Radio Derb: American Law—All Too Alterable, Geopolitics 2024, Un-PC MARY POPPINS, And Where To Put The Gazans?, Etc.
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03:16  America's law problem.  (Criminal Division.)

09:15  The law favors squatters.  (Civil Division.)

15:03  All too alterable.  (A coming crisis.)

19:00  The times they are a-changin'.  (Geopolitics 2024.)

27:04  A lake tragedy.  (With a literary allusion.)

29:15  Inappropriateness in Mary Poppins (Too strong for the kiddies.)

32:00  Where to put the Gazans?  (A modest proposal.)

36:15  Return of the press gangs.  (Conscription, East Slav style.)

38:24  "Asylum seekers" out.  ("Newcomers" in.)

39:48  Musk to shrinks.  (No thanks.) 

40:57  Signoff.  (With Nikki — No, not that Nikki. .)

01—Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome, listeners—or, if you prefer to wait for the Wednesday transcript, readers. This is of course your reflexively genial host John Derbyshire with news and commentary at

Thursday marking month end, my February Diary is available for your reading pleasure. As you will see there, I am particularly interested in readers' opinions about physical therapy. If you have one—an opinion, that is—by all means email me with it.

I'm going to start off this week with some remarks about the law. Since I have no legal training, that might seem like an impertinence to listeners who have. I did my best to dodge criticism on that point back in 2005, writing at National Review.

I started that 2005 column by quoting King Charles the First at his trial, quote from His Majesty: "I do not know the forms of law; I do know law and reason, though I am no lawyer professed: but I know as much law as any gentleman in England." End quote.

With that for inspiration, I continued thus, quote from me:

I am of King Charles's party: "no lawyer professed," but still blithe in the confidence that I have sufficient understanding of jurisprudential principles to say intelligent things on the subject—at the very least, to distinguish between obviously good judgments and obviously bad ones. This is probably a delusion, but it is one so widespread that there is very little motivation to rid oneself of it. It is also a delusion much more easily fallen into in these United States, where the fundamental principles of law are helpfully written out in a Constitution brief and clear enough to be read through in a couple of hours. The law in England is more opaque and anonymous, the Constitution unwritten.

End quote.

I shall begin this week with another quote—this one literary, not historical.


02—America's law problem.     Mr Bumble the beadle in Oliver Twist was present when his wife sold stolen goods. He therefore shared responsibility for that offense, he was told, because, quote: "the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction." End quote.

Mr Bumble, a man of spirit, replied that, quote: "If the law supposes that, the law is a ass—a idiot." End quote.

Reading the day's news, I am more and more inclined to agree with Mr Bumble. The law, which is the foundation of all our rights and liberties, looks more and more like a gibbering fool: a ass—a idiot.

That is the case with both criminal law and civil law. They are two fools; or, as Mr Bumble would say, two asses.

I come to the recording studio this morning after reading the New York Post with my breakfast.

Cover story: A young white male student, 29-year-old Iain Forrest, was playing his cello for the entertainment of passers-by in a central-Manhattan subway station February 13th. A black female stranger, 23-year-old Amira Hunter, picked up Forrest's metal water bottle and whacked him over the head with it.

The Post report gives no career or occupation for Ms Hunter, but she has a rap sheet going back to mid-2019, when she would have been 18 or 19 years old: assault, assault, criminal contempt, criminal contempt, petit larceny, petit larceny, grand larceny (items worth $2,050 from Bergdorf Goodman). Occupation-wise, I guess "petty criminal" fills the bill.

For the assault on Iain Forrest she was arraigned in a Manhattan court Thursday this week, charged with second-degree assault.

Her criminality was so obviously chronic, and her inclination to show up for court dates so faint—she missed three of her five dates last year—that the Manhattan prosecutors asked the court to hold her on bail, $15,000 cash or a $45,000 bond.

(If you don't follow the Manhattan courts you may not know that the sentence "Manhattan prosecutors asked for bail" sounds as astonishing to us locals as "Joe Biden held a one-hour press conference, patiently fielding reporters' questions," or "Xi Jinping said that Taiwan has every right to be an independent nation if that's what its citizens want." Any kind of restraint on criminals, even the minimal restraint of a bail order, is frowned on by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.)

The judge ignored the prosecutors' request. Ms Hunter was set free on supervised release, which I suppose means she has to check in with some kind of counselor once in a while, unless she can't be bothered.

Plainly we are in Mr Bumble's territory here. What explains it?

Race and sex, that's what. Black female petty criminal clocks white male cellist. She's arrested and brought before a judge, name of Marva Brown, who is … a black female. Who in any position of judicial or administrative authority nowadays is not a black female?

Am I jumping to unwarranted conclusions based on irrational race and/or sex prejudice? Am I hell.

Just tell me with a straight face, if you can, that had the person in the dock yesterday been a white male petty criminal charged with assault on a black female cellist, or even a white female ditto on a black male ditto, Judge Brown would have shown that same leniency. Tell me if you can.

Unless you are a continental-scale liar or deeply delusional, the words would stick in your throat unspoken.


03—The law favors squatters.     So the criminal-justice system is FUBAR. How about civil justice?

Forward a few pages in my New York Post. Here are two retired New Yorkers, name of Landa, both 68 years old. They have an adult son afflicted with Down Syndrome.

Retiring last year, the Landas purchased, for two million dollars, a house in the pleasant New York City suburb of Douglaston, on Long Island's north shore, twenty miles and a million-and-a-half dollars west of your genial host's rustic abode. The house is near to relatives of theirs who can help care for their son. They signed the contract last October.

The Landas haven't been able to move into their new home, though. There's a squatter in there, a young fellow named Brett Flores, 32 years old. Mr Flores was a resident caregiver to the previous owner, who died early last year. He just went on living in the house while whoever had inherited it conducted the sale to the Landas.

He's still living there, refusing to move. He's even tried to rent out rooms in the house to other tenants. He himself of course pays no rent. Nor does he pay property tax or utility fees—the Landas have been paying those since October. When the Landas tried to enter this house they own, Flores called the cops on them.

Quotes from the Post, quote:

They've been to civil court five times to try to get him out; at a hearing in early January, he showed up without an attorney—which under the law halted proceedings, rather than forcing him to represent himself or forfeit.

More recently, he filed for bankruptcy, which under city law again blocks the owners from even continuing the case to get him out.

End quote.

These laws protecting squatters' rights are a serious nuisance. I opened my January Diary with a segment about them, from which, quoting myself:

In New York State a squatter who's been living on your property for thirty days or more has tenant rights, and those rights are generous. In the minds of our progressive lawmakers and the fools who vote for them, tenants belong to the class of oppressed people while landlords are of course oppressors. Get it? Seen through the CultMarx who-whom prism it all makes perfect sense.

End quote.

It's not just New York, either. February 21st our own Paul Kersey here at posted a horrifying report about squatters taking over hundreds of homes in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Atlanta squatters seem mostly to be underclass blacks; but their victims—the people who own these houses—include middle-class and professional blacks as well as whites, I'm not sure in what proportions. News outlets should speak plainly about these issues to give us a better picture of what's happening, but of course they don't.

Atlanta City Council isn't as black as I would have guessed, but as Paul Kersey says, it's black enough to make eviction even more difficult than in New York. (All the principals in that New York squatter story are white.)

Other locations in the U.S.A. have the squatter problem. Once you start googling, there are squatters all over, with local laws strongly favoring the squatter over the actual owner of the property. The jurisprudential principle generating these laws seems to be: "Tenant good, landlord bad!"

So yes: criminal law and civil law both. My fellow Americans, we have a law problem, and it's rooted in out-of-control grievance culture where everything is a case of identifying—however fancifully—the oppressor and the oppressed, then favoring the oppressed.


04—All too alterable.     Permit me, please, to return to that column I published back in 2005, by way of conclusion to those two segments.

After writing about how my earliest encounters with the law had left me full of respect for it and its practitioners, and having quoted George Meredith's phrase "The army of unalterable law," I ended with the following. Long quote:

With these early impressions of the solidity, gravity, and conservatism of the law, I was a little slow to understand that the law has become the great engine of the Left in our time: that clever young radicals are swarming everywhere to overthrow the habits and customs of centuries, to assert inalienable "rights" invented in some law-school dorm bull session in 1965, to bolster and expand the powers of government—especially the federal government—and to pursue those who, for one reason or other, have offended leftist sensibilities. A peek into any modern law-school syllabus shows the state of affairs. Here is all the gassy flapdoodle of postmodern epistemology: "critical race theory,"  "feminist jurisprudence"  and, of course, "queer legal theory." The law has proved all too alterable.

My eyes were opened by the plundering of the tobacco industry in the 1990s, culminating in the quarter-trillion-dollar Master Settlement Agreement of 1998. What, I wondered, in my King Charles the First naïvety, had happened to the ancient common-law doctrine of "assumption of risk," which asserts that a plaintiff may not recover for an injury to which he assents? I asked people who might know. The doctrine had, they told me, in more words or less (usually many, many more), become inconvenient to revenue-seeking politicians.

A friend who teaches law at a Southern university—a learned friend!—tells me that we have drifted far from the old principles of property rights, freedom of contract, and limited government on which our nation was built, and that our nation's legal system is approaching some great crisis. I don't doubt he is right. The ultimate remedy must be in the ballot-box. In the meantime, the most minimal requirement for appointment to our highest judicial positions ought to be, that the appointee cleaves strongly to those battered old principles, is aware of the looming crisis, and understands what is at stake. All other matters of opinion and belief are secondary.

End quote.


05—The times they are a-changin'.     If you take a long view of geopolitics these past forty years, it's been an upper followed by a downer.

Forty years ago the decline of the U.S.S.R. was beginning to be obvious. The Supreme Leader was described by one historian as, quote, "an enfeebled geriatric so zombie-like as to be beyond assessing intelligence reports, alarming or not," end quote. Heck, the poor guy was 72 years old!

China had crawled out from under the shadow of Mao Tse-tung and his crazy utopian schemes, building a limited market economy and easing up some on social controls. The European Union had, since taking in the U.K. a decade earlier, advanced considerably from being just a Franco-German Co-Prosperity Sphere to more widespread stability and prosperity.

The U.S.A. had recovered from the humiliation of Vietnam and elected itself an upbeat, capable and conservative president. India was struggling politically and the Arabs were kicking up sand, but without any dire consequences for the rest of us in either case.

Ten years on from that the U.S.S.R. was gone. China was getting rich, the U.S.A. was cheerfully pushing trade abroad and some modest social reform at home, India had stabilized and the Arabs, after Saddam Hussein's little attempt on Kuwait, were minding their own business. It was the End of History!

Now look at us. Russia threatening Europe with nukes, Muslims howling for the annihilation of Israel, China in a slump while glaring menacingly at Taiwan and occasionally rattling sabers in our direction, talk of a New Cold War.

(With some commenters stretching the Cold War analogy, not too fancifully, to the Taiwan issue becoming a replay of the 1962 Cuba Missile Crisis with Taiwan as Cuba, China as the U.S.A., and us as the Soviets.)

Talk about "back to the future." Can't we all get along?

How grim are things? Here's how grim: The Swedes are going to join NATO.

Yes, the Swedes: those pale pacifistic Scandinavians with decades of governments alternating between left-of-center and left-of-left of center. Russia's move on Ukraine woke them to the fact that they are geographically vulnerable.

They applied for membership two years ago; but to become a new member of NATO you need unanimous approval from existing members. Turkey and Hungary had quibbles that have taken two years to sort out. Now Sweden's in, and the Baltic Sea is totally surrounded by NATO countries. Russia is not happy.

It's not going to be easy for the Swedes. After two hundred years of not being at war with anybody, there are some major adjustments to be made. For example, quote from today's Guardian, quote:

The entire public transit rail network in Stockholm … is operated by MTR, a Hong Kong-based company with ties to the Chinese Communist party.

End quote.

So with Putin and the ChiComs getting cozy, if Russia moves on Sweden they'll have no problem finding their way around the railroads.

I've made Radio Derb's position on NATO plain many times over: I totally support NATO. It's a jolly good thing. I just don't want us, the U.S.A., to be a member.

Sweden will be NATO's 32nd member, leaving 31 members after we leave, which I hope we soon shall. Those 31 nations together are far richer and more populous than Russia. If they can't provide for collective defense, they don't deserve to survive.

That may sound callous, but reflections of this kind are starting to be commonplace among people and outlets that are paid to think about geopolitics.

Last week's issue of The Economist, for example, had a cover story headed: "Is Europe Ready?" The following articles are chewing over the kinds of things I've just been chewing over.

The Economist is Atlanticist and globalist, fiercely anti-Trump. They're not stupid, though. They know that, History having after all failed to end, she may be turning in a new direction. Sample quote:

Donald Trump, who may very well be the next American president, has cast doubt on whether he would rally to Europe's side following a Russian attack. The Republican Party and parts of the security establishment are becoming less committed to Europe. American defence is increasingly focused on the Pacific. Even if President Joe Biden is re-elected, he may be America's last instinctively Atlanticist president.

End quote.

So … interesting times. There isn't much about them to bring a smile to your face, but I smiled none the less at a posting on X yesterday by my favorite YouTube physicist, Sabine Hossenfelder. Quote:

I'm so disappointed that it's 2024 and political leaders are still threatening with nuclear weapons. You'd think that by now they'd be threatening with antimatter bombs or AI assimilation, at least that'd be interesting.

End quote.


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

Imprimis:  Here's a little tragedy from the mother country. Last weekend three English lads, teenagers, somehow fell into a lake in the West Midlands. Two of them were pulled out alive but the third drowned.

How they fell, I don't know. I can't imagine they went for a swim. In England, in February? Nah. Perhaps they were just horsing around, as teenage boys always have and always will.

Why is this newsworthy in any degree? It isn't really. It's just that my attention was snagged by the name of the lake: Lake Rudyard.

That was the place where, in the summer of 1863, Alice Macdonald met Lockwood Kipling at a picnic. It was love at first sight, but they weren't able to marry until two years later in March 1865.

Nine months later in December 1865, in Bombay, their son was born. He was named Joseph, the established Christian name of the Lockwood men, and Rudyard, after the lake.

No, not newsworthy at all, really. It's only that I don't, in all these years, recall ever seeing the word "Rudyard" in print except in reference to Kipling.

I'm sorry it had to come up here in such tragic circumstances. Sincere condolences from Radio Derb to the loved ones of the drowned lad.


Item:  August this year marks sixty years since the release of the movie Mary Poppins, a great children's classic.

Probably in anticipation of the anniversary, the British Board of Film Classification has decided to downgrade the movie's "U" for "Universal" to "PG" for "Parental Guidance suggested." That's the rating for a movie that contains material "inappropriate for children younger than 13."

Mary Poppins, "inappropriate" … what?

You may recall Admiral Boom, a crusty old fogey who is a neighbor of the Banks family, where Mary Poppins is nanny to the children. The admiral has a cranky, old-fashioned style of speech. Seeing chimney sweeps, their faces black with soot, he takes them to be Hottentots.

Hottentots are the non-Bantu-speaking people—or one such people—of South Africa. The word came to be used as a derogatory word for blacks of any kind, so nowadays we're supposed to call those people by a different and more boring name, Khoi, k-h-o-i.

It's that derogatory usage that had the British Board of Film Classification clutching their pearls, even though Admiral Boom is an absurd negative caricature himself, and only says the word twice. Don't look to the guardians of our culture for any sense of humor.

I'd hate to see us lose the word "Hottentot" altogether, only because we should then also have lost the silliest word I know in the German language: Hottentotenpotentatenstantenattentäter—"one who assails the aunt of a Hottentot potentate." You can't easily replace lost treasures like that.


Item:  You may remember the name Jonathan Pollard. He was a Jewish American who got a job as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy. In 1985 he was arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel, supplying Israel with classified U.S. documents. In 1987 he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Paroled in 2015, he emigrated to Israel in 2020.

Now almost seventy, Pollard seems to be setting himself up as a political candidate for an extreme-nationalist party there. He takes a very strong line against Israel's enemies.

In a newspaper interview last weekend he said that Israel will need to annex Gaza if it wants Israelis to return to the southern part of the country where the October 7th raid happened.

What to do with the Gazans, though? In that same interview Pollard made a striking suggestion: Send them to Ireland!

Apparently Pollard's eye had been caught somehow by anti-Israel protests in Dublin, and in particular to an Irish TD—which is to say a congressman, an elected member of Ireland's parliament—name of Richard Boyd Barrett.

This fellow, an old-style lefty and pacifist, actually wore a keffiyeh—that black-on-white patterned scarf favored by Palestinian Arabs—to a recent protest march.

Full quote from Pollard, quote:

I say we move the resident Arab population out [of Gaza] … I don't care where they go. My preference is for Ireland. I think the Irish deserve it. Irish MP Richard Boyd Barrett has even donned a keffiyeh.

End quote.

Yes, it's pretty silly. There's some history peeking out from behind the silliness, though.

Ireland was of old a deeply Roman Catholic country, and there's been a tension—by no means universal, but always present—between Jews and the more intense kind of Roman Catholicism.

"They killed Our Lord!" the nuns used to tell the kids in English parochial schools, or so I have been told by more than one graduate of those schools; and Hitler got far more of his Jew-killers from Catholic Austria and Bavaria than from Protestant Brandenburg and Prussia.

Ireland has even had a pogrom, the Limerick Pogrom of 1904.

It was a feeble affair by comparison with East European or Russian pogroms, and you'll get an argument from Irish people as to whether it really counts as a pogrom. I don't believe there were any fatalities.

For Jews, though, whose collective memory goes back over three thousand years, 1904 was just yesterday. I bet Jonathan Pollard could tell you all about the Limerick Pogrom.


Item:  On the Back to the Future theme, I see that Ukraine and Russia are getting so short of willing military recruits they are resorting to press gangs.

From the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries Britain could never get enough volunteers to fully man its navy, so Parliament gave the government power to just grab likely lads off the streets.

The press gangs—gangs of navy men who did the grabbing—were a real terror, especially in sea ports with a lot of merchant shipping. If you could grab a merchant seaman while he was drunk or on leave, you could save yourself the trouble of training him in shipboard skills.

The U.S.-British War of 1812 was caused in part by the British navy's unpleasant habit of boarding American ships to press their sailors.

That's what Ukraine and Russia are doing, although for soldiers not sailors. Quote, this one about Russia:

In one notorious example, more than 200 men from the Mipstroy1 construction company were sent off to fight in one go.

End quote.

As I keep telling you, this is a war between the world's two most corrupt white countries, so I assume that a suitable gift to the right official in either place will give you some protection against the press gangs.

Still you have to wonder, with things this dire, how much longer these two countries can stagger along without one or both seeing a major uprising.


Item:  Is the weasel phrase "asylum seeker" losing its place as the woke way to say "illegal alien"? I more and more hear "migrant" from regime media and spokespersons.

The federal government may be ahead of the game, though. A "fact sheet" from the White House briefing room on Thursday is still hopefully promoting the Schumer-McConnell bill that crashed and burned in Congress a few days ago. Sample quote from that "fact sheet," quote:

The bill also includes $1.4 billion for cities and states who are providing critical services to newcomers, and would expedite work permits for people who are in the country and qualify.

End quote.

No, not "asylum seekers" or "migrants"; they are "newcomers"!

I don't know, I still like my coinage best: "settler colonists."


Item:  Finally, having started off here with another request for opinions about physical therapy, I can't resist passing comment on this tweet from the tweeter-in-chief himself, Elon Musk.

There he was on Wednesday at, of course, X. The entire tweet (post, whatever) read as follows, quote:

Put [inner quote] "Never Went to Therapy" [end inner quote] on my gravestone

End quote.

I'm pretty sure Mr Musk isn't referring to physical therapy there. I could be wrong, though. If I am, or if he holds some definite opinions about the physical sort, I'd be glad to hear what he has to say. I can be reached at, Sir.


07—Signoff.     That's all, ladies and gents. Thank you as ever for your time and attention, and welcome to the month of March—"in like a lion, out like a lamb," according to the proverb. Let's hope so.

To see us out this week, something new—well, new to me.

In my February 16th podcast I mentioned having reviewed the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever on the 30th anniversary of its release in, of course, 2007. That inspired one listener to look up and read my review. In it there are some passing remarks about disco music, concerning which my listener has some opinions of his own. Quote:

Disco has been stupidly maligned for so long that few people actually know what it sounds like or that it spawned mankind's greatest musical achievement, which is House Music.

End quote.

My listener then rhapsodized at some length about House Music.

It was all news to me. I stopped paying any attention to pop music around 1980. My listener's enthusiasm was infectious, though, so I'm giving House Music a try. And now, you can too.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.


[Music clip: Nikki St Nicholas, "Music Is My Life."]

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