• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners. This is of course your effervescently genial host John Derbyshire, here with some highlights and lowdarks from the week's news.
There wasn't actually a lot of news this week; at any rate, not a lot that inspired me to comment on it. I shall do the best I can, and fill in with a dip into the email bag; but if there is more aimless rambling than usual in this week's show, it's not my fault, it's the world's fault for not supplying me with enough material.
02 — Gloom, Boom, Doom, and Elderly Tourette's. Culture hero of the week was surely investment guru and gold bug Marc Faber, proprietor of the Gloom, Boom & Doom market newsletter.
I can't afford a subscription to that periodical — it's $300 a year — but of course, as a fellow pessimist, I follow Mr Faber's pronouncements with keen attention when I can get them for free.
In the latest issue of that newsletter, Mr Faber committed the following thing, quote:
Thank God white people populated America, and not the blacks. Otherwise, the US would look like Zimbabwe, which it might look like one day anyway, but at least America enjoyed 200 years in the economic and political sun under a white majority.
Faber also passed comment on the matter of Confederate statues, which was September's nationwide moral panic, October's being of course the Harvey Weinstein business. Those statues are, he said, quote: "of honourable people whose only crime was to defend what all societies had done for more than 5,000 years: keep a part of the population enslaved," end quote.
Much shrieking and swooning ensued. CNBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg, all of whom had been using Faber as a talking head for years, said he would no longer be an invited guest on their business programs. As of Thursday at least five companies have dropped him from their boards, a loss of annual income to Faber of around half a million dollars.
Faber is unrepentant. In email exchanges with the Toronto Globe and Mail, he defended himself very robustly, quote:
Why should I regret stating historic facts?
Asked about those corporate boards dropping him, he sniffed that, quote:
If saying what I said leads to these consequences I prefer not to be on these boards … I think the corporate world is now run by compliance people. In this context I understand their firing me.
Faber even had the effrontery to own the "r" word, replying to an email query from a CNBC reporter airily that, quote:
If stating some historical facts makes me a racist, then I suppose that I am a racist.
That kind of obstinacy in defiance of Western society's most holy dogmas of course just baffled the guardians of orthodoxy. Doesn't Faber know he's supposed to weep, grovel, and flagellate himself?
Here is someone named Richard Leblanc, associate professor of law, governance and ethics at York University in Toronto. Asked by the Globe and Mail for a comment on Faber's refusing to apologize and even doubling-down on his remarks, Professor Leblanc honked that, honk:
His reaction is odd. It actually makes it worse.
In best Soviet style, some goodthinkers wondered whether Faber was suffering some kind of mental impairment, perhaps under the influence of narcotics. To that our hero replied, quote:
Since I have only taken cocaine three times and marijuana about ten times in seventy years, I did not think these were appropriate comments.
It goes without saying that Radio Derb heartily approves of Marc Faber, of both his original comments and his refusal to back down from them. In hopes of encouraging more such acts of ideological defiance, let's see if we can uncover some causes for Faber's.
I can finger three possible causes without thinking very hard.
Number one, he's Swiss. The Swiss don't always get a good press [Clip: The Third Man] but like mountain peoples everywhere, they have a streak of prickly orneriness that no amount of soft lowland living can erase. If I hadn't known anything about the person in this story but had been asked to guess his provenance, I would have guessed Swiss, or Scottish, or Carpathian, or Afghan, or Appalachian. Mountain people — gotta love 'em. If you don't, they'll cut your throat.
Number two, Faber lives in Thailand. That's in Asia, where people snicker and roll their eyes at the Western world's race denialism. Here's one event Marc Faber has not been dropped from: next month's World Wealth Creation Conference. Organizers of the conference have confirmed that Faber will speak as scheduled. Where will this conference take place? In Singapore.
Number three, Faber is a geezer, 71 years old; just nine months younger than me. I can relate. Come to think of it, I could relate, or at any rate understand, sixteen years ago, when I wrote the following thing concerning the late Senator Robert Byrd's use of the N-word on nationwide TV. Long quote from myself, quote:
There is also the simple fact that when you are old, you don't much care what anybody thinks about your opinions. You know that your own little show is nearing the end of its run. Soon you will be out of it all, and soon thereafter, unless you were very extraordinary in some way, you and your opinions will be utterly forgotten. You fall into the dull solipsism expressed by the sage in Rasselas, inner quote:
End inner quote, end quote.
Samuel Johnson, by the way, was 49 when he wrote Rasselas — to pay for his mother's funeral.
03 — From the email bag. My use of inner quotes there may be irritating to some listeners. Others, however, are pleased by it. Here is an email I had the other day from a listener in Norway. Quote from him:
As a professional computer programmer, I must commend you for keeping properly track of inner quotes. It brings me great joy when you terminate the nested quotes correctly. I strongly appreciate your commitment to precision.
Thank you for that, Sir. To quote Dr Johnson again: "We who live to please, must please to live."
I count it as a great good fortune to have spent most of my own working life as a computer programmer, starting back in the late 1960s. Those were the days of overnight batch processing, when a misplaced comma in your computer code would get you an irate 3 a.m. phone call from the data center.
Programming is a wonderfully humbling line of work, with daily reminders of your own fallibility — and so, by extension, a tolerance of human weakness and imperfection at large. It's very good background for a writer.
Yes, yes, I know: I still make bloopers now and then. The novelist Evelyn Waugh was once asked why, since he was a devout Christian, he was none the less a famously obnoxious person. Waugh replied that without his faith he'd be scarcely human. In the same spirit, I'll claim that without those years of cutting code, my own journalistic output would have an error of fact in every sentence.
Having dipped into the email bag there, and because not much of this week's news stirs my commenting juices, I may as well do what I should do more often; three or four times a year, at least. I should read out some listeners' emails and respond to them.
The Radio Derb email rule is that everything non-abusive gets read and pondered, and where appropriate plagiarized, but that time prohibits my responding to any but a random fraction of what comes in.
Here's a recent email from a listener in Israel. I tell you, Radio Derb spans the world — We're thinking of renaming the show to "Reactionary Pessimism Sans Frontières."
The subject here is my having quoted, in last week's podcast, the proverb "Man proposes, Heaven disposes." I remarked that the Chinese language has precisely the same proverb. Here is my Israeli correspondent, quote:
Not just English and Chinese (and Scots) … in Yiddish it's Mensch tracht und Gott lacht — "Man plans and God laughs." That has a certain Yiddish humor to it.
Indeed it does.
My correspondent then moves on to this, longer quote:
In Israeli coverage of the Weinstein story, he's referred to as, inner quote, "the Jewish producer Weinstein," end inner quote, over and over. Try that in a non-Israeli publication and I can't imagine what would happen.
End inner quote, end quote.
Thank you, Sir; that's interesting. I didn't know there is a Hebrew Wikipedia. I hope it's less slanted than the English one.
And that difference of opinion between Israeli Jews and the diaspora is something I've noticed. I have heard Israeli Jews say very scathing things about American liberal Jews, especially concerning their insouciance towards Muslim immigration.
Jewish negativity towards other Jews is an old and convoluted story. Its main American manifestation was — that might perhaps still be "is," I haven't kept up — the phenomenon a hundred years ago of the old-established German and Iberian Jews in the U.S.A. looking down with scorn and some disgust at the Ostjuden, the Jews from the Russian empire who poured in from the 1880s onward.
There's an immigration point in that one, a point we have made here on VDARE.com. Emma Lazarus, who wrote that famous poem about the Statue of Liberty, was from that older-established Jewish community. She was not happy about the mass immigration of Ostjuden. She referred to them as "semi-Orientals," and wondered why some other country couldn't be found for them, rather than America. The tired, poor, huddled masses she was thinking of were probably Irish, the big inflow during her formative years.
Having mentioned Harvey Weinstein there, here's an email from another appreciative listener. What this person is appreciative of is my pronunciation. Quote:
Mr Derbyshire: Thank you for pronouncing Harvey Weinstein's last name correctly.
You are welcome, Sir; but I believe some slight qualification is due here.
As a matter of plain courtesy, I think the governing rule should be that a person's name ought to be pronounced the way they want it pronounced. If Harvey Weinstein prefers "Wein-steen," then that's the way you should say it.
The main problem with this ideal is of course finding out how a person does want his name pronounced. If it's a personal acquaintance, you can just ask them. Since I am not personally acquainted with Mr Weinstein, I don't have that option, so I have to fall back on general rules.
In my case, what I actually fall back on is my high school German. In German, e-i is always pronounced "aye," while i-e is pronounced "ee." Since the name "Weinstein" is plainly of German origin, that's how I say it.
There are some other factors working to occasionally confound the ideal, too. If you seriously dislike someone, or if he is irritatingly fussy about the pronunciation of his name — more often, her name: that style of irritating fussiness is more common among women, in my experience — in those cases, the temptation to irk the person by deliberately mispronouncing the name can be irresistible.
Just one more from the Radio Derb email bag. This one's also a language point. A high proportion of emails are, actually. When I started writing for the public prints 35 years ago, a wise older hack told me that you can say anything you like about the President, the Queen, the Pope, or the Archbishop of Canterbury without much comeback from readers; but split an infinitive or say "less" when you mean "fewer," and the floodgates of angry reader reactions open wide.
It's true: A lot of people care deeply about correct grammar and usage, more than care about the ups and downs of politics. I used to find this annoying. Now I think it speaks well of the human race. Language is precious; politics is merely a necessary evil.
Well, here's my last reader email. It's responding to my September 22nd podcast, in which I passed comment on Kim Jong Un's use, or rather the North Korean news agency's translator's use, of the English word "dotard" in reference to our President.
In among that commentary I said, quote: "Scanning my online archives, I seem not to have used [the word] myself," end quote.
A listener with better archive-scanning skills than mine begs to differ. She points out that in my December 2004 monthly diary, at that time hosted by National Review Online, I had a segment on the New Criterion Christmas party. The New Criterion, in case you don't know, is an excellent conservative monthly magazine of the arts, literature, and the intellectual life in general. I am an occasional contributor.
Reporting on that 2004 Christmas party, I wrote, quote:
If your conception of the Cultural Right is a bunch of old dotards in celluloid collars brushing the snuff from their lapels while grumbling about Modern Art, well, let me tell you, this crowd seems to get younger every year.
I think the site search I was using only works for whole words. I had just searched for the singular noun "dotard." I should have searched for the plural form too.
Oh dear: That's just the kind of carelessness you'd expect from a dotard …
04 — Study Nineteen Big. This week was a big week in Chinese politics. The Chinese Communist Party opened its nineteenth party congress on Wednesday.
These congresses are held once every five years. Each one lasts a week. They're not really functional; all the important decisions have been made by the party leaderhip beforehand, and delegates vote the way the leaders tell them to. A congress just advertises the party's power and notifies the world about changes in high-level personnel and the so-called "constitution," whose provisions are of course enforced only when the party bosses want them to be. So the whole thing is basically advertising.
Still it's worthwhile for foreign devils to pay attention to the congress, in hopes of some clues about China's general direction and the ChiComs' attitude to the outside world, especially the U.S.A.
The focus here was on the keynote speech by current ChiCom dictator Xi Jinping, delivered on the opening day. The title of the speech was: "Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era." The speech itself was on the same scale as the title: It lasted for three hours and twenty-three minutes.
There was no way I was going to read the whole thing. I just don't have that kind of tolerance for commie boilerplate. I tried to read the five-minute summary at Quartz Media, but even that defeated me. The speech was, as Mark Twain said of The Book of Mormon, "chloroform in print."
The main takeaway from this congress seems to be that Xi Jinping is firmly in control of the party, and that the policies of the past quarter-century — military and economic development under strict one-party dictatorship — will continue.
China has some serious systemic problems — pollution, corruption, an aging population, and an unstable banking system — but there weren't many clues about how the communists plan to deal with them.
The main exception was corruption, which Xi mentioned in order to boast about his success in tackling it. He hinted, though, that the fight isn't yet won. Quote: "We must … rid ourselves of any virus that erodes the party's health," end quote.
Lots of luck ridding yourself of that one, pal. The true-believer communists of the revolutionary period are long gone; today's China is a naked kleptocracy, the leaders — including Xi Jinping — and their families enriching themselves by favoritism and corruption. Politically, China's just a high-IQ version of Zimbabwe.
Chinese people put up with it because standards of living are good, way higher than a generation ago, and still rising. Also, for all the corruption and the brutality towards dissidents, at least China's leaders aren't flooding their country with foreigners to reduce the native population to a minority. The ChiCom leadership is a clique of corrupt gangsters, but they're not crazy.
So I guess I don't have much of a report to make here. The main effect of the congress on me was to excite nostalgia.
At the beginning of my own spell in China, academic year 1982-83, the 12th party congress had just been held. There were huge posters all over the place saying, or rather shouting, "学十二大." My written Chinese was good enough to construe that. The first character, 学, means "to study" or "to follow." So far, so good. The next two, 十二, mean "twelve." Got that. The last character, 大, means "big." So the translation is: "Study Twelve Big." Wha?
The trick here is that the Chinese written language loves ellipsis, conveying the sense of something while leaving out as many words as possible. That word "big" is an ellipsis for "congress," which in Chinese is "big meeting of representatives." In fact it's an ellipsis for "National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party" — one single syllable in Chinese standing for eleven. Now that's an ellipsis.
So all those posters I was seeing in 1982 were urging Chinese people to study, or follow, the deliberations of the 12th party congress. And now here we are 35 years later, with posters all over China urging the people to 学十九大, to Study Nineteen Big. How time flies!
05 — The cyberwar threat. An interesting sidebar story from the ChiCom party congress is this one from the BBC in London.
BBC Radio 4, the news and commentary station, had a reporter in Peking the day before the conference opened. They had her on a live telephone feed, talking about the massive security operation blanketing the city in the lead-up to the congress.
There were, she said, ninety-minute waits for drivers trying to drive into Peking because of security checks; and because of negative reaction, the Chinese authorities had shut down the comment section on the transport system's website.
At that point the BBC radio show lost the telephone feed. Later it was restored. When they had her back on the air, the emcee wondered aloud whether the ChiComs had cut off the feed deliberately. Likely so, said the lady in Peking, it happened a lot when you were talking on the phone about anything sensitive.
Further quote from her:
The Chinese Communist state is increasingly sophisticated when it comes to all of this of course, it has big private tech giants in its tech sector and it co-opts them to a very large degree.
There are elements of this all over, of course. Does our government snoop on private phone calls? Yes, sometimes it does, although there are legal formalities to be gone through, and a public fuss when they're not. Are our big tech companies friends of open inquiry and free speech? Not always: ask James Damore.
Imagine, though, unrestrained government power and a Google or Facebook totally subservient to government's wishes. That's China.
Should we care? We absolutely should. I refer you to an article from last Sunday's New York Times, headline: The World Once Laughed at North Korean Cyberpower. No More. This article is, obviously, about North Korea. Much of what it tells us applies equally well to China, though.
What does it tell us? That a dedicated government hacking operation, like the one North Korea has, and China likewise surely has, can reach deep into private and public systems worldwide, and wreak terrific havoc.
With all the trumpeting and bellowing about North Korea's missiles and nukes, its hackers are at least as much of a menace. Sample quote from the New York Times article, edited quote:
The most widespread hack was WannaCry, a global ransomware attack that used a program that cripples a computer and demands a ransom payment in exchange for unlocking the computer, or its data …
The Norks have also been using their hackers to finance the regime — stealing up to a billion dollars a year by one estimate quoted in the Times. One single cyber-attack, on the Bangladesh Central Bank last year, got them $81 million. The big threat, though, is of them disabling a major electric-power grid or water-supply system.
The main appeal of cyberwar for the Norks is that it's asymmetrical. Even if we can do it as well as they can, bringing down North Korea's power grid is no big deal to them. You've seen those satellite pictures of North Korea at night, right? It's not even a big deal to their hackers, who operate outside the country — a lot of them are in India.
Bringing down America's power grid would be a very big deal indeed for Americans.
The same applies to a lesser degree with China. It's a more advanced country than North Korea, but not as software-dependent as the U.S.A.; and no politician in China's going to lose an election because they let something like that happen. China doesn't have elections.
There's a propaganda angle, too. The most famous Nork cyberattack was against Sony three years ago. Sony Pictures Entertainment released a trailer for a movie comedy about two journalists sent to Pyongyang to assassinate Kim Jong Un. The Norks protested, to no effect. So they hacked into Sony's systems, completely undetected by Sony or by any intelligence agency. The Times says that the hack, quote: "destroyed 70 percent of Sony Pictures' laptops and computers. Sony employees were reduced to communicating via pen, paper and phone." End quote.
Don't imagine the ChiComs wouldn't love to do that to anyone putting out a negative image of their loathsome and corrupt regime. Perhaps they already have. In fact … [high-pitched whine] …
06 — Nationalism advances in Europe. As reported here by James Fulford on Monday, Austria's general election last weekend was won by the center-right People's Party with 32 percent of the vote. The center-left Social Democrats got 27 percent. Just a whisker behind them was the nationalist Freedom Party at 26 percent.
The leader of the winning People's Party is Sebastian Kurz, who is 31 years old. That's extraordinarily young for a national leader: Even Kim Jong Un is older than that — at least we think he is. Kurz is a real wunderkind: he was Secretary of State at 27.
And "center-right" doesn't quite capture his politics. When you hear "center-right" in an American context, you think of someone like Paul Ryan or Chris Christie: business-friendly but an open-borders squish on immigration and borders.
Not this guy. Quote from Kurz:
Our goal is that we decide who can come to Europe, and we decide who we help, and that we don't let the [people] smugglers decide … The concept of no borders is not going to work.
Hallelujah! The question now is: which of the other two big parties, the center-left Social Democrats or the nationalist Freedom Party, will Kurz invite into a coalition?
The current ruling coalition is People's Party plus Social Democrats, center-right plus center-left giving, I suppose, center-center. This has been the usual arrangement pretty much for ever, at least since WW2. The Social Democrats have been the senior party in the coalition since 2007, and they hold the Chancellorship — the chief executive position.
It's not likely the Social Democrats will want to be in coalition with Kurz, though, after his defense of borders and immigration control. A People's Party / Freedom Party coalition is more probable, and not unprecedented: the two were in a brief coalition early in the last decade, although the Freedom Party's been through some changes since then.
Assuming this is what happens — it's undecided as we go to tape — it will be another step forward for nationalism in Europe.
Probably this story is not unrelated. It's from Breitbart, October 20th, headline: Austria: 25 Per Cent Rise in Sex Attacks, Almost Half Committed by Migrants.
Apparently the Austrian government has just released new statistics on sexual assault in that country. The statistics say the thing the headline says they say. Among rape suspects, 44 percent are of a foreign background. Afghans lead the pack, followed by Romanians, Germans, Serbs, and Turks.
My comments a couple of segments ago, about differences in attitude between Israeli and diaspora Jews, are in play here. The first leader of the Freedom Party, sixty years ago, was a former SS officer; and antisemitism is an even touchier subject in Austria than in Germany. Hitler himself was Austrian, remember.
(I can't resist here recycling the old joke about Austrians being the smartest people in the world, because they've convinced the rest of us that Hitler was German and Beethoven was Austrian.)
So on the one hand we have Oskar Deutsch, the president of the Jewish Communities of Austria, publishing an open letter to Sebastian Kurz urging him not to form a coalition with the Freedom Party because that party's leader and some of its officers had, quote, "used antisemitic codes, made extreme right-wing statements and … promoted hatred and racism," end quote.
Then on the other hand there was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling Sebastian Kurz to congratulate him on his party's election victory, applauding Austria for the long way it's come in fighting antisemitism, and not mentioning the Freedom Party at all.
Well: However that plays out, there is now a good solid block of nations down through Eastern and Central Europe with governments unfriendly to mass Third World immigration. The people of this zone have decided they don't want to be replaced by aliens. They'd like their countries to remain theirs. Radio Derb congratulates them on their good sense and patriotism, and hopes it's contagious.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: For reasons I explained a few months ago here on Radio Derb, I am not a big fan of Twitter. I quoted Steve Sailer, a fellow Twitterphobe, saying that reading Tweets is like being bombarded with ping-pong balls.
So I tweet for informative purposes when I publish something somewhere, but otherwise don't bother with the thing.
I was therefore delighted to read last Monday on Breitbart that Rush Limbaugh is another Twitterphobe. Quote from him, which Breitbart took from his radio show, quote:
Seriously, you know what Twitter is? Twitter is a cacophony of crap. How in the world did Twitter ever evolve into becoming a news source for supposed mainstream media people? Well, let me tell you how: Because liberals dominate it … The phoniness of Twitter is obvious if you just look at the their trending tweets. They are seldom anything that real-life people give a rat's rear end about … a cacophony of crap populated by leftists and their bots.
I can't say I've ever engaged with Rush, who seems to have been around for ever. I've never listened to one of his shows, though I suppose I must have caught snippets by accident. Now I'm glad to welcome him to the community of Twitterphobes.
Item: News from Derbyshire; in fact from Derby, the capital of Derbyshire, which is of course a county in England. This item illustrates the sorry state of English liberties after a half-century of multiculturalism.
The news is, that a supermarket worker in Derby, a white Englishman name of Joshua Dryden, twenty years old, let loose in a video on Snapchat about how much he dislikes Pakistanis. We know he's a supermarket worker because he's wearing the store's uniform in this video.
That hurt the feelings of some Pakistanis, so they complained to the police. Mr Dryden was arrested and questioned. He has — I'm quoting here from the official police statement — he has been released under investigation while inquiries continue.
That's how things are in England nowadays. My friends and relatives over there tell me it's a waste of time to call the police if your house gets broken into. They won't even bother to show up, just tell you to file an insurance report.
Say an unkind word about foreign Muslims, though, and the peelers will have you down at the station house in cuffs before you can say "Magna Carta." Poor old England!
Item: Here's another thing to worry about: declining bug populations. I've worked this territory myself some in my monthly diaries, apropos my own sufferings at the probosci of skeeters and the like this summer.
Apparently things are getting serious. Scary headline from the Daily Mail, October 19th: Where have all our bugs gone? The flying insects the planet depends on plummet by three-quarters sparking fears of ecological armageddon.
Some Dutch scientists have carried out what they say is the world's first study of flying insect numbers — a sort of bug census. They have found, they tell us, that, quote:
The European insect population has fallen by three-quarters in less than 30 years.
How do they know that, if their census is the first? Whatever, it makes for a good scary article. Quote:
[Insects] account for two-thirds of life on earth, and a plentiful and active bug population is indicative of a healthy planet, so rapidly diminishing numbers are ominous. One scientist, Professor Dave Goulson, at Sussex University, is warning the world is, inner quote, "on course for ecological armageddon."
End inner quote, end quote.
I see his point; but after my sufferings this summer, I find it hard to shed any tears over dead bugs. I think I'll just go back to worrying about North Korean hackers.
Bugwise, I guess I'm just an Armageddon Denier.
Item: Finally, a shout-out here to 41-year-old Aaron Holz of Iowa City, Iowa. Mr Holz was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct by police responding to a complaint from a neighbor.
The nature of the disorderly conduct was, that Mr Holz was singing "Jingle Bells" through a bullhorn. Court records describe this as, quote, "loud, disturbing and annoying to the neighbors," end quote.
I'd urge those neighbors to show a little Christmas spirit, except that it's not even Halloween yet.
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening; now go back to carving that pumpkin.
Here to sing us out is Bing Crosby. This one was suggested by my friend Barton, the only person in the world who knows more silly novelty songs than I do. Thanks, pal.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Bing Crosby, "Who Threw The Overalls In Mrs Murphy's Chowder?"]