Radio Derb: Nation Of Laws Or Nation Of Deals?, London Terror, American Cultural Revolution, Etc
46m51s — Well dressing fail. (In Derbyshire.)
53m41s — Signoff. (A star bows out.)
Before we begin, just a note about last week’s signoff music. I played a clip of the late Jim Reeves singing one of his hits. I did not know, until a listener emailed in to inform me, that Gentleman Jim Reeves was hugely popular in South Africa during the early 1960s — more popular than Elvis Presley, according to Wikipedia. He actually recorded several albums in the Afrikaans language, and starred in a South African movie.
That was of course the old apartheid South Africa. [Scream.] So just a cautionary note here to the good people of Galloway, Texas, Jim Reeves’ birthplace. I don’t know if there’s a commemorative statue of the singer in your town; but if there is, you’ll want to cover that thing with a nice big tarp. The guy was obviously a shameless white supremacist; a statue could be seriously triggering to sensitive souls.
DACA should have been scotched with a forked stick, like a snake on your patio, eight months ago, as Donald Trump promised would be done. Instead we’re stuck with the damn thing apparently for ever, the media periodically whipping up their progressive followers into frenzies of compassion over picturesque little kiddies being ripped from the arms of their wailing mothers, hustled into cattle wagons, and shipped off to starvation and misery in Mexico.
First off, as I’ve pointed out before, DACA recipients have a median age somewhere in the high twenties, and a highest age — given the reliability of public record-keeping in rural Central America — very likely in the mid forties.
The way we’re going, those older recipients will be drawing Social Security before we’ve heard the last of DACA.
Second, there’s no danger of starvation. Mexico was ranked ninth fattest country in the world in a report last year. Per capita GDP in Mexico is $19,000: not fantastic, but above the middle of world rankings, better than Brazil or China.
Third, moving from one country to another is no hardship. I myself have done it half a dozen times. It’s a nuisance, fussing with visas and moving companies; but it’s also interesting and stimulating, settling in to a new environment. Or, in the case of those forty-something DACA recipients, a not-very-new environment.
Fourth, the propaganda about breaking up families is just that — propaganda, of the shallowest and emptiest kind. Of the many, many people I know who favor enforcing the laws against illegal aliens, not one has any objection to families going back home together. Since Mom and Dad are mostly illegal too, it is in fact what the law requires.
Well, what’s new this week is that President Trump had dinner Wednesday with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. They came to some kind of agreement, or semi-agreement, that there’d be a move towards amnesty for the DACA people in return for something or other on border security.
We don’t know much more than that. Schumer and Pelosi said the something-or-other specifically ex-cluded any funding for a border wall; but the White House Press Secretary disagreed and the President himself was incoherent. Who knows? The main takeaway is that there will be another push to give amnesty to illegal aliens.
Reaction among National Conservatives ranged from clutching at straws to blind fury. Here at VDARE.com we are mainly straw-clutchers, having weathered the three previous pushes for amnesty — in 2006, 2007 and 2013 — when the occupant of the White House was himself pushing much harder than Trump is likely to.
And when you can peer through the murky, contradictory fog of Trump’s spoken (or tweeted) statements, there’s a core of awareness there of central issues relating to the National Question that you just don’t see elsewhere in our senior national leadership.
This came out today, Friday morning, when the President tweeted out of the blue that, tweet: “CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!” End tweet.
The media folk handled that as if it were written in ancient Sumerian. Ch-a-i-n mi-gra-tion? What is this ch-a-i-n mi-gra-tion? The Yahoo news service had to call in Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an expert on the arcane jargon of hate-filled haters. Chain migration, Heidi explained was hatespeech for bringing “undesirables” to the U.S.A.
Meanwhile we National Conservatives were exulting that, hey, we have a President who understands what a huge negative chain migration is for the nation’s demographic future!
As veterans of those earlier immigration wars, we are not much disturbed that Trump is dealing with the Democratic congressional leadership. On our issues, Republican Party congressional leaders are well-nigh indistinguishable from their Democratic counterparts.
Whether it’s better, on matters of immigration, to deal with Schumer and Pelosi or with McConnell and Ryan, brings to mind Dr Johnson’s reply when someone asked him which of two mediocre poets he thought was better, quote: “Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.” End quote.
That said, I return to my original point that it’s all been so unnecessary. Why is DACA still in the headlines? It should have been a fading memory by now. This has been a failure on Trump’s part, there’s no way to deny that.
All that was necessary was to let the law take its course. If Trump couldn’t bring himself to rescind by executive order what Obama had imposed by executive order, he just had to let the legal case by state Attorneys General, challenging the constitutionality of DACA, proceed. Even if, by a fluke, the court decided DACA is constitutional, Trump could still rescind it. It’s still just an executive order, not a law.
That’s what generates so much of the anger, certainly in the precincts of my desk: the neglect of the law in favor of compromising and deal-making. As one of Steve’s commenters observed: We’re supposed to be a nation of laws, not a nation of deals.
Deal-making is of course a normal and necessary part of our politics. A lot of us voted for Trump in the hope that this would be a particular strength of his administration. That hope has lost considerable luster this week.
Setting that aside, though, what about the law? What about the people’s laws, passed by the people’s representatives in solemn conclave, when all the deal-making’s been done? Why aren’t those laws enforced — fairly and humanely, but firmly?
The Romans had a phrase that someone should embroider on a couch cushion and send to the White House as a gift: Fiat justitia ruat cælum — “let justice be done though the sky falls.”
Dealing, equivocating, and compromising are all very well, and certainly have their place in politics. A nation of laws, though, should enforce its laws, or change them by properly constitutional procedures. Sometimes enforcing the laws will have undesirable political consequences, but it should be done regardless. To shy at enforcing the law because you don’t like the political consequences, is just cowardice.
Fiat justitia ruat cælum Enforce the damn law, somebody. Then turn to cutting deals.
Just a footnote here, before I leave DACA. A thing I haven’t seen commented on, but I believe is true, is that DACA is an act of racial favoritism. The beneficiaries of DACA, in the minds of progressives, are small brown people. That makes them sacred objects, or at least precious objects, in a way that wouldn’t apply otherwise.
Do you think we’d be going through all this sturm und drang about DACA if the recipients were 800,000 Germans or Russians or — heaven help us! — white South Africans? Do you think?
Monday was the sixteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country. Solemn memorial services were held at the World Trade Center site in New York, at the Pentagon, and at the site in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down.
You’d have to be a lot more cold-hearted than I am to object to these ceremonies. Thousands of harmless, innocent people died going about their ordinary business, murdered by crazy fanatics who hate our country. It’s proper that, as a country, we offer some public acknowledgment to the relatives and friends of those who died, that we share their grief and anger.
That said, I wish more was done to express the anger along with the grief, some yang along with the yin.
Severe curtailment of Muslim immigration would be a good start. I’ve expressed before, more than once, my belief that the most astonishing, most incredible statistic of our age is that the U.S.A. admitted more Muslims for settlement in the fifteen years after 9/11 than it did in the fifteen years before.
With natural increase and chain migration, Muslims will be more than two percent of our population by 2050 — ten million people. Nobody has voted for this, and no-one but a microscopic proportion of Americans welcome it, especially after 9/11, but it’s happening anyway. Not only did 9/11 fail to slow the increase, it speeded it up.
This is deeply strange and contrary to sense or reason. If you find yourself thinking about it while watching one of those 9/11 commemoration ceremonies, the ceremony suddenly loses a lot of its force. With no disrespect to the dead or their loved ones, the commemoration comes to look futile, self-indulgent. You fidget and change the TV channel.
At weekend, on Friday, we got news from London that a homemade bomb had semi-exploded in the London subway system. I say “semi-exploded” because the thing failed to go off with full force, which would have killed many people. There were injuries, though, and panic, with nineteen people hospitalized.
It brought to mind 7/7 — Britain’s equivalent of 9/11, when Muslim terrorists exploded bombs in London on July 7th 2005, killing themselves and 52 Londoners. Just as here, there was no slowdown in Muslim settlement. Just as here, there have been solemn memorial services. Just as here, futility and passive resignation are more in evidence than purposiveness and anger.
The Mayor of London in 2005 was an Englishman — a communist, but at least an Englishman. The Mayor of London today is a Muslim.
The response to this bombing has the same air of futility and irrelevance that characterizes other Muslim atrocities in civilized countries.
London’s police force has taken hundreds of officers off the vital task of tracking down and prosecuting people who say rude things about Islam on Twitter to see if they can find out who left a bomb on the subway. Britain’s worthless Prime Minister, Theresa May, has taken time off from her second year of dithering over Brexit to wag an angry finger at President Trump.
London’s Muslim Mayor has appealed for calm and promised that, quote, “We will never be defeated,” end quote. Who exactly do you mean by “we,” Kimosabe?
Britain is probably too far gone to be saved. Here in the U.S.A., though, in spite of Silicon Valley’s best efforts, we still have our freedom of speech and can still sound the alarm.
That’s what I want to hear, along with the justified, appropriate lamentations and memorials: some sounding of the alarm, some reminder that there are things we have not done, that we ought to be doing, and that we can yet start doing. For us, it’s not too late.
Grieve, weep, remember, by all means: then hit that alarm button.
04 — Down with the Four Olds! The current focus of our ongoing Cultural Revolution is the destruction of statues — statues of white people, I mean of course. Renaming things is a secondary theme right now; but I expect when all the statues of white people have gone, renaming will proceed in earnest.
In regard to which, one of my email correspondents raises a point I have not seen elsewhere so far: What shall we do with nonwhites bearing badwhite names?
There is for example shakedown billionaire Jesse Jackson. He took the name Jackson from his stepfather, who I guess was born around 1910, so whose grandfather or great-grandfather was likely a slave. Was Jackson just the name of the slave-owner? Or did it honor President Andrew Jackson, who was himself a slave-owner? Either way it seems to me that Rev’m Jesse has some explaining to do.
And what about historical figures like Booker T. Washington? Washington — that’s another slave-owner name right there. Probably the best thing in these cases is just to burn all the books that have any mention of the guy.
He’ll still be on the internet, of course; but it shouldn’t be beyond the ingenuity of the lads at Google — oops, sorry: I mean of course “lads and lassies” … no, sorry, still not fully compliant: “lads, lassies, and indeterminates” — it shouldn’t be beyond their ingenuity to code up some bots to patrol the internet changing all occurrences of “Booker T. Washington” to something more authentic like Shantavious Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga. They’re probably working on it already.
Well, I’ll leave you to ponder that while I report the latest statue news. Whaddawe got?
Wednesday last week, September 6th, Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Ga. held a public forum on whether statues of Confederate leaders should be kept or removed. The main feature was a panel discussion by three Civil War historians from local universities.
So you’re guessing that to balance things off and get a good lively discussion, one of those historians favored leaving the monuments alone, one favored removing them, and the third professor argued for some middle position — removing some but keeping others, perhaps. That’s what you’d guess, right?
Well shame on you, you hate-filled white supremacist Nazi bigot! Not one of the historians on that panel wanted the statues left alone. The mildest opinions on offer from them were that the statues should be moved to museums or cemeteries, and that, quote, “monuments that challenge white supremacy,” end quote, should be erected alongside them. Don’t ask me what a “monument that challenges white supremacy” might look like, I have no clue.
The Macon Telegraph reported that one audience member, whom they described as “a bespectacled white man with a gray beard,” grumbled to the panelists that, quote: “I’m a little disappointed. All three of you have the same opinions.” End quote.
This gentleman further opined that slavery was all over in 1861 and wasn’t the reason for the Civil War, which was about states’ rights. I’ll return to that point in the next segment.
So a public university, financed in part by general taxation on we, the people, brings in three historians to discuss what should be done about statues of notable Confederates; and not one of the three takes the position that, according to polls, is held by a clear majority of Americans: that the statues should be left alone.
Our progressive elites, with the academy and the media in the lead, are waging war against normal Americans. This was a tiny skirmish in that war. Praise and honor to that “bespectacled white man with a gray beard,” who at least unbuckled his sword for the encounter.
Monument Avenue is well worth a visit. It’s beautifully laid out, a small masterpiece of city planning. It is actually a National Historic Landmark, under the aegis of the National Parks Service. There are fine grand statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jeb Stuart, a big Jefferson Davis monument, and a statue to black tennis champion and Richmond native Arthur Ashe. Along the way there are some very beautiful houses and churches.
Saturday this week, September 16th, a small Confederate heritage group based in Tennessee plans to hold a rally in Monument Avenue. It’s a really small group, attendee numbers look like about fifty; but of course any event of this kind could bring out the antifa mobs.
Richmond is in the same state as Charlottesville, under the same pro-antifa Governor Terry McAuliffe. It’s entirely possible that McAuliffe could do what he did in Charlottesville: lean on the mayor and police chief to stand aside and let antifa beat up on the rally participants. He could be confident the media would blame the resulting mayhem on “white supremacists” and “Nazis.”
Then there’d be another round of witch-hunting. Silicon Valley monopolies would ban another tranche of non-CultMarx-compliant websites, and we’d be further on towards the Progressive authoritarianism that is the ultimate goal here, with only one set of opinions permitted in the public square, just as only one set of opinions was allowed at Middle Georgia State University last week.
A curious sidebar issue in Saturday’s planned Richmond rally is that while masks, flag poles, sticks, shields, and helmets will be banned, guns won’t be. Virginia is an open-carry state, and apparently even Terry McAuliffe is scared of the NRA — another reason, if you needed another reason, to send them a donation, or take out a membership if you don’t yet have one.
Radio Derb goes to tape here on Friday night, so I don’t know how Saturday’s rally in Monument Avenue will play out. I hope for the best; but given Governor McAuliffe’s success in Charlottesville — and from his point of view, the point of view of advancing the cause of Progressive authoritarianism, it was a success — I fear for the worst.
A footnote here, picking up on that thread about the causes of the Civil War. Reading about this Richmond rally in Wednesday’s issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the following passage stopped my eye. Quote:
The Tennessee group [that’s the pro-Confederacy group organizing Saturday’s rally] falsely promotes the idea that slavery was not a factor in the South’s decision to secede from the union.
End quote. Now: slavery either was or was not a factor in secession. From my own reading, especially of pre-secession remarks by Jefferson Davis and Alexander Hamilton Stephens, I’d judge that it was a factor, and a big one. That’s just my reading, though: which, if you check out the shelves full of books about the Civil War in your library, is lamentably shallow.
Slavery either was or was not a factor; there are arguments on both sides. Remember of course that there were slave states in the Union. Maryland didn’t abolish slavery until almost the end of the war.
So why, in a news story — in a news story — is the Richmond Times-Dispatch telling its readers that one side of this argument is false? Perhaps it is false; but that’s an opinion. It doesn’t belong in a news report.
What are they teaching in journalism schools nowadays?
06 — Smartphones, bah. There are three new iPhones out: the iPhone 8, the iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone Ten. One of them costs a thousand dollars, and can unlock itself without the need for a number code when it recognises your face.
Don’t ask me which one that is; my eyes have glazed over already, just reading that far into the news story.
I should apologize up front here. Smartphone-wise, I’m a diehard reactionary. I don’t have one, and don’t plan to get one.
This is mildly hypocritical of me, as some large proportion of Radio Derb listeners get this podcast via their smartphones, and some similar proportion of visitors to the VDARE.com website read our text articles on their smartphones. I mean no offense to these fine people, and hope you will all go on listening and reading — please! I told you, I’m apologizing, m-kay?
My aversion to smartphones is not just idle snobbery. I don’t get half as much done in the day as I’d like to. I’m behind with mail, reading, household maintenance, friendships, upgrading my computer skills, and my exercise schedule. If I had a smartphone I’d get even less done, I know it.
I’ll admit, though, that there’s also a gut revulsion. The other day I went into Manhattan for a dinner club I belong to at NYU. Walking the early-evening streets through the NYU precincts from the subway to the meeting place, I saw dozens of students, late teens and young adults, and I swear every one of them had a smartphone in his hand. A majority of them were tapping at the screen or talking into it.
This gives me the creeps. It’s like that closing scene in Invasion of the Body Snatchers where Veronica Cartwright is the only real person left and everyone else has turned into Pod People.
The recent authoritarian moves by the Silicon Valley mega-monopolies have only fortified my aversion. Jared Taylor tells me that not only has PayPal shut down the account for American Renaissance, they have shut down his personal account, too. That’s a low, mean way for a mega-corporation to treat a polite, patriotic citizen whose opinions they don’t like.
And I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why it’s OK for PayPal to refuse Jared’s business when Christian bakers who turn down requests to make wedding cakes for homosexuals get their businesses destroyed through litigation.
This is getting ugly. As these gadgets get smarter, it will get uglier. The arrogance of the companies that market and control them will become ever less restrained. As George Orwell did not quite say: If you want a vision of the future, imagine a smartphone recognizing a human face — forever.
Given all that, you can imagine the glee with which I greet those occasional anti-smartphone pieces by journalists. There was a particularly good one this Wednesday in the London Daily Mail by columnist Stephen Glover. Headline: Oh, how I hate my damned iPhone and the dehumanising hold that Apple has over millions of us. It’s online, so you can … read it on your smartphone.
Sample quotes. Quote:
I own an iPhone. Quite a new one. And although I concede that it can be useful — apart from sending and receiving texts and emails, it doubles up as a radio, television, alarm clock, satnav and camera — in my heart I hate it, and wish it didn’t exist.
The reason is that I recognise its power to divert me from what I know to be more rewarding: looking at the world around me, reading books and newspapers, talking to friends, relaxing.
Smartphones … have driven many of us into a private world, often composed of trivia, which means that we don’t have to spend so much time interacting in the real world, which is actually far more interesting.
A decade on from its generally destructive invention, I curse Apple for persuading us to attach so much importance to these trivial but intrusive things … In short, I hate Apple and most of its works. I look forward to the day when I can find the strength to throw my iPhone in the dump, and finally turn my back on Steve Jobs’ false religion.
End sample quotes. You can imagine how Glover’s article returned an echo from my breast. I found myself … Excuse me, just a minute.
[Receding footsteps, sound of window opening: “Hey, get off the lawn!”]
You see, cash — those grubby bills with pictures of dead presidents on them, those stupid little coins clogging up your purse — cash allows you to perform small and some medium-sized commercial transactions without leaving a trail. The moguls hate that. How are they going to know what ads to direct to your Facebook page if they don’t know what you’ve been buying?
Governments hate cash, too. America’s suburbs are swarming with contractors — plumbers, electricians, painters, tree surgeons, … — every one of whom, let me tell you as a suburban homeowner, is happy to give a discount for cash payment. This must cost the IRS billions.
It’s only a matter of time before the government people and the tech bosses get their heads together for an all-out assault on cash. Never mind old Ike warning us about the military-industrial complex. The threat to our liberties is coming from the techno-bureaucratic complex. They just need to get us a couple of levels more hooked on our smartphones and it’ll be game, set, and match for the techno-authoritarians.
I haven’t read much about this from our side of the pond, but there was recently a survey in Britain that showed a good level of awareness of the danger. Only one-third of Brits favor the cashless society.
That doesn’t mean they won’t get it anyway. How many Brits favored a mass influx of Muslims and blacks, leaving white British people a minority in their own capital city? They got all that anyway. It’s not what people don’t want that matters: it’s how angrily, persistently, loudly, courageously, and resolutely they don’t want it.
There are some interesting international patterns here. The most cashless society on the planet, according to Bloomberg News, is Sweden. The value of bills and coins in circulation there peaked in 2007. It’s been declining ever since, and the rate of decline is accelerating. More and more Swedes carry no cash at all.
At the other end of the scale is Japan. Here’s a recent online travelers’ guide to Japan, quote:
In spite of its technology-driven economy, Japan is still very much a cash-based society. Though credit cards are increasingly popular, foreigners should not expect to have much luck with them outside of major cities.
Travellers are often shocked to see just how much cash Japanese people are comfortable carrying. In Japan, it is not unusual to keep tens of thousands of yen in your wallet. You will want to adopt the same habits — many shops in Japan do not accept credit or debit cards.
End quote. This seems counter-intuitive. Aren’t Japanese the world’s biggest gadget freaks? Isn’t this the place where guys have love affairs with their smartphone avatars? Why aren’t they paying for everything by waving the smartphone at a sensor, like good Swedes?
Then deeper questions come to mind.
Is it a coincidence that the Swedes are the most ethnomasochistic of all white nations, happily throwing their borders open to millions of Third Worlders, surrendering their neat, orderly cities to riotous Muslim mobs, denying they even have a culture of their own? While the Japanese are the least ethnomasochistic nation in the world, cherishing their traditional culture, keeping their borders tight shut, and refusing to apologize for the sins of their ancestors?
Do these things go together somehow: the willingness to surrender up your freedoms to the managers of humongous databases, with a parallel willingness to hand over your country to foreigners? And contrariwise, in Japan’s case, a mighty reluctance to do either thing?
If they do, which path will the U.S.A. take? Shall we be Swedish, or shall we be Japanese?
For clues to the answer, keep an eye on the advance of the cashless society.
Imprimis: Presidential family members have no standing in the Constitution, but that has never stopped them generating news of the minor sort. Andy Jackson’s wife, Grover Cleveland’s son, Harry Truman’s daughter, Jimmy Carter’s brother, … you know the stories.
Where the Trump administration is concerned, the focus of this kind of minor interest is the President’s daughter Ivanka, who, according to regrettable rumor, is sometimes referred to by the White House security detail as the First Shiksa.
The suspicion among Trump supporters is that Ivanka and her husband, financier and real-estate mogul Jared Kushner, regard those supporters as gap-toothed knuckle-dragging hillbillies from flyover country — low-class yahoos that no self-respecting metropolitan liberals like the Kushners would allow into their drawing-rooms.
And the further suspicion is that Ivanka and Jared’s opinions, murmured into the President’s ear at opportune moments, send him drifting off-course away from the kinds of policies we elected him to implement.
Well, Thursday this week the First Shiksa gave an interview to the Financial Times. It didn’t altogether dispel the clouds of suspicion: for example, she told the interviewer that, quote, “promoting women in science” is one of her, quote, “priorities,” as if that was any business of the federal government, let alone any business of a person merely related to the federal government.
The interview did, though, show some self-awareness on Ivanka’s part. Quote from her:
Some people have created unrealistic expectations of what they expect from me. That my presence in and of itself would carry so much weight with my father that he would abandon his core values and the agenda that the American people voted for when they elected him. It’s not going to happen. To those critics, shy of turning my father into a liberal, I’d be a failure to them.
End quote. At this point, eight months into the Trump administration, we National Conservatives are, as I have said, clutching at straws, so I’ll clutch at this one, passing over the progressive boilerplate about women in science as mere reflex. The lady seems to know her place — which is, attending to her career and her private affairs while leaving the running of the country to elected and appointed officials.
Item: Listeners keep sending me Derbyshire news — news, that is, about the English county of Derbyshire. I don’t mind this at all. Derbyshire’s a pretty place, up there in the Pennine hills, and I’m glad to give them a little publicity, help the local tourist industry. Perhaps I’ll get a free hotel room out of it, who knows?
I have no personal connection to the place, though; was there only once, briefly, on business; and beyond the mere coincidence of names, have no emotional relationship to Derbyshire.
We English of other counties don’t actually regard our Derbyshire compatriots very highly. The ditty current when I was growing up, and perhaps still today, was: “Derbyshire born, Derbyshire bred; strong in the arm, weak in the head.”
There may be something to that. This week’s news out of Derbyshire concerns the ancient, probably pagan, English custom of well dressing.
That’s not to be confused with dressing well, which is just a matter of getting oneself a good West End tailor. No; well dressing is the custom of beautifying wells and other sources of drinking water with flower petals, colored pebbles, and so on. It was probably originally a way of thanking the old nature gods for a reliable water supply.
The custom is kept up in Derbyshire, with topical elements sometimes introduced into the decorations. In that spirit, the well dressing at the town of Chesterfield this year included a portrait of Princess Di, commemorating her death twenty years ago.
Unfortunately the art work on the Princess Di portrait was not up to the highest standards. The late princess’s face, as portrayed, resembles something out of a horror comic.
One local resident tweeted that, tweet: “I live here and, let me tell you, I can feel its eyes on me, even now in my house,” end tweet.
If you are prone to nightmares, or if you’ve not yet recovered from last month’s news stories about the scary statue of Lucille Ball in her home town, I recommend you not follow up the news pictures on this one.
These adventures have been pure science, a quest for knowledge without hope of gain: as far removed as human activity can be from the pursuit of power and wealth — which, I hasten to add, are not ignoble or socially harmful if carried out in a proper framework of law and custom, but which can never by themselves be enough to satisfy the questing human spirit; and which, if you make a living by reporting on them week after week, exert on one’s own spirit a strong gravitational pull downwards towards cynicism, contempt, and despair.
This week — actually this morning, Friday morning, just about as I was chowing down on my breakfast oatmeal — one of the most successful and inspiring of those interplanetary missions came to an end when the Cassini spacecraft performed a scheduled descent into the atmosphere of Saturn, beaming back data until it burned up from friction with that atmosphere.
Cassini has been photographing Saturn, and that planet’s rings and its numerous moons, for thirteen years — a tremendous technical achievement. The increase in our knowledge of the Saturnian system has been incalculable. What were formerly fuzzy blobs or mere points of light are now places, with landscapes, mountains, and plains. One moon, Titan, has a substantial atmosphere: two moons, Titan and Enceladus, have lakes and perhaps oceans.
Congratulations from Radio Derb to the engineers and scientists of the Cassini mission. All honor and glory to the seekers of pure knowledge!
As nationalists we of course want to root for the home team. Well, this year there is a serious American contender: 29-year-old Jeni Summers, originally from Florida, currently domiciled in Mexico City where she works as a Playboy bunny.
Ms Summers is in serious training, she tells us, doing two hours of squats every day, and ditching her former vegetarian diet for five meals a day heavy with meat protein.
Let’s all get behind Ms Summers and wish her the best in November. U-S-A! U-S-A! …
Wait a minute, though … Mexico still has Playboy bunnies? Don’t they know what millennium this is? Are they still dancing the Twist down there? Playboy bunnies? Sheesh …
One small piece of news from this week that I don’t think rises to the level of being sad nor even regrettable, but that twangs a chord of nostalgia in opera fans of my generation: the retirement, announced on Wednesday, of soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The lady is 73 years old and hasn’t sung in public for a year or so, so the announcement was more in the nature of a punctuation mark than a real surprise, but it’s worth noting anyway.
I saw Dame Kiri at the height of her powers, singing the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden thirty-two years ago, with the dear old Queen Mother up in her box, well into her eighties at that point but glowing with good cheer, and also no doubt from her daily infusion of martinis and champagne. She lived to be 101 years old, bless her — a model for us all.
May Dame Kiri herself live to be that old, in good health and contentment. Here she is with one of Mozart’s loveliest songs: the Countess, betrayed by her husband. “Dove sono i bei momenti / Di dolcezza e di piacer?”
Where are the lovely moments
Of sweetness and pleasure?
Where have the promises gone
That came from those lying lips?
Do those last two lines have any relevance to our current domestic politics? Discuss among yourselves.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Kiri Te Kanawa, “Dove sono.”]