00m52s Power and dignity. (We expect more than the usual.)
06m18s The stuff Romans were made of. (A story from the classics.)
12m27s Impeachment psychology. (What's driving it?)
18m18s Trumpism yes, Trump no. (And institutional Republicanism, hell no!)
26m27s Masters of silence. (We know, they know we know, they don't care.)
35m42s Stories that write their own comment threads. (Common in immigration.)
40m57s Oklahoma still OK. (Cherish localism.)
42m50s Good news on fertility. (From Hungary.)
44m23s Vaccines for Guantánamo? (No: but why are Mohammeds still there?)
46m28s Controversy spreads. (Storm in a butter tub.)
48m30s Signoff. (Year of the ox.)
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! A welcome here from your cyclically genial host John Derbyshire, with some highlights from the week's news.
This week I do a dumpster dive into the nation's politics. I apologize for all the dirt and smell, but one must do one's duty. That, sort of, is what my opening segments are all about.
02 — Power and dignity. I'll start this week with a story from the classics. If you did high school Latin, you probably know this one. It is, or at any rate used to be, a favorite with teachers.
The story floated into my mind this week during the impeachment proceedings in Congress. At one point they showed film footage of the senators and Congressmen — those wise elders of our nation — scampering off to safety under the guidance of armed Capitol Hill cops while an un-armed mob filled the corridors.
It wasn't very dignified, although in the nature of things I guess it couldn't be. Our legislators were just doing the prudent thing — the same thing you or I would have done, probably.
But then, this was the U.S. Capitol, where different standards should apply. Dramatic, supererogatory displays of dignity are not out of place in the Capitol, as they would be in my living-room. Sometimes they are positively required. I think that had to be a passing thought for anyone watching those scenes.
It was a passing thought for a friend of mine. He emailed in a comment on my January 8th podcast. I posted that comment here at VDARE.com, January 10th. Sample quote from my friend's email:
Not a single person had the courage to go out and confront a man wearing buffalo horns flanked on either side with what looked like cast tryouts for Duck Dynasty. Had one person done so, he would now be the frontrunner for the presidency in 2024.
Yes he would. The brave person who steps forward and confronts the mob may of course get stomped to death. On the other hand he may, by a display of courage and dignity, and with strong calm words to persuade, pacify the mob and defuse the threat. History offers many examples. The one favored by my own schoolmasters was King Richard the Second facing down the Peasants' Revolt at Smithfield in 1381 — the more impressive in that Richard was only 14 years old at the time.
From those to whom we've granted dignity and honors, we expect more than the usual. Sturdy nations, monarchies and republics both, have always understood this: and those who publicly display their understanding of it, will win great public favor. One such might even, to bring it back round to my friend's point, become a front-runner for the presidency.
What comes to my mind in this general context is a passage from the classics. I know, the classics are shamefully white supremacist. I got my education back in the benighted 1950s, though, before Critical Race Theory came up to enlighten us, so I can't help myself. Make allowances, please.
The fact of January 6th's events having taken place on Capitol Hill fired off a long trail of neurons in my head, the trail ending with Livy.
Livy was a Roman historian. We got little snippets of him to construe in Latin class. A favorite was this one in Book Five, advertising the virtues of the early Romans.
I am not putting it forward as any kind of parallel for the January 6th events in Washington, D.C. The circumstances are totally different. It does, though, show the kind of stuff Romans were made of, and leaves you wondering if there is any of that stuff still around here in the U.S.A.
The story is a bit long, so I'll give it a segment of its own.
03 — The stuff Romans were made of. The background, in very brief.
The time is around 400 B.C. Rome is not yet a major power, just a city and a few dozen miles of surrounding countryside, but with a republican constitution — already quite a sophisticated one. A few short quotes in what follows are direct from Livy.
An army of barbarian Gauls invaded Italy from the north. They marched on Rome. The Romans sent their army out to meet them. There was a battle. Rome lost. The Gauls marched on the city.
Most of the ordinary citizens fled. However, men of fighting age who'd survived the battle, along with some of the senators and other holders of public office, together with their families, thought it would be shameful to desert the city.
On one of the Seven Hills of Rome — yes, the Capitol Hill — there was a castle. There they all went to make a last stand, to defend, quote, "the people, and the gods, and the name of Rome." End quote. In Latin: Nam cum defendi urbem posse tam parva relicta manu spes nulla esset, placuit cum coniugibus ac liberis iuventutem militarem senatusque robur in arcem Capitoliumque concedere, armisque et frumento conlato, ex loco inde munito deos hominesque et Romanum nomen defendere.
There wasn't much room in that castle, though, and food supplies were limited, so those of the common people — the plebeians — who hadn't left the city had to wait in their homes for the Gauls to come.
To help the plebeians to bear their fate with proper Roman fortitude, those older men who'd enjoyed triumphs and political success publicly declared that they would die along with the plebeians, and not be a burden on younger Romans able to bear arms and defend the castle. Quote: "This was the consolation addressed to each other by the old men now fated to die." End quote.
Those older men who'd attained distinction and high office wanted to die in their former glory, so they put on their most magnificent clothes, decorated with insignia of rank, and sat in their ivory chairs, in the middle of their halls, waiting for the invaders.
When the Gauls entered Rome the next day they found that the houses of the common people were closed up but the halls of the leading men were lying open. Quote:
Yet the barbarians were more reluctant to attack the open houses of the nobles than the shuttered houses of commoners. They looked almost with veneration at these men sitting in the porches of their palaces, clothed with such robes and ornaments and expressing such gravity of countenance, they seemed more divine than human.
For a while the Gauls stood gazing in amazement as if they were looking at statues. Then one of the Gauls stroked the beard of Marcus Papirius, one of the noblemen. In those remote days Romans wore their beards long.
Outraged at this insult to his dignity, Marcus Papirius whacked the Gaul on the head with his ivory staff of office. That of course ticked off the Gaul, so he killed Marcus Papirius. Then, the spell broken, the Gauls went round killing all the nobles sitting in their halls.
Quote: "After the slaughter of the nobles, no person was spared; the houses were plundered, and when emptied were set on fire." In Latin: Post principium caedem nulli deinde mortalium parci, diripi tecta, exhaustis inici ignes. End quote.
04 — Impeachment psychology. There has been much thumb-sucking about the psychology of this second impeachment. What, in the minds of the impeachers, is driving it?
I'll be the 200th commentator to observe that our nation has serious business to conduct, business that needs legislation. Why is our national legislature, egged on by the entire ruling class — media, corporations, finance, universities, public-sector employee lobbies, the FBI, the Swamp — why is our national legislature giving over all this time to painting a scarlet letter on a defeated Presidential candidate?
The phrase "sore winners" has been getting some currency. I smiled the first time I heard it, but it's very apt. This time last year the ruling class and their congressional puppets controlled all the high ground, political and cultural, except for the Senate and the White House. Now they've won both. What are they so angry about?
One theory is, they are scared Trump will run again in 2024. They hope that they can paint that scarlet letter bright enough on him that he'll be unacceptable to the voters; or better yet, that they can ban him from running altogether.
I doubt that explains it. If you don't mind just a bit more Latin, here's an old favorite of mine: Oderint dum metuant — "Let them hate, so long as they fear." The elites certainly hate Trump, no shadow of doubt about that; but do they actually fear him?
If they do, they're stupider than I take them for. What's to fear? In office Trump was no real threat to elite power. True, he committed some few small affronts to elite ideology: tightening up some on immigration, canceling the indoctrination of federal employees in Critical Race Theory, cutting back on the mass of federal regulations behind which our rulers hide their social engineering projects.
Those were gnat bites, though; mostly done by executive orders, and so easily canceled by a new, elite-controlled executive. On substantial matters — shutting off the supply of cheap foreign labor altogether, repatriating American troops from conflicts that are none of our business, bringing order to our election laws, shoring up our Second Amendment rights — Trump was a pussycat. He hired in Swamp critters to run federal departments, trashed his own supporters, then sat back complacently to watch cable TV and tweet.
So it's all hate, no fear. What is the psychology here? Why do elites hate the guy so much?
Going back to the Roman model, I will certainly grant that dignity and supererogation are not the words that spring to mind spontaneously with regard to Donald Trump. That is grounds for amusement, though, or at worst contempt, not hatred.
Another theory is that the elites hate Trump because they couldn't control him. He was a loose cannon — unpredictable.
I'm skeptical. We got a couple of glimpses of Trump in a room full of ruling-class types, and he wasn't exactly crashing around the deck putting up a feisty resistance to them. Second Amendment rights? Quote:
Take the firearms first, and then go to court … You could do exactly what you're saying, but take the guns first, go through due process second.
Remember that ankle-grabber? It was from a televised meeting at the White House, February 28th 2018.
So no, I don't see Trump as difficult for the elites to control. When they surrounded him like that, on some point that mattered, he folded.
We don't have an answer here. What is it? What's driving this circus?
05 — Trumpism yes, Trump no. Still digging around for explanations — for explanations, I mean for all the passion behind these impeachments — I'm sorry to say that my thoughts keep turning to sex.
I came across this comment, from the time of the first Trump impeachment fourteen months ago. And yes, I'm sorry, but the commenter here was … me. From Radio Derb, December 20th 2019, longish quote.
My vague impression is that it's more a sex thing than an age thing. Women take things a whole lot more personally than men do.
Political scientist Bob Weissberg likes to use the example of a pickup basketball game. You form two teams, you play, points are scored, fouls are argued over, game ends.
If it was guys playing, after the game ends they'll merge back into a single friendly group, josh around for a while, then go off and have drinks together in proper Confucian style. A week later, if you reminded them of the game and asked who won, none of them would remember.
If the players were female, though, every point, every foul would likely be remembered and argued over bitterly, angrily for years afterwards.
Bob has a point. In my VDARE.com September Diary this year I recorded spending a day with two old Chinese friends, both male, one a strong dissident who hates the ChiComs, the other a Party member and booster. Quote from my diary [inner quote]: "It's all very good-natured, I should say. When you've known guys for 36 years, you're not expecting any surprises. Nobody thinks anyone's mind is going to be changed; nobody's being dishonest; David's booster talk and Bruce's cynicism are both genuine. The three of us all like each other at a personal level, so the hell with politics." [End inner quote.]
That, I think I'm going to claim, is a characteristically guy thing. Women in the generality aren't like that. That's why your wife remembers tiny verbal slights from twenty years ago.
Many of the impeachment managers are of course male; or, in the proper spirit of wokeness, according to which biological sex is a mere social construct, they present as male.
The literary reference bobbing to the surface here is from Charles Dickens, who speaks of one of his characters, an old lady connected to power and influence, as keeping company with, quote "several other old ladies of both sexes."
Trump is a political outsider — not one of them — yet somehow he defeated Mrs Clinton in 2016. That's enough all by itself to generate hurricane level of spite among elite females … of both sexes. Do I need to remind you about the etymology of the word "hysteria"? No, of course I don't.
And on the matter of Trump running again in 2024, I spotted this very interesting survey by political scientist Eric Kaufmann over at Unherd.com, January 18th.
Prof. Kaufmann conducted a poll of almost 400 Trump supporters two days after the Capitol was stormed. One question in his survey was: "What is your preferred vision for the Republican Party's future?" He offered three choices.
To condense those three questions to the maximum: Do you want Trump, or Trump-ism from someone not Trump, or the old-time GOP religion?
The responses were very interesting. Percentagewise they broke 29, 55, 16. A majority of Trump's supporters want Trumpism from someone other than Trump in 2024. Less than a third want Trump. Less than one in six wants institutional Republicanism.
That sounds a lot like what I hear talking to friends and neighbors, and reading the comment threads. Trumpism in '24? Yes, please! Trump himself? Ehhh … if we must, I guess. The Bush-Cheney-Romney-Ryan GOP? No, thanks.
Are the Republican Party managers smart enough to see this, and brave enough to buck the donors yelling for military-supply contracts and cheap foreign labor? Smart enough, possibly. Sure, this is the Stupid Party, but they can't be that stupid.
Brave enough? I doubt it.
06 — Masters of silence. Reading my New York Post this morning over breakfast, I caught this little news item from the nearby metropolis. A 72-year-old guy just getting off a subway train in midtown was knocked to the ground by an assailant unkown to him. He suffered some minor injuries. Quote from the story:
The suspect, described as a man in his 20s and about 5-foot-10 inches tall, was wearing a green jacket with the words "Anti Social" written on it.
The perp was of course black. As you have heard said several hundred times over the past thirty years, including a couple of times from me, standard quote: "If it was a white guy they would have told us."
In the art of rhetoric there are terms relating to omission — saying something by pointedly and deliberately not saying it. I'm not sure precisely which term of rhetorical art applies here. I don't think it's apophasis: for that, you have to mention the fact that you won't mention something. That's a favorite of Donald Trump's, quote:
Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would never call him "short and fat"?
Strategic silence — conveying information to the listener by omitting a key fact, as opposed to saying aloud that you're not going to mention it — must be some other rhetorical figure, not apophasis; I leave it to your own researches.
Here I'm just going to observe that our elite media have taken it to a new level. They tell us things by being silent about them, knowing that we know the significance of their silence.
The Officer Sicknick case comes under this heading. I passed comment last week on the strange media silence about cause of death. This was the Capitol Hill cop who, we were told in a January 10th New York Times headline, was killed by a Trump supporter — smacked on the head with a fire extinguisher, according to the story.
Revolver.news posted a fine report on the Sicknick case this Tuesday, concentrating on the complete lack of information we've been getting — the silence. Quote from them:
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen says the DOJ will "spare no resources" in getting to the bottom of what happened to Sicknick. Yet well over a month after his death, precisely zero information has been disclosed by the DOJ, the FBI, the US Capitol Police, the DC medical examiner, the hospital that cared for him, or the treating physicians.
Now we hear that Officer Sicknick's remains have been cremated. So, no more autopsy. May we have the medical examiner's report, since it must now be final? No, apparently we may not. Why not? Because it would contradict the story about Sicknick having been killed by Trump supporters. The ruling class like that story. It works for them.
Strategic silence has also been deployed in the Ashli Babbitt case, the shooting of the unarmed young white woman by a black Capitol Hill cop. Tuesday this week we were told that, quote:
The case is still under investigation by the DC Metropolitan Police, the US Attorney's Office in Washington, DC, and civil rights prosecutors.
A spokesperson for DC's Metropolitan Police Department said: [inner quote] "It is irresponsible to make an investigatory assumption or to jump to any conclusion without completing the thorough investigation." [End inner quote.]
Cop shoots lady at close range, all on video. How long does a "thorough investigation" take? Just long enough until everyone's forgotten about it, I guess.
The lesson here: The media arm of our ruling-class golem are masters of silence — of informative silence.
What sticks in my throat here is their arrogance. The message to us here in every case is: "We're not going to give out any information. We're going to stay silent until it's old news and faded into the cosmic microwave background. Yes, this is informative all by itself: The fact of our silence tells you what the truth is. You can figure it out. But we don't care."
That arrogance was plain as eggs in the February 4th Time magazine piece on last November's election. Title: The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election.
The whole piece was dressed up like that, as being about a campaign by civic-minded citizens to "save" the election from Trumpist shenanigans.
Shenanigans? Ctrl-F "Hunter Biden." No hits. So I guess the pre-election media blackout on Hunter's business dealings with Ukraine and China were not part of this public-spirited campaign we're reading about.
Don't they actually mean "save the election from a Trump victory"? Yes, of course they do, and you know that, and they know that you know; but they don't care.
You're not important. Heck, you didn't even go to Harvard! You certainly weren't one of those nine "civil rights leaders" Mark Zuckerberg invited to dinner at his home a year before the election. Zuck later ponied up $300 million to assist in the election, according to Time.
"Civil rights leaders" — what, Al Sharpton? Ilhan Omar? Van Jones? Ibram X. Kendi? I'm sure that $300 million was spent with scrupulous impartiality, not one cent to anyone tainted with any trace of political bias. Not a cent!
What, you're laughing? Laugh away. They don't care.
07 — Stories that write their own comment threads. There is a category of news stories that, for my mental filing cabinet, I put in a folder labeled "Stories that write their own comment threads."
Immigration is a rich source for stories of this kind. Here's a gem in this category from across the pond. London Daily Mail, February 7th, headline: Illegal Migrants Unhappy with Free Accommodation in "Racist" U.K. Want to Return to E.U..
The illegals there have been sent across the English Channel from France and Belgium by people-smugglers. The Brits used to put them up in hotels while their claims of asylum were processed. There was public opposition to the hotel solution, though, so now old military barracks are being used. This doesn't meet with the approval of the illegals. Quote: "The food is no good. There's only one toilet."
The discontent has risen to a point where a lot of illegals are clamoring to be sent back to France and Belgium. As I said, the comment thread writes itself.
Same on this side of the pond. Washington Examiner, February 7th, headline: Deportation Warnings Halted Because They Cause "Undue Stress" on Illegal Migrants.
See, if you are an illegal alien who got apprehended by immigration authorities, once it's been determined that you have no right to be in our country, you are given something called a Notice to Appear, an NTA. The appearance is to be in front of a court, which will decide whether you can stay in the country or not. The NTA tells you the court date. As he hands it to you the officer is supposed to tell you that, unless the court rules otherwise, or if you fail to show up, you will be liable for deportation.
That, says a new ruling from the Biden administration, causes, quote "undue stress" to the illegal. Officers must now not mention the d— word. Again, the comment thread writes itself.
I hope I won't be venturing too far into the zone of extreme political incorrectness if I include in this category the suggestion by New York Times columnist Charles Blow, in a new book he has out, that black Americans could overturn white supremacy by migrating en masse back to the Southern states to build a power center for themselves there.
In the Great Migration of the early 20th century, millions of blacks moved from the South up to the northern cities in hopes of improving their lives. Alas, says Mr Blow, they ended up as second-class citizens in the north, too, thanks to, quote, "housing discrimination, police brutality, white nationalism and other forces." End quote. Time to go back to the South.
Yet again, the comment thread writes itself.
It's not just matters of migration and immigration in that folder, though. There was this lady who wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times about her Trump-voting next-door neighbors having plowed her driveway free of snow for her. How, she lamented, was she to cope with this, quote, "aggressive niceness" from people who were obviously, in their innermost hearts, fascist hyenas?
I haven't read any of the comment threads on that one, but I really don't need to. They write themselves.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Last week I had things to say about Oklahoma, where the schools in what was until recently a solidly red state are suffering a slow inward seepage of Cultural Marxism, Critical Race Theory, and the rest of elite ideology.
Well, here's good news from Oklahoma. The name of the good news is Justin Humphrey, who represents District 19 in the lower house of the state legislature. Rep. Humphrey has proposed a bill for consideration by that house, to ban any teaching in Oklahoma public schools that, quote "promotes or degrades any race, gender or sexual orientation," end quote.
That would of course rule out Critical Race Theory, which is explicitly anti-white. My Oklahoma informant assures me that is precisely its intention.
This illustrates an important fact about out current cultural revolution: It's being imposed from above, and we can expect the Biden administration to pile on the pressure. Our states and localities still have some powers, though. By vigorously asserting those powers, state lawmakers may be able to preserve some of our freedoms.
Item: Good news on fertility, too. Hungary's fertility rate is going up in response to Viktor Orbán's natalist policies. A woman with more than three kids has a lifetime exemption from income tax. A young married couple gets a $36,000 loan, payment deferred every time they have a baby. If they have three, the loan is written off.
These and similar policies have pushed up the fertility rate by a quarter over the last decade. The number of marriages nearly doubled.
And these are Hungarians having babies, not Somali immigrants. Hungary tightly controls immigration.
The fertility rate is still a tad below 1.5, way lower than the replacement rate of 2.1; but as demographic news from Europe goes, this is good, and getting better.
I have often advertised my soft spot for the Hungarians. I'm glad to know they are striving to produce more of themselves.
Item: Some Defense Department bot, name Terry Adirim, title Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, this bot announced on January 27th that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba — people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden's sidekick, would be given Covid-19 vaccine.
That looked to me like another one for the folder labeled "stories that write their own comment threads." However, I see that the DoD is now, quote, "pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols." End quote. Translation: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Adirim got a phone call from some much more senior bot shrieking, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR [EXPLETIVE] MIND?"
What struck me about the story was learning that we still, twenty years on from 9/11, have 40 Mohammeds still walled up in Guantanamo Bay without, it seems to me, due process.
Next time there's a foreign assault on our nation and we manage to capture some of the bad actors, can we please just shoot them? Sure, that would be without due process; but so is this, and it seems to me shooting would be more humane. A lot cheaper, too.
Item: Finally a real, serious controversy on a matter of wide general interest. A housewife over in England has revealed that when buttering her toast she does not scrape along the top of the spread, but instead digs down into the tub.
She posted a Facebook picture of herself doing this, with caption, quote:
My husband thinks I'm weird. Does anyone else scrape their butter from the tub this way? I've always done it.
This has convulsed the nation, with messages mostly critical pouring in from Land's End to John O'Groats. Many pointed out that on this lady's method, weight of the spread would be unevenly distributed, causing the tub to fall over in the fridge. At least one person wanted the lady arrested.
I can't recall such a storm of controversy over there since the battle — it was at least forty years ago, and conducted back then in the Letters columns of newspapers — over whether the toilet-paper roll should present with the loose hanging sheet in front or behind. I forget whether that was ever resolved; I don't think it came to legislation.
Trivial? You can say so. It's more fun to read about than politics, though.
09 — Signoff. That's this week's ration, ladies and gents. Thank you very much for listening; and if you are as snowed in as we are here on Long Island, get shovelling your driveway before the Nazis next door plow it for you.
Today, Friday, is New Year's Day in the traditional Chinese calendar. We have entered the Year of the Ox; If you want to be thorough about it, the year dīng chŏu,** the 38th year of the current 60-year cycle, which began with Year One in — wait for it — 1984.
We should of course have something Chinese to see us out. Let's see: Chinese … New Year … How about "Auld Lang Syne" played on traditional Chinese instruments?
You might think that would be hard to find. Not at all. Teaching English language and literature in China forty years ago, I was surprised to find that Robert Burns was a big name over there, much favored by students and teachers of English.
Since Burns wrote not in English but in Lallans, a rogue dialect that native speakers of English can't understand without footnotes, this is peculiar. I put it down to Burns having been the only British writer of any prominence who could fairly be described as a peasant, although the people of my home town will make an argument for John Clare.
So "Auld Lang Syne," under the Chinese name "Friendship Everlasting." is well known over there. Here it is being played as an instrumental duet, the instruments here being the èrhú, which is a two-string fiddle, and the gŭzhēng, which is a zither, approximately. There's some background percussion accompaniment that I personally could have done without, but you do get to hear the èrhú loud and clear — an instrument I rather like.
There will be more from Radio Derb further along in the Year of the Ox.
** [Added later: Sorry, I buggered up my calendrical calculations. This year is xīn chŏu, not dīng chŏu. Full explanation of the 60-year cycle here. Short explanation: There are ten stems (call 'em A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J) and twelve branches (call 'em 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12). A 60-year cycle starts with A-1. Then B-2, C-3, D-4, … to J-10. You have two branches left (11 and 12), but you've run out of stems, so you start again: A-11, B-12, C-1, D-2, … to J-8. Now you have four branches left (9, 10, 11, and 12), but you've run out of stems again. So: A-9, B-10, C-11, D-12, E-1, F-2, … to J-6. On this pattern, it's sixty years from A-1 to J-12.]
[Music clip: "Auld Lang Syne" on traditional Chinese instruments.]