Radio Derb: Smoke From Canada, Biden's Energy Suicide, Curse Of Ideology, And Our Degraded Legal System, Etc.
06/09/2023
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01:30  Smoke from Canada.  (Hysteria is worse.)

06:30  Forest Management basics.  (Climate change politics.)

12:09  Biden's energy suicide.  (Climate change economics.)

17:55  Join the prosaics!  (Climate change and society.)

23:55  The curse of ideology.  (We are all guilty!)

31:59  Our degraded legal system.  (No one is above the law!)

39:00  Antarctica adds ice.  (2,000 square miles in 10 years.)

41:08  Pride month, Day 9.  (From "tolerate us!" to "celebrate us!")

43:40  Mike Pence declares.  (Not bad on immigration.)

45:48  Signoff.  (Old English.) 

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air. Greetings, listeners, from your distinctly genial host John Derbyshire with my weekly survey of the passing charivari.

First of all: many, many thanks to listeners and readers who took the time and trouble to email in wishing me a happy birthday. Thank you! And yes, it was a happy birthday, culminating in a dinner with the family at my favorite French restaurant. God bless my dear family!

Just one more housekeeping note, arising from my May Diary.

I mentioned having spent much of the month absorbed in a 3,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. How's that going? It's gone! Finished it yesterday. Many, many thanks to the friend who gifted me that — a worthy challenge.

OK, let's see what's been happening in the world at large.

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02 — Smoke from Canada.     Panic of the week here in the Northeast has been the poor air quality caused by widespread forest fires in eastern Canada.

Outdoor activities are being canceled; Philadelphia schools have shifted to remote learning; we're getting robocall alerts from local authorities advising us to stay indoors; neighbors walking their dogs are wearing face masks again; suddenly everyone is an expert on Air Quality Index — just like, if there's a plane crash in the news, everyone suddenly knows all about metal fatigue or Clear Air Turbulence.

I'm afraid I can't work up much alarm. It's a generational thing. I grew up breathing air smoky from burning tobacco. Most indoor spaces were thick with it: homes, offices, movie theaters, even stores. I smoked cigarettes myself for thirty-some years and still enjoy an occasional cigar.

The English outdoors used to be smoky, too. People heated their houses by burning coal. My sister's first husband was an American from one of the Southern states. I remember him remarking that when he visited England for the first time — this would have been the mid-1960s — he noticed the universal smell of burning soft coal.

I didn't personally experience the great London smogs of the early 1950s but I remember hearing radio news announcers reporting on them. They were no surprise to local people in the town where I grew up. Those local provincials referred to London, seventy miles away, by metonymy as "The Smoke."

Our next-door neighbor Bob Longdon was a local. He worked as a truck driver when I was a student at University College, London in the mid-1960s. At the start of the college term I'd check with Bob to see if I could hitch a ride. "Hey, Bob, you going down to The Smoke any time soon?"

The big industrial cities of the North of England were even worse, at any rate when Orwell was writing about them in the late 1930s. He observes somewhere that when northerners were on vacation at the seaside, far from the factories, they would grumble that the air had no flavor to it.

Medical professionals used to joke that when a lung specialist trained in some big city was posted to some rural district he'd be surprised to find the country people afflicted with Pink Lung Disease.

Please don't get me wrong. Sure, I prefer my Air Quality Index to be low, and I'm glad that the excesses of the Tobacco Age have been shamed out of existence. Sixteen years ago I published a column in National Review about how I missed cigarettes. It wasn't intended altogether seriously, but I got an indignant letter from a lady whose beloved father, a two-pack-a-day man, had died from emphysema.

It's only that I'm not half as afraid of smoky air as I am of public hysterias, to which our age is much too prone. This looks like another one such, of a minor and temporary kind.

And it's plausible that the cause of this week's little Air Quality hysteria is another much bigger, longer-lasting, and more destructive — politically, economically, and socially — hysteria: climate change!

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03 — Forest Management basics.     I said "politically, economically, and socially" there. Let me deal with them in turn. First, the destructive effects on politics. Again, consider those Canadian forest fires.

A key feature of professional forest management is controlled burns. Left to itself, a forest accumulates masses of loose stuff at ground level: long grass, shrubbery, last year's leaves, fallen branches, here and there fallen dead trees.

In a long dry season that stuff is highly inflammable. It only takes a careless motorist or hiker, or a dry lightning strike, to ignite the whole lot.

You don't even need lightning or a discarded cigarette. Spontaneous combustion will do the trick. Quote from the U.S. National Park Service website, quote:

Spontaneous combustion or spontaneous ignition, as it is often called, is the occurrence of fire without the application of an external heat source. Due to chemical, biological, or physical processes, combustible materials self-heat to a temperature high enough for ignition to occur. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an estimated 14,070 fires occur annually from spontaneous combustion.

End quote.

The majority of that fourteen thousand are domestic or industrial incidents — piles of oily old rags spontaneously igniting, and so on. Still, in the immensity of forests like Canada's, with billions of tons of dry dead vegetable matter quietly rotting away, spontaneous combustion is by no means out of play.

So good forest management includes precautions against out-of-control fires. One technique is fires that are carefully under control. There's an art to it, of course — you want a good supply of water nearby, for example — but that's the stuff you learn in Forest Management school.

Or used to. Quote from the Daily Mail Online, June 8th, quote:

Parks Canada had only scheduled 23 controlled burns this year. By comparison, there were 150,000 in America in 2019.

End quote.

A lot of the discrepancy there is due to Green activists, who are much more energetic in Canada than in the U.S.A. In Australia even more so, or at least that was the case in the late 2010s, when activists stopped controlled burns altogether because of the damage they did to wildlife. The result was the colossal Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020 in which at least one entire town had to be evacuated.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn't concern himself with dirty-fingernails blue-collar issues like Forest Management. He takes a much loftier view — looking at the Big Picture. What's causing these wildfires? Climate change!

Quote from Canada's Philosopher King, at a presser on Monday, quote:

Year after year, with climate change, we're seeing more and more intense wildfires and in places where they don't normally happen.

End quote.

And guess who agrees with him? Yes, it's that well-known and superbly eloquent geophysicist Kamala Harris. Here was our Vice President, tweeting on Thursday, tweet:

Millions of people are experiencing dangerous air quality due to wildfires across Canada, which are intensifying because of the climate crisis.

End tweet.

So there are some destructive political consequences of climate change hysteria. What about economics?

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04 — Biden's energy suicide.     Last Sunday Saudi Arabia announced that it would begin cutting oil production by one million barrels a day in July.

It's a unilateral cut by the Saudis, not a full OPEC cut; although other OPEC nations, along with Saudi Arabia, had announced production cuts just two months ago. Those April cuts are to last through at least the end of this year.

The point is, of course, to prop up the worldwide price of oil and its by-products. And it works: following the the April cuts the global price of oil jumped nearly six percent. Manipulating oil markets is easy!

So the Biden administration will counter those moves by encouraging domestic oil production, right? Wrong! Just the contrary, in fact.

Just a few days ago, prior to the Saudi's unilateral production cut but well after the April cuts, our Department of the Interior put a twenty-year ban on new oil and gas drilling that covers 550 square miles of land in New Mexico.

This ban is the fruit of some ethnic conflict down there, conflict between two tribes of American Indians. In the left corner we have the Pueblo Laguna tribe; in the right corner, the Navajo Nation, which owns most of the land under the ban.

The Navajos are furious about the ban. They want drilling for oil and gas on this land. It brings in jobs and money, a gross ten million a year on one estimate. What's not to like?

The other tribe, though, the Pueblo Laguna, is concerned about, quote, "about the impacts that new development would have on areas of deep cultural connection," end quote. At the center of those 550 square miles is the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park, which the Pueblo Lagunas tell us is very dear to them.

So, an ethnic squabble. But diversity is our strength!

By a peculiar coincidence Joe Biden's Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is herself half Pueblo Laguna (the other half is Norwegian-American). Even more peculiar, Secretary Haaland's daughter Somah is a full-time lobbyist for the organization promoting the drilling ban. So strange! Stranger yet, the New York Times coverage of the ban didn't mention the ethnic angle.

This latest ban is of course all of a piece with the Biden administration's war on fossil fuels. If the human race is not to be wiped out by climate change we must all go electric! To power our cars, trucks, ships, planes, and machinery, to heat and cool our homes and workplaces, to manufacture our plastics, we must use electricity; and the electricity must be generated by means that don't involve oil, gas, or coal — by solar power (when the sun's shining) or wind power (when the wind's blowing) …

It's all a great fantasy. Yes, the climate is changing. It always has and always will. Look up the Little Ice Age of just a few hundred years ago. Humanity coped; and with modern technology we'll cope a lot better.

I've done my share of bitching about the Donald Trump presidency. He never got control over the legislative process or the federal bureaucracies and so never got anything done to real, lasting effect. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the D.C. lifers nodded respectfully in his presence but laughed at him behind his back.

Trump did, though, give us energy independence for a while. It wasn't real and lasting, but it was in good, spirited defiance of the climate-change cranks. Let's try to get a Chief Executive who'll get us back to energy independence and keep us there.

 

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05 — Join the prosaics!     All right: that's the political and economic destruction being wrought by climate-change hysteria. What about the social angle?

This isn't as big a deal but it's worth some commentary.

Most of the disruption caused by the climate-change crazies has been in Britain and Europe. Two weeks ago in this podcast, for example, I noted the stunt they staged at Rome's Trevi Fountain, pouring black dye into the water, permanently staining the white stone structure.

There have been similar acts of vandalism in art galleries, activists super-gluing themselves to the frames of famous artworks or throwing food at the paintings themselves.

A much bigger nuisance, in Britain particularly, has been climate-change protestors blocking main roads with slow marches. There have been some furious reactions from citizens trying to get to work or drive their kids to school. In the proper spirit of anarcho-tyranny, police are of course targeting the angry citizens, not the protestors.

There's been some protesting here in the U.S.A., too. Extinction Rebellion has a chapter in New York City and there have been some scuffles with the police. Climate-change protesting isn't as much in evidence here as in the Old World, though. In this, as in so much else, the Brits and the Euros are more woke than us.

That's a sociologically interesting thing in itself, with all sorts of angles for the intrepid social critic to explore. Why, for example, is Canada more European in this regard than we are?

And then the social psychology of grand hysterias in general. Mocking Justin Trudeau back there, I called him a Philosopher King. Sure, it was an idle quip; but there's some deep social criticism behind it.

For further insights I direct your attention to that wonderful magazine The New Criterion. The June issue just arrived yesterday. It includes an account by Professor Gary Saul Morson of the 20th-century Jewish intellectual Jacob Taubes, who I had never heard of until Professor Morson introduced me to him.

Prof. Morson's account is inspired by historian Jerry Z. Muller's 2022 book Professor of Apocalypse, but it is more than a book review. It offers a critical account of Taubes, but also of twentieth-century intellectualism at large.

I'll just quote some lines of Prof. Morson's that particularly got my attention. Slightly-edited quote:

My first book, examining utopia as a literary genre, took an anti-utopian stance. Later I developed a theory of life and literature I called "prosaics," which finds the greatest value not in grand theories or dramatic events, but in the ordinary processes of daily life. No ideology can substitute for basic decency. The twentieth century bears witness: nothing causes more evil than the attempt to abolish it forever. And … no ideology gives one an "alibi" for individual responsibility.

End quote.

I like that. "Not in grand theories or dramatic events, but in the ordinary processes of daily life" — yes! "No ideology can substitute for basic decency" — double yes! I'm a great fan of those ordinary processes, of prosaics.

Why isn't that word better known? I understand of course that a scholarly Journal of Prosaics or an endowed university Chair of Prosaic Studies would be contradictions in terms; but why don't more people declare their outlook on life to be prosaic? Perhaps because too many of us are too busy thinking about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Climate Change.

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06 — The curse of ideology.     That segues nicely into some ongoing conversations I've been having with listeners about our open southern border.

I started this two weeks ago with my Radio Derb segment titled "What's driving Open Borders?" My correspondents are pretty unanimous that I didn't sufficiently stress the ideological aspect. They have persuaded me: I didn't.

Let me give an illustration.

It's not uncommon for Social Justice Warriors to refer to me as "anti-immigrant." That always strikes me as weird — even weirder than usual for SJWs, and their "usual" is already pretty weird.

I am an immigrant. My wife is an immigrant. Around one in three of our friends are immigrants. My boss is an immigrant. So according to these accusers I am anti-myself, anti-Mrs Derbyshire, anti-one-third of our friends, and anti-Peter Brimelow. Say what?

After a while I figured out what's going on here. The word "immigrant" is not being used with its dictionary meaning — its meaning in law, in common usage, its prosaic meaning. It's being used an an ideological marker for victimhood.

The essence of an ideology is that it divides humanity into oppressors and victims. In the biggest and most lethal twentieth-century ideology, Marxist-Leninist communism, the oppressors were capitalists, the victims were the working classes.

In Critical Race Theory the oppressors are of course white people, the victims are blacks. I'm not sure where other races fit in to the schema. Korean storekeepers I think are white-adjacent, and therefore oppressors. South Asians I'm not sure about at all.

Critical Race Theory is, however, a not-very-coherent attempt to make a rigid formal system out of a vague, cloudy cast of mind: the cast of mind that sees poor people in dysfunctional countries as victims — victims of less-poor people in better-governed countries.

So Venezuelans, Haitians, and Guatemalans are victims of middle-class Americans. "Immigrant" in this usage is just a code word for "victim"; "anti-immigrant" is code for "oppressor."

Victims are of course morally superior to their oppressors. That sound you hear from up above is old Fred Nietzsche chuckling.

Sorry, I'm still under the influence of that issue of The New Criterion that arrived yesterday. The influencer this time is not Prof. Morson, though; it's tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

You don't expect to see Silicon Valley billionaires sounding off in highbrow journals of literature and the arts, but Thiel can do it with the best of 'em. Sample quote:

At the end of his life, when Nietzsche was going insane, he said something along the lines of, "God of the Jews, you have won." By this remark he meant that the modern West would be a world ruled by the victim.

In one sense Nietzsche's intuition was correct. When modern man stares into the abyss, it's the abyss of the unforgettable victim, now barely clinging to its Judeo-Christian heritage. But was the development Nietzsche foresaw inevitable? Or did it depend on the tacit acceptance, on some level, of certain distortions to the Judeo-Christian tradition, which Nietzsche and his successors fundamentally misunderstood?

End quote.

Deep waters here, but you don't have to dive into academic philosophy to see the destructive effects of this ideology as applied to immigration.

It's now indisputably clear that the Biden administration is determined to bring in as many border-jumpers as they can, without limit or restraint: currently somewhere north of two million a year, but next year perhaps five million, even ten million. They will all be given accommodation, work permits, healthcare, education for their kids.

Some of them will then proceed to make themselves a lethal danger to their neighbors. Right here in my County, New York's Suffolk County, two weeks ago an illegal alien from El Salvador, name of Anthony Gutierrez Meza, pleaded guilty for his part in the beating, murder, and mutilation of another wetback.

Some others will just be lethal dangers to themselves, like the two who died from drug overdoses outside one of the emergency shelters New York City has established to handle the influx of scofflaws. Quote from the news report, New York Post, June 2nd:

[Inner quote.]  "We were saddened to learn about the tragic death this week of two asylum seekers found outside of a facility in Brooklyn where the city is providing migrants shelter," [End inner quote.]  a City Hall spokesperson said.

End quote.

It's sad, you see, so sad. They are victims, poor helpless victims, just seeking asylum. We middle-class white Americans are their oppressors. As the great Dr Heinz Kiosk was already telling us fifty years ago: "We are guilty, all guilty!"

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07 — Our degraded legal system.     Even worse that the climate-change madness and the open-borders lunacy, there stands the degraded state of our legal system.

This too is rooted in ideology. The victims here are those that prosaics like me consider to be criminals who should be locked up.

No, no, say the ideologues. They are victims — victims of hunger and desperation, victims of poverty and social disadvantage, victims of centuries of discrimination and disempowerment.

Who are the oppressors? First and foremost the police and the courts, with behind them we smug white property-owners. We are all guilty!

Shoplifting is now essentially legal. It's hard to see how retail stores can exist for much longer. In American cities all over, drugstores are locking their wares up. For a tube of toothpaste, you now have to go to the front desk and ask, as if you were buying jewelry.

In New York City store owners are trying to operate cash-free, in defiance of a city ordinance that requires businesses to accept cash.

And we're starting to hear mutterings about protection deals: organized freelance squads who, for a modest fee, will keep an eye on your business for you and deal with shoplifters by means not necessarily lawful.

This system is probably already operating in a few locations — places with a high concentration of Sicilians with thick necks, perhaps. I wouldn't be surprised if we were to see more of it in years to come. Who needs uniformed cops, anyway? They're just oppressors.

Over at Twitter meanwhile, the person with handle Crémieux has been doing some interesting math on a long report out of a professional journal called Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

What's it all about? Well, that long academic report gives, in extravagant detail, the statistics for violent crime recidivism. How many people just commit one? How many commit two; and of them, how many do so with a prison sentence in between? And so on.

Crémieux has boiled this down and simplified it to n-strikes laws.

You remember three-strikes laws in California and elsewhere back in the 1990s? Well, Crémieux has calculated that:

  • A ten-strikes law that allowed you nine violent crimes with non-custodial sentences but life imprisonment for the tenth would reduce violent crime by only 20 percent.

  • A five-strikes law would cut violent crime by 40 percent.

  • A three-strikes law would halve violent crime, cutting fifty percent.

  • A two-strikes law would remove nearly two-thirds of violent crime.

The logical end-point here is Derbyshire's one-strike law. I usually promote it under the statement: Jump a subway turnstile, go to the Chair. Crémieux is only talking about violent crime, though, and with no capital punishment, so we're slightly at odds here.

There's food for thought, though. We don't need to have any crime. The right penal policies would flush criminality right out of the gene pool.

One thing our legal system is still good at is of course hunting down opponents of the ruling regime. Former President Donald Trump found that out this week when he was hit with a 37-count indictment for mishandling some documents.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who this Tuesday announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination, on hearing about Trump's indictment tweeted that, tweet: "No one is above the law, no matter how much they wish they were." End tweet.

How they love to tell us that, the regime and its shills: "No one is above the law." It's a great favorite with Nancy Pelosi, and I believe Kamala Harris has been heard to utter it. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland probably has a needlework version on his living-room wall, in between the framed pictures of Lenin and Pol Pot.

Yeah, right: No one is above the law … no-one but shoplifters and Antifa rioters; no-one but two million border-jumpers per annum, no-one but Hunter Biden, his Dad and his uncle.

The state of law in America

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

Imprimis:  A footnote to my climate change remarks.

Composing those remarks I recalled having seen, earlier in the week, someone mocking the idea of global warming by observing that the ice coverage of Antarctica is acually increasing — not what you'd expect if global warming was a real thing.

Googling to confirm my recollection I turned up a report dated May 16th this year out of the European Geosciences Union telling me that, yes, quote from the abstract:

Overall, the Antarctic ice shelf area has grown by 5305 km² since 2009, with 18 ice shelves retreating and 16 larger shelves growing in area.

End quote.

That's better than two thousand square miles of ice — a lot of ice.

Diving down into the body of the report I see there's a lot of science here, with localized retreating, advancing, and calving of the ice. (I love that usage of the verb "to calve," c-a-l-v-e.)

Faced with heavy-duty science like this, I wouldn't be bold enough to draw global conclusions; but hey, yes, there's two thousand square miles of extra ice down there from 2009 to 2019, two hundred square miles a year.

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Item:  Nine days into Pride Month, it's time I passed some comments.

I am of course negative on the whole thing. I've expressed myself on this many times over the years. Here I was way back in 2002, in a column headed "Minoritarianism." Quote:

In a civilized liberal democracy, majorities owe certain things to harmless minorities: tolerance, civility, and the rights affirmed in the Constitution — freedom of speech, assembly, etc. However, it seems to me that minorities owe something to the majority in return: mainly, a proper respect for their tastes, beliefs and sensibilities, and a decent restraint in challenging them, if there are some reasonable grounds for challenging them. This contract imposes some costs on minorities, of course, but I think they should look on those costs as the price of the tolerance they enjoy. Is that patronizing? Well, then add "being patronized" to the list of costs — none of which, in any case I can think of in American society today, is much more arduous or oppressive than that. There are, after all, reciprocal costs on the majority when they make those accommodations.

End quote.

I wouldn't change a word of that; but reading it now, twenty-one years later, it sounds quaint. Sexual minorities have progressed — or re-gressed — from telling normal people to, "Tolerate us! Leave us alone!" to telling us to, "Celebrate us! Praise and support us!"

I preferred the older dispensation.

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Item:  I see that Mike Pence has declared his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Uh … okay.

As you may be able to tell, I haven't given much thought to Mike Pence. Who has? He was the Invisible Man of the Trump presidency, and hasn't advanced in visibility in the two-and-a-third years since.

Scrambling to catch up, I thought I'd check where he is on the National Question, our prime concern here at VDARE.com.

I didn't find much, but there was this report out of Phoenix, Arizona a year ago — June 13th 2022. Pence took a tour of the border area, then went to Phoenix and gave a speech.

On the border issue it was pure Trumpism. I mean, it was in line with the proposals that got Trump elected in 2016, not with the haphazard bits and pieces Trump actually accomplished. Outlaw sanctuary cities … finish the border wall … reinstate Remain in Mexico … deport illegal criminals and gang members … good solid stuff.

On one or two points Pence actually went further than Trumpism. He wants to end chain migration and bring back the Public Charge Rule.

Nothing about Birthright Citizenship or guest-worker visas, but hey. From what I've read so far, we could do worse than Mike Pence. Let's just hope we don't …

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09 — Signoff.     That's all, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and thanks once again to all who emailed in with birthday wishes. Don't forget that next Wednesday, June 14th, is Flag Day. And of course I look forward to seeing some of you at the VDARE Summer Conference next weekend.

I don't know why, but this time of year always puts me in mind of old English songs. Here's one from the Broadside Band: James Hook's 1789 ditty The Lass of Richmond Hill. The tenor here is John Potter.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.

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[Music clip: John Potter & the Broadside Band, "The Lass of Richmond Hill."]

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