he had campaigned for were now un-controversial and accepted.
That boast also illustrates that socialism—democratic socialism, that is—is a moving target. When Charles Dickens published his novel Hard Times in 1854, Macaulay sneered at its, quote, "sullen socialism."
In fact there's no political program in Hard Times at all. The nearest thing to a modern socialist in the novel is Slackbridge, the bullying, bloviating union organizer, who Dickens plainly disapproves of.
Dickens was a moralist who wished people would be nicer to each other. If he had lived long enough to see Bismarck's reforms, he would probably have disapproved of them. To a wise man of the 1850s, however—even to a progressive like Macaulay—Dickens' sentimental sympathy for the working man smelled like socialism.
So yes, I'm well aware that socialism isn't all lemonade oceans. That's what's on offer from this current batch of radicals, though, the ones who stormed into Congress last month.
Are there enough grownups left in the Democratic Party to fend them off? If I knew the answer to that question, I could predict the result of the 2020 election with fair confidence.
06—Asymmetrical Multiculturalism. February is of course Black History Month. So far, just one week in, the reminders are piling up. I have logged the following outrages that have black Americans cowering in fear in their tarpaper shacks.
I ended my last segment wondering if there are enough grown-ups in the Democratic Party to fend off the party's radicals. I'm going to end this one by wondering if there are enough grown-ups in the United States to avert our apparently remorseless slide down into babbling infantilism.
And look at the implicit anti-whiteness on display in these stories. The merest, most trivial slight is taken to be outrageously offensive to the fragile sensibilities of blacks, even if from decades ago, while viciously anti-white comments go unremarked—will, in fact, get you a job on the New York Times editorial board.
I've been a fan of Political Science Professor Eric Kaufmann since reading his book The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America a dozen years ago. Now here was Professor Kaufmann this week, writing in National Review, headline: How 'Asymmetrical Multiculturalism' Generates Populist Blowback.
You can read the thing for yourself on the internet. And, yes, Kaufmann can fairly be categorized as Alt-Lite. He stays well clear of live rails, doesn't touch race realism for example. Still he has an interesting mind, and a nice turn of phrase. "Asymmetrical Multiculturalism," for example. Quote:
At multiculturalism's heart … lies a contradiction: White majorities are compelled to be cosmopolitan, urged to supersede their ascribed identity. Minorities are enjoined to do the reverse.
End quote. You nailed it, Prof. Sanctified minorities get a month of their own. Cherishing their precious, nursed-and-petted "identities," they shriek and swoon at the most trivial imagined slight, and everyone rushes to soothe their wounded feelings. The place of white people in this drama is to grovel, apologize, grovel, apologize, and plead pitifully: "I'm not racist!"
The astonishing thing to me is that so many whites have put up with this silly nonsense for so long.
Imprimis: As Radio Derb goes to tape here the airwaves are full of news about a spat between Jeff Bezos, who needs no introduction, and a chap improbably named David Pecker, who somehow survived high school and now runs American Media, Inc., parent company of the National Enquirer sensationalist tabloid. The spat somehow involves photographs Mr Bezos took of his private parts.
Good taste forbids me digging any deeper into the story. I leave you with what seems to me the definitive comment on it from tweeter Jerry Dunleavy, tweet:
A story about a guy named Pecker getting exposed for trying to expose a dick pic belonging to a man who is world famous for his packages, would be rejected by the Onion.
Emojis are those dinky little symbols people include in their smartphone or IM messages to indicate pleasure, displeasure, doubt, and so on. For this year, 2019, 270 new emojis have been announced by whoever it is that announces new emojis.
One of these new emojis is of a hand with thumb and index finger just an inch apart. The idea is to signify a small quantity of something, I suppose: but everyone is taking it to be an insult emoji, signifying that some guy has a tiny penis.
Literary types will find themselves thinking of the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, who once confessed to his friend Ernest Hemingway an agonized conviction that his penis was too small. Hemingway took a look and thought the item was all right; then he advised Fitzgerald, for further reassurance, to check out the classic male nude sculptures in the Louvre. (This all took place in Paris.)
That's sound advice from Hemingway. I'm not totally familiar with the Louvre's inventory; but to any male listener afflicted with the same insecurity as Fitzgerald, I recommend a careful scrutiny of the Farnese Hercules.
I was reading the December issue of Literary Review, a magazine I have advertised before on this podcast. The precise thing I was reading was Donald Rayfield's review of a book about Revolutionary postcards in imperial Russia.
Second paragraph, first sentence, quote:
For much of the 19th century, the authorities systematically scrutinised correspondence, but by the 20th century there were too many millions of letters to perlustrate everything, a practice that only again became feasible under Soviet rule.
End quote. To what everything? "Perlustrate"? I had to look it up.
This reviewer, Donald Rayfield, is billed as Emeritus Professor of Russian at Queen Mary University of London. If Prof. Rayfield is ever in New York, I'll buy him dinner at a nice restaurant, in gratitude for his contribution to enlarging my vocabulary. Спасибо, профессор.
Item: I don't think I made a very good job of answering the Proust Questionnaire in my December Diary. I didn't take it very seriously, I'm afraid, mainly because I have trouble taking Proust very seriously. My colleague the Audacious Epigone over at the Unz Review did a much more conscientious job of it.
My answer to the question "How would you like to die?" was at least perfectly honest, though. "Instantaneously," was my reply.
If you then asked me in what manner I should least like to die, I might give you different answers on different days of the week. Way up there among my answers, though, would be: "Being eaten alive by pigs."
That was the fate of a lady in Russia last week. We don't know the lady's name, only that she was a peasant, 56 years old, in the Malopurginsky district of Udmurtia. She went out to feed the pigs, suffered some kind of seizure or fit, fell into the pigsty, and the pigs ate her.
And if it were my fate to be eaten alive by pigs, I'd wish for it not to happen in a place named Udmurtia, which sounds like it was made up by one of the grimmer kinds of fantasy novelists, Mervyn Peake perhaps.
"The Malopurginsky district of Udmurtia" … Is this actually the real world I'm living in? Sometimes it's hard to be sure.
Item: Another death to report, although this one, thank goodness, less grisly. Movie actor Albert Finney died Thursday at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London; "from a chest infection," say the reports. I assume that means pneumonia, known to my mother's generation of nursing professionals as "the old man's friend," because it saw you off without much pain. Finney was 82.
I just got through praising Albert Finney, also in my December Diary, for his role in Under the Volcano.
That movie was 1984, well along in Finney's career. To us sixties survivors, he will always be Tom Jones in the 1963 movie of that name. Then, down towards his later years, he was a fine Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm.
I'm not much of a movie person, and don't hold actors in much regard as a rule. I'll make an exception for Albert Finney, though. The world's poorer for his passing. May he rest in peace, and condolences to his loved ones.
08—Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and welcome once again to the Year of the Pig. Just be careful, if you're in charge of feeding any of the critters, you don't slip and fall.
How about another novelty song to see us out? Once in a while, when the mood takes me and I'm going to some event where I have to look my best, I go in full dress uniform: Dark blue three-piece suit from a very respectable London tailor with my grandfather's gold watch in a vest pocket and the gold chain and fob that go with it.
This is the song that goes through my head as I sail out thus, under full canvas. It's an old cockney ballad from the music halls, and you need to know a couple of things. One: A feature of early 20th-century street life was the scrap metal merchant, working the streets with his horse and cart, calling out: "Any old iron!" Two: "Tile" is slang for "hat."
OK, off we go. There will be more from Radio Derb next week. Here's Stanley Holloway.
[Music clip: Stanley Holloway, "Any Old Iron."]