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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, traditional instruments version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your marvellously genial host John Derbyshire, here to bring you a glance at the week's news stories with a heavy bias towards skepticism, cynicism, pessimism, and disgust.
Tuesday this week was July 12th. Foremost in my mind, that was my father's birthday. Dad, if he were still among us, would be 123 years old.
We Derbyshire men marry late. My son, when he was in middle school, used to lament that his classmates had grandfathers who'd fought in Vietnam, but, quote: "My grandfather fought in World War One!" End quote. I had to remind him that only one of his grandfathers had done so. The other one fought in the Korean War … on the other side.
That's just personal, though. Less so is that July 12th is a great day for the loyalists of Northern Ireland, of Ulster. "Loyalists" there means the portion of Ulster's population loyal to the British crown, as opposed to the Irish Republic. Back when religious affiliation was the dominant issue, it meant Protestants; nowadays it's mostly just an ethnic-nationalist difference.
July 12th commemorates the Battle of the Boyne, fought in 1690 between King William the Third of England and ex-King James the Second, whom William and England's parliament had deposed but who was trying to make a comeback, as rejected national leaders sometimes will …
More on that later. To us science geeks, July 12th this year was special for reasons utterly unconnected to either the Derbyshire genealogy or British history. Let me open with that.
02 — The girls of NASA. Yes: Tuesday, July 12th was the day that NASA released the first pictures from The James Webb space telescope, the JWT, which was launched on Christmas Day last year.
As I noted at the time, quote from Radio Derb the day before the launch, quote:
In the matter of telescopes at least, we are still the can-do nation. At any rate, we're willing to try — to attempt big, bold, expensive projects that have no other purpose than to enlarge our understanding of Creation.
The Christmas Day launch was successful, the JWT has been parked in orbit half a million miles from the Earth's surface, its many complex systems have been deployed and tested, and it is now working at what is was made for.
And on Tuesday we got the first pictures. I watched the NASA one-hour livestream, which is now of course on YouTube — just go to YouTube and key in "NASA first images." If you do so, you'll have company: Friday morning, just three days after the livestream, the YouTube version had over two and a half million views.
If you are not a science geek, it's hard to explain the excitement of an event like this. Old science fiction fans talk about "the sense of wonder." If you understand that phrase, you probably got the sense of wonder early in life from reading sci-fi and pop-science articles. If you don't understand it, I can't transmit it to you. It's to do with the inconceivably vast stretches of space and time we dwell in, with the things that dwell with us in those stretches, and how they are born and die, and what it all means for our own existence.
I got the bug around age seven or eight from reading my Uncle Fred's collection of sci-fi and pop-science books. A few years later I marveled at the pictures from our first interplanetary probes. I shared the general astonishment — general, I mean, among science geeks — when Mariner 4 sent back the first good images of the surface of Mars. They showed craters! We'd been expecting canals.
My sense of wonder even overrides my skepticism of big government projects. The Apollo program — of which the best written account is still the book by Mr and Mrs Charles Murray — stirred me to my depths. Forty years later in fact I wrote that, quote: "Apollo was an extravagance, a folly. But what a glorious, soul-stirring folly!" End quote.
I'm afraid I still feel that way. If our national government is to spend scads of our money on projects, better those projects should do something to enlarge our understandings and awe our imaginations. Hey, it beats building pyramids.
Tuesday's livestream hit all the right buttons. They showed us five of those first images: dancing galaxies, stars being born and dying, a planet orbiting a distant star, and a deep field picture.
It was the deep field picture that got the most publicity. In astronomical jargon, a deep field picture captures a tiny patch of sky on a very long exposure, so that extremely faint objects have time to register on the photographic plate.
Tuesday's deep field picture showed objects far, far away, objects we could not have seen before JWT. Because light takes its time travelling to us, plodding along at sixty-seven million miles an hour, "far, far away" is a synonym for "long, long ago." These images show the state of affairs when the universe was very young, which in this context means less than a billion years old. Amazing!
[Sorry, that should be 670 million miles an hour. Lost a zero somehow multiplying 186,000 by 3,600.]
The presentation of these marvels was of course all warped to conform to our Cultural Revolution. The main presenter was an astronomer named Michelle Thaller. A big majority of her guests were female. (See here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
Now look. I have no doubt that some astronomers are women. I'm sure they are capable and hard-working astronomers. However, from some slight acquaintance with the higher levels of scientific research, and a fair knowledge of the human sciences, I very seriously doubt that the proportion of astronomers who are female is anything remotely like the proportion presented to us on the NASA livestream Tuesday.
I can't find statistics for any date later than 2017, when women earned 33 percent of astronomy bachelors' degrees and 40 percent of astronomy doctorates. That, remember, is from an academic environment where administrators are under terrific political pressure to push women into the hard sciences because … equity! Even so, we're looking at minorities there.
I doubt the numbers have moved much in five years. So why was the NASA livestream such a girls' show?
My own cynicism suggests that they originally aimed for perfect equity, with lots of black astronomers as well as women. Black astronomers are kind of thin on the ground, though. Sure, I know about Neil deGrasse Tyson, but one swallow doesn't make a summer.
Unable to come up with any blacks, NASA just decided to go all out with the women as a second best.
Whatever. This is propaganda overkill. It's a regular feature of our Cultural Revolution. They don't just want to tell you that there are capable women working in hard-science fields like astronomy, which of course is true; they want to bang you over the head with it until you're down on the floor begging for them to stop.
03 — Canceling the Founders. I got a similar vibe from this week's news stories about Monticello.
Monticello is of course the estate of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia, preserved for nearly two hundred years now as a monument to the author of the Declaration of Independence. Monticello is a National Historic Landmark and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's run by a private non-profit named the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
Now that foundation has gone woke, just like well-nigh every non-profit, every business corporation, every school and college, most of the media and social media, all goverment departments, and even — Heaven help us! — the armed forces.
If you go to visit Monticello in hopes of gaining some understanding of how our nation came to be, brace yourself for a deep-immersion seminar in Critical Race Theory. Thomas Jefferson was, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation wants you to know, a simply terrible person.
And like NASA pushing all those gals on you, they don't just mention Jefferson's defects in passing: they bang you over the head with them until you're dizzy. One visitor to Monticello told the New York Post that, quote:
The whole thing has the feel of propaganda and manipulation … People on my tour seemed sad and demoralized.
Yes, that's how the Red Guards want us: sad and demoralized. Makes us easier to control, you see?
A few months ago in my diary I wrote something about historical guilt. What I wrote seems apt to this topic. I am therefore going to take the liberty of just reading it to you, slightly edited down. Here you go, long quote.
East Asians seem not to bother much with collective guilt. I know plenty of overseas Chinese who are perfectly aware of the horrors of communism; but I have never heard any of them express remorse over, for example, the Dzungar genocide back in the 1750s.
End long quote.
04 — Gone for a soldier. More news about the shortfall in military recruiting. The New York Times ran a 1600-word piece about it on Thursday. With due allowance for the fact that this is regime media, the piece wasn't bad. Sample, quote:
The Army is the largest of the armed forces, and the recruiting shortfall is hitting it the hardest. As of late June, it had recruited only about 40 percent of the roughly 57,000 new soldiers it wants to put in boots by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
When I first started noticing these stories a few weeks ago my gut reaction was: "What a surprise! Young Americans don't want to go fight wars that our politicians don't really intend to win. They don't want to get their arms and legs blown off in twenty-year wars that end in a humiliating withdrawal. And they don't want to be bossed around by weird men wearing women's dresses."
After reading the New York Times piece I'll allow that there's more to it than that. The COVID pandemic shut recruiters out from a lot of places they cultivate in normal times: county fairs, street festivals and especially high schools.
There's a surfeit of civilian jobs, too, making it harder for the military to compete. Also the demographic factor: there are fewer and fewer young people around every year.
And then, some more uncomfortable facts. Quote from the Times:
In recent years, the Pentagon has found that about 76 percent of adults ages 17 to 24 are either too obese to qualify or have other medical issues or criminal histories that would make them ineligible to serve without a waiver.
To push back against the negatives the military is offering enlistment bonuses as high as $50,000, according to the Times. Fifty thou? I find that hard to believe.
My son shook his head sadly when I raised the issue of those enlistment bonuses with him. He never got an enlistment bonus. He joined the army in 2013 right out of high school, with no enlistment bonus on offer. He didn't need one; he was sufficiently motivated. Just turned eighteen, like multitudes of young men that age in all times and places, he was full of piss and vinegar.
He wanted more excitement, adventure, and danger than civilian life holds. I won't say that he particularly wanted to break things and kill people; but if matters had turned out that way he would not have balked. (Things didn't turn out that way: In all four years service in a parachute regiment he was never deployed to combat, to his great disappointment and our great relief.)
He mentioned a thing the Times touched on but didn't really cover: the fact that a lot of soldiers come from military families. There just aren't so many military families nowadays. The end of the draft in 1973 and the post-Vietnam disillusionment poisoned that well.
The Times tells us that the military, in hopes of raising the recruitment numbers, have been lowering standards. They'll let you enlist now if you have a neck tattoo, which wasn't formerly the case. The Army even briefly dropped the requirement for a high school diploma, but quickly changed their minds and reinstated it.
They don't tell us, though, whether they've adjusted the lower limits on the AFQT, the Armed Forces Qualification Test. It's been known for decades that an AFQT score is a good proxy for IQ; Murray and Herrnstein made extensive use of AFQT scores in their book The Bell Curve, and our own Steve Sailer has reported at length on the AFQT.
That connection with IQ is probably why the Times skipped over the AFQT. IQ is, as all goodthinking people know, just a social construct, with no foundation in reality — really, just another excuse to keep the black man down.
So, all sorts of reasons for the enlistment fall-off. I still think my first reaction is relevant, though. Decades of futile missionary wars; the devaluing of masculinity; these have to have had some effect, along with those swelling numbers of young Americans who are too fat, stupid, or antisocial to be good at soldiering … or anything.
I'll offer a suggestion to the DoD. If things get really dire, we could bring back press gangs.
Someone in New York City's Office of Emergency Management was listening. Last week the Office put out a rather peculiar public service announcement.
[Clip: So there's been a nuclear attack. Don't ask me how or why, just know that the big one has hit, OK? So what do we do? There are three important steps that I want you to remember.
Wow! There's a dash of nostalgia for us Cold War kids. Duck and cover!
The PSA doesn't make total sense. That "Notify NYC" she asked you to sign up for is a website; like, you know, on the internet. Trust me: If you're in a city that was just hit by a nuke, your internet access will be seriously … what's the word? … nonexistent.
The advice to move away from windows is good, though. Heat and radiation aside, a nuclear explosion generates a terrific shock wave. When that shock wave meets your window, two things happen: one, the glass shatters into thousands of tiny splinters; then two, those splinters all travel inwards at high velocity. You really don't want to be standing there.
We Cold War babies know all this stuff, but there are two entire generations that don't. It's good of the city to put out a reminder.
And yes, I do believe — and it looks as though some of our public officials also believe — that the world is about to nuke up. If indeed it happens, there will be no cause for surprise. Allow me to just enlarge a little on what I told you four podcasts ago.
Small but reasonably prosperous nations with big neighbors of an aggressive-imperial inclination don't have all that many options to preserve their independence. Historically. in fact, the number of options has been just two:
The first of those options has always been a bit dicey. Petty regional rivalries, trade disputes and such, can make neighborhood alliances unstable. Even among neighbor small nations some are smaller than others and will nurse distrust towards their bigger allies. This is the stuff of history. Google "narcissism of small differences."
For the second option, the big and powerful nation you ally with today has to be the U.S.A. Who else is there?
Unfortunately that option has been holed below the waterline and is sinking fast because of the U.S.A.'s doggedly stupid foreign policy this past few decades. What do you think Option Two looks like to a Vietnamese or a Cambodian, an Iraqi or an Afghan?
Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said, and he's never denied saying it, that, quote: "It may be dangerous to be America's enemy, but to be America's friend is fatal." End quote. It's taken a while, but that remark is now known all over the world, and people believe it.
My parents' generation, the generation that lived through World War Two as adults, nursed a deep and respectful gratitude to the Yanks for saving us from totalitarianism. That gratitude was, I'll admit, seasoned with some mild snobbery about cowboys, hillbillies, and Puritans; but the snobbery was just an occasion for humor, not really malicious. The gratitude was real. Alas, that generation has now passed away.
So what is a small civilized nation that is no military match for the despotic ambitions of Russia, China, and Iran supposed to do? Well, there is today a third option. Israel and North Korea have shown the way, and the assault on Ukraine has reinforced the message. Nuke up!
There is still a fearful asymmetry, of course. A big imperial nation with thousands of nukes could utterly annihilate a small neighbor with just a small closet-full of 'em, while the small nation might only be able to nuke a handful of enemy cities, leaving the imperial power intact.
OK; but even big imperial-aggressive powers don't like having their cities nuked, so there is some real deterrence there.
So what am I saying? That a nuked-up Indonesia or a nuked-up Venezuela might pop one on Manhattan? I suppose they might. The real threat is more diffuse and general, though. In a world where nukes are commonplace, they will sooner or later drift into the wrong hands: terrorists, crime syndicates, crazy loners.
It'll happen. New York City is way ahead of the curve on this one, but it'll happen.
06 — Prince, prince, minister, minister. In last week's podcast I included a snippet of classical Chinese from the Analects of Confucius. One of my listeners, after we posted the transcript, emailed in to tell me that he'd cut'n'pasted that snippet into Google Translate to see what happened. What happened, he told me, was gibberish.
Well, yes. Google Translate is remarkably good with modern Chinese. If you want to browse Chinese newspapers, cutting'n'pasting into Google Translate is the way to do it. You'll get most of the sense, just sometimes not the fine nuances.
The Analects, however, is written in Classical Chinese, which is a whole different dish of bean curd.
Please note, before I proceed, that if you look at the list of languages in Google Translate you see two entries for Chinese: "Chinese (Simplified)" and "Chinese (Traditional)."
The second entry there, "Chinese (Traditional)," is not Classical Chinese. It's just the written characters in the shape they had before the ChiComs carried out some simplifying reforms in the 1950s, to help spread literacy. You can read about those reforms in Chapter Five of Jing Tsu's recent book Kingdom of Characters.
Classical Chinese is different altogether, dramatically — and in fact grammatically — different. Even Chinese people have to make a special study of it.
You get the impression, in fact — well, I do — that the old classic books like the Analects weren't written to tell the reader things he didn't already know, so much as to remind him of things he had memorized back around age 12. The style is very brachylogical — short-winded.
I have quoted elsewhere the complaint of one Western sinologist that, quote: "Is it too much to ask that the writer indicate at least the subject of the sentence? … In the case of classical Chinese the answer is usually, yes." End quote.
OK, now I'll proceed.
My listener is right, although I already knew it: Google Translate can't do Classical Chinese.
I just cut'n'pasted the famous opening words — words of Confucius — of the Analects into Google Translate. The actual Chinese goes like this:
Xué ér shí xí zhī, bù yì yuè hū? Yŏu péng zì yuăn fāng lái, bù yì lè hū? Rén bù zhī ér bù yùn, bù yì jūn zĭ hū?
[NB: The eighth syllable there is always printed in Chinese characters as as 說 (or 说 in the simplified characters now used in mainland China). In the sound file I have given this syllable its modern pronunciation, shuō, whose usual meaning is "speak" or "say." In older texts, however, 說 is used interchangeably with 悦 (same in both traditional and simplified form), meaning "glad," pronounced yuè. See Mathews' Dictionary here. My mistake. Classical Chinese is not for the faint of heart.]
To learn something and then to put it into practice at the right time: is this not a joy? To have friends coming from afar: is this not a delight? Not to be upset when one's merits are ignored: is this not the mark of a gentleman?
Here is what Google Translate gave me, quote:
Learn and learn from time to time, don't say it. Have friends come from afar. People don't know but don't feel sullen, not a gentleman.
Now please don't think I'm scoffing at Google Translate. It's an excellent tool, and I use it a lot. It's intended for use with modern languages, though, not ancient ones. It makes no claims to cope with Hittite, or Sumerian, or Linear B (never mind Linear A …)
So yes, my listener is right, but that's no criticism of Google. The thing they can't do is a thing they make no claim of being able to do.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given notice that he'll resign when his party has picked a new leader, so of course the political talk over there is all about the leadership contest for Boris's party, the so-called Conservative Party — which, as I told you last week, has utterly failed to conserve anything at all across twelve years in power.
As I go to tape here there are five people in the running; but there's to be another TV debate this evening, Friday evening, so the bookmakers' odds may all have changed by Saturday.
According to those odds, the Commerce Secretary — I'm using American titles for simplicity — a lady named Penny Mordaunt, is way out in front, notwithstanding she has a paper trail of opinions somewhere to the left of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The bookies are giving her a 52 percent chance of winning.
Then there's Liz Truss, Secretary of State, at 31 percent; Rishi Sunak, former Treasury Secretary, at 24 percent; Kemi Badenoch, until recently Minister for Equalities — which has no American equivalent, thank God, but is presumably a power center of wokeness — the bookies have her at five percent; and Tom Tugendhat, no government office, at one percent.
Britain might end up with a nonwhite Prime Minister. Rishi Sunak was born in Britain to Indian parents. Kemi Badenoch was born in Britain to Nigerian parents; she spent much of her childhood in Nigeria, and some in the U.S.A.
The most interesting and penetrating things to be said about that were said by Ed West at Substack on Thursday. My time is too short to give you even a précis here, but I urge you to read the piece.
And if you want further relevant reading matter, Ed West reminds us of the phrase "market-dominant minorities," coined by Amy Chua in her book World on Fire, which I reviewed for American Conservative back in 2003. You can read that review at my website: go to Reviews … Human Sciences, and scroll down to 2003.
This general topic also keys neatly to my several posts at VDARE.com warning about the hazards of importing an overclass.
Item: I have to back off just a wee bit from my telling you that Britain's Conservative government hasn't a conservative bone in its body … or indeed a bone of any kind.
On at least one issue, although a very small one, thay have shown some conservative spirit. The issue is: weights and measures.
The Brits officially adopted the metric system back in the 1990s, but now there is a move, apparently with some support in the government, to go back to the old imperial measures: feet and inches, pints and gallons; pounds and stones.
I have my doubts they'll actually proceed with this, but at least it's a flicker of light in the darkness.
Back there in my note about the James Webb Space Telescope I gave you the speed of light in a vacuum as sixty-seven million miles an hour. Devotees of imperial measures will know that the figure is more properly expressed as one point eight billion furlongs a fortnight. And before nit-pickers email in, that's a traditional English billion, ten to the power twelve.
Item: Some of the people arrested by the feds for participating in last year's January 6th protests at the U.S. Capitol have now been in jail for a year and a half without trial.
How is this possible? I honestly don't understand. Isn't it a clear violation of both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments? "Due process of law" … "a speedy and public trial" … what happened to those? Not to mention the far older principle of habeas corpus?
Can the federal government just do what it wants with us? Will someone please explain this to me?
Item: A listener on the Left Coast pointed me to this story from the San Francisco Chronicle, July 1st, headline: S.F. fires nonprofit hired to clean Tenderloin amid allegations its workers sold drugs, harassed residents.
That tells the story. The city of San Francisco hired an outfit named Mission Neighborhood Centers to clean up the downtown Tenderloin district and manage public restrooms. This was part of a nine-million-dollar initiative that Mayor London Breed announced a year ago to make the Tenderloin cleaner and safer.
The idea was to help the street people straighten out their lives by giving them paid employment doing the clean-up and managing the restrooms.
What actually happened of course was that the street people slept on the job, harassed normal people passing through or using public restrooms, sat around idle, or, quotes from the Chronicle, "walking over mounds of rubbish without picking it up" and "selling marijuana out of a large paper bag and smoking it with another person." End quotes.
The city has now canceled the contract. The nonprofit has filed a lawsuit to have the cancellation rescinded.
Yo, Madam Mayor, I could have told you if you'd asked me: It's not the sty that makes the pig, it's the pig that makes the sty.
Item: I mentioned Henry Kissinger in some context back there. Yes, I know: everyone has a case against Kissinger. I'll just note that in my only two personal encounters with him I found him both cordial and well-informed.
For sure he's a tough old bird. He had his ninety-ninth birthday a few weeks ago, and just published another book — his second book in two years! (All right: that previous one was in collaboration with two other guys, but still …)
The guy has a grasp of genetics, too. Asked by The New York Post how he accounted for his longevity, Kissinger replied: "I chose my parents very well." His father, brother, and mother passed away at, respectively, 95, 96, and 97.
Keep going, Henry! Just don't buy any green bananas.
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your time and attention, and stay cool in this current heat wave — if you can afford to with energy pricing at current levels.
For signout music, I'm going to give you Lilliburlero again. I gave you some Lilliburlero last October; but that was a formal military band, so the rendering was solemn and genteel. Here's something a bit more Irish.
By "Irish" there I mean Ulster Protestant. July 12th, which fell on Tuesday this week, is their great day, and Lilliburlero one of their favorite tunes.
Here it is from a recording I've had for many years now, but whose packaging material strangely omits to tell me who the performers are. All it says is "Ulster Records: 15-21 Gordon Street, Belfast." Possibly this is just a bit of Northern Irish caution left over from the Troubles … although if it is, they really shouldn't have given their street address. We know where ye live …
And for any fanatical Irish Republicans who want to tell me they know where I live, let me hasten to say that this Sunday I shall be attending service at a Roman Catholic church for the christening of our grandson Michael Joseph.
I don't know much about the RC liturgy; but I did see the Godfather movies so I know enough to answer, when the priest asks me if I renounce Satan and all his works, that yes, I do.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Unknown, "Protestant Boys."]