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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your astronomically genial host John Derbyshire, here with yet another edition of Radio Derb.
I am actually podcasting this week from the VDARE.com castle in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Peter and Lydia Brimelow invited us down for the weekend and we are enjoying their usual generous hospitality and the attentions of their three clever, lively little girls.
I've been here at the castle before, but it's Mrs Derbyshire's first time, and she's been having fun exploring the place, including of course the dungeons. Yes, there really are dungeons. If Attorney General Merrick Garland is running out of space to house all those January 6th "insurrectionists," we may be able to help … More about him later.
OK, let's see what's in the news.
02 — Taiwan tensions. As we go to tape here I am just reading this remarkable statement from the Chinese government, dated precisely noon October 9th Beijing time. I'll read you the whole thing, quote:
The government of the People's Republic of China acknowledges the independence of Taiwan and renounces all claim to the island and to the lesser islands under Taiwan's control. We stand ready to establish formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan as a sovereign nation, and encourage all other nations to do so.
Now that is remarkable, and a huge step forward in the reduction of international tensions. The world is now a far, far less dangerous place than it was yesterday …
Except that, unfortunately, looking more closely at the byline on that statement, I see that it has slipped into this dimension from Bizarro World. What a shame!
Still I feel bound to ask: Why would the ChiComs not perform such a huge act of magnanimity and peace-making — not to mention common sense? Surely they would be given tremendous credit for it.
Bringing a territory and its people by force into a union they'd rather not be in is an ugly and brutal business, rarely justified by rational statecraft. In a just world, if the people want to be independent, and they have sufficient numbers and resources to sustain themselves in their territory, they should be left alone.
In a just world, the Thirteen Colonies would have been left alone by Britain, and the Confederate States would have been left alone by the Union. Alas, this is not a just world.
The ChiComs' claim to Taiwan is in fact weaker than Britain's claim to the colonies, or the Union's claim to the South. Those claims essentially rested on the strong desire by powerful nations not to see any reduction in the extent of territory they control. The late Leonid Brezhnev expressed this very crisply, quote from him: "What we have, we hold."
But the People's Republic never held Taiwan, so the Brezhnev Doctrine doesn't apply.
Pop quiz: In the entire history of Taiwan, for how many years was it ruled from China's capital as a Chinese province?
Answer: twelve. Before 1887 it was a neglected, backwater region of Fujian Province, occasionally occupied by European powers — Spain, Holland, France — or by the losing parties in China's civil wars. Nobody much in China wanted to go there, except to escape war or famine. It was an inhospitable place, mountainous and malarial, populated by ferocious aborigines.
Then for eight years it was a province.
Then came the Sino-Japanese War, which China lost, leading to Japanese occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China held the place 1945-49 after Japan's defeat, but lost the rest of China that latter year.
So the ChiComs have never held Taiwan, and even the Brezhnev Doctrine is a stretch. It's even more of a stretch if you notice that China's rulers in 1887 were Manchus, not ethnic Chinese; so if you reword the pop quiz slightly to: "for how many years was it ruled from China's capital by Chinese rulers as a Chinese province?" the answer is only four.
That's all just lawyering the issue, though. The short answer to my original question — the question why the ChiComs don't take that giant step forward towards world peace — is that they are communists, with an ethos of permanent conflict. As a refugee from the old U.S.S.R. once said to me, quote: "Like sharks, they live just to kill and eat."
There is more to be said, though. New segment.
03 — Xi's choices. The first thing to be said is that the Chinese people are pretty solidly behind the nation's leadership in its apparent determination to win Taiwan by force.
Mrs Derbyshire follows Chinese social media. There is a huge cohort of participants in those media screaming for an assault on Taiwan, she tells me. If the ChiCom military attack Taiwan in force, a great wave of rapturous applause will sweep across China.
It's true of course that Chinese social media are heavily monitored and manipulated by the state authorities. Mrs Derbyshire's contacts, however, include many people she knows personally over there — high school and college classmates, relatives and friends of relatives — and they are as rabid as everyone else.
A couple of things follow from that. One is, that if Xi Jinping were to get pacific and accommodating towards Taiwan as happens in that announcement from Bizarro World in the last segment, he, and by extension the Party, would suffer a major loss of support.
You may say that in a totalitarian dictatorship, public support doesn't matter. That's not invariably true — you could ask Nicolae Ceauşescu, if he was still among us — but more to the point, Xi has to watch his back for fear of a palace coup. It may seem from the outside that he is solidly established in his authority; but there are signs of bitter factional infighting in the corridors of power. If Xi suffers a drop in public esteem, his enemies at court will be strengthened.
The other thing that follows is, that if Xi makes a major move against Taiwan — assault or blockade — it had darn well better work. If he strikes but fails, he'll be forced out. Even the Party itself might be threatened by a big military embarrassment.
Success needs to be swift, too, as well as sure. A long drawn-out campaign would give the nations of the region — Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, perhaps Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia — time to rally and unite, with or without U.S. involvement.
What are the odds of failure? It's very hard to say, and depends on how ruthless the ChiComs are willing to be. Are they willing to sink an American carrier? To bomb our air bases in the region? To go nuclear? I don't know, and nor does anyone else.
It also depends on how much of a fight Taiwan puts up. The analysts seem not very hopeful about this. On a scale of zero to ten, foreign opinions on the capability of Taiwan's military fall mostly below five, with some down in the two-to-three zone.
And I've been hearing for years about the efforts by successive Taiwan governments to phase out conscription, but they don't seem to be able to do it.
I can offer an anecdote here. I first got involved with China and things Chinese when living in Liverpool fifty years ago. I was a schoolteacher, but moonlighting as bartender in a pub in Liverpool's Chinatown.
I got friendly with one of the customers, an ex-seaman from Shanghai who ran a local fish-and-chip shop. His sister in Taiwan had a son, aged 15. The law in Taiwan back then was that males of 16 or more could not leave the island until after completing compulsory military service. Could I, through my contacts in local educational circles, find a private school that would take the lad?
I made inquiries and got the boy out. In gratitude the sister invited me to Taiwan as her houseguest. I got the China bug and still have it.
All right, that anecdote is half a century out of date. From what I read and hear, though, attitudes to military service haven't changed much. Here's a telling quote from a Taiwan source dated November last year, quote:
Although Taiwan's armed forces have sought to phase out their conscription system since 2012, the plan has been postponed multiple times due to the low desire among young Taiwanese males to volunteer for the military.
Taiwan Chinese are more traditionalist than mainlanders; and the traditional Chinese attitude to military service is 好鐵不打釘, 好男不當兵 (Hăo tiě bù dă dīng, hăo nán bù dāng bīng) — "Good iron isn't used for nails, a good man won't be made a soldier." The ChiComs feel differently.
Yet another uncertainty concerns China's domestic financial troubles. You've heard about the property crash, with a banking crisis likely not far behind. Xi has to get control of all that, while holding steady on his program of bringing his nation's big wealth-producers under firmer Party control.
With all that on his plate, Xi may be thinking that sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and choose to keep his actions against Taiwan at low-level harassment while he concentrates on this other stuff.
Or he may think that a quick, successful strike against Taiwan would fortify his position in dealing with economic issues. Who knows?
So, many uncertainties, but at least two certainties. One: Xi can't take a path of appeasement or accommodation. He has to keep up the bluster and aggression. Two: If he strikes, he must strike to win, and win fast.
04 — Zuck's woes. Facebook's been in the news twice this week.
I'm at a disadvantage here in that I only have a vague notion as to what Facebook does and why people use it.
Some years ago a kind friend told me I should have a Facebook account to promote my writing, and he very generously came over and helped me set one up. I could never think of any reason to use it, though.
As an old mainframe programmer from way back, once the internet came up I learned HTML, signed up with a hosting service, and put up my own website. I don't have to bother about ads, and I don't need to worry that the hosting service will edit my stuff or cancel me — at any rate, in all these years they have never shown any inclination to do so.
Facebook, the few times I looked into it, seemed to just be people telling each other what they had for breakfast. I didn't see the point. Then it got to be a nuisance in some way I can't recall, so I just canceled my membership.
Instagram and WhatsApp I have never used at all. I have no idea what they do. Asking around, people explain to me that they are some kind of supercharged email service, allowing you to vote up or down on what people post. If you get way more up votes than down votes, you're a star. Okay, I say, like Twitter, then — I do use that. No no no, my explainers explain, totally different. You see …
But at that point my eyes glaze over and I lose the will to live, so I still don't know what these apps do.
So I guess that social-media-wise, I'm an ignoramus, a nullity — like fifty percent of my age cohort, at least so far as Facebook is concerned. There may be something genetic there, too: My kids are both millennials, ages 26 and 28, but neither of them has a Facebook account, either.
Not that my ignorance of Mark Zuckerberg's products left me neutral about them. I've been assuming that Facebook and its appendages are all instruments of the anti-white, anti-American ruling class, just because Mark Zuckerberg himself so obviously is, with his scuzzy little open-borders racket and his funding of pro-Democrat election sabotage last year.
On that front this whistle-blower Frances Haugen hasn't actually shed much light. It seems that Zuckerberg is not actually progressive enough for her.
She grumbles for example that Facebook doesn't censor as much of its content as they should: that for last year's election they had good sound procedures against "misinformation," which of course means anything unhelpful to the Democratic Party; but that they dismantled those procedures after the election, thereby giving an assist to the January 6th protests. She actually referred to those protests, in an interview for 60 Minutes on Sunday, as "the insurrection."
For Zuckerberg, the lady says, it's all about the benjamins. He and his minions "prioritize growth over safety" she told The Washington Post. By "safety" she means "safeguarding the regime narrative."
Superwoke lefty as the lady plainly is, I'd be happier if I could believe she's right. If I could believe — I can't, but if I could believe — that Zuck is just a non-ideological cynic who will do anything to boost profits, I'd feel better about him and his enterprises. Greed isn't pretty, but it's not a nation-killer. Zuck, however, is a nation-killer.
As for the Facebook blackout, it was a useful reminder of the fragility of this digital fun park we've built, in which so many of our citizens waste so much of their lives.
Sooner or later there will come a massive solar flare — a Carrington event — or else a cyber-war, turning all our precious little screens dark, wiping out all those bazillion lines of code around which we have organized our work, our leisure, our relationships, our finances, our civilization.
Monday's blackout was just a glimpse of the future.
05 — National Review blows a small whistle. National Review Online, to which I contributed for twelve years until they dropped me in 2012, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. People are asking me how I feel about it.
As always when National Review is the topic, I honestly can't register much feeling at all. I started my freelance career in London at the tail-end of the old devil-may-care Fleet Street ethos, when getting fired from a newspaper or magazine, often for ridiculous reasons (although mostly for offenses against sobriety), was a common occupational hazard to be borne cheerfully, then boasted of in dinner-table anecdotes. If your stuff was any good, some other outlet would hire you, so … hey.
It helped that when National Review dropped me I was halfway through a course of chemotherapy. When you're enduring something as gruesome and debilitating as that, nothing else seems worth getting worked up about. You are locked in stiff stoicism.
And they're not a bad crowd at National Review — no worse than the average roomful of Americans. To be sure, they are whimpering cowards on the topic of race; but then, so is the average roomful of Americans.
At this point I actually feel a bit sorry for them. That older, genteel style of William F. Buckley conservatism is road kill today. They were supposed to stand athwart History crying "Stop!" but history ran right over them and left them flattened on the asphalt.
It's a shame. Our society is coarser, stupider, less law-abiding and less free than Bill Buckley's U.S.A., the U.S.A. of fifty or sixty years ago; but not much of that is their fault.
They're now doing some retconning of their record, presumably in an effort to reposition themselves as credible combatants in the Cold Civil War.
Monday this week, in support of a fall fundraiser for the NRO website, they put out a page boasting proudly about their, quote, "25 Years of Blowing the Whistle on Immigration B.S.," end quote, with six covers from National Review in support.
Twenty-five years is 650 issues for a fortnightly magazine, so that's less than one percent of cover topics. You can be excused for having missed the sound of that whistle blowing.
I notice also that the date range on those National Review covers is strikingly narrow. The sixth cover, targeting Marco Rubio and the Gang of Eight, is from mid-2013. The other five all occurred in a two-year period from mid-2005 to mid-2007, the years of the McCain-Kennedy and Bush-Kennedy legislative efforts.
All those efforts — McCain-Kennedy, Bush-Kennedy, and the Gang of Eight — aimed at so-called "comprehensive immigration reform," which is to say mass amnesty for illegal aliens with empty promises of future enforcement. "Comprehensive immigration reform" was so colossally unpopular with the Republican rank and file that even National Review had to take notice.
And all of those legislative efforts sought to tackle only illegal immigration. Did National Review have any cover stories on the impoverishment of middle class Americans by legal immigration — the issue that probably carried Donald Trump over the line to victory in 2016 (not that he subsequently did much about it)? We are left to wonder.
As Peter Brimelow pointed out here at VDARE.com, the one National Review cover they did not include was the one from June 1992 promoting Peter's seminal article calling for immigration restriction, the article that then became his book Alien Nation. Peter was dropped from the magazine five years later. All right, all right, that 1992 cover was before National Review ONLINE's 25 years; but surely a mention wouldn't have hurt.
And I myself was in-house at National Review for half of those 25 years they're boasting about, mostly the first half. Here is a comment I passed in July 2014, two years after leaving the magazine.
When I was working at National Review, part of the four-year Presidential election cycle was that aspiring Republican candidates would drop by at the office to give us some face time. We'd all sit around a table in the library with the candidate and ask him policy questions. Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich, even that black guy — I've forgotten his name — who used to run the pizza chain, but got caught with his shirt-tail hanging out, they all dropped by.
I have nothing to say against Bill Buckley, who was always kindly and supportive towards me; but his style of conservatism no longer has any relevance.
Today we confront a ruthless and totalitarian ideology here at home. Genteel disagreement won't save our country. We need to rally Americans behind nationalism, constitutional liberties, a firm rule of law, honesty about race and sex, educational excellence, repatriation of our military, immigration minimalism, and a ruling class that gives a damn about ordinary citizens, with our middle and working classes thriving in domestic industries, as they used to.
06 — FBI → KGB. In my July Diary I referred to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland as a "sinister apparatchik." If any readers doubted the aptness of that description, Comrade Garland dispelled their doubts this week.
[Added when archiving. Listeners pointed out that with Comrade Garland added, that would be five players — okay for rummy or canasta, but not a bridge foursome.
I am of course referring to the memo Comrade Garland extruded on Monday, then sent to federal prosecutors and the Director of the FBI. Main point of the memo, quote:
I am directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days of the issuance of this memorandum. These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.
This memo was in turn inspired by a letter to President Biden dated September 29th from NSBA, that's the National School Boards Association, a far-left globalist, anti-American activist outfit with funding connections to George Soros. This letter begged the President to call in not only Comrade Garland's Justice Department but also, actual quote, "the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, and its National Threat Assessment Center." End quote.
All this, to counter parents getting rowdy at local school board meetings.
I don't deny that parents yelling at far-left activists on school boards might occasionally rise to the level where local law enforcement should be called on. Yes, occasionally it might: but the FBI? Homeland Security? The Secret Service? The National Threat Assessment Center? Really? Why not Delta Force or SEAL team 6?
What level have the parent protests actually risen to? The letter only cites
That first one seems like something local law enforcement should be able to handle. The second one's a bit of a puzzle. How do you yell a salute? You might yell a salutation, but a salute is a physical gesture, not a vocal one. I guess literate usage is too much to expect from education activists.
And might it be the case, might it just possibly be the case, that if I raise my arm in the air to get the attention of a progressive activist, he will, either from cynical malice or genuine paranoia, record that as a Nazi salute? My confident guess would be: Yes, it definitely might.
I note in passing that, incredible as it may seem to younger listeners, giving a Nazi salute in public is not against the law in any jurisdiction known to me. It is of course bad manners; gross bad manners around Jews, but not illegal.
A key project of the people we call "woke" is the criminalization of bad manners. I don't agree with that. I don't believe it should be a crime to be ill-mannered. I definitely, absolutely don't believe it should be a federal crime. This opinion reveals me to be a hopeless reactionary.
We graybeards can in fact remember when the American Civil Liberties Union defended the right of a neo-Nazi group to march through a Jewish neighborhood, and prevailed before the U.S. Supreme Court. That was 43 years ago, when Americans still took their liberties seriously.
That's by the by. Returning to the NSBA's letter to the President: Its credibility is not improved by the inclusion of at least one bare-faced lie. Quote:
Many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula. This propaganda continues despite the fact that critical race theory is not taught in public schools.
My next-door neighbor was complaining to me just the other day that his ten-year-old daughter is being taught Critical Race Theory in her public school. He's unhappy about it. So are those parents yelling at school-board activists. They're unhappy about all the crazy masking dogma, too, forcing their kids to re-breathe their own carbon dioxide all day long.
Here is a suggestion for disgruntled citizens. When voting for your local school board members, do not vote for anyone affiliated in any way with the National School Board Association.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: We science buffs are all looking forward to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in late November or early December. This successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which was put into orbit more than thirty years ago, promises to bring us some sensational pictures of the universe.
To add some perspective here: When I was a child astronomer back in the Eisenhower administration, the wonder of the astronomical world was the Hale telescope on Mount Palomar in California, with a reflecting mirror nearly 17 feet across. The Hubble telescope's primary mirror was way smaller than that, a bit short of eight feet in diameter. Hey, it's hard to get big stuff into space.
The James Webb Space Telescope has a primary mirror over 21 feet in diameter, thirty percent bigger than the old Hale Telescope's, 2.7 times the diameter of Hubble's. Hoo boy!
Of course, the filthy poisonous curse of political correctness has infected this wonderful project. The telescope is named after James Webb, who ran NASA through most of the 1960s. Before that he was an undersecretary at the State Department in the 1950s, when the federal government was purging homosexuals from positions that had anything to do with national security because of the blackmail risk — a very sensible policy at the time.
Webb was involved in those purges, and the homosexual lobbies haven't forgiven him for it. They've been pressuring NASA to name the new telescope after someone else — Paul Lynde, perhaps.
So far I am glad to say NASA is standing firm against any renaming. Let's just hope Comrade Garland doesn't sic the FBI on them.
This week we got some small relief. At Union Square Park in downtown New York City there has been exhibited a large bust of degenerate junkie hoodlum George Floyd. Well, last Sunday morning someone vandalized this object, splashing silver paint on it.
It wasn't me, I swear, and I have a waterproof alibi.
This is the second time the George Floyd bust has been exhibited in public, and the second time it has been vandalized. There are a lot of people out there who don't want passively to accept the worship of this career criminal.
Heaven forbid I should put ideas into anyone's head, but I noticed with interest, reading one account of Sunday's incident, that the bust is made of wood: "200 layers of African mahogany plywood that is coated with bronze metallic paint." Wood … it's made of wood. Just sayin'.
Item: Percentage of the Week here.
The Washington Times reported last Sunday that in August 2020, under the Trump administration, Border Patrol agents caught more than 47,000 illegal immigrants and immediately released just ten of them into the interior of the U.S.A. Just ten were allowed in.
This August, under President Biden, the Border Patrol made more than 195,000 arrests and released more than 43 thousand people into the interior. Forty-three thousand and some were allowed in. That's an increase of more than 430,000 percent.
You don't often see a percentage that big; but then, we don't often have a federal government as irresponsibly destructive as Joe Biden's.
Item: High on the list of everyone's favorite movie lines is the one delivered to Anouk Aimée by a stranger as she is crossing the desert in Robert Aldrich's 1962 movie Sodom and Gomorrah: "Watch out for Sodomite patrols!"
Was there really a city named Sodom, though? And was it really destroyed by a rain of brimstone and fire out of heaven, as told in Genesis 19?
Well, quite possibly. In the nation of Jordan, close to the eastern border with the West Bank, just north of the Dead Sea, is an archeological site called Tall el-Hammam, known for more than a hundred years. The main feature here is the ruins of a big city that was utterly destroyed in the middle Bronze Age, around 1630 B.C. Who or what destroyed it, though?
Researchers are now pretty sure that it was a bolide: a really big meteor that hit the Earth's atmosphere at high speed and exploded high in the air, devastating everything below it. The model here is the Tunguska event of 1908, when a different meteor did just this over Siberia, flattening hundreds of square miles of forest.
There was a lesser example just in 2013, the Chelyabinsk bolide, which damaged thousands of buildings and injured 1,500 people in a quite remote region.
An international team of researchers at Tall el-Hammam have concluded that there was a large cosmic fireball close to the city. Professor James Kennett of the University of California at Santa Barbara tells us, quote: "We saw evidence for temperatures greater than 2,000 degrees Celsius … There was no man-made technology at the time that could have produced such astonishing damage."
Such a dreadful catastrophe, so long ago; and it ended up remembered somehow in our Bible.
08 — Signoff. That's all I have for you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your time and attention. Mrs Derbyshire and I, along with Basil, the family dog, will now enjoy a relaxing weekend with the boss and his family here in beautiful West Virginia.
Last week I signed out with some military music. Here's some more; but this one comes with some curiosity notes.
First curiosity note: This music was never intended to be military at all. It's a song: the homesick lament of an Irish expatriate in 1912 London. John McCormack recorded it in a military style in 1914, with a male chorus, and it took off in World War One as a soldiers' song.
Second curiosity note: The songwriter was a music-hall performer — that's vaudeville to you colonials — named Jack Judge. He said it was written in a pub to win a five-shilling bet — a bet that he couldn't compose a song and then perform it the next evening.
Third curiosity note: I grew up in England hearing an urban legend that Jack Judge, although he won the bet, never got paid royalties for the song. Wikipedia says that's false, he did get royalties. The legend probably came up because there was much wrangling about the song's authorship.
Here is John McCormack with what I think is the 1914 recording.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: John McCormack, It's a Long Way to Tipperary.]