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[Music clip: Vladimir Horowitz, Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Our opening music this week was a snippet of the great Vladimir Horowitz playing the last movement of Mussorgsky's piano suite "Pictures at an Exhibition." Permit me to explain.
Horowitz, generally regarded as the greatest concert pianist of the last century, was born in Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. And yes: I am suspending Radio Derb's usual toponymical conservatism here, saying "Kyiv," not "Kiev." Please don't be alarmed: I shall still favor "Peking" for the capital of China.
"Pictures at an Exhibition" was inspired by, duh, pictures the composer saw at an exhibition in 1874. The pictures were by an artist who had died the year before, and who had been a close friend of Mussorgsky.
The particular picture that inspired this tenth movement of the suite was a sketch the artist had done for a monumental new city gate the authorities wanted to build for Kyiv. As it happened, the gate was never actually built; but we still have the music.
I'm obliged to a friend for all that, a guy who knows more about music than I ever shall.
02 — Why did Putin attack? Last week's Radio Derb started off with the question: Will he or won't he? After perusing some well-informed commentary from Russia experts, I came down on the side of "he will." Well, he did.
So now the questions are: Why did he? How will it play out? What effect will it have on us in the U.S.A.?
The first question has two likely answers. One: Putin wants to "gather the Russian lands" in the sense Solzhenitsyn expressed thirty years ago: bringing the three Slavic republics — Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine — along with Kazakhstan all together in a unitary state.
Belarus, as far as I can gather, is already there — just a Russian puppet state. Ukraine has been more resistant; hence this current assault. I don't know why Solzhenitsyn included Kazakhstan there, nor do I know anything about the place except that it's big, resource-rich, and moderately Russified — twenty percent ethnic Russian, mostly up along the border with Russia, says Wikipedia.
The second likely answer to Question One is that Putin wants to recreate the U.S.S.R., the collapse of which he once called "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."
That would be a more serious matter for the U.S.A. The U.S.S.R. included the Baltic states — Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. They are all now in NATO; so under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, if Putin were to attack them, we'd be obliged to join in defending them.
Those of us who've been arguing for years that the U.S.A. should get out of NATO have been fond of posing rhetorical questions like: "What proportion of U.S. voters are willing to see our soldiers die fighting for Lithuania?" and "Why is defending Lithuania's border with Belarus more important than defending our own southern border?" If Putin is bent on recreating the U.S.S.R., these questions may not be merely rhetorical much longer.
There is a third possible answer to Question One — the question as to why Putin attacked — and that is: because he wants to recreate the 19th-century Russian Empire.
That would certainly be in accord with Putin's Great-Russian nationalism. It would, however, mean re-occupying Poland. I seriously doubt Putin is contemplating that.
There is also the possibility that Putin's ambition is actually less than to gather up the Russian lands.
If you look at a map of Ukraine, it's divided into two pretty equal parts, the east and the west, by the river Dniepr. The Dniepr crosses Ukraine's northern border about halfway along, heading south. It flows through Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, then turns through forty-five degrees east down to Dniepropetrovsk, then back westward out into the Black Sea well west of the Crimea.
So if Russia were to occupy just the part of Ukraine east of the Dniepr, that would give her a nice big-river border, clear land passage to the Crimea, and control of Kyiv. That would be a pretty good result by itself.
We haven't heard much about Russian action in the western zone, although air raid sirens went off in Lviv this morning, Friday. On those maps we've been seeing with big red arrows for Russian units crossing into Ukraine, the arrows all cross east of the Dniepr.
So just possibly Putin only wants the eastern half of Ukraine. That's not the way I'd bet, but it's possible.
03 — How will Russia-Ukraine play out? To the second question — how is this going to play out? — my guess is as good as yours. The correlation of forces of course favors Russia, which is way bigger and has more stuff: 28 times the land area of Ukraine, 3½ times the population.
There are some imponderables, though. Ukrainians, at any rate outside those disputed regions furthest east, are fighting on their own land, so the old fox-and-rabbit cliché applies: The fox is running for his dinner, while the rabbit is running for his life. When you raise that in conversation, however, someone always points out that foxes none the less manage to keep themselves fed, which of course is true.
From what we've been seeing this first couple of days, the Ukrainians aren't short of patriotic fighting spirit. President Zelensky seems willing to go down with the ship. This morning we got reports that on videoconference last night with EU leaders, he told them, quote: "This might be the last time you see me alive," end quote. That's gutsy if it's true. It likely is true: Zelensky's had plenty of time to flee the country, but he's still in Kyiv.
And there are reports, although admittedly from the Ukrainian side, that captured Russian soldiers aren't happy about killing fellow Slavs; and there have been impressively large anti-war demonstrations in Russian cities. Impressively large, and impressively brave: Russia is still an authoritarian state with a big and brutal secret-police apparatus. We're seeing some brave people here on both sides.
And then there is Putin's position among his peers, the people running Russia. Are there cliques and factions in the Russian leadership? Well, yes, of course there are. There always are. That's the nature of politics, including authoritarian politics — especially authoritarian politics, where there is total power to be played for, and the playing is being done without the scrutiny of an independent press.
Is any of those factions strong enough to unseat Putin? I have no idea. In a secretive system of palace power like that, though, stuff happens. I don't expect to open my newspaper next Wednesday and see a headline PUTIN DEPOSED, but I wouldn't be utterly astounded.
All that said, it's hard to see how the Ukrainians can prevail, or even force any kind of stalemate. The betting has to be that President Zelensky and his family will be killed along with a lot of other brave patriots; and a lot of other brave patriots will be shipped off to slave-labor camps in Siberia.
Which is awful. Someone should write an opera about it at the very least.
Radio Derb's position is ethnonationalist. In a just world, Ukrainians would have a country of their own. Putin should have left them the hell alone. We're a long way yet from that just world, but we can still speak up for it.
An interesting sidebar issue here concerns China's reaction. Will a Russian success embolden the ChiComs to attack Taiwan?
I doubt it. The ChiComs have their own plans for Taiwan, which, yes, surely include occupying it at some point and returning its people to the warm embrace of the Motherland. They'll carry out those plans on a schedule they've worked out long since, though. I doubt a Russian triumph will do anything to accelerate that schedule.
Most likely the ChiComs will take the opportunity to play the grave, serious, impartial adult in the room, possibly even going so far as to offer some slight, gentle criticisms of Putin's move.
They love that pose. It's their second-favorite pose, the favorite one being poor, pitiful-but-plucky victim China, determined to rise up again after two hundred years of humiliation by the West.
Behind the grave, serious, impartial pose, of course, the ChiComs will be helping Putin all they can, in a common spirit of anti-western mischief-making.
04 — What effect will Russia-Ukraine have on us in the U.S.A.? Question Three asked: What effect will Russia-Ukraine have on us in the U.S.A.?
The effect could be pretty dire. A longish quote here from Dmitri Alperovitch writing in The Economist, February 25th, longish quote:
In the economic sphere, Russia can limit the export of strategic resources to the West, including grain, fertiliser, titanium, palladium, aluminium, nickel and timber — to say nothing of possibly calamitous limits on oil and gas exports. Consider that Russia is the world's biggest exporter of fertiliser, without which food prices around the world would rocket. Over 70 percent of neon gas — used in the sophisticated laser-etching technology needed for manufacturing most semiconductors — comes from Ukraine. Russia could easily stop its supply in the event of war. Mr Putin could also take additional measures simply to make life difficult for Westerners, including banning overflight rights for Western airlines on routes to Asia.
I did not know that about neon. Yes: one single chemical plant in the Ukraine — actually in Odessa, west of the Dniepr — supplies 65 percent of the world's production of neon. There's a Trivial Pursuit question for the ages.
It's energy that people have been talking about most, though. Russia is a major exporter of energy in the form of oil and gas; and exporting energy is a major component of Russia's economy.
It helps to state it like that, as an equation with two sides, because the calculation to be made here is whether any kind of restrictions or embargoes on those exports hurt Russia more by depriving her of revenue, or her customers more, by depriving them of energy.
I don't know the answer to that, and I'm not sure anyone else does, either. I do know, though, that we're in a much worse position than we need to be energy-wise because of extremely stupid actions on the part of the Biden administration.
Those actions — shutting down the Keystone pipeline from Canada, banning fracking and new leases on federal lands, restoring regulatory obstacles scrapped by the Trump administration — ended our energy independence at a stroke.
It's commonly said that Biden carried out those actions because he's in thrall to the crazy-green wing of his party, the people who tell us the world will end if we don't stop burning fossil fuels.
Well, maybe. Possibly Joe had it in the back of his mind that it might be smart to appease the climate-change cultists. At the front of his mind, however, was determination to reach The World of Null-T: the world in which nothing whatsoever remains of anything Donald Trump did in his presidency. It all had to be annulled, zeroed out, as if it had never happened.
As I noted last August, quoting myself:
Remember those pictures from back then in January of Biden at his desk in the Oval Office, working through a big stack of Trump's executive orders, canceling every one? Do you think he paused to read them? Do you think that now and then he thought: "Wait a minute: this one makes sense … maybe we should keep it"? Nope: He just plowed through canceling every one. If Trump did it, it's bad: Cancel it! The World of Null-T.
05 — The low-TFR war. There are some cultural aspects worth noting on the Russia-Ukraine war.
This is the first national-scale war of Slavs against Slavs since the Poland-Russia bout a hundred years ago. At any rate it is if you count the fighting when Yugoslavia broke up in the 1990s as ethnic, not really national. Which, obviously, I do.
In that fighting Russia seems mainly to have sided with the Serbs, perhaps seeing them as the closest of all their Slavic brothers down there on account of belonging overwhelmingly to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
And speaking of religion, I was surprised to learn that there may be a religious angle to Russia-Ukraine. Here's a quote from Giles Fraser at Unherd.com, February 24th, quote:
In 2019, the Ukrainian arm of the family of Orthodox churches declared its independence from the Russian Orthodox Church — and the nominal head of the Orthodox family, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, supported it. The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, described this as "a great victory for the devout Ukrainian nation over the Moscow demons, a victory of good over evil, light over darkness."
That's led to a good old-fashioned schism, although I don't believe the word filioque has played any part this time around.
Putin is of course on the Russian side of this schism, and quite passionately so. His mother was a devout Christian, and according to Fraser Putin sees himself as, quote, "the true defender of Christians throughout the world," end quote. The Russian Orthodox Church is the focus of his spiritual loyalty; and Kyiv, where that church was founded in a.d. 988, is a key objective in this current military campaign.
Another cultural aspect of this war is that it is the first of any significance to be fought in demographic modernity.
By "demographic modernity" I mean low fertility, declining workforce, swelling number of geezers. Russia's Total Fertility Rate is 1.5; a tad better than it was in the disastrous 1990s, but not even close to replacement level. Population has been on a steady decline since 2020, should have halved by the end of the century.
Ukraine's in even worse demographic shape than that. David Goldman at Asia Times, a good reliable source for things like this, quotes 1.23 for the TFR. Goldman also notes massive rates of emigration, with two-fifths of prime working-age Ukrainians earning their living abroad. The projection shows Ukraine's population wellnigh disappearing by 2100.
As well as the cold statistics, there's a human angle to those numbers. Low TFR means one or two children as the norm, which means a half to one male children … something to bear in mind when you see those pictures of young Ukrainian women in military fatigues.
One more note on the cultural aspect, this one a crushing blow to Vladimir Putin: I see at the BBC website that Russia will not be allowed to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest this May. Let it not be said that the Europeans can't act in solidarity against Russian aggression.
06 — Thirty years of folly. When I was a kid growing up in England in the years after WW2 there was regular news about the great economic successes of Germany and Japan. The adults all grumbled about this, saying: "We won the war but it looks like we're losing the peace."
I feel somewhat the same about the Cold War. We won it, no doubt about that. In the thirty years since, though, we really don't have anything to be proud of. Dumb, unnecessary wars with no victories; ugly social divisions; dumbed-down schools and colleges; politicized justice; … It's been thirty years of folly and decline.
Browsing Twitter the other day, I came across a kindred spirit — a tweeter who feels the same way I feel about out post-Cold-War trajectory. This is Carlo Lancellotti, Professor of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island. You can depend on a mathematician for clear-sightedness.
Here was Professor Lancelotti in a multipart tweet Thursday. His theme, quote: "Thinking of the 'top ten' follies perpetrated by the Western ruling class during my adult life," end quote.
I hope the good professor won't mind if I just quote his top ten follies. Here we go, slightly edited.
There are some nits you can pick there, but it's not a bad summary. We elect our ruling classes to think up and execute policies to the national advantage — for the general security and prosperity of all citizens, and the improvement of our lives. What we actually get is stupidity, waste, and lies.
Isn't there some way we can figure to get a better ruling class? One that's selfless, patriotic, and smart? Or does the stupidity lie with us, that we keep electing these numbskulls?
I'm just wondering …
07 — The other war. So much for the war over there. How about the war over here? I mean of course the Cold Civil War between Goodwhites and Badwhites, Tutsis and Hutus; between urban college-educated progressives and mean, unwashed good ol' boys with guns, Bibles, and pickup trucks.
In relation to this, I note that tomorrow, Saturday, is February 26th, the tenth anniversary of George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
That shooting was, I think, a key milestone on the road to the extraordinary anti-white racial hysteria of today. Among other things it gave us the fashionable and extremely well-financed anti-white terrorist organization Black Lives Matter, which came into existence following Zimmerman's acquittal at trial in July 2013.
That trial was reasonably well-conducted, in spite of efforts by the media, notably NBC, to edit Zimmerman's phone calls to make him sound anti-black.
The main effort to rig the trial against Zimmerman came from Benjamin Crump, attorney for Martin's family. Trayvon Martin had been on the phone with his girlfriend right up to the final struggle. That girlfriend, however, was unwilling to testify in court, so Crump used her half-sister Rachel Jeantel as a substitute. This backfired, though, Rachel Jeantel being such a poor witness her mumbled, incoherent testimony was probably a key factor in getting Zimmerman acquitted.
This wasn't as much of a setback to the anti-white Tutsi establishment as it might have been as Zimmerman was not in fact very white. His mother is an immigrant from Peru, part-indigenous; his first language was Spanish; his great-grandfather was black. Not really an authentic Hutu.
Fate has recently been much kinder to the anti-whites. It gave them, in succession, the Brunswick Three, Derek Chauvin, and Kimberly Potter.
Taking the last case first: Kimberly Potter is the white female Minneapolis police officer who drew her pistol in error, thinking it was her taser. She shot a black perp. Last Friday she was sentenced for first- and second-degree manslaughter. She got a two-year sentence, although there's a good case to be made that what she did was lawful homicide, and I'll be interested to see what happens on appeal.
Derek Chauvin was likewise a white police officer accused of unlawfully killing a black perp; the Brunswick Three — Greg and Travis McMichael and Roddie Bryan — were Hutu males right out of Central Casting: working-class Georgians with — yes! — guns and a pickup truck. They too were accused of unlawfully killing a black person.
Show trials were duly staged, Derek Chauvin and the Brunswick Three being tossed into the volcano to appease the Diversity God.
This week saw further developments in both cases. The defendants in the Derek Chauvin case you could call the Minneapolis Three: the three police officers who were present with Chauvin when George Floyd went to his reward. They have a state trial scheduled for this June on charges of aiding and abetting the unlawful killing of Floyd.
What we had this week was a verdict, Thursday, on the federal "civil rights" charges against the three. And no, this is absolutely, totally not double jeopardy. If you think so you are at best a pitiful ignoramus with no understanding of the law, and at worst probably a Nazi.
The verdict on the Minneapolis Three was of course guilty. Sentencing procedures will start next week. Then in June the state trial — which, once again, will not be an instance of double jeopardy. No way! Absolutely not!
Finally, the Brunswick Three, all of whom were sentenced to life in prison last November on state charges of having murdered famous jogger Ahmaud Arbery.
Tuesday this week they got the federal treatment. All were found guilty of federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping.
I get the hate crimes thing: it means having bad thoughts, right? I can't understand the attempted kidnapping charge, though. I followed this case pretty closely and I can't recall any point at which the defendants grabbed Arbery and tried to tie him up and drag him away.
I guess "kidnapping" means something else in Georgia law: hailing a guy on an open street and asking him to stop so you could talk to him, perhaps.
What's that you say? Double jeopardy? Shut up! for goodness' sake. You don't know anything.
As if the show trials of the Brunswick Three weren't appalling enough, the Georgia state legislature has topped them off with a nasty little insult. They have passed a resolution designating February 23rd, the date of Ahmaud Arbery's passing, to be celebrated this year and for ever after in the state of Georgia as Ahmaud Arbery Day.
One of the co-sponsors of the resolution, I note was a Republican, Don Hogan. Yep, that's the GOP we know and love.
The legislature's resolution encourages celebrants to run 2.23 miles on that day to advocate for racial equality. That is, of course, in addition to burning votive candles and prostrating themselves before images of the deceased. Who says religion is disappearing from our public life?
09 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Something to look forward to: Next Tuesday at 9pm our President will deliver his first State of the Union address. I keep advising presidents to revert to the more traditional method of just having the address typed up and mailed to the congresscritters, but they don't listen.
In Joe Biden's case, he really should have. With the best teleprompter in the world, this is going to be embarrassing to watch: A guy who can barely remember to put verbs in his sentences, trying to make bad news sound good.
Well, enjoy. I'm going to have to miss it. Tuesday's the evening I give the family dog his enema.
Item: As expected, President Biden has nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. This is the black female he promised us.
I don't doubt that she's as progressive as all get-out; but from what I have read, she's not as dumb as Sonia Sotomayor, so there is that.
What's her confession, though? The present court is two Jews and seven Catholics. If she's Catholic too, then when she takes Breyer's place it'll be eight Catholics and one Jew. What are we Protestants, chopped liver? Why can't we have a court that prays like America?
Item: I intended to close with some remarks about the Winter Olympics, which closed on Sunday in Peking. I did my best with the Games. I even managed to watch a few minutes of curling before I lost the will to live.
Now I step up to the line, though, I can't think of a thing to say. In lieu of my own thoughts, therefore, I'll quote you the summary from The New York Times, February 20th, quote:
For all of China's efforts to carry on the Winter Games with a festive spirit, Beijing 2022 unfolded as a joyless spectacle: constricted by a global health disaster, fraught with geopolitical tensions, tainted once again by accusations of doping and overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine.
"A joyless spectacle." I think that sums it up perfectly.
10 — Signoff. That's all I have, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening; and if you missed Ahmaud Arbery Day on Wednesday, remember that tomorrow is Trayvon Martin Day, so you can observe that in lieu. It's not official yet, but I feel sure it soon will be.
I heard a faint rumbling close behind me from Time's wingéd chariot this week, hearing that Gary Brooker died last Saturday. Brooker founded the pop group Procol Harum back in 1966. The following year the group had a mega-hit with the song "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Brooker was English by birth, and just four days older than me: hence that faint rumbling … or perhaps it was only indigestion. Whatever: Rest in peace, Gary.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Procol Harum, "A Whiter Shade of Pale."]