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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, dobro guitar version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your experimentally genial host John Derbyshire, teeming with a lot of news about the state of our nation and the world.
First, just a little bulletin-board item. I normally try to gather these up a week or so into each month and post them at VDARE.com under the heading "From Derb's Email Bag." I've gotten behind this month, though, for which I offer my apologies.
That's caused some readers of my March Diary to grumble that I haven't posted a solution to the math brainteaser therein. Well, I just did. The solution is on my own website, johnderbyshire.com. Go to the navigation box on my main page, pick "Opinions," then from the Opinions page pick "Diaries," then from the Diaries page pick "Math Corner solutions," and Bob's your uncle.
02 — A statistically interesting war. One of the first things I had to say about the Russia-Ukraine war, on Radio Derb back in February when it had just broken out, was that it is the first of any significance to be fought in demographic modernity, between two technologically advanced nations which both have low fertility, a declining workforce, and a swelling number of geezers.
That's interesting in itself, and I'm sure I shall return to it. Here though is another, not necessarily related, observation about this war.
Consider all the nations of the world. From that set, remove all the black African nations. Then remove the nonwhite East and South Asian and Pacific nations. Then remove all the majority-Muslim nations. Then remove all the Latin American nations with a large nonwhite component in their populations. What are you left with?
Well, you are left with nations that you couldn't help thinking of, if you lined 'em up, as white European in their core populations. I don't mean geographically European: Australia and Argentina would be in there, too. I mean demographically European.
OK, put aside for a moment that set of nations you just gathered, get on the internet and bring up Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Every year Transparency International scores all the nations of the world for corruption, as best that can be done. Then they show a ranking, with the least corrupt nation ranked number one, the most corrupt ranked number 180.
The most recent ranking they have published is for the year 2021, last year. Ranked number one, the cleanest country, was Denmark, followed by Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Sweden. Ranked number 180, the most hopelessly corrupt, was South Sudan, with just above it as slightly less corrupt, Syria, Somalia, Venezuela, Yemen, and North Korea.
Now pick up that set of demographically European nations I started with. Working your way up from the bottom of Transparency International's ranked list — which is to say, from South Sudan heading up towards Denmark, at what point do you begin to encounter demographically European nations, nations on my starting list?
I just tried it out for the 2021 rankings. The first hit is Russia, ranked 136. Russia is tied in the scoring with Mali, Liberia, and Angola, just ahead of Myanmar, Mauritania, and Pakistan.
Continuing on up the rankings towards Denmark, the next demographically European nation you encounter is — drum roll, please [drum roll] — Ukraine! She's ranked number 122.
If you keep going up the rankings you get to Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina equal ranked at 110; although since both are heavily Moslem, I'm not sure we should count them. Continuing on upwards, there's Moldova at 105, then Serbia and Argentina, equal ranked at 96.
So of all the world's demographically European nations, easily the most corrupt are Russia and Ukraine.
Conclusion: Not only is this war being fought between two nations in demographic modernity — low fertility, lots of geezers — it's also being fought between two extreme outliers on the scale of corruption for demographically European nations.
Yes: For those of us addicted to statistical tables, this is a very interesting war.
03 — Corruption, culture, and race. Corruption is itself a very interesting subject, that doesn't yield easily to glib analysis. For example: is it just a cultural thing? Or perhaps a race thing, something with ultimately genetic roots?
Well, let's see. I mentioned North Korea way down towards the bottom of the Transparency International list with rank 174. Where's South Korea? Pretty high up, rank number 32; not really stellar, but cleaner than Spain, Israel, Italy, or Poland. Hmm.
That's a very extreme example, though, of the kind you need to be careful with. If you want a parallel, here's one.
It's a well-established fact in the human sciences that parenting style, within normal ranges, has little to no effect on how children turn out as finished adults. Half the variation in adult personalities is due to genes; the other half to "nonshared environment" — not shared, that is, with the siblings amongst whom we were raised.
You might object to that by saying: "C'mon, man. You mean that if I lock my kids in a dark basement their entire childhoods and feed 'em dog food, they'll end up normal adults?" Well, probably not; but that's not parenting within the normal range. I don't think what North Korea's been doing the past seventy years is politics in the normal range, either.
(There is also the issue, raised so far as I know only by JayMan, that North and South Koreans may be significantly different genetic stocks. I'll leave that for another time. The human sciences are complicated.)
Here in New York State, April 2022, we're thinking about political corruption more than usual. Tuesday this week our state's Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin resigned after federal investigators charged him with five counts of bribery. He is no longer Lieutenant Governor; although, in a curious wrinkle, unless he relocates to Paraguay Benjamin will remain on the June 28th Democratic-primary ballot. If he wins on that race he'll be on the November 8th ballot for Lieutenant Governor.
That's a political plus for New Yorkers. Benjamin's resignation takes some more of the shine off the state's current Democratic governorship and, with the expected nationwide Red Wave in November, increases the possibility that we might get a Republican governor.
There wasn't much shine left on the governorship even before Benjamin's disgrace. The last elected governor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned in August last year under a sexual harassment cloud. His lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul became, and still is, acting governor; it was she who took on Benjamin as lieutenant governor.
Hochul herself has turned out to be dimwitted and inept. Since Cuomo selected her and she appointed Benjamin, New Yorkers are griping that what we really need is a governor who knows how to pick a decent second-in-command.
Getting back to the issue of corruption in all generality, is race a factor? Brian Benjamin is black, and years of reading local corruption stories in my breakfast New York Post has left me with a strong impression that blacks, who comprise just one in seven of New York State's population, punch way above their weight in the corruption statistics.
And the over-representation of black African and Caribbean nations in the more-corrupt rankings on that table from Transparency International is hard to miss. If you work down from Denmark at the top, the first such is Barbados, ranked 29th. You don't get to mainland black Africa until Botswana at 45 and Rwanda at 52; but thereafter, heading downwards to "most corrupt," the black nations really come into their own.
And those rankings for Botswana and Rwanda, 45 and 52, are still way, way cleaner than Ukraine at ranking 122 and Russia at 136; so again, hmm.
04 — Four Knows Yang. There is certainly a cultural component to corruption. In nations whose tradition of fair, consensual government is weak or nonexistent, your only guarantor of security and shared propserity is your family. Favoring and enriching family members is then rational, perhaps even praiseworthy.
Historian Paul Johnson, in his book Modern Times, has a quote from Kenya's founding President Jomo Kenyatta at a public meeting back in the 1960s, mocking one of his political opponents for not being corrupt. Sample:
If you go to Kubai's home, he has a big house and a nice plantation. Kaggia, what have you done for yourself? We were together with Kungu Marumba in gaol. Now he is running his own buses. What have you done for yourself?
It's been the same in China all through that country's history. A mandarin who, having gotten himself a good government position, failed to use it to enrich his family and friends, would be thought a fool.
I doubt things have changed much. Transparency International ranks China at number 66, equal ranked with Romania. Oh dear. Taiwan's considerably better: ranked number 25, a couple of ranks cleaner than the U.S.A. at 27.
But now I'm recalling a conversation I overheard between two Chinese acquaintances a year or two ago. The topic was a possible ChiCom assault on Taiwan.
One of the participants, a lady from a military family over there, scoffed at the idea. The ChiCom military is totally corrupt, she said. Officers don't advance by ability; they advance by bribery and family connections. They'd make a total mess of any kind of major military operation.
The other party laughed at that. "Do you think Taiwan's any better? …"
In regard to China, however, I should say that's not the whole story. The Confucian tradition emphasizes self-cultivation and right conduct along with family loyalty, and some of that stuck. My favorite example here is Four Knows Yang.
That's k-n-o-w-s, "knows," not n-o-s-e. The guy didn't have four noses. Mr Yang was a mandarin in the Han Dynasty two thousand years ago. The story goes that one night a man came to his house and offered him a huge bribe to do something or other. Yang refused and told the guy to go away.
The briber persisted. "Come on," he said. "It's night-time and we're alone. Nobody will know." To which Mr Yang replied: "Heaven will know, Earth will know, you will know, and I will know."
Four Knows Yang. That was so admired, they built temples to him — evidence in itself, if you think about it, that Four Knows Yang was the exception, not the rule.
05 — White folks can play, too. European white people don't get off the hook here, of course. It was a British Prime Minister — in fact it was the first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole — who said of his colleagues that, quote: "Every man has his price."
Here in the U.S.A. we've had plenty of acquaintance with political corruption, and white Americans have been well represented. Ordinary Americans have been making quips about corruption pretty much since the founding of the republic. Definition of an honest politician? When he's been bought, he stays bought … Etc., etc. — you all know the kind of thing.
And that Chinese tradition of the mandarin using his power to enrich his family and friends has some unpleasant parallels with current American news stories.
Joe Biden comes immediately to mind here. He has used political power to enrich himself, his son, and his brother, although the regime media are striving mightily to distract our attention from it all. It's not likely Biden will be brought to answer for it. People accept it as part of the system.
Our previous president, Donald Trump, had no need to depend on politics for his own enrichment. In all probability he ended his presidency poorer than when he began it, although still of course impressively rich.
There seems to have been some Chinese-style family enrichment going on here, too, though. The funds in this case are coming in not from Russia, Ukraine, or China, but from Saudi Arabia. The New York Times reported on April 10th that last year the Saudis favored the new private equity firm Affinity Partners with a two billion dollar — that's "billion" with a "b" — investment.
So what? So this: Affinity Partners belongs to Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, who was a senior White House adviser in the Trump administration. He was also a big booster for the Saudis, and got them off the diplomatic hook for various malefactions they have committed. Presumably this two billion dollars — "billion" with a "b" — is payback to Kushner, as well as insurance in the event of a second Trump presidency.
A necessary, although not sufficient, condition for Trump getting my vote if he runs again would be his signing a sworn affidavit — in public, under oath — that Jared Kushner be totally banned from the White House and its grounds for the duration of Trump's second presidency.
Still, American-scale corruption is picayune by comparison with the Russian and Ukrainian variety. Two billion dollars? Estimates of Vladimir Putin's net worth go all the way up to two hundred billion, making him quite possibly the world's richest man.
Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, is nothing like as rich as that, probably only in the one-to-two million dollar zone, although the Russians have put out much higher numbers for propaganda purposes. Ukraine has a good roster of billionaire oligarchs, though; and by no means all of those billions were acquired by making better mousetraps. By no means …
Hunter Biden and Jared Kushner aside, the U.S.A. hasn't actually been that corrupt a nation, as nations go. We make a pretty good showing, especially if you subtract out the states of Illinois and Louisiana.
At the presidential level we've had some moral exemplars, too — our own versions of Four Knows Yang — Calvin Coolidge of course being my favorite. Until the later 20th century our presidents didn't retire into great wealth, unless they'd already had it when elected. It's a shame we've drifted from that old republican (small "r") modesty; but even with today's celebrity culture, we haven't drifted all that far.
And there are some nontrivial conundrums to be tackled in the matter of corruption. Consider Jimmy Carter, for example. So far as I know, there has never been any plausible charge of corruption against Carter: not before his presidency, not during it, not after it. He is squeaky clean. He was, however, by common agreement and the judgment of voters, a simply terrible president.
So there's a conundrum. Who will you vote into the presidency — or the governorship, or the mayoralty, or the House or Senate seat, or the county executive — the squeaky-clean doofus with a head full of dumb ideas, or the slightly-tarnished playah with impressive skill at getting useful things done?
06 — An honest Lefty! Just a footnote to all that. Longtime followers will know that I have for many years been nursing warm feelings towards the nation of Uruguay. That nation is in fact my chosen bolt-hole, should civilization collapse in the Northern Hemisphere while I have time to get away.
Uruguay looks surprisingly clean on the corruption rankings: ranked number 18, a tie with Australia, Belgium, and Japan. It went through some all-too-typically Latin American-style coups and military juntas up to 1985, when Uruguayans got their act together at last and established a stable, modestly prosperous constitutional democracy.
The president for five of these stable years, actually 2010 to 2015, was a chap named José Mujica; and I must say, I like the cut of his jib.
Which is strange because for most of his life Mujica was a Lefty. In his twenties and thirties he actually belonged to the Tupamaros, a Castroite guerilla movement. He was arrested several times, spent a total 13 years in jail, and was only released in 1985, at age fifty, when Uruguay settled for constitutional democracy at last. He was almost 75 when elected president, eighty when he stepped down.
What Mujica is best known for is his austere lifestyle. As president he refused to live in the presidential palace, staying instead on the small farm his wife owns outside the capital. He drove a beaten-up 25-year-old Volkswagen beetle. Corruption? None that I can find. And this is Latin America!
To be sure: having no sons, daughters, sons-in-law, or daughters-in-law, Mujica never faced the Chinese mandarin test. If he had, would he have helped them get rich, Joe Biden style? Or turned a blind eye when they cultivated foreign despots for cash, Donald Trump style? I seriously doubt it.
Lefty or not, José Mujica is an honest man, so far as I can discover. He's 86 now, so I doubt he'll ever be active in politics again. Good luck to you anyway, Señor! Many more years! I hope to see your country one day.
07 — Globalist airheads pretending to be busy. I mentioned Rwanda back there, I forget why. You remember Rwanda … well, if you're over 35 you do. Small country in East-Central Africa, Hutus and Tutsis, got it? Right. Well, Rwanda's in the news.
The actual story here is Britain's problem with illegal Third World immigration. They are swarming in across the English Channel from France: more than five thousand so far this year, and that's with high winds and rough seas. The British government expects more than sixty thousand this year. That would be double last year's number, which was triple the previous year's, which was five times the year before that's. The Brits are running out of graph paper to plot these numbers.
The illegals — mainly unemployable young men from Africa and the Middle East — cross the Channel in small boats laid on for them by smugglers operating from France. The French authorities of course co-operate with the smugglers. They don't want these people in their country. The illegals don't want to be in France, either. Benefits in Britain are much better; and they have relatives and contacts in Britain, and more likely speak English than French.
The British establishment are complete pussies about the whole thing. The official term for the illegals, happily parroted by the media there, is "asylum seekers." In fact the great majority are economic migrants with enough money to pay five thousand dollars or so for a place on a boat. They bring nothing to Britain but pressure on housing and welfare services and the certainty of more crime, terrorism, and ethnic discord.
The British government, headed by a lightweight globalist buffoon named Boris Johnson, has been doing nothing about this for four years now; and this is a government drawn from the ruling Conservative Party. The country's other major parties are even bigger pussies than the Conservatives. They would replace the smugglers' business model with a government-funded ferry service.
My solution, if I were running the British government, would be hulks. That was the name given to decommissioned military ships moored offshore and used to handle the overflow from Britain's prisons in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of my great-great-grandfathers spent time on a prison hulk awaiting transportation to Australia.
The Brits must have plenty of unwanted military and commercial vessels they could easily fit out as hulks, using those 19th-century hulks as a design guide. The accommodation need only be very basic. Heck, if hulks were good enough for my great-great-grandaddy George, they should damn well be good enough for some Iranian or Senegalese wetback.
Well, public discontent has been rising, and even Johnson has felt obliged to do something. What he's done is, he has cut a deal with the government of Rwanda for them to take the illegals off his hands.
The idea is that when illegals arrive they are given some kind of assessment to determine whether they are economic migrants or genuine refugees in distress. Economic migrants will be parked in old military bases, then flown to Rwanda, with no legal right to return to Britain. In return for the Rwandans' hospitality, Britain will pay them a big slab of money: 156 million dollars, says the government, although critics who've worked the numbers say more like 1.8 billion.
If it all sounds a bit far-fetched … it is. The Brits have a mass of so-called "human rights laws" on their books to prevent almost any assertion of national interest against foreigners. A lot of it was inspired, encouraged and practiced by the extremely woke Cherie Blair, horrible wife of the loathsome Tony Blair, who was Britain's Prime Minister for ten years, 1997-2007.
As a result, there is now a mighty, powerful corps of "human rights" lawyers active. These lawyers will leap to the defense of illegals awaiting transportation to Rwanda, postponing their removal indefinitely with innumerable court actions, injunctions, and so on.
Furthermore, the Johnson government is seriously unpopular for reasons nothing to do with immigration: to do with COVID, the cost of living, law and order, and so on. They will probably be voted out in the next election. The party that replaces them will, as I have said, be even more illegal-friendly than the Johnson crowd. Rescinding the agreement with Rwanda will be their first priority.
Hulks might have worked. This Rwanda ploy is just a bunch of globalist airheads trying to look as if they're doing something.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: In my March Diary I noted two words that have been coined to name the same thing. The two words are "hesperophobia" and "occidentalism." The thing they name is what the late Robert Wesson described as, quote, "frustration, rage, and resentment against the West," end quote.
That was in the context of noises coming out of Russia in their war propaganda. It's all the fault of those evil Westerners, goes the line — trying to sneak up on Holy Mother Russia, so they can attack and destroy her. You get similar themes in ChiCom propaganda.
Given that the nations of the West, as we see on the Rio Grande and the English Channel, have not enough national gumption to defend their own borders, let alone go assaulting anyone else's, that's pretty preposterous.
It's also hypocritical. First thing a Russian or Chinese oligarch does after accumulating a few million dollars, is buy property in some Western country. The second thing he does is send his kids to be educated at a Western university.
As a story at the CNN website, April 12th, says, quote:
While their parents publicly rail against the West, their kids grow up in the very countries whose societies they claim to reject … The hypocrisy of Russian officials and their families enjoying the largesse of the West has been an open secret in Russia for years.
Item: For how much longer will there be TV? I mean TV as we have known it these seventy years past: comedies and dramas, news programs with familiar newsreaders, nature programs and chat shows, that millions of people nationwide are all watching at the same time.
My millennial kids don't watch much TV — my son I think none at all, except when visiting us and we have the set on. They're busy with their phones, their streaming services, their video games. TV is for geezers.
I take melancholy satisfaction in knowing that my life, by the time it ends, will have spanned wellnigh all of the TV era. My family got their first set — black & white, of course — when I was thirteen years old, back in the Eisenhower administration — although so far as we were concerned, it was the Macmillan government. This flatscreen Sony model in the living-room is quite likely my last.
Well, thanks, TV. I got pleasure and instruction from you across several decades, on three continents. So thanks, Richard Dimbleby and Cliff Michelmore. Thanks, Jack Warner and Broderick Crawford. Thanks, Johnny Carson and Parky. Thanks, Fei-fei and Frances Yip. Thanks, John Cleese and Carol Burnett.
Thanks to all those names and faces I got to know through the years; some still with us, some not. I watched you while my own life was churning away: good times and bad, happy times and sad. You supplied the background sounds and images.
Thanks for your company, thanks for your cheer. Thanks!
Item: April 11th, this last Monday, marked ten years of Kim Jong-un's leadership in North Korea. He effectively took control when his Dad died in December 2011, but he wasn't formally made the top party and state leader until April 12th 2012.
I'd like to tell you what I said about the event on Radio Derb at the time. Unfortunately I can't. The podcast on Friday, April 6th 2012 was my last for a few weeks. It went out on the website of National Review Online; but they dropped me as a contributor very shortly afterwards. My mellifluent tones next graced the airwaves on May 4th.
It's probably just as well I wasn't available to comment on Kim Jong-un's enthronement. I am sure I would have said that he couldn't possibly last long in office, a year or two at most, inexperienced and frivolous as he seemed to be. That's what all the other pundits were saying. They were wrong, and I would have been, too.
You have to grant this to the hereditary principle: It delivers a lot of surprises.
09 — Signoff. That's all I have, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening; and to my Christian and Jewish listeners, a happy and devout Easter or Passover, as the case may be.
The fact of this being Easter weekend gives me the opportunity to walk back a little on remarks I passed in last week's signoff. I played some Puccini for my signout music, after confessing myself an incorrigible middlebrow where music is concerned, and saying what little success my more musically sophisticated friends have had in getting me to widen my musical horizons.
A little success is more than none, however. While I doubt I shall ever be able to stay awake through an entire opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen or Philip Glass, I have been listening with interest, if not yet unalloyed pleasure, to some of Messiaen's shorter pieces.
These were in a song cycle that French composer Olivier Messiaen wrote for his wife in the 1930s, the Poèmes pour Mi. Here's an Easter-appropriate snippet from the last song in the cycle, Prière exaucée — "Prayer answered." It's sung in French by the great American soprano Renée Fleming. An English translation of the words she's singing goes like this:
Ring out, my heart!
Radio Derb will return with more next week.
[Music clip: Renée Fleming, from Messiaen's Prière exaucée]