• Play the sound file
[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome, listeners, from your determinedly genial host John Derbyshire with VDARE.com's weekly survey of the passing charivari.
Hoo boy, is the news depressing, or what? I joke about just giving up following the news altogether, but it's one of those jokes with a serious inner core to it.
However, we're personally locked into the world and its news, whether or not we want to be. We're locked in by concern for ourselves, our savings, our children and grandchildren and the country we'll leave to them when we're gone.
We're locked in by patriotic affection for and gratitude to the nation that's let us live our lives in comfort and security … well, mostly, and assuming it didn't get us killed in some pointless war or leave us broke from some avoidable financial crisis. And concerning that war and that crisis, we'd rather they not be too much of a surprise when they happen.
So we're stuck with the news, and all the craziness and folly it reports.
I often get frustrated or angry reading the news. But then Mrs Derbyshire drops by my study to give me a taste of some dessert she's concocting, or our daughter comes calling with baby Michael, now almost four months old, gurgling and grinning gummy grins at us, or an email from an old friend arrives inviting me to dinner …
Or else I spot an uplifting story amid all the depressing sludge on the news websites: some story of human determination, of not giving up, like that one this week about the private-plane passenger in Florida with no flying experience whose pilot went unconscious on him. Air traffic controllers talked him down and he made a safe landing. Well done, Sir!
And then I get my sense of proportion back. Sure, there is stupidity and craziness out there. There's a lot of good to correct the balance, though; and the pleasures and satisfactions of private life further console us for the failures and absurdities of public life.
So I have plenty of negativity to give you, but I shall be sure to lighten it up with whatever positive news I can find. OK? Let's get moving.
02 — Refugee settlement by affinity. Last night, Thursday night, I attended a CIS event in New York City.
CIS is the Center for Immigration Studies. They're based in Washington, D.C. but they hold occasional events in New York City. They have good speakers with interesting things to say about immigration.
These New York events were suspended for the duration of the COVID panic. That panic now being over — by general popular agreement, if not by government declaration — CIS has resumed them. I was glad to be there for this first one following the resumption.
CIS, I should say, has no formal relationship with VDARE.com. They don't endorse anything we say, and we don't endorse anything they say. Our positions are more radical than theirs. For example: To the best of my knowledge, CIS have never called for a total immigration moratorium, as we have. Also, they limit themselves very strictly to immigration issues, not venturing into other topics related to multiculturalism and national identity, as we do.
None of that has prevented the Southern Poverty Law Center and their glove puppets at Wikipedia from designating CIS as an extremist group of hateful racists filled with hate, burning crosses on immigrants' front lawns and so on.
That's for CIS themselves to deal with though — which they do, calmly and professionally. VDARE and CIS are, as I said, unrelated organizations with different approaches. However, sharing CIS's interest in immigration issues, I naturally attend their events when I can, to hear what their invited speakers have to say.
So there I was on Thursday night to hear a Hungarian scholar, Kristóf György Veres, give us his country's perspective on immigration into the West. As a Hungarophile from way back, I was particularly interested in what Dr Veres had to say.
He did not disappoint. Speaking in excellent English, he took us through some basic issues with the official, UN-sanctioned definitions of terms like "refugee" and "asylum seeker." Then he described the events of the mid-2010s, when people escaping the Syrian civil war, mixed in with opportunists from places further east and south, flooded up through the Balkans. At its south Hungary has nearly four hundred miles of border with Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, so the flood hit Hungary with full force.
Hungary responded appropriately; appropriately, I mean, to the ideals of national sovereignty we cherish here at VDARE.com. They built a good stout double barrier fence along their southern border and defended it very vigorously against would-be invaders — water cannon, tear gas, nightsticks and hand-to-hand engagement when unavoidable.
That solved the problem. It also offered a splendid example of how to solve this kind of problem, for any other country willing to learn — a category that apparently excludes the U.S.A.
This border also needed a lot of well-trained manpower to keep it secure. When the Russia-Ukraine war started up, that presented the Hungarians with a new problem.
Up in its northeast Hungary has an 85-mile border with Ukraine. Naturally there have been a lot of Ukrainian refugees arriving at that border. This hasn't been so much of a problem in itself since Ukrainian refugees have visa-free access to the European Union nations, of which Hungary is one.
However a lot of people have been showing up at this border who are not Ukrainian nationals. Whose nationals are they? They are nationals, says Dr Veres, of the Middle East, of North Africa, in some cases of sub-Saharan Africa. What were they doing in Ukraine? Studying at colleges there, they tell the Hungarian border guards, or in some cases employed by Ukrainian companies.
Their stories are often hard to verify as Ukrainian corporate HR departments and college administrations have more pressing things on their minds right now than complying with Hungarian requests for documentation. They are mainly young men, too, which distinguishes them from genuine Ukrainian refugees. Ukrainian men are mostly forbidden to leave the country, which needs them for national defense work.
Could it be that some of these non-Ukrainians are opportunists using the war as a way to get into Europe? The Hungarian border force has to investigate this, while also carrying out the routine processing of Ukrainians. That's manpower-intensive, leaving nothing like enough personnel to guard that southern border with the Balkans …
It was fascinating to hear first-hand nitty-gritty stuff like this from a scholar who's researched it and been intimately involved with it. (And I should say that I was listening too intently to take proper notes. If I have mis-represented anything Dr Veres said, I hope he'll email me at VDARE with corrections, which I'll be glad to publish.)
I did, though, hearing those stories about non-Ukrainian refugees from Ukraine following on from Dr Veres' remarks about the official definitions of terms like "refugee" and "asylum seeker," I did find myself thinking that those definitions need work. Most especially I think we need to argue for affinity clauses in the definitions.
Certainly there are genuine refugees and asylum-seekers from Middle East Muslim countries; likewise from Sub-Saharan African countries and East Asian countries — Burma, North Korea — and now, with this war going on, from Ukraine, a Western country. I don't doubt that, and sympathize with these people's sorrows.
There are, however, plenty of stable and prosperous Middle East Muslim, Sub-Saharan African, and East Asian countries. Ukrainian refugees are being taken in and treated well by other Western countries. Why should not refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and so on be similarly taken in by their brother Muslim nations? Why should not refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Congo be taken in by their fellow Africans?
East Asia seems to be much less of an issue here. The Rohingyas of Burma, who are mostly Muslims, have been taken in by Bangladesh, although not always with good grace. North Koreans only want to go to South Korea, and South Korea takes them.
And in regard to Muslim nations and Sub-Saharan Africans, I should qualify what I've said by noting that some Muslim countries, notably Jordan and Turkey, have taken in big numbers of their fellow Muslims; similarly, Kenya, and I think Uganda, have taken in refugees from neighboring trouble spots in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Now I can hear you saying: Come on, Derb, you're being a bit naïve, aren't you? Refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Burma don't want to be settled in Jordan, or Kenya, or Bangladesh. They want to be in the West, where the living is good. Didn't you hear Dr Veres use the phrase "asylum shoppers"?
Yes I did. I also heard him talk about the accusations of racism being levelled against Hungary by people seeing Ukrainians waved through the border into Europe while those darker-skinned non-Ukrainian young men are detained and questioned.
That's why I think the UNHCR, that is the United Nations refugee agency, needs to get to work putting affinity clauses into its rules. It should be the case, wherever possible — and it's hard to think of situations where it wouldn't be possible — for refugees and asylum seekers to be taken in by nations with which they share some cultural affinity.
Wouldn't that be better for the refugees, sparing them the problems of assimilation into alien environments? Wouldn't it also be better for the host countries, sparing them the trouble, the frictions and the expense, of settling thousands of really, seriously foreign people in their towns and cities?
You might respond that yes, maybe it would; but how do we get the United Nations, which is an anti-Western organization, to change its rules in a way that would keep Third World refugees out of Western nations?
That's a tough one, I'll agree; but there must be some avenues we could pursue. How about we threaten to stop helping fund the UNHCR until they get to work on those affinity clauses? For full effect, of course, we'd want other Western countries to join us in threatening. We should at least set an example, though.
And what about the shrieks of RACISM! that would inevitably rise up all around?
I don't see any way to avoid that; but there are things we could do to impose affinity standards without any mention of race. The expression "cultural distance" is already current, and so far as I can tell quite respectable, in discussions of related issues. It won't stop the most fanatical anti-white ideologues from shrieking, but it might pass muster with the U.N. rule-writers, if seasoned with some financial incentives …
So, an interesting and thought-provoking event in New York City last night. The main thoughts it provoked in me were about the need to get affinity clauses into the international rules on refugees and asylum.
Is there any prospect of success with that? Well, I wouldn't bet the farm on it; but we'll be doing something useful if we can just get the concept out there in general discussion. If people don't like the word "affinity" by all means let's use "cultural distance" instead. I won't quibble over an extra syllable.
There's a lot to be said for just getting ideas out there. You never know who'll pick them up.
03 — Putin KBOs. The Russia-Ukraine war rumbles on. Five weeks ago I predicted that while the war was clearly, at that point, not going according to plan, Putin would keep buggering on until Ukraine was totally destroyed.
My assumption there was that sheer numbers and resources would prevail at last; and Russia has way bigger numbers and far more resources than Ukraine. That didn't seem to me like an extravagantly imaginative assumption.
Now, five weeks further on, it really looks as though the Russians are floundering. Their big Donbas offensive is stuck in the mud, the EU is pouring money into Ukraine and seems serious about an embargo on Russian oil, and Finland and Sweden want to join NATO. Things are not going Putin's way.
That itself might be a bad sign. With his war going nowhere and his health failing, Putin might think he has nothing to lose, and so do something dumb and nasty. My own best guess is still what it was five weeks ago: He'll keep buggering on, keep pounding, until Ukraine's been totally rubbled. I'll admit I'm not as sure now as I was then, though.
What does all this mean for us in America? It wouldn't mean anything if we'd quit NATO thirty years ago, as we should have. Russia-Ukraine is a European war and we should stay the heck out of it. We can't, though, because of NATO. We're involved, whether we like it or not.
What we should be doing at this point, given that we swing a lot of weight in NATO, is use that weight to force the Ukrainians to negotiate with Putin before things get out of control.
What our government is actually doing is egging the Ukrainians on. There seems to be no pressure on them at all to negotiate a settlement. Tuesday this week our House of Representatives approved a $40 billion package of, quote "military, economic and humanitarian support" to Ukraine.
That's seven billion more than I reported last week. Our president had requested $33 billion, quote from self, "that's a neat hundred bucks for every man, woman, and child in these United States." End quote.
Our elected representatives raised that 33 billion to forty billion, so now it's 120 bucks each. I guess that's in line with the inflation everyone's talking about. Eh: a billion here, a billion there, …
The U.S. Senate has to vote up the forty billion of course; and under the procedural rules for fast-action resolutions like this, the vote has to be unanimous. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has scotched that, saying he won't vote for the bill on the grounds that, quote "the United States cannot continue to spend money we don't have … because doing so is threatening our own national security."
Don't worry, though. Under the rules, all that Rand Paul can do is delay the vote by a few days. The Ukrainians will get their forty billion, you can be sure. Senator Paul is obviously a dangerous radical.
I'll be sitting down and writing a check for my own $120 contribution to Ukraine as soon as I'm through recording this podcast.
04 — Inflation, shminflation. Did I mention inflation back there? It's all over the news. I've noticed it in passing — a sixty-dollar tab at the gas pump and so on — as I'm sure we all have; but Mrs Derbyshire is more agitated about it than I am as she does pretty much all the family shopping. The price of meat, she tells me, is up in the stratosphere.
Here we are in the area of economic policy. I used to know a lot about this. I worked for sixteen years at a bond brokerage, coding up their reports on credit and risk management. (Credit is how exposed the firm is to defaults by trading counterparties; risk management is how exposed the firm is to fluctuations in global variables like interest rates and currency exchange rates.) By the time I left I could talk knowledgeably about M2 money supply, inverting the yield curve, and all that stuff.
I've been out of that world for twenty-odd years now, and have forgotten most of what I knew. Some things I can still assert with fair confidence, though.
Here's one: Inflation is what happens when a government prints too much money. Why do governments do this? Same reason a dog licks its weenie: because they can. If the people are disgruntled, give 'em some cash. They'll soon get gruntled again and vote for you next election.
Here's another one: Not only can governments print as much money as they want to, they can borrow as much as they want to, by printing up bonds and selling them. There need to be willing buyers, of course: but when the face of the bond says "U.S. Treasury," there always are, because bond-buyers know how secure, stable, and — if push comes to shove — self-sufficient the U.S.A. is.
As always with borrowing money, though, issuing bonds is expensive. The issuer has to pay the coupon; and then, at maturity, the principal. If interest rates go up, bond issuers have to raise their coupon rates to compete in the debt markets, so now issuing bonds is more expensive.
So don't raise interest rates, right? Uh, yeah, but raising interest rates is the only known cure for inflation, so we're back to inflation.
Also back to the United States Congress sending forty billion dollars to Ukraine. Overwhelming majorities in both houses support this. The vote was 368 to 57 in the House; and as I said, the only opposition in the Senate is from Rand Paul, and that's just a nuisance delaying tactic.
The Ukrainians will get their money, and all the other interest groups will get theirs. Uncle Sam can print cash and he can print bonds. Let's get those printing presses humming! Inflation, shminflation.
05 — Two cheers for crypto. A sidebar story to the current financial news is the collapse of the cryptocurrency markets. Some currencies have been wiped out altogether. Bitcoin, the flagship crypto, is at its lowest point for two years.
This has been the occasion of much schadenfreude. A lot of people have jeered at crypto from its first appearance. Our family accountant is one of them. "No store of value," he scoffed when I raised the issue with him. "Tulip mania!"
The reason I'd raised the issue with my accountant was, I hold some Bitcoin. I acquired it wa-a-ay back, when Bitcoin was trading at a few hundred dollars per. The advice I got at that time was to just hold on to it for twenty years or so, keeping it safe in a hardware wallet. I've followed that advice, and there it still sits. There it will still sit ten years from now, unless I'm driven to desperate financial straits.
Or unless Bitcoin itself disappears, which this week is looking possible.
Not that it hasn't always looked possible. Two or three years ago I encountered an old friend from my Wall Street days, one of the smartest finance and economics guys I know. What did he think of Bitcoin? I asked him. He, quote: "By year 2030 one Bitcoin will be trading at either over a million dollars or zero … and nobody knows which." End quote.
My holding is small and cost me next to nothing, so my financial peace of mind won't be much disturbed either way. As someone who distrusts government, though, and who especially distrusts government management of the economy, I am pro-crypto in a vague and general way; plus of course I wouldn't mind having a few million in the bank. So I wish the crypto markets well.
And well might happen. In the years I've held my Bitcoins there have been some wild swings. Perhaps this is just another one. The crypto boosters were actually telling us a year ago to be ready for a "crypto winter."
Another crypto winter. Just three years ago Bitcoin, the little blighter, plunged from over thirteen thousand dollars to less than four thousand in a few months. Crypto investing is not for the faint of heart.
And please don't take this as an endorsement of crypto as a solid long-term investment that just suffers short-term volatility. As you can tell, I don't take crypto too seriously. I was around Wall Street long enough to know that all investing is a form of gambling; and the rule for gambling, unless you're a reckless thrill-seeker, is, don't gamble more than you can afford to lose.
All that said, I'm still going to cheer on crypto as a harmless way to poke a finger in the government's eye, and possibly be in at the ground floor of an economic revolution.
06 — Yes we can! I promised you something positive, so here it is.
As I have often mentioned, I've been a science geek from childhood. We science geeks have a phrase: "the sense of wonder." That's the thrill we get from learning how the universe is put together, from teeny little subatomic particles to galaxy clusters.
The evidence of how it's put together — the evidence that it's put together like this, not like that — comes from the work of real scientists after years, even decades, of work.
And much more often than not, that work is team work, many scientists collaborating to tease out truths about the physical world.
Example: The Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration of more than 300 scientists from 13 institutions using radio telescopes all around the world, including Greenland and even Antarctica, to pool the data from all these telescopes as a way to investigate black holes.
Here's my short course in black holes.
Step outside, pick up a pebble, and throw it vertically upwards. What happens? What happens is of course that the pebble leaves your hand at some speed — a few feet per second — ascends for a while, ever more slowly because Earth's gravity is pulling at it, until it stops momentarily before falling back down.
If you throw it up so it leaves your hand at some higher speed, it'll ascend higher before falling back down. Faster yet, higher yet. If it leaves your hand at seven miles per second or more, it will never fall back down.
Why? Because at that speed — we're talking 25,000 miles an hour — the pebble is still heading upwards when it's so far up, the Earth's gravitational pull is weakened by the distance. The pull gets weaker and weaker as the distance increases; and yes, it's still there, and the pebble is still slowing down, but the force of gravity is next to nothing while the pebble's still going up, however slowly, so it escapes at last. Escape velocity.
Now suppose the Earth were much denser than it is; twice as dense, ten times as dense. The gravitational pull would be much stronger. You'd guess that your pebble would need a much bigger escape velocity to, you know, escape — to prevent being pulled back down. Instead of seven miles a second, it might need throwing upwards at seventy miles a second, or seven hundred, or seven thousand.
We're going to hit a limit, though. It's a well-known fact, very firmly established in physics, that nothing can travel faster than 186,282.4 miles per second, the speed of light in a vacuum. So if the Earth were dense enough to have that as escape velocity from its surface, nothing could possibly escape — not even light!
That's a black hole, and that's why it's black.
So wait: What's the point of trying to make an image of a black hole with a telescope? There won't be any image. The durn thing is black.
True, but extremely weird things happen near a black hole. The gravitational force is terrific, and sucks in lots of interstellar gas and dust, compressing it to high temperatures so it glows. That you can image with a telescope. The particular shape of that glowing cloud, and the speed it's rotating at, and the special characteristics of its glow, tell you there's a black hole present.
End of short course.
There are black holes all over the universe. There's one at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy. That puts it a hundred and eighty thousand trillion miles away. That's our very special black hole, four million times more massive than the Sun. It has a name: the Sagittarius A*.
The news this week, published Thursday in a professional journal for astrophysicists, is that the international collaboration I mentioned, that Event Horizon Telescope group, have made a decent image of Sagittarius A*. The images don't show much; but if you're on board with the sense-of-wonder thing, they'll make you swoon.
For further swooning, we are now getting some really good images from the James Webb Space Telescope, launched last December as a more powerful replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope. Webb has been going through tests and calibrations this past few months; but that phase is pretty much through, and she should be officially operational next month. We science geeks can't wait.
What, you're not a science geek and don't know why you should care? Well, how about this?
For all the folly and stupidity in our public life; for all that our national legislature doesn't legislate about anything important, preferring to leave that to judges; for all that our national executive doesn't enforce the people's laws; for all that the authorities wreck the lives of harmless people for having the wrong opinions, or being the wrong color — the wrong color of course being white; for all that our universities, our media, our corporations, and even our elementary schools are united in crackpot cults that deny the plainest realities of human nature; for all the lunacy and spite, we can still accomplish tremendous feats of scientific achievement.
All is not lost!
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items. Just a couple.
Imprimis: Do you really need more evidence that our ruling class detests us, the ordinary America people, and is hastening with all possible speed to replace us with cheaper and more manageable peasants from the Third World? You do? Well, here's some pretty plain evidence from this morning's news.
As you probably know, there's a nationwide shortage of baby formula. Mothers … I beg your pardon: birthing persons from sea to shining sea are howling that they can't find the stuff to feed their infants with. My own daughter, with a three-month-old baby to deal with, has been moaning about it.
Yes, the baby-formula shelves all over are empty … except at the Ursula Migrant Processing Center in McAllen, Texas. The word "migrant" there of course means foreigners crossing our southern border illegally, often with nursing children.
Quote from this morning's New York Post, quote:
Border Patrol facilities across the southern border of the US are stocked with infant formula, Brandon Judd, the president of the union that represents Border Patrol agents told The Post. [Inner quote.] "If [the Biden] Administration was not encouraging vulnerable women and children to put themselves in the hands of dangerous cartels, by incentivizing illegal immigration through the catch and release program, then the formula that is currently overstocked at the border patrol facilities could go on the shelves." [End inner quote.]
How many more insults does the Biden administration have to dump on our heads before there are impeachments? How much more flagrant do the insults have to be? How much more flagrant could they be?
Item: Here's a news story that is trying to tell us something. I'm not sure what it's trying to tell us — I'll leave you to figure that out for yourelf.
In the very small hamlet of Trenton, South Carolina — population 196 — there lived 60-year-old Joseph McKinnon with his 65-year-old girlfriend, Patricia Dent.
Last Saturday morning, for reasons unknown, Mr McKinnon strangled Ms Dent to death. He then. of course, was stuck with the problem of corpse disposal. People just never think these things through beforehand, do they?
Well, Mr McKinnon got a shovel from his shed, dug a nice big six-by-three hole in his yard, tied up the lady's body and wrapped it in trash bags, dragged it out and across the yard, pitched it into the hole he'd dug, and began shoveling soil on it.
Before he could properly finish, though, Mr McKinnon suffered a heart attack and keeled over dead.
As I said, feel free to draw your own conclusions. My own would be that if you're going to engage in so much strenuous activity at age sixty, try to pace yourself through it, drawing it out over several days if possible.
08 — Signoff. That's it for this week, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and for your entertaining and instructive emails.
For signout music I'm going to go all British on you. Worse than that, in fact: I'm going to go nineteen-eighties British on you.
In that otherwise undistinguished decade there ran on British TV a series flagged by IMDb as "Comedy Crime Drama," title: Minder. It featured two shady London men doing shady things on the fringes of legality, and generally making some kind of a mess of them.
I loved the show; was a devoted viewer until I left for these shores in 1985. You can sample it for yourself on YouTube if you feel inclined.
The younger of the two principals was played by an actor named Dennis Waterman. Dennis also sang the very catchy opening song for each episode, title: "I Could Be So Good for You."
Well, Dennis Waterman died last Sunday in a Spanish hospital, aged 74. Here, in memory of an actor who gave me much amusement, and also because the darn thing has been stuck in my ear since hearing of his passing this week, here is that opening song. Thanks, Dennis.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Dennis Waterman, "I Could Be So Good for You."]