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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your obligingly genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you all the news you need to know this warm summer weekend.
Listeners occasionally chide me for not saying enough about politics. Well, I am unrepentant. It's true, I don't engage very directly with retail politics. So much of it just seems to me like meaningless noise.
I wouldn't go quite so far as the Z-man, quote from him: "Politics is now just a combination of money grubbing and hysterical public tantrums," end quote. I just prefer to work my way to political topics by an indirect route, via the social and cultural issues that really interest me.
Those hysterical public tantrums are getting hard to avoid, though. There was a big one this week. Let's start with that.
02 — The United States of Hysteria (cont.). Another week in the U.S.H., the United States of Hysteria. The occasion of this week's shriek-fest was of course President Trump's engagement with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Sample reaction, this one by Mark Hertling and Molly McKew at Politico, July 16th, quote:
In 2016, our country was targeted by an attack [whose] aim was every bit as much to devastate the American homeland as Pearl Harbor or 9/11 … But two years on, we still haven't put any boats or men in the proverbial water. We still have not yet acted — just today, President Donald Trump, a beneficiary of this attack, exonerated the man who ordered it: Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
End quote. So those Facebook ads posted by Russians in 2016 were just like Pearl Harbor, just like 9/11. It's war, say Mr Hertling and Ms McKew! Get those boats in the water! And Trump is Putin's tool!
Yes, I agree, it's deranged. And yes, I agree: President Trump's notion of what our relations with Russia should be like is more correct, more reasonable, and just more damn sane than Hertling's and McKew's, or anyone else's in the mob howling for war with Russia.
It is in fact even more deranged than I thought when I picked that Politico piece for my hysteria sample. I did not notice, until my colleague James Fulford brought them to my attention, the bylines of those authors. Quotes:
Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling (ret.) is the former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army. During his 37 years in the U.S. Army, he also commanded the 1st Armored Division in northern Iraq as part of the surge.
So this is not some random Politico hack frothing with extreme Trump Derangement Syndrome: It's a retired senior staff officer of the U.S. Army and a foreign policy professional paid to advise governments. Good grief!
All that said, our President made a poor showing at Helsinki. For a guy with as much TV experience as he has, we should expect a better performance.
Putin is the illegitimate leader of a corrupt and dysfunctional nation, an economic nonentity among nations, geographically overstretched, with a rusting military and a population increasingly composed of aging drunks. Trump is the constitutionally elected leader of a nation so prosperous, buoyant, and secure, our main national problem is holding back the tide of people trying to break in across our borders to share in our blessed bounty.
Yet presentation-wise, Putin looked like the alpha male at Helsinki, with Trump nodding along deferentially. It wasn't quite as bad as those televised White House meetings on immigration and gun control that I was grumbling about earlier this year. They were presentational disasters; Helsinki was just a presentational failure.
Which pains me. I like this President. I voted for him, and look forward to voting for him again. His instincts on the big issues of our time are, I believe, correct. I hate all the people who hate him. I think a high proportion of those people have taken leave of their senses.
That makes a presentational failure like the one at Helsinki really painful to me. If you can't do this kind of thing well, Mr President, just don't do it. There's no constitutional requirement here.
I'll even have to admit I agree with the people who piled on Trump for dissing our intelligence agencies at the news conference. I'm not a fan of those agencies, or indeed of intelligence agencies in general, ours or anyone else's. I think Trump's right to distrust them; I'll enlarge on all that in a separate segment.
I just don't think a news conference in a foreign country is the right place to air that distrust. Whatever their faults and failings, our intelligence professionals are Americans, on the payroll of our government, and those faults and failings are for us to discuss in our forums and fix under our laws, not for foreigners to whoop and crow about.
Sorry if I've broken anybody's heart here. I know from my email bag that a lot of Radio Derb listeners are Always Trumpers, for whom our President can do no wrong.
That's not me. I like the Confucian principle of remonstrance. In Imperial China a loyal minister who believed the Emperor was mistaken about something would show up at court to present his criticism dragging his coffin behind him. Message: "I expect you'll have me executed for saying so, but you're wrong, boss."
03 — It's not Russia, it's Trump. The obsession with Russia among our liberal elites is getting beyond puzzling and into weird. I lived through the Cold War, when the Russians controlled half of Europe and advertised themselves as the advance guard of an inevitable worldwide revolution. I don't recall this level of anti-Russian passion — certainly not on the political Left, a great many of whom liked the U.S.S.R.
Sure, post-Soviet Russia has done naughty things. They occupied the Crimea and they've intervened energetically in Syria's civil war. Naughty for sure, but under strong geostrategic compulsion: Russia needs those naval bases.
They've murdered people in foreign countries, too. The poisoning in England of Sergei Skripal and his daughter is beyond naughty; it's disgraceful, and deserving of diplomatic retaliation — which indeed it's got: 23 Russian diplomats were expelled from Britain.
It wasn't Pearl Harbor, though; it wasn't 9/11; any more than Russia's minuscule diddling in our 2016 election was. What is this anti-Russian hysteria all about?
One theory I hear a lot is that it is Cold War backlash from the Left. Our leftists can't forgive the Russians for having ceased being communists. There was the Soviet Union, marching forward into the radiant future under the banners of Marx and Lenin, an inspiration to leftists everywhere … then suddenly they were pulling down the statues and selling off state enterprises.
To add insult to the left's injury, the Russians — well, some of them — returned openly to Christianity. And not only did they drop actual Marxism, they showed no enthusiasm for Cultural Marxism, marginalizing homosexuals and feminists and keeping themselves overwhelmingly, shamefully, white. It's not hard to see how vexing all this must be to the ethnomasochist Progressives of the West.
There's probably something in all that, but as an explanation for the level of anti-Russian hysteria we see, it falls way short.
The main problem with it is that all of that — the naughtiness, the Christianity, the homophobia, the horrible whiteness — all of that was the case five years ago, and ten years ago, and fifteen years ago; but without the hysteria.
Recall Barack Obama's embarrassing hot mike incident in 2012, when he told then-President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev he'd have, quote, "more flexibility" to negotiate after the fall election, to which Medvedev replied, quote: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir." Recall Mrs Clinton presenting Russia's Foreign Minister with a "reset button" three years before that. Recall George W. Bush, eight years before that, looking into Putin's eye and getting a sense of his soul.
Was there even any grumbling from the left about those episodes? Maybe, but I don't recall hysteria, certainly nothing like at the current level.
It seems plain to me that the anti-Russia hysteria is really just anti-Trumpism. Like a river in flood, anti-Trumpism is propelled by too much pressure for its regular outlet to contain. It had to burst through and make new outlets.
Losing the 2016 election was a terrible, colossal psychic trauma for the American left. They can't believe Trump did it by himself. They can't believe 63 million Americans voted for him of our own free will. We were duped! Or the numbers were manipulated! Or the polls were sabotaged! Or something — anything!
Distortion on that scale needs a malign power to explain it. With belief in the supernatural now at a low ebb, that power has to be some nation: a nation that's big and naughty, but not rich enough to have bought off many lobbyists or congresscritters, not economically significant enough to retaliate against us via trade boycotts, and of course not Muslim or nonwhite — you don't want to imply there's anything malign about them. That would be racist. [Scream.]
That pretty much leaves you with just Russia — the perfect scapegoat.
A footnote to that: This week of all weeks, it would be wrong to pass any comment related to Russia without noting the centenary on Tuesday of the murder of the Romanovs — Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, their five children and some of their servants. To commemorate the event, many thousands of Russians marched in an overnight procession from the site of the killings to the place thirteen miles away where the bodies were dumped, stripped, and mutilated to prevent recognition.
The murder of the Romanovs was exceptionally gruesome. The executioners were drunk and incompetent; although they were armed and the Romanovs were not, it took them twenty minutes to dispatch the family in a small room. The Tsar's children were four girls aged 22, 21, 19, and 17, and a boy aged twelve.
That's revolutionary socialism in action. Say what you like about Russia, at least she's not that country any more. Say what you like about Putin, he's not Lenin — the first and worst of the twentieth century's evil political geniuses, from whom all the others learned their methods.
04 — It's a spooks' world, politicians just live in it.. The first full sentence spoken in post-Stalin Russia was, according to Khrushchov, "Хрусталëв машину!"
That was on March 5th 1953. Stalin had died in bed at his private residence outside Moscow, members of the Politburo in the room. As soon as Stalin's death was confirmed, Beria, the head of the secret police, hastened from the room. He was heard calling out, as he headed off down the corridor outside, "Хрусталëв машину!" — "Khrustalyov, bring my car!" Khrustalyov was his chauffeur.
Beria had been nursing great ambitions for himself after Stalin's death. The other Politburo members were all scared of him. Being in charge of the secret police, Beria of course had files on all of them.
It seemed likely he'd take over the post-Stalin U.S.S.R. However, the other Politburo members staged an elaborate ambush. Beria was arrested and shot. It was touch and go there for a few weeks, though.
Why am I telling you this? To point up the perils of having an elaborate Secret Police apparatus. Once the spooks realise how much power they have over the rest of the citizenry, it's hard to restrain them from abusing that power.
Stalin's U.S.S.R. was of course a lawless despotism. The nearest thing we in America have to a Secret Police is our intelligence agencies, who operate under legal and constitutional restraints. Probably most of the people in those agencies are dutiful and conscientious patriots.
It's hard to believe, though, given the power they have and the knowledge they accumulate, it's hard to believe their senior people don't sometimes feel the same tug of ambition that Lavrenty Beria felt.
These hired politicians have no clue! With all I know, all my resources and contacts, I could do a way better job! I generally strive to think the best of my fellow men; but if you tell me that no Director of the CIA, the FBI, or the NSA ever had that thought pass through his mind, I shall not believe you.
And even if, as one hopes is the case, they resist the urge to use their knowledge and power for fell purposes, that knowledge and that power are still very real. They shape policy; they shape big events.
It's a spooks' world. The rest of us, including our elected politicians, just live in it.
This knowledge would be easier to bear if our spooks had a better track record — if they were as infallibly smart and well-informed as they believe themselves to be. If only!
We all know the charge sheet of intelligence failures: fall of the U.S.S.R., 9/11, the Iraq War, the Arab Spring, … Seven years ago Foreign Policy magazine published a list of the most egregious American intelligence failures, starting of course with Pearl Harbor.
To judge from recent congressional hearings, things haven't improved much since 2011. In the next segment, in fact, I'll add a big one that the Foreign Policy writer missed.
It would be pleasant to think we could do without intelligence agencies. In a world of nations, though, I doubt that's possible. They're like nukes: If the other guy has them, we need to have them. They are an evil, a threat to despots and democrats alike; but they are a necessary evil.
That being the case, how best to control them? The ideal, I think, would be to hold them to a strict code of honor and integrity, and to hire as spooks only persons who can cleave to that code and transmit it to their subordinates.
Intelligence needs to be not so much a career as a monastic order. I wouldn't exactly impose poverty, chastity, and obedience: just a no-more-than-decent salary, strict monogamy, and respect for superiors who are worth respecting.
A couple of times I've had the opportunity to discuss this topic with old intelligence hands. They tell me there used to be that kind of rigid honor ethos in the agencies, but it has weakened considerably with the rise of the Me Generation.
That's hearsay, but it accords quite well with some of the spectacles we've seen in those recent hearings — last week's Peter Strzok Show, for example.
Lavrenty Beria got what was coming to him. No, I don't wish that on John Brennan or James Comey. Still, if I were to glimpse either of those gents doing weed-whacker duty in an orange jumpsuit on some rural route in Maryland, I would not shed any tears.
05 — What China wants. It wouldn't be Radio Derb without some speculations about the large geopolitical-historical landscape and its future evolution. Here's your weekly dose of that.
If you try to engage educated Chinese people on this topic it isn't long before you hear the phrase "three kingdoms." This was an actual period of Chinese history, late second century A.D. through to the late third. China was split into three powerful states in constant warfare with each other.
When things finally settle down after a distinct historical period like that, Chinese scholars write up a history of the period. So this was done in the late third century for the Three Kingdoms period. You can read the result, if you know classical Chinese and have a great deal of time: Annals of the Three Kingdoms. It's 65 volumes and the equivalent of about a million words in English if translated, which I don't think it ever has been.
There are some really good stories in there, though: battles, intrigues, plots, colorful characters. For hundreds of years Chinese storytellers mined the Annals of the Three Kingdoms for lively tales to entertain their audiences. In the late Middle Ages these stories were put together in a single slightly-fictionalized narrative, now considered one of the great classic Chinese novels, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. There are English translations of that, the one by Moss Roberts is pretty good.
So this notion of three more or less equal powers struggling for mastery over each other is imbedded deep in China's national psyche. It shapes and colors their attitude to the present world. China, Russia, America — the Three Kingdoms! Which one will come out on top: absorb the other two and unite All Under Heaven?
Now I am not saying that China's current strategy is to unite the world under a single Chinese government. They have more sense than that. They are aware, for example, that demography is against it. Their own population is aging fast and will soon start declining. The world's a big place with a lot of people in it; there will never be enough Chinese to rule it all.
They do, though, seek supremacy over Russia and America, in the sense of being able to bend us to their will in things that matter to them. That's not mere speculation. We know they seek supremacy because they boast of seeking it. That's what the much-advertised "China Dream" is all about.
I can't resist a kick at our intelligence agencies here. A few weeks ago the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was looking into how well our spooks had predicted the development of China's goals and capabilities since the end of Maoism forty years ago. Answer: not well at all. Quote from Bill Gertz's report on those hearings, May 17th, quote:
U.S. intelligence agencies have denied underestimating China's rise. But several classified studies on the intelligence failures related to China analysis remain secret from the public in an apparent bid to avoid embarrassing spy agencies.
End quote. Bill Gertz has been sounding the alarm on this for twenty years. Now at last we have a President who's paying attention.
06 — Some geostrategic options. Given the aforementioned, what, if anything, can we do about it?
Well, we might take our cue from Chinese philosophy and do nothing. The principle of doing nothing, of inaction — 無為 — is central in the Taoist tradition.
Unfortunately, though, philosophers who tried to base statecraft on this principle always ended up with the idea that if the common people are kept sufficiently poor, ignorant, and fearful, the ruler can control them by doing well-nigh nothing at all. So a geostrategy based on Taoism may not be optimal for people used to freedom and prosperity.
We, the U.S.A., might try to maintain our pre-eminence. What would be the best way to do that?
China's leaders have been gripped by the conviction that the great geostrategic changes of the coming decades will be driven by technology, especially biotechnology and the information sciences. They are making an all-out effort to educate their smartest people in these fields. That, of course, goes along with a parallel effort to steal as much knowledge as they can from other countries that are ahead in some particular subfield.
The U.S.A., meanwhile, sends its smartest people to law school, and devotes massive educational resources to content-free ideological fads and gibberish Grievance Studies to boost the self-esteem of women and Sun People.
We could try changing course on that. Yeah, right.
Alternatively, we could strip-mine tech talent from the rest of the world. David Goldman over at Asia Times has argued this case. Quote from him:
I told the late Tom Wolfe that his bestseller The Right Stuff was the most pernicious book published in America during my lifetime, because it misled Americans into believing that a bunch of tobacco-chewing astronauts won the space race, rather than the rocket scientists that the US inherited from Hitler. Today the preponderance of scientific talent has shifted to Asia; even the most aggressive efforts to persuade Americans to apply themselves to technology would be too little and too late.
End quote. David could have added: "… and the air is fit to breathe."
That is certainly a possible strategy: Let our Asians beat their Asians.
However, for the U.S.A. the strip-mining option comes with a lot of additional social stresses, the kind that I have written about here on VDARE.com under the general heading, "Importing an Overclass." With all respect to David Goldman, put me down as unenthusiastic on the strip-mining option.
And China's grandiose technological ambitions may anyway come to naught. She looks like a strong country headed upwards; but appearances can be deceptive, and in China they usually are. Behind all the towering symbols of heroic materialism there are corruption, pollution, and ethnic resentment. Behind the outside show of smiling unity in the leadership there may be a clique of poltroons trembling nervously in fear of a palace coup. Despotism is never as efficient as it looks.
A different option, one which appeals to me more, would be to reconcile ourselves to relative decline. We could withdraw from our global commitments and settle down as a middling nation, well able to defend our sovereignty and with strictly controlled borders, but geostrategically unambitious. We could devote our national energies to commerce and culture. That is, after all, what our Founders intended.
Since it doesn't seem likely that either China or Russia has the ambition to invade and occupy us, or indeed the manpower to do so, we'd be a sort of big New Zealand: Minding our own business, not very consequential on the world stage, maybe not a technological leader, but happy in obscurity.
And finally there is the Polar Alliance. As Ice People populations decline, the threat of great population movements into our territories from the equatorial zone may become sufficiently alarming that we unite against it, pooling our technological resources.
Those last two options — the New Zealand option and the Polar Alliance — seem to me to be the most attractive, with the smallest possibility of war. Shall we be wise enough to choose one of them? Is there some other option I have missed? Geostrategic ruminations will continue here on Radio Derb.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: There is actually another centenary of a communist killing this year, December 23rd this year to be exact.
This is a fortieth anniversary. The British communist Malcolm Caldwell had been a keen supporter of the horrible Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia, pioneers of auto-genocide. The Khmer Rouge murdered about 25 percent of Cambodia's population — of their own countrymen.
News of that was seeping out in the late 1970s. Malcolm Caldwell pooh-poohed it all as bourgeois propaganda, though. The Khmer Rouge were heroic, selfless agrarian reformers, he assured us.
That got him an invitation from the Khmer Rouge to visit Cambodia. Off he went in December 1978 with a bunch of other lefties. He actually copped a personal interview with Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader.
That very evening, Caldwell was shot dead in his hotel room by Cambodians unknown. Why, we still don't really know. Possibly the meeting with Pol Pot didn't go well — Pol Pot was a twitchy character.
"Any man's death diminishes me," said the poet. Ye-es. I'm a gentle soul who wishes no ill to anyone, and it is of course uncouth to gloat at someone else's misfortune. I've got to confess, though, that try as I might, when think of Malcolm Caldwell's death, I find it really difficult to suppress a smile.
Item: I'm sure we all remember the terrible atrocity in Las Vegas last fall, when Stephen Paddock murdered 58 people and wounded many more by shooting down at them from his room in the Mandalay Bay hotel.
OK, brace yourself for this news item. MGM Resorts International, corporate owner of that hotel is suing the survivors of the shooting.
I've read this news story through twice, and I still can't grasp the grounds for the suit. In a civil lawsuit you claim to have been wronged, right? How did the poor devils who survived that horror wrong MGM Resorts International? I don't get it. Read the story yourself and try: it's at the USA Today website, July 17th.
Whatever the point of the lawsuit is, I think we have a new, record-breaking standard for the term chutzpah.
Item: Meet the latest casualty in World War T — "T" for "transgender," of course.
His name is Dr David Mackereth, a medical doctor who until recently worked for a British government department, the Department for Work and Pensions. His precise role was medical assessor, checking the claims of people seeking disability allowances.
The bureaucrats told Dr Mackereth that he had to describe and address the people he was assessing as belonging to whichever sex they claimed to belong to, regardless of which sex they actually belonged to because, you know, sex is just a social construct.
Dr Mackereth, who is a Christian, said that not only did he not believe that, he thought it was against scripture.
The bureaucrats fired him and he is now shut out of any government medical work — which means most medical work, in a country with socialized health care.
This wasn't just bureaucratic whim at work here. Quote from the Daily Mail story: "His refusal to use the preferred pronouns of people who identify as the opposite gender could be considered harassment as defined by the 2010 Equality Act," end quote.
So if an obvious guy with a full set of guy equipment tells you to address him as a girl and you refuse, you have broken the law. In Britain. Which once was a serious country.
Between 1999 and 2016, deaths from cirrhosis [of the liver] increased by 65 percent … Deaths from liver cancer doubled … during the same time period.
End quote. I hereby predict that if we get laws like the one in Britain that put Dr Mackereth out of work, deaths from over-drinking will increase even faster.
After two weeks continuous observation of an ant colony, researchers found that only three percent of ants were always working, 72 percent were inactive at least half the time, and 25 percent were never working.
So New York City municipal government is modeled on an ant colony. Who knew?
Item: Finally, a story from Brazil. No, this isn't about the Miss Bumbum Pageant, though it may be related. It's about Doctor Bumbum, a.k.a. plastic surgeon Denis Furtado, age 45, famous for his work in beautifying Brazilian buttocks.
One of Dr Bumbum's patients died following a procedure. Now the doctor and, for some reason, his mother have been arrested for heinicide … I beg your pardon: for homicide.
I just hope Dr Bumbum addressed that patient by xir chosen pronoun. I'd hate for him to be in any worse trouble than he's in.
08 — Signoff. And that's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening; and to my Russian friends, condolences on that dismal centenary.
In cultural news this week, students at a British university removed Rudyard Kipling's poem "If …" from the wall of their students' union on the grounds that Kipling was white, male, and heterosexual.
They replaced it by some verses from the late Maya Angelou, an absurd figure who had no gift for poetry at all but a great gift for guilt-tripping gullible white liberals. Ms Angelou wrote seven, count 'em seven autobiographies, every one of which I'll wager was as fake as a nine-dollar bill but which now adorn the library shelves of every high school in the nation. No, I haven't read any of them, and you can't make me.
Time to stand up for Kipling, then. Here's a clip from one of his best, a great favorite of George Orwell's.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Peter Dawson, "Mandalay."]