• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome to the podcast, ladies and gentlemen. This is of course your intrepidly genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you news and views from the past week.
I should confess to feeling somewhat shame-faced at not having been able to think of anything to say about President Trump's trade tariffs. I don't understand trade policy; and I know I don't understand it because every time I ask a knowledgeable person about it, when he's through explaining his point of view, it's made perfect sense to me. Then I ask a different person, with the opposite point of view; and his explanation makes perfect sense to me, too.
In short, I end up agreeing with the last person that spoke to me. We all know that's a very bad thing.
So I'm taking a powder on the trade issue. If you want some sapient commentary on that issue, I refer you to Pat Buchanan's March 5th column "Why is the GOP terrified of tariffs?," here on VDARE.com. I read Pat's pro-tariff argument with careful attention; and, yes, it made perfect sense to me.
Herewith, my reflections on some other items from the week's news.
02 — Norks act nice. Headliner at the week's end was the invitation issued by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to our President, to discuss the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.
This invitation generated, and as I record this is still generating, a mighty barrage of commentary and speculation. What's Kim up to? Did President Trump win the staring match with Kim? Is the Kim regime in desperate straits? And so on.
In just a minute I shall offer two possibilities that, it seems to me, together cover about ninety percent of the probability space. Before I get to that, though, let me just note that Kim's invitation isn't totally out of the blue.
North and South Korea have been breaking the ice for a few weeks now, after eleven years of no official contacts at all. Last month the Norks sent a very high-level delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics — it included Kim's sister. Now the Souks have reciprocated, sending two top officials to meet Kim in Pyongyang this week. One of those officials was South Korea's national security adviser, the other was the director of the South's National Intelligence Service. This was serious stuff, not just diplomatic kabuki.
North and South have now scheduled a leadership summit for late April, to be held in Panmunjom on the border — the "truce village" where the 1953 armistice was signed.
So Kim's invite was the latest move in a game that was already well under way. What is the game, though? Here are my speculations. As I said, they cover ninety percent of the probability space. The other ten percent encompasses many other scenarios, most of very tiny probability: for example, that Kim Jong-un has been converted to Jeffersonian democracy.
Probability One: The old bait-and-switch. The Norks know, from a quarter-century of experience, that elected political leaders in both the U.S.A. and South Korea are desperate to have something to show their voters by way of success in handling the North.
They have played into this desperation very skillfully, offering restraint and reform, especially in the area of nuclear development, in return for food shipments, help building nuclear power reactors, trade concessions, and any other goodies they can squeeze from us across the negotiating table.
We're eager to deal. We give them the bennies. Somehow, though, the restraint and reform never happen.
This week's invitation from Kim, and the preceding smiles and handshakes from North to South, may be just another iteration of this bait-and-switch ploy.
Probability Two: The China challenge. Veteran Korea-watcher Rüdiger Frank at the University of Vienna offers this one.
It's a complicated play, but sounds plausible to me. The ChiComs are going to say, hypothetical quote: "Since North-South relations are warming up, as seen with this meeting scheduled for April, there's no further need for sanctions," end quote. They move for the U.N. to end sanctions. We veto that in the Security Council.
China ignores the veto and lifts sanctions anyway. Now I'll quote from Professor Frank, edited quote:
Under such circumstances, South Korea would then have a choice: It could side with the United States and the [UN], and refrain from … resuming trade and other forms of economic exchange. Alternatively, however, Seoul could share Beijing's position and feel free to do whatever they see is in the national interest of Korea. Washington would use all its economic and political power to prevent that, but under certain conditions, the costs of offending the United States will be offset by the benefit of facing a particularly friendly China. South Korea's economic survival depends on the fate of Samsung and Hyundai. Who is, and who will be, the most potent and willing partner to ensure that? Is China's relevance for South Korea's economy already big enough to outweigh the many gains from the long-standing alliance with the US?
That would be a great play by China if it comes off. The ChiComs hate hate hate having these U.S. protectorates on their borders. To peel off South Korea would be a major coup. Professor Frank thinks that it would in fact mark, quote from him, "the beginning of the end of the post-1990 world order," end quote.
Professor Frank thinks that Russia might go along happily with this strategy, if it is indeed China's strategy. I wouldn't be too sure. Russia needs a Radio Derb segment of her own, though.
Before I get to that segment let me just reiterate Radio Derb's position, which is close to candidate Donald Trump's position in 2016. We should pull all our troops out of South Korea next weekend and leave China, Russia, Japan, and the two Koreas to sort out what is a regional problem — their regional problem — not a global one.
03 — Russia regresses. As I have often remarked, the anti-Russian hysteria of both the Trump Derangement Syndrome American left and invade-the-world, invite-the-world neocons has driven me to a reactive Russophilia, a state of mind I am anyway inclined to from a fondness for Russian language and culture.
That doesn't make me an apologist for Vladimir Putin or a supporter of his policies, though. Five years ago I called Putin "a crude thug," and I haven't changed my opinion.
So I wasn't very surprised by this story out of Britain about the poisoning, by some kind of nerve agent, of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
The backstory here is that Skripal was a Russian spy in Western Europe during the 1990s — so this is Russia we're talking about, not the U.S.S.R. British intelligence recruited him, and he became a double agent. Back in Russia in the early 2000s, he was charged with high treason and jailed. Then in 2010 he was pardoned and released as part of a spy swap. He settled in England.
And then last Sunday he and his daughter were found unconscious, taken to hospital, and diagnosed as having been poisoned with a nerve agent known to have been developed by the Russians.
It's all a bit puzzling. There has always been a sort of gentleman's agreement governing spy swaps. Once you've got yours back and we've got ours back, the traded spies are ex-spies and so hors de combat. Why, after eight years, would the Russians suddenly attack one?
The commonest explanation on offer is that the Russians did this to show they can. That doesn't make a lot of sense, though. Everybody — all the Western government and security people the Russians might be trying to impress — already knew that they can do this sort of thing if they want to. Probably we can do it, too. That's why there was the gentlemen's agreement.
Espionage is a murky business, though, and there's likely more to it than that. Possibly Skripal had been up to something his former bosses didn't like. Or possibly he himself was clean, but British spooks had done something in Russia that annoyed the Russians, so they did a random thing back. Who knows? Not me, I'm only speculating from a deep background of reading Cold War spy fiction.
More pertinent to the global strategic issue, I think, was Putin's State of the Union speech — I guess more properly State of the Federation speech — to Russia's parliament March 1st. A big chunk of it was given over to boasting about what bodacious new weapon systems Russia has: missiles that can evade ballistic missile defenses, an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater torpedo, and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Are you scared yet?
You probably shouldn't be. Military analyst Norm Friedman over at the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute (not yet online) says that, quote, "All of these weapons have Cold War antecedents," end quote. The U.S.A., for example, worked on a nuclear-powered cruise missile back in Cold War Days. Further quote from Norm, who is very quotable:
Its most salient feature was that it spewed radioactive waste as it flew … The project died partly because it became clear that it could never have been tested safely.
So what was this March 1st bluster all about? Electioneering, said some commentators. Russia has a presidential election coming up March 18th, and Putin is running for a fourth six-year term.
I doubt that's much of it. The election is a foregone conclusion. Nobody thinks Putin will be defeated. You can in fact put mockery quotes around the word "election." This is Putin's Russia we're talking about.
So if not electioneering, what was it, all that belligerent boasting? Norm Friedman argues, very plausibly it seems to me, that it was aimed more at China than at us.
Russians are acutely conscious of their nation's strength relative to other powers. For decades, through the Cold War and well beyond, that meant "relative to the U.S.A." Now, though, China is strengthening while Russia is weakening.
Just twenty years ago Chinese military technology was dependent on Russian help. That's no longer the case. Russia's population is cratering. They have a manpower shortage. China's heading that way too, but is still way more populous than Russia: the current population ratio is ten to one. Russia's economy is lame; China's is flourishing.
One of the points Norm makes, which can never be made often enough, is that nukes are cheap relative to soldiers — soldiers that is, in the numbers required to defend a region like, oh, to take a region at random, Siberia.
As manpower dries up, nukes look more and more attractive — a good reason, incidentally, to not take very seriously North Korea's talk of giving up its nukes. Putin's bluster may be inspired by that, and by fear of China, and awareness of Russia's deepening weakness, not by resentment of us.
04 — Jeff deploys the ascending impulsive. Perhaps the best thing about getting Donald Trump as President in 2016 was that we subsequently got Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General.
Out here on the Dissident Right there is, I think it's fair to say, some disappointment with the A-G. He hasn't been as aggressive in enforcing the people's laws on immigration as we hoped he'd be. Why, for example, haven't there been some strategic deportations? It's bizarre that our public conversation now includes the term "celebrity illegal alien." Although perhaps, since it also includes the term "celebrity wife-murderer" — I'm looking at you, O.J. — perhaps it's not all that bizarre.
Other issues, too. Why isn't Janet Napolitano in jail? Why hasn't Sessions fired immigration judges who defy administration policy? Why hasn't he spoken out loud against other federal judges overreaching their proper powers, urging Congress to restrain or impeach them?
So when the news came out this week that the Justice Department is suing to strike down three California state laws plainly designed to hinder federal law enforcement, I was not very surprised that the first reaction I heard from a VDARE.com reader was: "What took so long?"
I share the general frustration. Surely the Justice Department could be more vigorous.
I'll cut Jeff Sessions some slack none the less. Plainly he is a cautious man. Those who revere the law and the Constitution are often like that. They regard law as a mighty weapon, to be handled with care and restraint. That's not an ignoble point of view. On balance, I prefer it to the approach of someone like Eric Holder, for whom the law is just an instrument of racial aggression.
Politics and jurisprudence aside, I cherish Jeff Sessions as a surviving specimen of traditional American culture. Reverence for the law is part of that. A lot of our territory, until historically recent times, was lawless. In reaction to that, thoughtful citizens developed a respect for law not much found elsewhere in the world. Remember young Abraham Lincoln walking twenty miles to hear a lawyer give a speech. It's very American.
So are other things about Jeff Sessions. For me, one of the most memorable moments in his Sacramento address on Wednesday was his use of a verb in the ascending impulsive mood. Quote:
It cannot be the policy of a great nation to up and reward those who unlawfully enter its country with legal status, Social Security, welfare, food stamps, and work permits.
Did you catch that? "To up and reward …" That usage, which so far as I know is peculiar to the Southeastern U.S.A., is what I mean by the "ascending impulsive." To up and do something means to do it suddenly, without precedent, impulsively. "Ascending impulsive" is just my name for it; I have no idea what professional grammarians call it.
The best-known use of the ascending impulsive mood — best known, I mean to folk from outside the Southeast — was in Jerry Jeff Walker's 1968 song "Mr Bojangles": "The dog up and died …" Everybody and his brother, sister, and maiden aunt subsequently recorded "Mr Bojangles," most famously Bob Dylan in 1973.
Well, when I heard the A-G deploy that usage in his Wednesday address, I up and swooned. When I came round, I felt totally reassured. Federal law enforcement is in safe hands. Press on, Jeff … at your own pace … or maybe just a wee bit faster? …
05 — Justice vs. order. In open, civilized societies there is a tolerance for some level of disorder, as being the price citizens collectively pay for their liberties.
The key words in what I just said are "some level." Today, in the year 2018, we are fifty years on from 1968, when public tolerance of disorder was tested to breaking point.
The event everyone remembers in this context was the Democratic Party convention in Chicago that August, that was marked by huge protests. It had been a rough year, though, with riots all over after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April; then Robert Kennedy's assassination in June.
And the upshot of it all was the election of Richard Nixon by what he called the Silent Majority. Nixon took 32 states. George Wallace, another law'n'order candidate, took five more. Americans had had enough of disorder.
Every time the left stages some raucous protest I find myself wondering how long normal Americans will put up with this. How long before the reaction? How long before seasoned, skillful politicians respond to widespread desire for such a reaction? And yes, yes, I know: There was something of that desire driving the result of the 2016 election. The winner there was not a seasoned, skillful politician, though. I say no more than that.
I found myself wondering that a lot this week. In just two days, this Monday and Tuesday, there were four instances of intolerant progressive mobs attacking harmless, unarmed individuals trying to express opinions the progressives disagreed with.
I'm casting my net Anglosphere-wide here. Two of these instances were in the U.S.A.; one was in Britain, the other in Canada. The pattern was the same, though. The intolerance, the slogans, the masks were the same. (Well, the rioters wore masks in three of the events.)
Monday at noon, Lewis and Clark Law School over in Portland, Oregon had Christina Hoff Sommers to speak to students about trigger warnings, safe spaces, and victimhood culture.
Ms Sommers is a decent sort. She may be best known for her YouTube clip debunking what she calls The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap. That clip has clocked up close to three million views. If you're not one of that three million, the clip is worth six minutes of your time.
That clip is not vituperative, merely factual and logical. The lady points out, for example, that if it were really true that women only make 77 cents for every dollar men make doing the same work, entrepreneurs could arbitrage themselves a nice profit by firing their male employees and hiring women, reducing their wage bill by 23 percent.
Ms Sommers' opinions are hardly even heterodox. For sure they are not as heterodox as mine; although, full disclosure, I once shared a platform with her at the Independent Women's Forum in Washington, DC. I recall her as intelligent, witty, and altogether charming. Her status as a public intellectual is perfectly respectable; she is a scholar at the neoconnish, genteel-conservative American Enterprise Institute, along with firebrands like Michael Barone, Lynn Cheney, Richard Epstein, and Ramesh Ponnuru.
It was therefore astonishing to see clips of the talk she tried to give on Monday, where a gang of students shouted her down as — can you guess? yes: a fascist.
Astonishing and of course depressing. Then doubly depressing was that the college's Diversity Dean — that's the woman's title, Diversity Dean — took the side of the anarchists and told Christina to shut down her talk, which of course had barely begun, to proceed straight to Q & A.
Punchline, in case you missed it: Lewis and Clark is a law school.
Monday evening Richard Spencer gave a talk at Michigan State University, which of course brought the antifa out in full force. This was after MSU had been sued — successfully — on Spencer's behalf when the college administration had tried to prevent him speaking there.
The antifa didn't hold back. Quote from Michigan Live: "Fights broke out as some protesters hurled bottles, rocks and horse manure to block Spencer's supporters from entering the [venue]," end quote.
For once the authorities showed some spine against the anarchists. Police took a zero-tolerance approach, arresting 25 people, 13 of them on felony charges like assault and battery, carrying a concealed weapon, and resisting and obstructing police. As of Wednesday 20 people have been formally charged.
Also on Monday, this one across the pond, the student Libertarian Society at King's College, London hosted the British YouTube vlogger Sargon of Akkad, who describes himself as a classic liberal. Masked antifa invaded the event and, quote from the Daily Mail, "hospitalised several university security guards, smashed the window of a grade-one listed building and threw smoke bombs," end quote.
The topic for this event? Freedom of speech.
One more. The following day, Tuesday March 6th, Psychology professor Jordan Peterson spoke at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. Title of his talk: "The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech in Canada." Prof. Peterson became famous for protesting a Canadian law that makes it criminal discrimination to not use a person's preferred pronoun.
So along came the antifa and tried to drown out the lecture — unsuccessfully this time, although a window was broken and one protestor, not a student, was arrested and charged with mischief, assaulting police and carrying a concealed weapon.
I ask again: How long will the voting public in civilized countries — Dick Nixon's Silent Majority — how long will they put up with this level of disorder? How long before federal authorities step up to protect the civil rights of Richard Spencer and Christina Hoff Sommers?
How much longer will thoughtful, civilized people with unpopular opinions be shouted down and physically attacked by masked anarchists, while law enforcement too often (the Michigan State campus police an honorable exception here) sit passively and watch — or, as in Charlottesville last year, actually co-operate with the people wearing masks?
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Last Sunday's election in Italy delivered a very satisfactory result for National Conservatives. The Trumpish right-wing coalition led by the League of the North got 37 percent of the vote; the less Trumpish but still nationalist Five Star Coalition got 33 percent; the Social Democratic center-left coalition got just 23 percent.
What this means in terms of forming a government is anyone's guess. Quote from BBC News:
Forming a government could take weeks of negotiation and coalition-building.
I can't promise to follow that very closely. As I said last week: if you value your sanity, don't try to understand the electoral system over there.
Italian government anyway belongs in that joke where in Heaven you have a French cook, a German engineer, an English policeman, and so on, while in Hell you have an English cook, a French engineer, a German policeman … I forget exactly how it goes, but I'm pretty sure the Italian system of government belongs in Hell.
Let's just take satisfaction in the Italians having given another poke in the eye to establishment globalists and their open-borders lunacy.
Item: The Oscars came and went, four hours of relentless virtue signaling by Hollywood bird-brains.
So I see reported, anyway. I shut myself away in the next room with my jigsaw puzzle. My attitude to showbiz types is Jacobean: they are vagabonds and strumpets, just a tick or two higher on the social scale than panhandlers and petty thieves. I wouldn't mind very much if a new Oliver Cromwell showed up, shut down the whole racket, and made them do honest work for a living.
Do people really take their opinions seriously? I don't know. I do know why they think people should: because they're stupid.
Well, I just learned the other day that in today's black-ruled South Africa, Chinese people are "honorary blacks." That's the result of a 2008 court ruling in that country.
The Chinese Association of South Africa had sued the government, saying its members often failed to qualify for business contracts and job promotions because they were regarded as whites.
For us racial essentialists this is all a bit disturbing. If the government of your country can declare you to be white; then, a few years later, a different government in the same country can declare you to be black, well … maybe race really is a social construct …
Item: I don't, I guess it's obvious, pay much attention to sports, and never have. You can't pay no attention, though, if you follow the news at all; and some things really stick in the mind.
This one, for example, that happened when I was not quite nine years old. In Oxford, England, on May 6th 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes, the first person ever known to break that barrier. The British press went nuts. Even a nerdy nine-year-old whose main interest was putting model planes together, couldn't avoid knowing about it.
Roger Bannister — very soon thereafter of course Sir Roger Bannister — went on to a long and useful career as a neurologist. He died last Saturday at the age of 88. Rest in peace, Sir Roger.
Item: David Goldman over at PJ media picked up a theme that Steve Sailer and I have worked over: The coming deluge of people trying to enter the First World from Africa. Sample from David, edited quote:
Africa can't absorb its rapidly growing population. The World Bank estimated in 2014 that between 1993 to 2008 the average per capita income of sub-Saharan African economies barely budged … Africa retains the fertility behavior of pre-industrial society, with an average of five children per female, but lacks the infrastructure, education, and governance to absorb them into economic life: 64 percent of sub-Saharan Africans live on $1.90 per day or less.
There may indeed come that point. It's a way in the future yet, though. The point we are currently at is a different point: a point where this coming, vast and apparently inevitable human catastrophe is one that the great majority of people in the First World would very much rather not think about.
Item: I mentioned Prof. Jordan Peterson back there. He is famous, as I said, for defying attempts by the Canadian government to force their citizens to use absurd made-up pronouns for the benefit of tiny minorities of Canadians who are confused about their sex.
That's a neat thing to be famous for. Prof. Peterson deserves to be known for more than that, though. For one thing, he is a star presenter of the human sciences, especially the developing science of personality and intelligence. Check out some of his YouTube videos on those topics: the one titled "The most terrifying IQ statistic," for example, or the one titled "Guys who are too nice? Good luck." He really knows the data on personality and intelligence.
For another thing he is a fearsome interview subject. The January 16th clip of him chewing up and spitting out some British Social Justice Warriorette nitwit has over eight million views — it's a classic of calm reason, logic, and science triumphing over fashionable cant.
So before any more Radio Derb listeners email in to ask me what I think of Jordan Peterson, let it be recorded that I think he's the cat's pajamas. Should he be passing through Long Island any time, I'd be honored to buy him a drink.
Item: Finally, I could not resist the story of Mr, or I guess Senhor, Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva of Brazil.
Senhor Silva was a famous clown — a real old-style slapstick fall-about clown. His stage name was Tiririca, which translates as Grumpy. And that was his job: He was a clown …
… until eight years ago, Grumpy had a sudden onset of patriotic idealism. Disgusted by corruption in Brazil's federal government, Grumpy ran for office on the slogan: "It can't get any worse."
That slogan must have had electoral appeal. Grumpy was elected to Brazil's equivalent of our House of Representatives, by a landslide.
He served a full four-year term, distinguishing himself by being the only member of the House with a perfect attendance record. At the end of his term he stood again, and was elected to a second term, again by a landslide.
Alas for patriotism: This week Grumpy announced he would not run for a third term. He's returning to the clown business. He is reported as being disappointed with the levity of his fellow congressmen. According to him, they just don't take governing seriously.
When a professional clown tells you you're not taking governing seriously, maybe it's time to start thinking about reform.
07 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your time and attention; now get back to doing your taxes.
To play us out this week we'll have a hymn. "How long?" I wondered back there somewhere; and that brought to mind the hymn "How long, O Lord, how long?" Here's a bit of it from Sovereign Grace Music.
There will be more from Radio Derb … before very long.
[Music clip: Sovereign Grace Music, "How long, O Lord, how long?"]