Radio Derb: DeSantis v. Newsom, Nikki Haley Rakes It In, Broken Jails, And Charlottesville High School, Cont., Etc.
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03:05  The DeSantis-Newsom bout.  (Why did they do it?)

10:13  Nikki Haley rakes it in.  (From the Koch brothers!)

15:05  Broken jails.  (Underfunded, mismanaged.)

23:04  Nikki-tikki-tavi.  (Run and find out.)

24:37  Schoolboy humor.  (A trikki plural.)

25:47  Charlottesville High School, cont.  (From a parent.)

28:52  Ticket to Mars?  (Bursting Elon's bubble.)

31:20  Word of the year.  (Says Merriam-Webster.)

31:47  Signoff.  (With Haydn.)

01—Intro.     White rabbits! Radio Derb is on the air this Friday, December 1st, hosted here by your superstitiously genial host John Derbyshire. To listeners not au courant with British folklore, "white rabbits" should be the first words you utter to another human being on the first day of the month, if you don't want to be dogged by bad luck all month … which I don't.

So greetings to one and all. I've had a fun week: drove down to West Virginia Monday, stayed overnight in Berkeley Springs Monday and Tuesday, and took part in our Giving Tuesday show Tuesday evening at headquarters in the castle.

There is an excellent video of the Tuesday evening event at the website to which I direct your attention. I should caution you, though, that it is the entire event, three and a half hours long; so you'll be needing a comfortable chair and a bottle of something refreshing to hand if you want to watch the whole thing.

The intro music by itself, even before you see any of us speaking, is fifteen minutes. It's a very lovely fifteen minutes, though: mainly those Polish Christmas carols that I used as signoff here on Radio Derb at Christmas 2019. Thanks once again to our friend and contributor Tom Piatak for those beautiful carols.

I should apologize up front for this podcast being somewhat shorter than usual. My hangover from Tuesday evening lasted all week … Nah, just kidding. It has been an unusually busy week, though, and I'm way behind with everything.

In partial recompense my monthly Diary should be posted on the website sometime this weekend; so if you don't have as much as usual of my spoken words to listen to, you have more of my written words to read.

OK, on with the motley! [Clip:  Pavarotti, Vesti la giubba.] Yeah, yeah, thank you, Sir.


02—The DeSantis-Newsom bout.     I'm pretty sure that Thursday night's debate between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and California Governor Gavin Newsom was not the most important event of the week, but it was the most comment-worthy.

Actually the first thing to be said about it is that it was too long. When I was training to be a teacher, back in the Upper Paleolithic, we were instructed that nobody can sit and listen to another person talk for more than 45 minutes. For me, that is also as long as I can stay awake when two politicians are talking.

By a supreme effort of will I actually held out for a full hour. They were still talking—I don't know how long the event went on—but I'd had enough.

To our politicians I commend—not, I am sure, for the first time—the words of the great Calvin Coolidge. On being elected President of the Massachusetts Senate in 1914, Coolidge's acceptance speech was just 43 words long. Quote, in its entirety:

Honorable Senators: My sincerest thanks I offer you. Conserve the firm foundations of our institutions. Do your work with the spirit of a soldier in the public service. Be loyal to the Commonwealth and to yourselves and be brief; above all be brief.

End quote.

The debate at least gave us clear impressions of the two governors. For me, those impressions didn't differ much from the ones I had previously held.

Ron DeSantis came across as he has before: as a normal guy with sensible ideas. His great strength politically is his record as Chief Executive of his state. Florida's doing really well, especially by comparison with California: lower crime and unemployment, less government bossiness on things like gun ownership, way lower taxes, better education results.

DeSantis' drawback of course is a lack of charisma. Charisma is not a thing normal guys have. Politicians need to have it, in order to catch and hold the attention of voters, to distract us from the busy-ness of ordinary life.

We normal guys are low-charisma. We don't dazzle, astonish, nor even much charm you. Sometimes we forget our lines; or we take a wrong turn, before speedily self-correcting while hoping nobody noticed.

That's normal-guy Ron DeSantis. On proper rhetorical principles, as a fair reporter—and, as Radio Derb listeners know, "Fairness" is my middle name—I should now sketch the pros and cons of Gavin Newsom.

The only pros I can see are presentational. For a 56-year-old guy Newsom looks young and energetic. He's bright and articulate. He's pretty much always smiling.

That doesn't do it for me. It charms a lot of people, though, and I wouldn't think the worse of them for it. I know I'm hard to charm. Thousands of salesmen will testify to that.

Newsom's problem is his record as Chief Executive of his state; and before that, for seven years back in the 2000s, as Mayor of San Francisco. State and city are both in a sorry condition, especially by comparison with Florida.

This debate was occasionally briefly illustrated with clips showing comparative statistics—national, Florida, California—on key issues like crime, schooling, taxes. The stats were from very respectable sources. They all heavily favored Florida. Newsom responded to them by looking straight at the camera and saying, "That's not true," or something equivalent. Impressive, that wasn't.

How much any of this matters—how much the debate itself matters—depends on what you think these guys are trying for.

DeSantis is an open contender for the Republican Presidential nomination, but on current polling he's not likely to get it. Does he still think he has a chance? Was he hoping the debate would improve that chance? Or has he totally given up and is just laying some foundations for 2028?

Newsom isn't officially running for anything. With Joe Biden having trouble staying upright and Kamala Harris about as popular as eczema, he may nurse hopes of being the guy who steps into the breach at the last minute; or he may himself have 2028 in mind.

Some of his responses to DeSantis in the debate were so frivolous and off-point, I found myself wondering if perhaps Newsom's main motivation for the evening was just to have some fun.

It's a weird election we're headed into, not like any other I can recall. I'm pretty much resigned to the expectation that I'll be voting for Trump again, although I'd prefer DeSantis.

And to the TV execs: If it's one-on-one debates you're switching to, how about DeSantis against Haley? That I might stay awake for all the way through.


03—Nikki Haley rakes it in.     Speaking of Nikki Haley, I see she's been busy collecting primary ballot access: she was on the GOP primary ballot in 21 states last time I looked.

That's busy. Haley's getting major funding, too, although some of it from odd sources.

This week we heard that the billionaire Koch bothers—more precisely a political action network they founded and finance—has endorsed Ms Haley. That means mucho dollars will be flowing into her primary campaigns.

New York Times, November 28th, quote:

Ms. Haley's campaign does not have the organizational strength that Mr. DeSantis does, thanks to work the super PAC affiliated with his campaign has been doing for much of the year.

The endorsement from the super PAC established by the Koch brothers could help change that. It will give her access to a direct-mail operation, field workers to knock on doors and people making phone calls to prospective voters in Iowa and beyond. The group has money to spend on television advertisements, as well.

End quote.

Policy-wise, the Koch brothers' endorsement is a bit odd. Haley is, as you've heard me grumbling for months now, a world-saver. She wants what she calls "a robust foreign policy." That means getting involved with other people's quarrels all over the world, militarily when we feel like it, for the promotion of liberty and democracy.

The Koch brothers are open-borders globalists—as Bernie Sanders famously told us eight years ago—but only in matters of economics. They don't want to liberate Tibet. The foreign policy their organizations promote, open borders aside, is almost America First. It's closer to Ron DeSantis than to Nikki Haley.

So why are they supporting her? Because if they can push her through the primaries ahead of Trump and DeSantis, they figure she'll have a better shot than would those guys at winning the general in November.

Why do they think that? Because a lot of Democrats and independents would vote for her who would never vote for Trump or DeSantis.

In fact Haley seems to have been getting a lot of campaign funding from Democrat sources. New York Post, November 30th, quote:

In a desperate bid to chip away at Donald Trump's odds for the GOP nomination, a coterie of DNC donors are sending checks to Haley—even as they continue to publicly voice support for Biden and push for his White House bid, sources said.

End quote.

It's not a new thing. Helping to boost fringe candidates of the other party is part of the game. It gives the mainstream candidates of your party a better shot at winning the general. New York Post again, quote:

This time, donors say the approach is different since the aim is to present voters with two centrist candidates and keep a far-right candidate from winning.

End quote.

If we end up next November with Haley against Biden, or Haley against Newsom, or Haley against any other Democrat I can think of except Joe Manchin, I'll vote for Haley. It'll be with a heavy heart, though, and with determination to get to work building that bomb shelter in my back yard.


04—Broken jails.     Researching for this podcast, I did get one pleasant surprise. Let me work my way up to it.

In last week's podcast I mentioned in passing the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of an appeal by Derek Chauvin, the cop who was restraining George Floyd when Floyd died back in 2020. The rejection of the appeal was not in itself very noteworthy: the Supremes reject the great majority of appeals.

My podcast was wrapped up before the news came out that Chauvin had been stabbed by a fellow inmate at the federal prison in Arizona where he is serving his 20-plus-year sentences, state and federal.

How come he's serving his state sentence, as well as his federal sentence, in a federal prison? Because of a plea deal he made with federal prosecutors. On his side of the deal, he'd plead guilty. On their side, he'd be allowed to serve his state sentence in a federal prison along with the federal sentence. The motive there was that federal prisons are generally considered safer than state prisons. Whoops …

I thought for this week's podcast I'd bring you up to date with any new information about Chauvin getting stabbed. Well, there isn't any. Not even Chauvin's family, nor even his attorneys, have been told anything more than that Chauvin survived the stabbing and is in stable condition. We—and the family, and the attorneys—don't even know whether he's conscious or not.

And who done it? We have no clue. Or rather, we have an indirect clue. We know it must have been a black guy because, as folk wisdom has taught us for decades, "if it was a white guy they would have told us." They haven't, so it was a black guy.

So we can add another cup of cruelty to the cruel, shameful story of Chauvin's show trial.

Having failed to find out anything about the actual stabbing, I got to wondering what, if anything, it tells us about our prison system—in this case, our federal prison system. There was an illuminating article on that in Monday's New York Times.

It turns out, according to the Times, that the federal Bureau of Prisons is seriously under-funded—by Congress, that is. It further sounds, although the Times report is less explicit here, that the Bureau is poorly managed.

Sample quote, following some text about federal prisons being under-staffed, quote:

The federal prisons bureau has long been plagued by health and safety problems, physical and sexual abuse, corruption and high turnover in the top management ranks.

Colette S. Peters, who took over as the director of the Bureau of Prisons in August 2022, has said that filling those vacancies was the bureau's top priority. In a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee this September, she discussed steps she had taken to start overhauling the system and urged Congress to provide more funding. But Senate lawmakers criticized Ms. Peters for not providing more information on fixing the system's problems.

End quote.

Here came my pleasant surprise. I've been telling you for a while that black women are now top of the status totem pole. For any kind of high-prestige appointment, government or private, a black woman is the first choice. Supreme Court nominee? Black woman! President of Harvard? Black woman!

So reading that New York Times story telling me that a certain Colette S. Peters took over as the director of the Bureau of Prisons in August 2022 I immediately thought to myself with an inward sigh: "Oh, there's another one."

When I went to Google Images to look her up, though, I learned that she is a white lady. I haven't been able to find out anything else about her, so possibly she has some other identitarian points that make up for her whiteness … I don't know. As it stands, though, at the point our Cultural Revolution has reached, this was a comparatively conservative appointment.

Just a year and a third into Ms Peters' tenure at the head of our federal prison system, it may be unfair to say it, but she doesn't seem to have made much of a dent in the Bureau's many problems.

Staffing is the biggest one. It's not all the fault of Congressional under-funding, either. Another quote from the New York Times, quote:

About 21 percent of the 20,446 federal positions for corrections officers funded by Congress—amounting to 4,293 guards—were unfilled in September 2022, according to a report in March by the Justice Department's inspector general's office.

End quote.

It does seem to be a lousy job, working in our federal prisons. State prison officers are better paid, so of course federal officers drift off to the nearest state establishment.

We really do have a serious law-and-order problem: not just in the streets with shoplifters, junkies, muggers, car-jackers, and rioters, but even in the prisons when criminals have been caught, judged, sentenced, and incarcerated.

Is there any chance Congress might address this, if they can spare the time from voting through another five billion dollars for Ukraine?

That is of course a rhetorical question.


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

Imprimis:  I'm sorry, and I mean no disrespect, but when I see Nikki Haley's name in print it always brings to mind Rikki-tikki-tavi.

For listeners who didn't have a bookish English childhood, "Rikki-tikki-tavi" was the title of one of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book short stories. It was also the name of the story's main character, who was … a mongoose.

Quote from the story:

It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is "Run and find out"; and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose.

End quote.

"Run and find out," see? I like to think that Nikki Haley read the story of Rikki-tikki-tavi in her childhood and adopted his motto: "Run and find out." She's definitely running, and we'll find out. Did I mention the story takes place in India?


Item:  I can't resist telling the mongoose joke—the only one, so far as I know.

The joke concerns a zoo manager. For some reason his superiors have taken an interest in the mongoose. They've decided the zoo needs two of them and they ask the manager to write to their suppliers.

The guy obediently sits down and writes a letter. "Dear Sir, please send us two mongooses …" It doesn't look right, though, so he bins the letter and tries again: "Dear Sir, please send us two mongeese …" But that still doesn't look right.

He bins that second letter and sits thinking for a while. Then, on a new sheet of paper: "Dear Sir, please send us a mongoose. P.S. Better make it two."


Item:  In last week's podcast I mentioned the teachers' strike at Charlottesville High School in Virginia, the teachers staying home because of out-of-control student violence at the school. The violence is perpetrated by about thirty students out of the total 1,400. These thirty never attend class, just roam the halls making trouble.

My source there was a local newspaper report headlined The kids are not all right: Violence, intruders and chaos at Charlottesville High School.

That brought an email from a listener who actually has a child at the school. With his permission, I'll just read you a slightly edited version of his email. Quote:

The thing about CHS is that it's actually generally pretty well-regarded. Diligent and disciplined kids … can get a good education there. But it is hard to overstate what damage the coddling of the infamous 30 you mentioned in last week's Radio Derb has done to the school.

A week before Thanksgiving were the fights that led to everything that followed … The teachers were finally so fed up by the lack of security, of sheer normalcy, that they engaged in a "sickout" on Friday; the school later canceled classes the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week as well.

This week has been a farcical combination of cheap boosterism "don't let anyone tell you Black Knights can't come together to solve their problems!" and some sotto voce muttering about increasing security. If they have a coherent plan to deal with kids aimlessly wandering the halls and not going to class, though, I have yet to hear it.

It's a shame. My son is taking interesting classes with teachers who seem dedicated. But the last three years have been my first experience … with public education. It has been every bit as dismaying as I expected.

End quote.

Thank you, Sir. We should all be dismayed that, for reasons we all know well, our elected and appointed authorities are unable to address something as fundamental, as foundational to our civilization, as school discipline and safety.


Item:  When we post my November Diary, sometime this weekend, you will see that I have taken an interest in Elon Musk.

One of Elon Musk's passions, probably rooted in the fact that he, like me, spent his early-teen years reading science fiction authors like Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein, is the colonization of Mars. Musk's ambition for his own rocket companies is that eventually they will transport the first human colonists to the Red Planet.

Well, here's a husband-and-wife writing partnership setting out to burst Elon Musk's bubble. Zachary and Kelly Weinersmith have a book out titled A City on Mars. The title is ironic: the Weinersmiths don't think there is going to be any city on Mars, not at any rate until another couple of centuries of technological advance have happened.

I haven't read the book; I'm working here from the review in my November 25th edition of The Economist. Sample:

There is the question of why anyone would want to go in the first place. Escaping an environmentally damaged Earth or even simply having an insurance policy against the chance of nuclear annihilation or an asteroid strike may sound attractive. But Mars is actually far more horrid than any fate likely to be awaiting humanity's home planet—even, probably, the aftermath of a nuclear exchange.

End quote.

From what I have learned about Musk, he is—to put it very mildly—not a guy who's easily deterred when he's set his heart on something. If he tries to sell you a ticket on his first Mars colonization flight, though, you may be wise to decline.


Item:  Merriam-Webster has announced its word of the year, mainly based on the number of online searches for the word.

The winner, the top word of 2023, is … "authentic."

"Authentic"? Really?


06—Signoff.     That's all I can manage this week, boys and girls. Apologies again for a somewhat truncated podcast. I wish you all a pleasant and productive weekend decorating your Christmas tree, mailing off your Christmas cards, and wrapping your presents.

To sign us off I shall fall back on more of Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2 from the main organ of Derby Cathedral.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.


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