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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, dobro guitar version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. Greetings, listeners, from your instructively genial host John Derbyshire.
This week's podcast begins in a slough of guilt, then works its way upwards via a brief detour into ancient Chinese history. Let's see how it goes.
02 — Confessions of a debate slacker. The answer to your first question is: No, not much.
That is, I didn't watch much of the Democratic candidates' debates that took place Tuesday and Wednesday this week in Detroit. Do I have excuses? Of course I have excuses. Do you think I've spent several decades in this world as an employee without being able to come up with excuses for slacking off?
Like you, I'm a creature of habit. My weekday habit is, at eight o'clock in the evening, right after one of Mrs Derbyshire's excellent, creative, and nutritious dinners, I turn on Fox News to watch Tucker Carlson's show.
That's what I did Tuesday evening. So I watched the show; then, at nine o'clock, remembering there was to be a debate, I switched to CNN. I had the vague idea it was a one-hour thing, starting at nine. No: it was a three-hour thing, eight o'clock to eleven o'clock EST.
When I switched, Elizabeth Warren was in full bluster [Native American rhythm: in full bluster, in full bluster, in full bluster …] I watched for five minutes or so, then felt the will to live draining out of me. Three hours! — and I'd missed the first hour. Hey, I thought, I can read about it in the papers tomorrow … so I switched off.
I felt guilty about that — I mean, I get paid to pay attention to politics — so Wednesday I made more of an effort. I still started off with Tucker, but channel-flipped in the commercial breaks and Tucker's duller spells to see what the candidates were saying. I don't need the commercial breaks; I already have two MyPillows — thanks, Mike!
Guilt will only carry you so far over arduous terrain, though. I didn't stay tuned right through to eleven. You can only ask so much of a guy. To judge from the viewing numbers, millions of Americans shared my indifference: the numbers were way down from those for the June debates.
By general agreement, Wednesday's debate had higher entertainment value. There was the Kamala Harris / Joe Biden psychodrama, for one thing — aging champ faces sharp-witted young upstart. Kind of like that great poker movie The Cincinnati Kid.
No offense to Joe Biden, but I have to say, Joe, Edward G. Robinson had way better moves than yours.
And then, Cory Booker. Several of the candidates are nuts, but Booker is the one who really looks nuts.
You may say that's unfair, that the guy can't help how he looks. He actually can, though. It's not just the shiny pate and the exophthalmic stare; it's the apparently permanent state of fired-up anger. Booker doesn't seem to have a genial mode.
American voters like their Presidents to come on genial at least some of the time. That was part of Mrs Clinton's problem. She didn't come over as angry all the time, like Booker, but geniality was, to put it very, very mildly, not her strong suit.
Perhaps eight years of Ronald Reagan raised our expectations of Presidential geniality impossibly high, I don't know. I'll have more to say about Reagan later in the podcast.
In any case, if Cory Booker has a genial mode, I haven't seen it. I'd be glad to give him geniality lessons; my fees are very reasonable.
As well as being very low on the geniality scale, Booker is way too high on the phoniness index. "There's a saying in my community …" was how he prefaced one of his rejoinders to Joe Biden. Your community, Cory? What's that, the community of upper-middle-class suburban kids who went to Stanford, Oxford University, and Yale Law School? For goodness sake!
03 — A flash of originality. It was racial self-stereotyping all over in that Wednesday debate, though. Even Andrew Yang had a go at it. Quote: "The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math."
Well, no, Andy. The opposite of Donald Trump would be a President of any race who put some effort into doing the things he was elected to do, who took a stand against the de-platforming, de-financing, and general silencing of people and groups who support him and promote the policies he ran on, who sicced his Justice Department on violent anarchist street gangs, and who hired into his staff people who don't despise his supporters. That would be the opposite of Donald Trump.
Was there some racial self-stereotyping by white candidates? You bet. The winner here, again on Wednesday night, was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. At least, it was if your stereotype of an upper-middle-class East Coast liberal white lady is of someone racked with guilt about being white. Sample quote:
I think as a white woman of privilege, who is a U.S. senator, running for President of the United States, it is also my responsibility to lift up those voices that aren't being listened to.
So, whose voices are you lifting up there, Senator? The voices of white women who are not privileged? No, no: all white people are privileged. Further quote:
And I can talk to those white women in the suburbs that voted for Trump and explain to them what white privilege actually is, that when their son is walking down a street with a bag of M&Ms in his pocket, wearing a hoodie, his whiteness is what protects him from being shot.
It's not his whiteness that protects him, Senator; it's his not knocking down a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, kneeling astride the guy to hold him down, and banging his head on the sidewalk. That's what protects him from being shot.
I'm sorry: I know I'm not doing very well with these debates. I've really had trouble engaging with them. Again I have excuses. Retail politics isn't my strong suit; I'm happier on the social, cultural, and scientific issues.
Even allowing for my own difficulties engaging, though, it seems to me the debates are dull stuff. The moderators are either bland and wonky, or else, in Don Lemon's case, sound like they're running for the Democrat nomination themselves. Politics aside, it would be better television — just more watchable — with one or two really confrontational moderators.
Moderator Dana Bash, in the first debate, illustrated the problem. Quote:
There is widespread agreement on this stage on the need for immigration reform, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including dreamers, but there are some areas of disagreement.
All right: I understand that the moderators wanted to highlight the differences between the candidates. They should also, though, in my opinion, have prodded the candidates on things where they all agree, but a lot of voters don't.
In that particular case, for example, what about the tens of millions of Americans who don't want illegal aliens to become citizens, other than by the legal route — which would be, to go back to their home countries and apply for settlement visas at the nearest U.S. consulate?
The discussion of immigration in both debates was at a very low level. The really controversial issues, topics we write about here at VDARE.com, just didn't get mentioned.
I did Ctrl-F on the transcripts of both debates for words like "birthright," as in "birthright citizenship," "displacement," as in "displacement of American workers by cheaper foreigners," "sanctuary," as in "sanctuary city," "verify," as in "E-verify,"and half a dozen others: [no-hit chime] no hits.
I don't expect deep wonky discussions of the EB-5 scandals or entry-exit tracking, but issues like birthright citizenship are at the center of Americans' concerns right now.
The immigration boosting was such boilerplate, so dismally unoriginal, that an occasional flash of reality lit up the place like a meteor. Here was Andy Yang in the second debate, quote:
We can't always be focusing on some of the — the — the distressed stories. And if you go to a factory here in Michigan, you will not find wall-to-wall immigrants; you will find wall-to-wall robots and machines. Immigrants are being scapegoated for issues they have nothing to do with in our economy.
Whoa there, Andy! You saying that immigrants are coming in for unskilled jobs just as those jobs are being taken over by automation?
Wait a minute, let me go to the transcripts. Ctrl-F "unskilled"?
[No hit … no hit.]
How about just the word "skilled"?
[No hit … no hit.]
It was just a meteor flash. Nobody wants to say any more about it: no candidate, no moderator.
04 — A serious country: China. Back of all that — or behind all that, as we say in the Mother Country — is the larger reason I find the debates depressing and discouraging. Although there is a lot of anger and passion on display — most of it simulated, of course — there is a sense in which these debates are not serious.
And that depresses me because I more and more find myself thinking that we are not a very serious country.
My go-to guy here, on the issue of whether we are a serious country, is blogger Daniel Greenfield, who posts at FrontPageMag. Here he was on July 26th, writing about the near-total silence of Muslim countries on the matter of China's treatment of her own Muslim citizens.
What happened was that earlier this month 22 countries signed a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning China's mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslims. That mistreatment includes things like forcing Muslims to drink alcohol and eat pork, a ban on beards, hijabs and the name Mohammed, and mass imprisonment in labor camps for "re-education."
Here are the countries who signed that letter protesting the mistreatment of China's Muslims. I'll give you them all for effect, alphabetic order.
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, U.K.
Notice anything about that list? Wait, the story gets stranger. China responded with a letter defending her policies. This letter, defending China's brutal treatment of Muslims was signed by thirty-seven countries.
Would you like to hear the names of those 37 countries signing in support of China? I bet you would. Here you go.
Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Kuwait, Laos, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
So the letter criticizing China's treatment of Muslims was signed by no Muslim nations at all; the letter defending China was signed by sixteen majority-Muslim nations!
Now, you can make a case that human-rights issues like China's treatment of the Uighurs belong in the zone of gentle diplomatic chiding and prodding, not open letters to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which hasn't exactly distinguished itself in the defense of human rights for Middle East Christians, white South Africans, and other groups not blessed with Designated Victim Status.
You can also argue that internal issues of human rights should, in pursuit of our own national interests, be subordinate to much more important things like trade and defense. That is apparently the position of the Trump administration, which did not sign either letter.
You can even, given the quantity of trouble that militant Islam has caused in the world this past few decades, you can even argue that whatever China does to her Muslims serves the damn Muslims right, and the hell with them.
Daniel Greenfield isn't arguing any of those cases, and neither am I. What he's arguing in this July 26th column is, that China is a serious country that can bend the Islamic world to its will: not by the threat of military force, by the threat of economic retaliation. The U.S.A., by contrast, is a paper tiger. Nobody's scared of economic retaliation from us.
China, says Greenfield, is a serious country. The Islamic world takes China seriously. We are not a serious country: the Muslims laugh at us.
Sample long quote:
Few of the 16 Muslim countries on the list are worried about the PRC's military force. Instead, the Communist dictatorship has effectively leveraged its economic power in its national interest.
05 — Calling a deer a horse. I'm just going to interpolate here one of my favorite Chinese idioms, relevant to what went before.
The idiom is: 指鹿為馬. Translation: Point to a Deer and Call it a Horse. Like most Chinese idioms, it refers to an event in ancient times, near the end of the third century b.c.
The mighty and all-conquering Emperor, the founder of the Qin dynasty, had died a couple of years before. His son, a young man of 19 or 20, had become Emperor — the Second Emperor. He seems to have been the frivolous and ineffectual type, though; real power had been seized by an ambitious eunuch named Zhao Gao.
I'll read you the story as told in the Records of the Grand Historian, Burton Watson's translation. It's September of 207 b.c., quote:
Zhao Gao was contemplating treason but was afraid the other officials would not heed his commands, so he decided to test them first. He brought a deer and presented it to the Second Emperor but called it a horse. The Second Emperor laughed and said, "Is the chancellor perhaps mistaken, calling a deer a horse?" Then the emperor questioned those around him. Some remained silent, while some, hoping to ingratiate themselves with Zhao Gao, said it was a horse, and others said it was a deer. Zhao Gao secretly arranged for all those who said it was a deer to be brought before the law and had them executed instantly. Thereafter the officials were all terrified of Zhao Gao.
If you like happy endings, Zhao Gao got his own ticket punched just a few months later in a palace plot; and five years after that, what was left of the dynasty collapsed and a new dynasty, the Han, was established.
The idiom lingers on, though. If you're powerful enough, and people are scared enough of you, you can call a deer a horse, and everyone will nod obediently and say, "Sure, it's a horse."
Who dares say otherwise? Diversity is our strength! There is no such thing as race! …
06 — The suckers of the world. I'm having a fire sale on Daniel Greenfield commentary this week. Here's another one of his pieces on the same theme. It hasn't made it to FrontPageMag yet, I've taken it from his own blog, Sultan Knish.
The topic here is border defenses, specifically India's border with Bangladesh, compared with the U.S.A.'s border with Mexico.
The first of those borders, India's with Bangladesh, is the longer; it's thirty percent longer than our Mexican border. It's way more secure, though. India is serious about stopping illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Bangaldeshis are poor, and India has all the poor people it needs. Also, Bangladeshis are Muslim, and India has all the Muslims it needs.
So they have a really tough border. A few indicative quotes from Greenfield, quote:
India has spent decades building fences, topping them with barbed wire, and installing lights. The lights are there so that the guards can see. Unlike America, there are guards, they have guns, and they shoot …
Again, as in the segment before last, the contrast is between a serious country and a silly country.
A serious country uses its economic muscle to bend other countries to its will, even forcing them to humiliate themselves by defending oppression of their co-religionists. A silly country hands out hundreds of millions to nations that work at undermining its own security.
A serious country devotes major military and infrastructure effort to securing its borders and shoots people who try to enter illegally. A silly country allows a hundred thousand people a month to wander in and settle, most of them unskilled workers who will take jobs from our own people and, with their children, burden our healthcare, education, and welfare services.
Now, every nation has its own ethos, its own sense of its obligations to humanity at large.
If you raise the questions: "Why are we the silly country in these stories? Why aren't we the serious country? Why don't we threaten countries with economic retaliation if they criticize our internal policies? Why don't we shoot people who try to enter our territory illegally?" If you raise those questions, the answer comes back: "That's not who we are!"
Here on the Dissident Right we have fun mocking this who-we-are-ism. It's vapid, feminized, feelgood moral posturing, we say. I've done some of the mocking myself.
Who-we-are-ism is not an utterly contemptible position, though. Americans do like to believe that we are a generous and humane nation. I don't know what opinion polling would say about shooting teenage girls trying to cross the border, but I'm pretty sure there'd be a majority against it. This is not India; and thank goodness, this is not China.
Still, we could surely do better than we are doing — be firmer in asserting our rights and our sovereignty.
Time and again, reading the news, I find myself thinking — as Daniel Greenfield seems to be thinking in the columns I've quoted — that we are the fools of the world. Lady Ann apparently gets the same thought: Her column at The Hill the other day bears the title How we Became the World's Suckers on Immigration.
There's a middle way here somewhere: a middle way between, on the one hand, humiliating weaker nations by making them sign on to letters saying the deer is a horse, and on the other hand, being the suckers of the world — a laughing-stock. We should try to find that middle way.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
What were the main issues facing voters? Pepping up the economy, raising the country's very low birthrate, and getting more women into management and politics … and revising the country's pacifist constitution so Japan can strengthen her military.
A listener observed that the second and third items there — raising Japan's birthrate and getting more women in management and politics — are at odds with each other.
Well, yes, of course they are. The more women have well-paid and fulfilling careers, the less they want to give over their young active years to pregnancy and child-raising. Men can help with the child-raising, but not really with the pregnancy.
This is an issue that confronts all the civilized world right now; and in the near future, given ongoing advances in health and longevity, the rest of the world will face it, too.
As I said in Chapter 11 of We Are Doomed, it's a universal problem, or soon will be, and the first nation to crack it will be at a huge advantage. I'm still betting on Japan to be that nation.
Item: More input from listeners and readers concerning my remarks about Indian computer programmers.
I should say, by the way, that use of the phrase "computer programmers" ages me. Nobody under seventy says "computer programmers" any more. The last replacement term I noticed was "software developers," but I think even that's been superseded now.
Whatever. At a certain point you quit trying to keep up. Are garbagemen still "sanitation engineers," or have they been elevated to some even grander-sounding job title? Don't ask me.
Anyway, those Indian programmers. The main charge against them in my email bag is race favoritism. When they get into a junior management position where they are hiring programmers, my listeners tell me, they strongly prefer to hire more Indians, either H-1Bs or citizens of Indian stock.
I'm sure that's not universal; I'm sure there are Indian managers who hire fairly; but the complaint has been common enough in my email bag to get me thinking there's no smoke without fire.
Should someone look into this? Some civil rights group? The EEOC? Or does nobody care because, hey, it's mostly white people being discriminated against, and white people have it coming, don't they?
Item: And … Ronald Reagan was a racist.
This is the report in the Atlantic last week about a tape someone unearthed from October 1971, when Richard Nixon was President and Ronald Reagan was governor of California.
China's seat at the United Nations had been held by a delegation from Taiwan up to that point. Then on October 25th the U.N. General Assembly voted to give the seat to communist China. Reagan was mad about this, and he called Nixon to vent his anger. He was particularly vexed at some African countries who had defied American pressure and voted with the majority.
Quote from Reagan:
To see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them, they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!
Radio Derb's reaction: [snoring sound.] Whether this person or that person is racist or not is deeply uninteresting to me — somewhere down along with whether he picks his nose when sitting on the toilet, or whether he knows the difference between "it's" with an apostrophe and "its" without an apostrophe.
Sorry, but I'm completely detached from this panic over racism. Being racist nowadays means you think race is a real feature of the human world and you hold generalized opinions about the major races. That all seems to me entirely normal and natural.
On that definition, well-nigh all the adults I grew up among, many of who I liked and admired, some of whom I loved dearly, were racists. I've described myself as a, quote, "mild and tolerant racist." I demand points for my mildness and tolerance.
So in 1971, a guy born in 1911 says a racist thing about Africans to a guy born in 1913, and the younger guy laughs. Could I care less? No, I really could not possibly care less. Not in any alternative universe I can conceive of could I care less than I do. My opinion of Reagan has not risen or fallen by any degree measurable by any instrument known to science.
What bothers and baffles me about this story is that so many people do care, or claim they do. I honestly have no idea why.
08 — Signoff. That's all, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening; and for those readers of my July Diary asking whether September will be Radio-Derb-free, the answer is no.
Yes, my lady and I shall be gallivanting around mainland China for three weeks, and it's not likely I'll be able to podcast while gallivanting, though I may give it a try. I shall, though, prepare three podcasts on themes not immediately topical, and leave them in the very capable, professional hands of James Fulford for transmission on September 13th, 20th, and 27th.
OK, some signout music. Readers of my monthly diaries will know that my own current listening, in my thrice-weekly workout sessions and on occasional long road trips, is Alexander Scourby's reading of the entire King James Bible.
I'm now deep into the books of prophesy — currently Ezekiel, sometimes known as the Stoner Prophet for the fantastic psychedelic visions he describes.
Personally, as a verbal rather than a visual type, I find it more interesting to spot the origin of idioms and phrases in our language that I didn't know, or had forgotten, come from the Bible: the idiom "wheels within wheels," for example, which is from Ezekiel.
The bit I'm looking forward to — I haven't quite reached it yet — is the Valley of the Bones in Ezekiel Chapter 37. Back in my childhood there was a song about that. It got a lot of radio time, and I find I can still sing along with it.
WARNING: This is one of the most persistent ear-worms in the ear-worm zoo.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: The Delta Rhythm Boys, "Dem Bones."]