»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Saturday, February 8th, 2014

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your consensually genial host John Derbyshire with a spicy ratatouille of items from the week's news.

I'll be leading off this week with news of the Winter Olympics in Russia, then going on to some general remarks about Russia herself. I had better explain up front here, however, that Radio Derb is at somewhat of a disadvantage in reporting on the Games.

As I explain to listeners every so often, our program is recorded on good old-fashioned magnetic tapes, as befits an organ of conservative opinion. Those tapes are then transported by donkey to the boat dock here on the island, from where our intrepid mailman Stavro Mamalakis rows them over to the mainland for a flight to the U.S.A.

This means that we can only report on news events up to around midnight Thursday. Should the world come to an end on a Friday morning, we would be unable to report it to you.

Since the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics is on Friday, February 7th, with the first actual events taking place on Saturday the 8th, it is beyond my powers to bring you any account of the Games in progress. Enough news items about Sochi have come up that are worth commenting on, though, so I shall comment.

02 — A frost in Sochi?     Harry Flashman, the fictional 19th-century cad who cheats, lies, and fights his way through the 19th century in twelve of George MacDonald Fraser's novels, was wont to describe any failed social gathering as "a bit of a frost."

Organizers of the Winter Olympics naturally hope they will be a frost in the meteorological sense. Unfortunately there are signs they may be a frost in the Flashman sense too.

According to the Associated Press, at the Olympic sites and in the city of Sochi itself, foreign spectators are conspicuous by their absence. The AP correspondent tells us that a train traveling from the Olympics site to downtown Sochi was half empty on Thursday, and contained not a single foreign visitor.

Possibly some foreign visitors have been put off by seeing Sochi described as a subtropical seaside resort, which it is. Sounds nice, but how can you have winter games in the subtropics?

Geography holds the answer, listeners. Sochi is on the eastern shores of the Black Sea …

Wait a minute. Can I say "Black Sea"? Perhaps it's racist. Let me just consult the Radio Derb style book. One can never be too careful nowadays … Yes, apparently it's OK.

So Sochi is on the eastern shores of the Black Sea. Three hundred miles further east is the Caspian Sea. Running between the two seas, roughly east-west, is the Caucasus range of mountains. So Sochi is near the westernmost tippety-tip of the Caucasus. If, starting from that subtropical beach at Sochi, you head directly inland for thirty miles, you're in the mountains. It's like those irritating people you've met from southern California, who boast about hanging out at the beach in the morning then going skiing in the afternoon.

Much bigger factors in the low attendance, if indeed it is going to be low, are: one, the threat of terrorism; and two, the high cost of attending the games. Both factors tell us something about Russia today, so I'll give over the next segment to discussing them.

03 — Russia's resource curse.     The overall picture of recent Russian history, much simplified, is as follows.

  • The Soviet Union, one of those despotic utopias that history throws up from time to time, collapsed in 1991.
  • There followed a decade of considerable personal and economic freedom under weak, corrupt government.
  • Vladimir Putin came to supreme power at the turn of the century with the idea of replacing weak, corrupt government by strong, corrupt government.
  • This worked. There was real growth, and we began to hear about the BRIC countries, B-R-I-C. That was Brazil, Russia, India, and China, all growing fast from a low base. The insurgency in Chechnya was put down.
  • Then the resource curse kicked in, along with some old Russian political habits. The resource curse is what strikes a country with abundant natural resources like oil or minerals. The economy comes to depend on pulling whatever-it-is out of the ground, and neglecting other kinds of economic activity.
  • That's what happened to Russia in the middle of the last decade. Oil prices rose, and living standards rose — but so did government spending and employment. In the 2000s decade overall, the number of bureaucrats doubled. Cronyism, over-regulation, demographic collapse, and crime began to choke off economic progress. There is no item in your house labeled "Made in Russia."
  • Although Chechnya was crushed as an organized resistance, Islamist terrorism went underground and spread, leading to horrors like the Volgograd bombings last December.

Sochi represents all Russia's political and economic ills. Preparations for the Games have proceeded on a basis of state giantism, with vast construction and infrastructure projects that have no clear future, but have mightily enriched the friends and relatives of Putin, and of CEOs in state-owned companies.

Sample quote from the Christian Science Monitor, quote:

Krasnaya Polyana, the venue where most of the winter sports events will be held, will have enough snow for the Olympics, in part because authorities ordered almost half a million cubic meters of the white stuff stored in special refrigerated facilities over the past two years. But for much of the year, Krasnaya Polyana is a ski resort with no snow — and sometimes none even in winter. Yet the road and rail link serving the resort cost almost $9 billion to build — more than all the preparations for the Vancouver Winter Games combined.

End quote. Hence the high prices. The upgrade of Sochi for the Games altogether cost $55 billion. Estimates of how much of that was siphoned off in corruption begin at one-third. Citizens have been evicted and their homes destroyed. Determination to thwart any terrorist acts has added a police-state dimension to the festivities, as well as another layer of costs.

It's all sadly characteristic of Russia today. The stagnating economy, the arrogance of these huge construction projects with their corruption bleed-offs, the lack of concern for ordinary citizens, the rising tide of Islamic terrorism and the nationalist reaction it's generated, combine to make Russia an unhappy country.

"All political careers end in failure," said the great British statesman Enoch Powell. Vladimir Putin may be about to confirm that. In 2007, when the Winter Olympics was granted to Russia, Putin was riding high. The economy was booming, Chechnya was pacified.

Nowadays Russia is stagnating. The BRIC countries are now the BICs — Russia's dropped out. The Islamic region of the north Caucasus is boiling with jihadism. In the Ukraine, which Putin's been trying to pull into his orbit, resistance is violent and growing.

What this means for the rest of us, is beyond my powers to predict. Temperamentally, I'm a Russophile. These are our European brothers and sisters, with an old Christian tradition and a magnificent heritage in literature, music, art, mathematics, and science. If I knew how we could help them out of their present dilemmas, I'd tell you. I don't, so I can't. I can only wish Russia well, with all my heart, and hope for this great old European nation to find her way out of the swamp they've been floundering in for the last hundred years.

04 — "Black Studies" — a fake-degree mill for athletes.     The American higher education system has a peculiar aspect, very striking to someone who arrives here from elsewhere. That's the prominence of college sports, and the huge sums of money they generate.

Most colleges and universities everywhere have sports teams of course. Back in England the Oxford-Cambridge boat race has been a major sporting fixture for two hundred years. The participants are just bona fide students who take up rowing, though, not people admitted to the universities primarily because of their rowing prowess. The Cambridge eight in 2005 included four Ph.D. students. None of the crews go into professional sports after graduating.

In the States things are different. College sports are big, big money — billions of dollars. Getting exceptional athletes into colleges and onto the football fields and basketball courts is a major concern for college administrators. One college president is supposed to have said that his job was to build an academic faculty the football team could be proud of.

Under the circumstances it's only natural that a lot of young people get admitted to college who are fine athletes but hopeless at any kind of academic work.

Consider, for example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which has a stellar basketball team — they made the University $16.9 million clear profit in 2012.

UNC Chapel Hill also has a reading instructor named Mary Willingham, whose job is to provide remedial reading skills to students who aren't quite up to college standards in understanding their academic material. Testing 183 incoming athletes over eight years, Ms. Willingham found that 60 percent read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels, while an additional 8 to 10 percent were functionally illiterate, reading below third grade level.

So what were these students doing in their class time? See if you can guess. That's right: they were doing Black Studies — or as they are called at UNC Chapel Hill, Afro-American Studies.

Bloomberg Businessweek, along with local media and much helped by Ms. Willingham, has been exposing what actually goes on in the Afro-American Studies Department at Chapel Hill. Nothing honestly academic, is the answer. Back in December a grand jury indicted Julius Nyang'oro, chairman of the Department for twenty years, for running ghost courses that never actually met, and for awarding bogus grades.

The administration at Chapel Hill is doing its best to cover up the scandal, mainly by assassinating the character of Ms. Willingham. Concerning her researches into the reading abilities of freshmen — the work she was, after all, hired to do — the college said in a written statement issued January 8th, quote: "We do not believe that claim."

Black faculty and staff at Chapel Hill are also striking back. They have an organization called Carolina Black Caucus, and last Saturday they released a statement about the fuss. They tell us they stand united for, inter alia, quote:

Black students who wonderfully enrich our campus — those who are amazing geniuses and those who are academically less prepared … Black athletes who face stereotype, threat, and are targets of ridicule …

There's a comma there between "stereotype" and "threat," which I'm guessing shouldn't be there. In case you don't know, there's a theory popular with race denialists that black students underperform academically because they think they're expected to. The theory is called "stereotype threat." It's a bogus theory, of course, but it's popular in those circles. Probably that's what's being referred to here, and the comma just slipped in accidentally.

Far be it from me to ridicule any of the amazing geniuses on the black faculty at Chapel Hill, but perhaps they should call someone in from the basketball team to tidy up their punctuation?

05 — Yes, don't know, and no on global warming.     Still milking the Winter Olympics for side stories: I mentioned in an earlier segment that the sports location in the mountains near Sochi has no snow some years. I was going to add that with global warming, the number of those years will increase; but then I thought global warming deserves a segment of its own.

I try to keep my remarks about Global Warming mild and non-dogmatic. My position, repeated many times, is that:

  1. The consensus among credentialed experts is that our planet does seem to be in a long-term warming trend — a trend, that is, spanning at least the last several decades, and that looks like continuing into the next few. I accept that consensus.
  2. There is a slightly less-solid consensus about the causes of the trend. I'm agnostic about the causes.
  3. Whether warming justifies massive globalist programs financed by taxes on the developed countries, is a political issue, not a scientific one. The spending of public money is always a political issue, to be decided by weighing probable costs and benefits. I don't believe we need such programs.

Those are my mild and non-dogmatic positions. In summary: Affirmative on warming happening, agnostic on the causes, negative on big government projects to counter the warming.

Any time I mention these positions, though, I get a lot of distinctly non-mild and very dogmatic retorts from listeners accusing me of being a servile lackey of a corrupt politico-scientific establishment.

Back in our January 25th broadcast, for example, I said the following thing:

[Clip: "The scientific consensus on Global Warming is as solid as it can be, given the noisiness of the underlying datasets. It's just possible that it might be overturned, but that's not the way to bet."]

Then, in the comment thread on the Radio Derb page at Taki's Magazine, when a listener asked what my opinion was on the causes of global warming, I said this, quote:

Agnostic. As a nonspecialist, with limited time and energy, I have gotten deep enough into the issue to be satisfied that GW is the case. The causes are the next level & I don't know enough.

End quote. I'm still getting those emails, though. Let me break them down for you.

First I should say that I always get a few emails from personal friends who are scientists, mostly physicists, and all of a conservative temperament, telling me to stop being such a pussy and get down off the fence, because of course warming is happening, and of course it's anthropogenic (which is to say, caused by human activity).

Those aside, considering just the contrarian emails — I mean, the ones who think I'm wrong and want to set me right — a good proportion of the contrarian emails actually agree with me!

Here's one for example urging me, after some contrarian rhetoric, to read three linked papers. I clicked on the first paper. The second sentence in the paper's abstract begins as follows, quote: "This paper will show that despite good evidence that global temperatures are rising …," end quote. Well, that's what I think, too: Global temperatures are rising.

Similarly with Professor Happer of Princeton, a favorite with the contrarians. He agrees that long-term warming has been happening, and even that, quote from the video clip several listeners sent me: [Clip from 7m08s: "Does CO2 affect the climate? I would say yes."] Prof. Happer just doesn't think it's anything to get hysterical about, and neither do I.

Setting aside physicist friends who scold me for not being aggressive enough with contrarian kooks, and setting aside also contrarians who seek to correct my thinking by sending me links to papers or videos by people who turn out to agree with me, the rest is pretty thin gruel. I'll give it another segment.

06 — Contra the global warming contrarians.     Thinnest of all the thin gruel are the people who ask me: "We've had some real cold winters recently, haven't you noticed? So why do you believe in global warming?" Answer: It's a long-term trend. Nobody claims otherwise. If you walk from the plains of north India to the high ridge of the Himalayas, you'll spend some of your time walking downhill.

Then there are people who tell me that there is no consensus on the topic as I've stated it. That's just wrong. A careful study published in Environmental Research Letters last May showed a massive consensus. There's a link to the study in the Radio Derb transcript at johnderbyshire.com, or you can just google "Quantifying the consensus." You may not agree with the consensus, but don't tell me there isn't one.

Another argument is that consensus isn't important, that I should evaluate the data and form my own opinion. I strongly disagree with both sentiments.

A consensus of opinion among credentialed people who've spent their lives in deep study of some subject has tremendous weight, and should have. It's very important. Sure, it might still be wrong. That has very occasionally happened in science, but as I said on January 25th, it's not the way to bet.

As to evaluating the data and forming my own opinion, that's preposterous. No lay person has the time to do that. Go to the most recent IPCC working group study from last September. The full report is 1,535 pages. There's a 34-page "Summary for Policymakers," but even that is tough going in places if you're not a specialist. To read all fifteen hundred-odd pages of the full report and digest them properly, I'm guessing I'd need to commit to a year or two of close study of the underlying sciences — and I'm a guy with a good math and science background. Ordinary citizens, and even science specialists in other fields, have no practical choice but to accept expert consensus, on this or any other highly technical topic. That's elementary.

Then there are people who tell me the whole global-warming panic is driven by money interests. That just makes me laugh. Going back to the subject of Russia, here's a quote from a long and informative article in the February 1st issue of The Economist, quote: "In today's Russia, oil and gas account for 75 percent of all exports," end quote. Do you want to tell me that Vladimir Putin has no interest at all in keeping the world burning fossil fuels? And that moral scruples would prevent him from slipping a few million dollars to the contrarian cause? Really? And likewise the government of Saudi Arabia? And likewise the big energy companies? Really?

I'm sure there is money being spent on both sides of the issue, but I don't believe science is so corruptible you could buy a long list of credentialed names like those on the IPCC report. A few scientists are crooks, as are a few lawyers, a few butchers, a few bakers, a few candlestick-makers, and a few opinion journalists. It's not enough to get you a consensus, though, nor even anywhere near to one.

The rest is quibbles about whether CO2 does this or that, whether water vapor does this or that, and whether the Sun does this or that — inside baseball for the experts, in which I have little interest, and have never offered any opinions.

So there I stand: Yes, the planet's warming; Don't know the cause; No, we don't need to mobilize the resources of the civilized world to prevent it. If you want to tell me I'm wrong on those, you'll have to do a better job than anyone's yet done.

07 — Schools for scandal.     Here are a couple of school stories from New York City, the Big Apple. Both concern city public schools.

First, P.S. 139 in Brooklyn. A thousand and some students, pre-K through 5th grade. Student demographics: 72 percent Sun People (which is to say, blacks and Hispanics), 28 percent Ice People (whites and Asians).

Until this year, P.S. 139 had a gifted program for incoming kindergartners, called "Students of Academic Rigor," S-O-A-R, "SOAR" for short.

Well, Students of Academic Rigor will soon be in a state of rigor mortis. School Principal Mary McDonald sent a letter to parents, dated January 27th, telling them that the program is to be closed. The reason she gave was, quote: "We … want our classes to reflect the diversity of our community," end quote.

If you suspect that translates as: "Too many Ice People were getting into the gifted program," you are a very evil person and should report to your local re-education center for diversity appreciation training. I am bound to note, however, that your suspicion has some support in the Daily News story. Quote:

At least one parent described the small gifted program, Students of Academic Rigor — or SOAR — as overwhelming Caucasian, although others disputed that characterization.

Who knows? If anyone in the New York education bureaucracy knows, they certainly wouldn't tell us.

Second school story: P.S. 106 in Far Rockaway, Queens. Three hundred students, also pre-K through 5th grade. Student demographics: 91 percent Sun People, nine percent Ice people.

The principal here is Marcella Sills, and Ms. Sills is a piece of work. She joined the school nine years ago. Her salary is $128,000. She favors designer fur coats and drives a new Beemer, sticker price $40,000.

So she works hard for all that moolah, right? Eh, you wouldn't say so. Here's a sample of her working week, from the New York Post January 12th report, longish quote:

Sills did not come to school last Monday. On Tuesday, she showed up at 3:30 p.m. On Wednesday, the Post found her at home in Westbury, Long Island, all day before emerging at 2:50 p.m. — school dismissal time. Wearing a fur coat, she took her BMW for a spin. She showed up at school Thursday, but not Friday.

End quote. At the time of that report the students at P.S. 106 had no books for reading, writing, or math, no gym or art or music classes, no substitutes when teachers are absent. They do watch a lot of movies, though. One of the Post's sources said, quote: "The kids have seen more movies than Siskel and Ebert."

Following the newspaper's reports, Ms. Sills has cleaned up her act some, actually showing up on time at least one day in mid-January. Apparently she's even got some books into the school. Well, that should help the teaching.

If you were to surmise that Ms. Sills is a person of color, you would not be a million miles wide of the mark. The New York City public schools bureaucracy is in fact a playground for incompetent blacks with a Robert Mugabe attitude to the exercise of power. Another quote from the Post story, quote: "Staffers won't speak up or even file a grievance with their union because Sills will retaliate, a source said." The Deputy Schools Chancellor sent to investigate the place is Dorita Gibson, another black woman, so it's unlikely Ms. Sills is in any peril of losing her job.

It's a poor start in life for the kids of Far Rockaway. But hey, when they're through with high school they can always apply to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

08 — Boehner's Ceaușescu moment.     The draft proposals on legislation to amnesty illegal aliens, drawn up by the House Republican leadership and reported on Radio Derb last week, have not gone over well. They have in fact gone over like the proverbial lead balloon with Republicans of all estates: Republican voters, Republican commentators, and even Republican congressweasels. Nobody likes them.

The commentators were particularly scathing. It wasn't just us foam-flecked ranters at TakiMag and VDARE, nor even the fringe-respectable Right like Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter (though Ann wrote a brilliant column on the event). This time Rush Limbaugh, Thomas Sowell, Phyllis Schlafly, and David Frum all had pieces against the House leaders' proposals. National Review and the Weekly Standard piled on. When even the neocons are picking up pitchforks and flaming brands, the lords of the GOP manor know they're in trouble.

The House Republican leadership who cooked up this dreck and assumed their members would dutifully get in line to vote for it are now, on this issue, leaders without followers. The image of Nicolae Ceaușescu on that balcony comes to mind. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy find themselves trapped in a very nasty example of what Marxists call a "contradiction," with their corporate paymasters strongly supporting amnesty and their voters strongly opposing it.

For an old immigration restrictionist it's all very delicious to watch. The satisfaction is purely internal, of course. A prophet is without honor in his own country, and the fact that the Weekly Standard is now at last saying things that I said fourteen years ago won't do me any good. Like the "premature anti-fascists" of the 1940s — leftists who grumbled that they had hated Hitler before hating Hitler was cool — we premature immigration-restrictionists will find no reward for our foresight on this side of the grave. Still, it's satisfying.

As Radio Derb goes to tape it looks as though amnesty is dead in the water for this congressional session. The Boehner cyborg has, according to the Washington Times, quote: "ruled out any action until President Obama proves to Republicans' satisfaction that he is serious about enforcing the laws," end quote.

There's wiggle room for Boehner in there, and the House leader may be plotting some new act of treason. He's not as stupid as he looks — couldn't be! — and eternal vigilance is the watchword. As the saying goes: They only have to win once, we have to win every fight.

Still, this was a good week for immigration patriots, and I think that, as Winston Churchill said on a different occasion , quote: "We may permit ourselves a brief period of jubilation."

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

Imprimis:  Amy Chua has a new book out, even wackier than her previous one by all accounts. That previous one, you'll remember, argued the virtues of Chinese-style tough love when raising children. I gave it a rather scathing review, noting that, quote, "modern China, with its vast inequality, its endemic corruption, and its thuggish, lawless government, [does not] offer an attractive advertisement for Chinese mommery."

I also reviewed the lady's first book, World on Fire, which I rather liked. I thought it went flat at the end, but it did give us the handy phrase "market-dominant minority."

This new book returns to the notion of market-dominant minorities, but argues that a group gets to be one of those by virtue of possessing (a) a superiority complex, (b) insecurity, and (c) impulse control.

I call b-s. Impulse control, like most features of personality, is heritable at about the 50 percent level, and so presumably has a large genetic component. Insecurity is common to all minorities; of course you're insecure if you're surrounded by an established majority. And every ethnicity thinks it's the bee's knees, with the single exception of modern white people.

So it looks to me that Ms. Chua's books are going downhill. To be fair, though, I haven't read the thing.

ItemThey're having a nasty drought in California, with some serious water shortages. This could be really bad: back in the Middle Ages California had a drought that went on for 240 years.

Without rain to clean the air, the skies over California are turning brown again, with an assist from horrendous pollution clouds drifting across from China. Farmers — including growers of medical marijuana, which needs a lot of water — are getting desperate.

The interesting thing is that none of the seven or eight news reports I've read about the drought mentions the rather obvious fact that California is over-populated, mainly thanks to unlimited mass immigration, both legal and illegal, from Mexico.

California would still be having a drought however few or many people lived there, but as my colleague James Fulford pointed out at VDARE.com, quote:

For every resource issue — housing, energy, land, water — there is a numerator and a denominator. If you add more people, there's less per person.

Item:  Finally: Last week I alerted listeners to the Chinese New Year, January 31st ushering in the Year of the Horse.

Over in Britain the BBC was similarly moved to note the event. Unfortunately they got the message a little garbled in going from speech to print. A TV news program that evening opened with a screen showing some Chinese decorations and a written banner saying, quote, "Welcome to the Year of the Whores."

I guess anyone can make a mistake, even the Beeb. Looking at the calendar tables in the appendix to my 1944 edition of Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary, I find myself wondering what the BBC will do when 2017 comes around. Mathews lists that as the Year of the Cock. Just … wondering.

10 — Signoff.     That's it, ladies and gents. Now, as I'm sure you all know, this weekend is the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in the U.S.A. As an ex-Brit, and indeed an ex-Liverpudlian, it would be remiss of me to neglect the occasion, so here are the Fab Four to sing us out.

More from Radio Derb next week.

[Music clip: The Beatles, "In My Life"]