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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your indignantly genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you some highlights from the week's news.
It's been a slow week on the news front. Eric Holder remains in charge of the Justice for His People Department while the Senate dithers about whether to make the Department a permanent fief of the Mulatto Mafia; Barack Obama has called for compulsory voting, apparently worried about low turnout among illegal aliens; the Oklahoma U frat boys have gotten themselves lawyered up, as I predicted with much smacking of lips and rubbing of hands last week; and I flatly refuse to read anything more about Mrs Clinton.
A slow week suits me as I'm trying to do my taxes. So here is a slightly abbreviated edition of Radio Derb.
02 — ChiComs claim jurisdiction over Heaven. The Chinese Communist Party, as we all know, claims jurisdiction over everything that happens in China. How many of us know that the CCP also claims executive power over the nether world? I didn't, until the other day someone passed on to me this article from the March 11th New York Times. Headline: China's Tensions With Dalai Lama Spill Into the Afterlife.
The Dalai Lama, who is revered by the people of Tibet as both a spiritual leader and as a symbol of their lost nationhood, and with whom I once shook hands, will be 80 in July. When he dies, his consciousness, after dallying for some unspecified time in the Void, will relocate to a newborn infant. The high lamas of his sect have to find that child so that he can be trained up as the new Dalai Lama. To find the child, they rely on certain signs, dreams, prophecies, and esoteric knowledge in their scriptures. The process is not easy: The present incumbent was two years old before they found him.
The religion of the ChiComs is power-worship. In matters territorial, its main precept is the one uttered by Leonid Brezhnev when Czechoslovakia tried to break out of the Soviet empire in 1968, quote: "What we have, we hold." They currently hold Tibet, and they intend to go on doing so. The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, is a nuisance to them, and they'll be glad when he's gone.
But what if his soul migrates to someone just as ornery and also beyond their control? Then the Tibetans will have a new focus for their dreams of national independence, a new reason not to go gently into the night of ChiCom imperialism, and the ChiComs themselves will have a new burr under their saddle.
The ChiCom response to this prospect has been straightforward: they have declared that only the Communist Party has the authority to say which child the Dalai Lama's soul has migrated to. Actual quote from Mr Zhu Weiqun, who glories in the title of Chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, quote from him:
Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China.
Mr Zhu's reference to the end of the lineage is in response to the pontiff himself having said, in an interview with the BBC last December, that he may just choose not to be reincarnated at all.
That would be just as vexing to the ChiComs as the present situation. For all that he's a nuisance to them, the present Dalai Lama has always emphasized the quietist, pacifist side of his faith, speaking out strongly against terrorist violence and revolutionary disturbance. That's why most of the violence there has been from Tibetan nationalists has been of the passive-aggressive kind — people setting themselves on fire in public places, mostly.
From the ChiCom point of view there are three possibilities here:
The ChiComs definitely intend to go through Door Number One. "What we have, we hold." If that means claiming spiritual authority over the transmigration of souls, they'll claim. If it meant killing and cooking their own grandmothers and serving them up with fava beans and a nice Chianti, they'd do that too. This is the religion of power.
You may object that all this mockery is a bit inconsistent coming from an Anglican. Doesn't the Prime Minister have to sign off on a new Archbishop of Canterbury?
Well, technically it's the Monarch who signs off following the Prime Minister's advice; but the parallel's a very poor one. For one thing, metempsychosis is not part of Anglican doctrine. For another, the Prime Minister can be voted out by the Archbishop's parishioners. Not even the people of China, let alone the people of Tibet, can vote out the Chinese Communist Party. And for yet another, Anglicans don't take their religion anything like as seriously as Tibetan Buddhists take theirs. To put it mildly.
03 — Elton John gives fashion advice. From the sublime to the ridiculous: The entertaining side of the news this week offered us the tiff between pop singer Elton John and a pair of Italian clothes designers, Domenico Dolce, and Stefano Gabbana.
Just to set this up properly for you: All three of the principals here — John, Dolce, and Gabbana — are male homosexuals. Dolce and Gabbana are business partners, joint proprietors of the fashion house imaginatively named Dolce & Gabbana. They are also, come si dice, an item.
OK, what happened was, Dolce and Gabbana gave a joint interview to an Italian magazine in which they expressed socially conservative views on surrogate motherhood. Dolce for example said the following thing, quote:
You are born and you have a father and a mother. Or at least it should be so, why am I not convinced by what I call the children of chemistry, synthetic children? Wombs for rent, seeds selected from a catalog …
Now, Elton John is married to another bloke and they have two children, conceived by in vitro fertilization and gestated by surrogate mothers. So he was upset when he heard about these remarks. He announced that he would never again wear Dolce & Gabbana products. He further called for a worldwide boycott of the fashion house. Various celebrities piled on, there was a Twitter campaign, and so on.
The encouraging thing was that Dolce & Gabbana refused to grovel, although their business must have been impacted. Gabbana told a major Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, that the boycott is, quote, "fascist."
Since the Italians actually invented fascism, I think we can take that as authoritative. He further said, quote:
You preach understanding, you preach tolerance and then you attack? Just because someone thinks differently to you?
Well, it's all very entertaining; and it's nice to see some push-back against the notion that we should all have the same opinions about everything — against an orthodoxy that's getting to be positively North Korean in its suffocating intensity.
The whole silly business brought to my mind what the late Gore Vidal said when someone mocked him for getting into a similar spat with, I think, Truman Capote. Said Vidal, quote: "Fags are supposed to be bitchy."
Let me try that out … "I told you so." Yes, the old poofter was right.
The particular thing I have in mind here is the matter of Mesopotamian antiquities. In April 2003, while the American invasion of Iraq was under way, we started to see reports about the Iraqi National Museum being looted. On April 17th that year I wrote an article about this, from which I quote, quote:
The April 13 New York Times reported that 170,000 items had been carried away from the museum by looters in the previous three days. The stolen treasures represent the entire history of Mesopotamia. This, remember, is where civilization got started, in the ancient states of Sumer, Akkad, Babylon and Assyria. Dr Philippe de Montebello, director of New York's own Metropolitan Museum of Art, chided the American armed forces in Baghdad for "allowing Iraq's ancient heritage to be pillaged."
End quote, end quote.
I went on to argue that the looting was a good thing. The looters were likely museum employees, or under the direction thereof, who knew what to take and how to get a good price for it. Five-thousand-year-old golden harps, instead of languishing under the uncertain eye of Saddam Hussein and whichever barbarain chieftain usurped him, would end up in the much safer hands of wealthy collectors in stable, civilized nations, greatly improving their chances of surviving another five thousand years.
That column of mine caused shrieking and swooning all over the internet. How could I be so ignorant, so racist, as to suggest that some countries are more civilized than others — that Iraqis were not capable of safeguarding their own heritage, that priceless antiquities from Mesopotamia should be kept anywhere other than Mesopotamia, even if the place was run by a clique of gangsters?
Well, I told you so — hey, it does trip pleasantly off the tongue. We've been hearing reports for weeks now about ISIS, the militant Islamist outfit ruling territory in northern Syria and Iraq, smashing up antiquities. They have put out video footage of themselves doing so.
Some of the footage has been exposed as fake, for propaganda purposes, but a lot of it is all too real. They have certainly destroyed some fine old mosques, and blown up the great museum library at Mosul.
Probably the faked acts of destruction are aimed at pepping up the market. ISIS is short of funds until the next check comes in from the Saudis (and according to a well-informed acquaintance of mine, also from the Israelis, who much prefer ISIS to Iran, and who believe strongly in the principle that my enemy's enemy is my friend). They'll be quietly selling off the treasures to foreign collectors, for the right price. First they want to get the market excited.
That money aspect aside, destroying priceless treasures is what Muslim fundamentalists instinctively do. The Taliban in Afghanistan destroyed the 1700-year-old Buddhist statues at Bamidan; when the Wahabbi fundamentalists took Medina in 1905, they stripped Mohammed's tomb and would probably have destroyed it except that two of them fell from the dome and died trying to do so.
These are real puritans, who hate veneration of anything lower than Allah.
So I was right: The more of these treasures end up in private hands in civilized countries, the better for them, and for humanity.
See? I told you so. Why don't you listen?
05 — A rough dating scene. Here's an interesting little item from the human sciences concerning events even further back, in part at least, than ancient Mesopotamia.
Just a little paleoanthropological background to the story first. Our species, homo sapiens, is about 200,000 years old. That's a long span of time. For the first 95 percent of that span we lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle: small groups of a few dozen hunting animals, birds, and fish, and gathering fruits, nuts, edible plants, and shellfish.
Around ten thousand years ago — so this is just the last five percent of our species' history — came what is called the Neolithic Revolution, when more and more of us took up herding and farming in larger, more or less settled groups. Soon after came cities, social hierarchies, literacy, religion, metal-working, laws, armies, and all the other accoutrements of civilization.
In many respects the Neolithic Revolution was a jolly good thing. The level of interpersonal violence dropped, for example. From archeological sites and studies of surviving hunter-gatherer peoples, we know that a hunter-gatherer male stood around a fifteen percent chance of dying at the hands of another person. After the Neolithic Revolution that probability dropped to about five percent even in the earliest and crudest farming communities. This trend continued overall, with some backslidings, so that nowadays the probability is a tiny fraction of one percent.
The Neolithic Revolution wasn't all good news, though. We now know that the average hunter-gatherer was healthier than the average early farmer, with a better diet and a longer lifespan, even when you factor in the different levels of violence. He also had more leisure time: Farmers work much longer hours than hunter-gatherers.
It makes biological sense. We lived a certain way for 95 percent of our species' time on earth; so evolution worked its magic and we became well "fitted" to that way of life. Then came the great change, too suddenly for the organism to adjust. Evolutionary change has continued this last ten thousand years, and in fact has probably been accelerating; but there hasn't been anything like enough time to totally reshape us from the old hunter-gatherer model. The bedrock of human nature was laid down in that 95 percent timespan.
OK, that's the background. Here's the news.
Turns out the Neolithic Revolution had another downside. Some way into it, at about 8,000 years ago, there developed a massive inequality in male reproductive success.
What does that mean? It means that very few men were passing their genes forward into future generations. In the language of the scientific paper this comes from, there was a "bottleneck of Y-chromosome diversity."
This big group of researchers in human biology scrutinized certain kinds of human genetic material: parts passed down strictly through the male line, that's the Y chromosome, and other parts strictly through the female line. From that they could make deductions about male and female reproductive success in past times.
Result: As population increased after the Neolithic Revolution, the number of women passing their genes forward increased in sync; but the number of men who did so took a dive, and for a while there was very low. That's the bottleneck.
At the worst point, six or seven thousand years ago, for every 17 women who were reproducing, passing their genes forward, only one man was doing so.
It's as if most of the men were killed off, and the few that were left got to impregnate many, many women each. Except we know there was no such kill-off; it would show up in the archeological record. What must have happened was massive cultural change, small numbers of powerful men in all these early-agricultural societies shutting out the majority from reproductive opportunities.
It was, as one commentator said, "a rough dating scene."
06 — Mean girls at the New York Times. Thursday morning I was reading this article on Politico.com about a raft of new names hired to post at the New York Times blog. To my surprise, I saw the name Razib Khan among them. "Wow," I thought, "Things are looking up."
I've known Razib for 15 years or so, since we both belonged to Steve Sailer's Human Biodiversity email group. He's a brilliant guy; better-read in the human sciences than anyone I know — and I know Steve Sailer, Nicholas Wade and Steven Pinker.
Just to give you a flavor of Razib, here is the kind of thing he posts. This is extracted from his own blog, March 9th, a post titled "Genetics of why Finns are less anxious than Italians." Extract, just for the flavor, quote:
The point of this post is not to suggest that variation within the FAAH locus is not relevant to phenotypic differences in individuals or populations. There's a lot of epidemiological, and now molecular, biochemical, and neurological, evidence that this missense mutation is important in a functional sense. It is likely to make a difference in outcomes. In The New York Times piece the author speculatively suggests that variation at this SNP somehow perpetuates personality heterogeneity in our species, and is a boon to a society. Granted, this doesn't seem to be true in all cases, as the Mbuti Pygmies and Papuans may lack polymorphism here. But, it is interesting to me that the derived mutation is found at variable frequencies all across the world. There's probably a evolutionary and biomedical story here to be told about some sort of balancing selection. But, as with many narratives which are fixated upon endophenotypes, the scientific conclusions aren't quite cut and dried, and rather are still developing, because the endophenotypes themselves are at the end of a long causal chain.
That's the kind of stuff Razib writes, usually with supporting graphs, tables, and references to papers in journals with titles like Current Directions in Psychological Science. Don't read Razib if you're not willing to engage with the latest results in behavioral genetics, population genetics, computational genomics, and related areas of the human sciences.
(And, by the way, don't post to the comments thread on Razib's blog unless you're on-topic and at least as well-informed as he is on the point under discussion. Razib does not suffer fools gladly, and is merciless with commenters who don't come up to his own high standards.)
So, having known Razib all these years and admired his erudition; and having met him a few times and found him articulate, witty, and charming; I was glad to see him elevated to the status of New York Times contributor.
Glad, but also surprised. Razib is of course a race realist, as anyone who knows as much genetics as he does is bound to be. True, the Times also publishes Nicholas Wade, another race realist, to write in their Science section: but Wade is a skillful diplomat, who softens his articles on population genetics with many qualifications and cautions about the provisional nature of results and the fallacy of inferring "ought" from "is."
Razib can't be bothered with diplomacy, he just talks science … and sometimes also history, and religion, and philosophy, always from a deep background of reading, quoting half a dozen scholarly books and papers to you as he goes.
Well, so I was looking forward to Razib's contributions to the New York Times blog, and to seeing him pitilessly demolish some of the innumerate idiots he'd be sharing that blog with.
Alas, it was too good to be true. I was browsing the blogs that same evening, Thursday evening, and I saw a post on geneticist Greg Cochran's blog with the title The Once and Future Khan. From which I quote, quote:
Razib Khan managed to get himself hired and fired by the New York Times over the course of a single day, an enviable record. Having the Times look upon you with favor is a dubious honor in the first place, something like having a leper ask you out on a date — so a quick hire-and-fire is optimal. Something for the CV, but you never had to actually hang out with the slimebags. Not as cool as "refused the Fields Medal" but pretty cool.
What seems to have happened is that Gawker.com, a Cultural Marxist website, did a hit piece on Razib exposing his associations with such racist white-supremacist racist far-right racist bigots as racist Taki Theodoracopulos, racist Steve Sailer, and oh my God! racist John Derbyshire.
I am of course exaggerating their fondness for the word "racist," but not by much: the Gawker piece is 518 words; "racist" occurs seven times (not counting the title occurrence), for an average of once every 74 words. That puts "racist" up there with "and" and "the."
The piece is also sloppy. It describes VDARE.com, for example, as being named after, quote, "the first white child born in America." Nope: as Peter Brimelow clearly states — in the page that Gawker actually links to! — Virginia Dare was, quote, "the first English child to be born in the New World." The first white child was Snorri Thorfinnsson, born six hundred years earlier.
These Marxists of course don't deal in facts, data, and accuracy. They deal in vituperation, status whoring, and social shaming. As a friend of mine observed: This is not National Geographic, this is Mean Girls.
The New York Times went along with that and dropped Razib as soon as the dogs started barking. About that, I am not surprised.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: In last week's broadcast, commenting on the state of Utah bringing back the firing squad for capital punishment, I quoted the words of Gary Gilmore, who actually was executed by a Utah firing squad in 1977. Gilmore's last recorded words were: "Let's do it." Connoisseurs of bad taste might recall that at the time there was a T-shirt you could buy with a big target printed on it and the words "Let's do it."
Well, this week we learned that the Nike slogan "Just do it" was inspired by Gary Gilmore. Dan Wieden, the advertising exec who thought up the Nike slogan, revealed this at a conference in South Africa last month.
Nike is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, which as it happens was where Gary Gilmore grew up. In 1988 — eleven years after Gilmore's execution — Dan Wieden was struggling to come up with a catchy advertising slogan for Nike. He remembered the Gilmore line, changed "Let's" to "Just," and one of the most successful advertising taglines of our age was born.
So Gary Gilmore achieved an indirect kind of commercial immortality … Which strikes me as grossly unfair, as he was a nasty hoodlum who murdered two innocent men. To redress the balance a little, let's remember their names: Max Jensen and Bennie Bushnell, may they rest in peace.
Item: This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Sound of Music movie. The movie is number three on the list of all-time domestic money-earners among movies, ticket prices adjusted for inflation, with 1.18 billion dollars. Number one is Gone With the Wind at 1.68 billion; or to put it another way, sixteen hundred million going on seventeen … Number two is Star Wars, 1.48 billion.
It seems as though everyone's supposed to have an opinion about the movie, so here's mine: I enjoyed it. I'd somehow managed not to see it in its first thirty-odd years of existence; then around around 15 years ago, when the kids were small, we got it for them. I was a bit surprised at how much pleasure I got from it. It's hokey and sugary, of course, and the Anschluss was much more of a wedding than a rape, and so on: but as a piece of light entertainment, the movie delivers. Better than Star Wars, at any rate, though not as good as Gone With the Wind.
Here's my favorite Sound of Music story. This one was going around the Far East when I was living there in the early 1970s.
A chain of movie theaters in South Korea got the rights to show the movie. The performance times at their theaters were set in stone, though, according to a strict formula to maximize ticket sales. At nearly three hours, The Sound of Music was too long to fit into their schedules. So … they cut out the songs.
Item: I have an erratum to register. Homer nods, and so do I. When a falsehood is uttered on Radio Derb, be it ever so tiny, faithful listeners email in to point it out to me, and I confess my error here on the airwaves.
So here's an erratum from last week.
Speaking of the University of Oklahoma frat boys singing that naughty song on the bus, I quoted a line from the song as: "There will never be a nigger at SAE," SAE being the name of the fraternity. I then performed some musical criticism, thus:
The song actually comes across as clunky. The tune requires a metrical pattern like this: duh-duh-DUH duh-duh-duh-DUH duh-duh-duh-DUH. The words the frat boys were trying to sing to the first, second, and last lines obliged them to squinch an extra syllable in there, with results that were not very satisfactory. If they'd sung: "There will never be a black at SAE …" they would have conveyed the same meaning with better scansion.
Listeners emailed in to tell me that if I listened carefully, what the frat boys were singing was: "There will never be a nigger SAE," which does scan nicely, having the right number of syllables. It also makes sense if you allow "nigger" as an adjective, which I think is allowable. So I went back to the video, and I think my listeners are right.
That's my erratum for this week. Apologies to Sigma Alpha Epsilon for having traduced their metrical capabilities. And my hearty best wishes for your success in the lawsuits.
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and apologies for the short measure. Next week, the Fates willing, I shall be out of tax hell with a full-length edition of Radio Derb!
[Music clip: More Derbyshire Marches.]