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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your compulsively genial host John Derbyshire bringing you VDARE.com's weekly roundup from the newswires garnished with skeptical commentary and topped off with a musical clip.
This week's podcast is sufficiently newsy, I hope; but much of it is given over to aery speculations, weighing of probabilities, even some touches of fantasy and a couple of references to the mathematical Theory of Games.
I hope that's not off-putting. I'm anticipating that the email bag next week will be even more argumentative than usual. Bring it on! We are still, for a little while longer, permitted to argue — in the U.S.A. at least, although probably not in Canada.
02 — Will he or won't he? So: will he or won't he? "He" of course being Vladmir Putin.
I've been reading a lot of commentary on the Ukraine business from people with a good claim to know what they're taking about. There's nothing like a consensus there. Some say he will, some say he won't.
Here's an authoritative commentator who believes he will. This is Anatoly Karlin, posting this Wednesday on Substack. Karlin is a longtime blogger on Russian issues. I used to read him at the Unz Review, but he's now apparently moved to Substack.
Well, this Wednesday Karlin posted a long piece arguing that the probability of Putin attacking Ukraine in force is now 85 percent. He gave us four reasons for why he thinks so.
Karlin elaborates at length on each of those four headings. There are some terms I should explain. When Karlin says "the Ukraine question" he means the question of whether Ukraine will be a separate nation independent of Russia or not.
The expression "Gathering the Russian Lands" harks back to something Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote back in 1990, when the Soviet Union was in the process of breaking apart. The desirable thing, Solzhenitsyn wrote, would be for the three slavic republics — Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine — along with Kazakhstan, to form a unitary state, while the other Soviet republics should be let go.
That accords with a common sentiment among Russians, which I noted in my January 28th podcast, that Ukraine is just a part of Russia. If, as Karlin says under Heading Four, Putin is an enthusiast for that point of view, then this must indeed look to him like a window of opportunity.
That's a case for "he will." On the other side, arguing that "he won't," are bigfoot geostrategy experts Andrei Illarionov and J. Michael Waller over at American Greatness on Tuesday. Key quote:
Putin has made no attempts to conceal his troop movements over the past three months. To the contrary, he readied his earlier attacks on Georgia and Ukraine in secret. When Putin acts openly, he is not preparing a real attack. He is running psychological operations of bluff, blackmail, and intimidation.
Putin, according to Illarionov and Waller, wants to intimidate Ukraine into implementing the 2015 Minsk Agreements. That would give autonomy to the disputed regions in the east of Ukraine. The Ukrainians don't want to do that. Those regions, they believe, would be a Trojan Horse for Russia.
So some say he will, some say he won't. Who has the better of the argument? My opinion — for what it's worth, based not just on those two posts but also others arguing both sides — I find Karlin and the other "he wills" more persuasive.
Yes, Putin's probably planning an all-out attack, and meanwhile relishing all our uncertainty and speculation.
We shall probably find out before this month ends.
03 — A riddle wrapped in a mystery. Well now, there's an unsettling thing for a commentator. You do your due diligence, you read what experts say on both sides of the argument, you weigh the evidence as objectively as you're able, and you come down on one side or the other.
Then, raising your head to look around, you see that the side you came down on is the side that all the lunatics, idiots, hustlers, and liars are on. Heck, Joe Biden thinks Putin will attack … I mean, you know, whoever writes Joe Biden's teleprompter scripts thinks so. Is it possible to have the same opinion as Joe Biden's handlers and still be right?
Eh, as the old saying goes: some things are true even though the Communist Party says they are true; except that in this case it's a matter of probabilities, not truth.
Here once again we bump up against a thing I've been struggling for years to make sense of: the powerful antipathy of our ruling class towards Russia. They really hate the place. Why?
I used to think it was a Jewish thing. With Jews disproportionately influential in our elites, especially in the opinion-forming sectors, I speculated that they brought along with them ancestral memories of pogroms, rampaging Cossacks, the Beilis trial, and so on.
That really doesn't work, though. The parents and grandparents of America's elite Jews mostly admired the Soviet Union, which surely is hard to do if you're anti-Russian.
Perhaps that's it, then. Perhaps elite Jews are mad as hell at post-Soviet Russia for having shut down grandpa's dream of worldwide socialist triumph.
It doesn't sound like that, though. Victoria Nuland, for example, doesn't strike me as a person who weeps into her pillow at night thinking of the dear old U.S.S.R. (Although Merrick Garland, I'm not so sure about …)
Are the Israelis pulling our elites' strings here? That seems far-fetched to me. Russia's sole interest in that part of the world is to maintain their naval base in Syria. That makes it necessary, or at any rate convenient, for the Russians to support Assad, the Syrian dictator. Assad is a cats-paw of Iran, a country the Israelis are worried about.
So yes, you could make some kind of a case, but it looks flimsy to me. Rather than stirring up anti-Russian feeling among our elites, a better use of Israel's stirring-up energies would be to bypass the middleman and stir up anti-Iranian emotions.
Perhaps it's not really a Jewish thing at all. Perhaps our ruling class just has some psychic or politico-strategic need for a big old national enemy, like Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and decided to stick with Russia after the Cold War ended just from sloth. Sloth is, I do believe, a greatly underestimated factor in human affairs.
And although I hate to give credit for rational thinking to our elites, there may be a rational component to anti-Russianism.
Politically, though, let's face it: Russia is a failure. Scanning back across the past four hundred years, what have they been able to come up with, government-wise?
Well, there was a sluggish, callous, incompetent, corrupt authoritarianism; and then there was an appalling, genocidal, nightmare totalitarianism; and now we're back to the first thing again.
Politically, there isn't much worse a fate than to be ruled by Russians. Nations that have suffered that fate and then escaped from it, like the Baltic states, were always very glad to see the Russians go.
There has never even, so far as I know, been a Russian equivalent of Taiwan: a nation-sized place populated mainly by Russians that has attained civil liberty under constitutional government. Russians just don't seem capable of mature civil society.
And the political failure drags along behind it other styles of failure: in economics, healthcare, demographics. Russian annual household income per capita was less than $6,000 at the end of 2020, which means most Russians live below — well below — the U.S. poverty level. Healthcare is dire. Fertility rates have improved somewhat since the disastrous 1990s, but are still unimpressive, and headed nowhere much better.
So yes: three cheers for Chebyshev, Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Tchaikovsky — wait, that's four cheers … whatever — but you really don't want to live under Russian government. So there's a rational reason to be anti-Russian.
But that is also, of course, a reason to be anti-Chinese, anti-Arab, anti-Mexican, or anti-black-African; yet none of those emotions has the same grip on our elites' collective psyche as anti-Russianism. So we still haven't really answered the main question.
I should add, by the way, that all those negative remarks about the corruption, incompetence, et cetera of Russian government apply just as well to the governments of Belarus and Ukraine this past thirty years. Which brings us back round to Solzhenitsyn in my first segment there, and the "gathering-in of the Russian lands."
Here's a pertinent quote from British journalist Alan Cowell, writing in The New York Times, August 1st 2008, quote:
Famously, Winston Churchill defined Russia as [inner quote] "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," [end inner quote] and his words in 1939 spoke eloquently to the Western sense of Moscow as the "other" — an inscrutable and menacing land that plays by its own rules, usually to the detriment of those who choose more open regulations.
I think Churchill's tongue was running away with him there, as it sometimes did. From where I'm sitting, here in the U.S.A., it's not so much Russia herself but our ruling class's antipathy to Russia that looks like "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."
04 — New York City news: the mayor, Mrs Clinton. News from New York City this week. The newsmakers here were first the mayor, and then Mrs Clinton.
The mayor, who assumed office January 1st, is black guy Eric Adams. Please don't tell me it's obnoxious and un-American of me to tag him by his race: his blackness is the main thing Mayor Adams himself wants us to know about him.
Our own Paul Kersey reported Thursday about a press conference the mayor had held on Tuesday.
The occasion for the presser was, that Adams had been up in Albany, the capital of New York State, to try to get state legislators to change the laws on bail reform that are putting arrested criminals right back on the streets of his city.
Adams had had no success with the state legislators, and the news reports said so. That's what news reports do: they tell you what happened.
Adams, however, played the race card, flagrantly and shamelessly. The negative press coverage of his Albany trip was, he told us at this presser, on account of journalists being white. Sample quote: "I'm a Black man that's the mayor but my story is being interpreted by people who don't look like me." End quote.
In the election campaign last Fall Adams was presented to New York voters as a sensible black guy. Anti-police? Adams had actually been a cop! Black Lives Matter? "A small fringe group," said Adams. This was a moderate black guy, we were told, not one of those dreadlocked crazy black guys railing against the white devils.
So here's a moderate, sensible black guy, forty-six days into his mayoralty, reflexively reaching for the anti-white race card. He actually told the assembled reporters that if their bosses didn't blacken up their newsrooms, he'll just stop taking questions at his pressers. Amazing …
And then on Thursday, here came Mrs Clinton.
Just a parenthesis here. Listeners sometimes ask me why I don't just call her "Hillary," as everyone else does. Answer: Because men more frequently require to be reminded than informed. I want to keep reminding you that this lady attained fame and fortune by being some guy's wife.
So Mrs Clinton came to New York City and gave a speech in a hall off Times Square. The event was organized by the New York Democratic Party as a promotional for the state's acting governor Kathy Hochul, who hopes to become the actual elected governor this November. Hochul is a colorless party drone with a head stuffed full of wokery, but who at least did not ride to prominence on her husband's back.
Mrs Clinton didn't actually do much promoting of Mrs Hochul — all right, of Kathy, if you want me to be rigidly consistent. She mainly just promoted herself. She is apparently calculating that,
Possibly she's got a chance there. She was well-received by the party faithful in the hall.
Not so much by the crowd in the street outside when she arrived, though. The main thing being called out there as she progressed from the car to the door was: "Lock her up!" And this, remember, was in New York City, where you can walk from Battery Party to the Broadway Bridge without ever seeing a Republican.
We all know what a gulf there is between the institutional Republican Party and the Republican voter base. Is something similar opening up between Democratic Party Managers and their voters? If Mrs Clinton runs for president again in 2024, we may find out.
05 — Game Theory applied to voting. Just a footnote to that segment.
My coverage there was of, first, Eric Adams, New York City's new black mayor, and second, of Mrs Clinton, wife of our 42nd president.
A few days ago I got an email from a regular correspondent. This email was short and to the point. In its entirety it read as follows, quote:
Elect only white men to every office.
I can't get totally on board with that. Back in the U.K. we didn't have presidential elections, so I can't truthfully say I ever voted for Margaret Thatcher. I voted for her party, though, twice, with her as my inspiration, when the main opposition party was headed by a male. I'd do the same again if I could.
It's easy to fantasize about presidential contests or primaries where I'd vote for the female or the black guy over a white male: Tulsi Gabbard over Lindsey Graham … Clarence Thomas over Mitt Romney … Ann Coulter over Donald Trump …
There's probably even a black woman out there I'd vote for if the alternative was, say, Chuck Schumer, although no-one comes to mind. Heck, there might even be times, if you caught me in the right mood, when I'd vote for Angela Davis over Chuck Schumer. No, scrub that: I'm getting too fantastical here.
So as a hard-and-fast rule, my friend's instruction doesn't work for me. Not at the top of a ticket, anyway. Lower down, I'll allow it may be a good operating principle.
Faced with those long lists of names on the voting sheet, names of people you don't have much of a clue about, running for County Executive, Town Supervisor, District Attorney, and the rest, the temptation is just to tick them by party affiliation.
That's not really a great criterion, though, given the number of worthless cucks in the GOP, and the number of worthier characters with a "D" next to their names.
From a broadly game-theoretical point of view, a better strategy would be to go
I'm still fantasizing, though. I don't know how it is elsewhere, but in my state the voting sheets don't show pictures of the candidates, so my strategy won't work. I suppose I could agitate for the state legislature to mandate pictures, but that would be a long-term project.
And thinking a bit deeper about it, I see a contradiction. Yes, there are worthy women and worthy blacks I can see myself wanting to vote for at the top of a ticket one day.
To get to the top of a ticket, though, they're going to have to ascend the political ladder, starting from something like a school board position or D.A. Yet my strategy kills their chances at those lower positions; so if it were generally adopted, how could they ever rise?
Democracy's a bitch, isn't it?
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I note with sadness the passing on Tuesday of the writer P.J. O'Rourke.
I got acquainted with P.J.'s work in the mid-1970s, when he was writing for National Lampoon. His best pieces were outrageously funny; although in the prim, prissy, buttoned-down culture of today they would be considered just outrageous, and would get P.J.'s bank accounts and social media accounts all canceled.
P.J.'s most lasting contribution to political science will surely be the Babe Rule for estimating the likely success of a political movement. Sometime around 1980 P.J. attended a demonstration in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the homeless. All the female demonstrators, P.J. noted, were overweight and plain. Thence the rule: If there isn't a good proportion of hot babes among your demonstrators, your movement isn't going anywhere.
[Added when archiving: I was relying on my memory for that last paragraph; not altogether wise at my age, but in this case not too far off. James Fulford tracked down the original. It's from the December 1989 issue of The American Spectator:
Item: The Republican Party seems at last to be seeing sense on the issue of illegal immigration. On legal immigration, though, far too many of them still jump when Chamber of Commerce donors crack the whip.
On Monday this week seventeen Republican senators all jumped in unison, co-signing with seventeen Democrats a letter to Joe Biden urging him to relax limits on the H-2B visa program for unskilled non-agricultural foreign workers.
All the names you'd expect were in that list of seventeen Republicans: Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, … and then, Rand Paul.
I've tended to think of Rand Paul as a pretty good egg, forgetting that he belongs to that strain of libertarians that is ambiguous about immigration. Their slogan is: "Illegal immigration bad, legal immigration good!"
Perhaps we could arrange for Senator Paul to try that slogan out on a roomful of American low-skilled workers who've lost their jobs to cheaper foreigners on H-2B visas.
Item: In last week's podcast I urged listeners to contribute to the appeal fund for the Brunswick Three: Gregory and Travis McMichael and Roddie Bryan. Their appeal against their conviction in the death of Ahmaud Arbery was being funded through the website GiveSendGo.
That website was hacked last weekend. It had been used to fund the Canadian trucker convoys after GoFundMe froze millions of dollars that had been donated through them. The hackers had obtained names and addresses for tens of thousands of donors to the truckers.
None of that had anything to do with the Brunswick Three, and I don't think their donations were affected, although the GiveSendGo website was down for a while.
I put a post up at VDARE.com on Monday, as soon as I found out about the hack. However, the report at Vice.com on Wednesday tells us that only donors who donated prior to last Friday were doxxed; so if you were moved to donate by listening to Radio Derb on Saturday or Sunday, you're likely un-doxxed.
Checking just now, Friday evening, I see that GiveSendGo is back online and the fund for the Brunswick Three is doing quite well, with over $13,000 raised. I assume GiveSendGo has new security in place. I've been asking around, but no-one seems to know. If I can find out more, I'll post at VDARE.com.
Item: On the general topic of donations, heartfelt thanks are due to VDARE.com readers and listeners who have helped fund our proceedings against The New York Times and the City of Colorado Springs. Our pleas for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider these cases come before the Court next Friday, February 25th.
Whether or not the Supreme Court will agree to hear these cases we cannot know. The stakes have been laid out in detail by Peter Brimelow at the VDARE.com website, February 17th.
I urge you to read Peter's column and to join with us in prayers for the Court most particularly to take up the Colorado Springs case, where real, fundamental issues of liberty are at stake.
Peter closes out that column with an apt quote from the Anglo-Saxon epic poem The Battle of Maldon in J.R.R. Tolkien's translation. If you'd like to hear Peter's quote in the original Anglo-Saxon, here it is, spoken with full Anglo-Saxon vigor by Professor Michael Drout of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre,
Item: In matters of religion, precise wording can be terrifically important. Recall the centuries-long wrangling over the Latin word filioque in the Nicene Creed. That one word is still a source of bitter division between Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Christianity. Just compare the write-ups under the heading filioque in (a) Orthodoxwiki and (b) The Catholic Encyclopedia.
I'm not sure that any actual pitched battles were fought over filioque, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Well, here's a Catholic priest in Arizona, name of Andres Arango, who has learned the general lesson most recently. Precise wording really matters.
When a person — nowadays most commonly a baby — is baptised in the Catholic church, the priest utters the ritual words: "I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." This Arizona priest, however, has been using the pronoun "we" instead of "I."
That, say Father Arango's superiors, invalidates the baptism. Thousands of Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix, and in California where Father Arango had a previous ministry, think they are baptised Christians eligible for salvation, but in fact they are not.
From my scant knowledge of Catholic theology I recall that unbaptised people who haven't committed any serious sins go to Limbo and float around for ever on a lake of fire. I've never been a Catholic so I wouldn't swear that's right, it's just what I read somewhere.
Don't take chances with the Afterlife, though. If you're a Catholic and were baptized in Arizona or California, have a do-over.
Item: The Biden administration sure is going all out on sexual Diversity in their appointments. We got a homosexual for Transportation Secretary and a bloke who wears dresses as Assistant Health Secretary.
Now here's the latest addition: a drag queen as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Energy, responsible for disposal of the nation's nuclear waste. This is Sam Brinton, who uses the pronoun "they." I decline to participate in that abuse of English grammar, though, so I'll refer to him as "he."
We have been treated to pictures of Sam in various kinds of dresses, high heels, and jewelry, wearing loud lipstick under a carefully-trimmed moustache. Also to a group picture of him dressed in American flag high heels and a sparkly mini-dress as he stands over over three people role-playing as dogs.
I don't know how much further we can go along this road. What is the next administration hire going to be, a pedophile? That sounds preposterous; but no more preposterous than the appointment of this weirdo would have been twenty years ago.
And he's to be in charge of dealing with the nation's nuclear waste. Are you confident this will be done in a thoughtful and responsible manner, without danger to the public? No, me neither.
Item: In San Francisco meanwhile, three members of the city's school board have been forced out by parent activists. This culminates a year-long campaign by the parents, who have been angry that the board has been sitting round for months planning the mass renaming of city schools, including one named after Abraham Lincoln, when they ought to have been figuring out how to get the schools re-opened as the pandemic subsides.
This is San Francisco, though, and the story comes with a San Francisco twist not unrelated to the previous item.
The parent activists have been keen for everyone to know how diverse they are. I'll just give you the relevant quote from Wednesday's New York Post. Quote:
Parents among the around 100 supporters gathered in the Mission District on Tuesday insisted that support came from all walks of life.
The inner quote there is from one David Thompson, a parent dressed in head-to-toe rainbow drag who, says the Post, called his persona "Gaybraham Lincoln."
There's your next hire, Mr President, right there.
07 — Signoff. And that's all I have, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and thanks as always for your emails and donations.
OK, let's have a little signoff music. I feel like playing something silly. It seems to me there isn't anything like enough silliness in the world today — for sure nothing like as much as I remember there being back when. Everybody's so damn serious nowadays — it's depressing.
With that in mind, I see that it's been four and a half years since I played you any Lonnie Donegan. You can't get any sillier than Lonnie, the King of Skiffle. Here's one of his best, performed here for a TV station in Austria, 1975. Yes, Austria: the nation that gave us such great composers as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, and, lest I be accused of male supremacy here, Mizzi Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänswitwe. Also, for this brief visit at any rate, Lonnie Donegan. Here he is with that enduring classic "Does Your Chewing-Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?"
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Lonnie Donegan, "Does Your Chewing-Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?"]