DERB'S JANUARY DIARY [11 Items!]: Ukraine And China—Have The Bidens Been Bribed?; How Not To Romance A Ukrainian Beauty; $PLC Stasi In Action; Etc.
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The paradox of American legalism    Was there ever a nation as lawyered-up as America? I was just reading this article about our infrastructure; you know, that stuff for the improvement of which the Biden administration tells us they are going to do great things.

Environmental impact statements require on average seven years to complete—with some projects taking 17 years or even 25 years. These statements take no more than one to two years in Canada and three and a half years in the European Union. And because no ground can be broken until all appeals are litigated, project opponents can effectively veto infrastructure projects by filing endless environmental-impact lawsuits.
[The problem with infrastructure isn't government spending—it's out-of-control costs, by Brian Riedl, New York Post, January 28, 2022]

So we are over-lawyered. I don't think that's news.

And yet we are lawless. In that same newspaper a couple of days later there were two news stories about the closing of big Rite Aid drugstore outlets in Manhattan on account of uncontrolled, unpunished shoplifting.

At first glance, I thought both stories were about the same store. Then, reading over with more attention, I saw that while both stores are in midtown Manhattan, they are on opposite sides of the island.

New York actor and comedian Michael Rapaport posted another online video Sunday from his local Rite Aid on the Upper East Side—this time saying the store is closing down because of incessant shoplifting… The store, located at 80th Street and First Avenue, is closing Feb. 15, the actor said. Rite Aid confirmed the closure to The Post.
[Michael Rapaport says Upper East Side Rite Aid closing because of shoplifters, by Patrick Reilly, New York Post, January 30, 2022.]


The imminent closing of the 24-hour Midtown West Rite Aid hardly qualifies as a tragedy. But the fact that an otherwise-thriving major corporation is giving up on core Manhattan matters for our decaying borough. The pharmacy, on 8th Avenue and 50th Street, will close Feb. 8. … The clearance prices were ironic—because the reason the Rite Aid is closing is mass-scale shoplifting. As The Post reported last week, the shop lost $200,000 in goods in two months.
[Shoplifting kills a Rite Aid—and maybe Manhattan's comeback chances, by Nicole Gelinas, New York Post, January 30, 2022]

It's getting hard to keep up.

And it's lawlessness all the way to the top. It's not just shoplifters in Manhattan who aren't getting arrested and punished, neither are people who enter our country illegally. The most senior officials of the federal government are encouraging and facilitating mass law-breaking by foreigners, breaking the law themselves in the process. Readers of know all about it.

There are big rewards for the perps in all cases. The shoplifters, we are told, sell their loot online for clear profit. The illegal aliens get welfare, free medical attention, jobs paying way more than anything in Guatemala or Senegal, and birthright citizenship for their kids. The high-level enablers of illegal immigration get cash from grateful donors for crushing the wages of citizen workers, and the psychic rewards of having advanced "diversity."

How does all this lawlessness do anything for law-abiding American citizens?

Feugh!—Who cares about those suckers?

Looking on the bright side, we may have attained a historic First, a new model of human society never before seen: overlawyered lawlessness.


Rider Haggard.     A friend suggested I "do" the British writer Rider Haggard (1856-1925) in the comprehensive way I have "done" Lawrence DurrellCharles KingsleyKipling, and sundry others.

I wasn't enthusiastic, mainly because I have never read any of Haggard's books. A quick Wikipedia lookup left me a whole lot less enthusiastic: Haggard published fifty-six novels and three short story collections, as well as ten nonfiction books (including an autobiography) and more articles and reviews than I can be bothered to count. Very industrious, those Victorians.

Literary journalism doesn't pay worth a damn. With all proper respect to the handful of editors I know who might be willing to publish an appraisal of Haggard by notoriously hateful hater John Derbyshire, my guess as to the remuneration they would offer me, divided by the time I'd have to put in to form opinions worth publishing, would come to an hourly rate well below that earned by a Bangladeshi rag-picker.

Still, my friend's suggestion sparked my interest. No, I have never read any of Haggard's books. I did, though, at an early age, get to know King Solomon's Mines when I was taken to see the 1950 movie. (I think my mother had a fan-crush on Stewart Granger.) A little later my weekly boy's magazine Eagle serialized a picture-strip version of the book in the Classics Illustrated style. (Classics Illustrated themselves had a version too, but I don't recall having read it.)

So in spite of not having formally read King Solomon's Mines, I knew it pretty well. That was my Haggard, though. I never read, nor had any acquaintance with, any other of his works.

My interest sparked, I checked at my local library. They had nothing on Haggard in the Biographies section and just one of his books: A 1970 King Solomon's Mines from the Imprint Society. I took it out. Then, checking online at home, I bought Higgins' 1981 biography of Haggard from Abebooks for next to nothing.

So now I know something about Haggard and have actually read one of his novels.

Haggard lived all his life in the shadow of thwarted love. At age eighteen he met Mary Jackson, whom everyone called "Lilly." She was, says Higgins, "to remain throughout his life his only true love." Unwilling to wait for him while he developed a career in British South Africa's colonial service, Lilly married a rich stockbroker. The marriage was a train wreck, the husband a scoundrel: Lilly died aged 55 from syphilis he had given her.

Haggard instead married a sensible, loyal, and tolerant woman who gave him four children; but Lilly, says Higgins, haunted Haggard's fiction.

It doesn't show in King Solomon's Mines. The only love interest in the novel is between one of the English adventurers and a local African girl, who comes to a sticky end.

Reading the Imprint Society edition, I was glad to see that they kept as originally written the passage in Chapter Eleven where the Englishmen awe the natives by a "magical darkening of the sun"—actually, of course, by predicting a solar eclipse. (Mark Twain borrowed the idea for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.)

Since we were told that the previous night was a full moon, a solar eclipse makes no astronomical sense; the Moon is on the wrong side of the Earth. When this was pointed out to Haggard he changed the passage to make it an eclipse of the Moon in editions published after 1887.

I think a solar eclipse would have been more impressive to the natives, and made a better story. Haggard should just have dropped references to the previous night's full moon.

Those were my January Haggard readings. At month end I've just acquired the 1951 Dover Books portmanteau edition of King Solomon's Mines (solar eclipse, yay), Allan Quatermain, and She all in a single volume, and may report further.

In the meantime there is a Haggard Society you can join if the spirit moves you, with meetings, a journal, and such.


Wages of sin.     Having mentioned venereal disease there I may as well unload the best story I know on the topic. I have no idea if it's true, although it might be. I heard it in the early 1970s from a friend who claimed it had happened to someone he knew. Whatever.

This young man, my friend told me, got a job in his college vacation working the bar in a nightclub owned by the Mob. He got to know the cocktail waitresses. There was one he particularly liked, a pretty girl even younger than himself.

Then for several consecutive evenings this girl didn't show up. Serving a drink to one of the Mobsters who ran the place, our hero asked: "Where is Lucille? Haven't seen her for a few days."

"Oh," said the Mobster, "she died."

The poor young guy was flabbergasted and distraught. "Died? What did she die of?"


"What? That's impossible! You don't die from gonorrhea at the age of nineteen."

"If you give it to Big Louie you do."


The fate of small countries.     There's been a coup in Burkina Faso…or maybe there hasn't. Says the Beeb:

Burkina Faso's neighbours have condemned what they call an attempted coup in the West African state … conflicting reports … appears to show … waiting for an official statement …

So maybe there has, maybe there hasn't been a coup.

Burkina Faso isn't going to make it into the headlines either way. All the headline writers care about is Ukraine and Taiwan, Ukraine and Taiwan.

It's rough being a small country. If you're right up next to a big, proud empire like Russia or China, they always have some kind of designs on you: outright annexation at worst, Finlandization at best—be a well-behaved buffer state and don't get too friendly with any other big, proud empires.

If you are a small nation not thus situated, then nobody much cares what happens to you.

Good luck to the people of Burkina Faso. Meanwhile, this month's foreign policy stories have all been Ukraine and Taiwan.

So here is some random, off-the-beaten-track commentary on Ukraine and Taiwan.


Ukraine And China: Have The Bidens Been Bribed? A friend sent me the January 4th article "The Two-Headed Fight for Ukraine and Taiwan" by Hudson Institute naval analyst Seth Cropsey.

It's not a bad summary of Russian and Chinese strategic goals, but way too globalist for my taste in prescribing our responses. Not very realistic, either.

Roughly concurrent offensive operations in two hemispheres would overstress American and allied resources. Taiwan must become capable of defending itself.

Uh, Seth: a bunch of Afghan goat-herds with vintage rifles overstressed American and allied resources; and if, next Tuesday, Taiwan became capable of defending itself, China would attack on Wednesday. No, scratch that: China would have attacked on Monday. No way they will let Taiwan become capable of defending itself, and you can bet they have excellent intelligence on what Taiwan is doing.

All that aside, my friend raised a topic that isn't much discussed in the Ukraine-Taiwan context: kompromat. He, edited:

Here's my speculation about why Taiwan may be in worse shape than Ukraine.

Presumably both Russia and Ukraine have a lot of dirt on the Bidens. It would presumably be easier for the administration to deny, if not refute, the credibility of dirt spread by Russia than by Ukraine. On that theory, Ukraine would be more able than Russia to blackmail Biden into cooperation (or, in the case of Russia, inaction).

My guess is that China has a lot more dirt on the Bidens than Taiwan does, and I just don't see how Taiwan has many friends in Western channels of communication so that it could credibly threaten to spread the dirt. So China is the more effective blackmailer here.

Also, the article [i.e., Cropsey's] doesn't make much of a case why Ukraine is even, say, a tenth as important to our interests as Taiwan is. In that connection, the article doesn't contain the words "chip" or "semiconductor."

Will China move on Taiwan? Nobody knows. Will Russia move on Ukraine? Nobody knows. Has there or hasn't there been a coup in Burkina Faso? … Sorry, that just slipped in somehow.

With everything uncertain like this, Putin and Xi will save their kompromat on the Bidens until they can gain maximum advantage from it. That's my best guess.


Ukrainian nationalism experienced.     All my life I have had just one personal encounter with Ukrainian nationalism. Here's the story.

In my January 28th podcast I mentioned that the Mrs. and I used to attend the annual Petroushka Ball held (usually) in New York City's Plaza Hotel for local people of Russian ancestry and anyone they care to invite.

Well, one year we were riding up in the elevator to the ball with half a dozen other attendees, among them a strikingly beautiful unaccompanied young woman. Dressed elegantly, as appropriate for the occasion, she had that very Russian style of beauty: creamy pale skin, blonde hair, lovely figure, perfect posture, long slender ballerina legs, classically-formed features.

One of the other occupants of the elevator was a thirty-something male, also unaccompanied, who was obviously smitten by the young woman. He tried to engage her in conversation, his lines leaning heavily on how much he admired Russian culture, how fascinating he found Russian history, how happy he was to be attending his first Russian event in New York, and so on.

The beauty paid no attention at all. She did not respond to any of his remarks, nor even favor him with a glance. She just stood silently watching the floor numbers light.

We arrived at our floor. The elevator doors opened. The beauty stepped out as her would-be suitor emitted one final shower of praises on all things Russian. Starting off down the hall she vouchsafed him just three words, flung back at him over her shoulder as she strode away on her beautiful legs, still not looking at him.

"I am Ukrainian."


Sacred soil of the Motherland?     Spot quiz: in all of human history, for how many years has the island of Taiwan been a Chinese province ruled from mainland China?

Answer: Twelve years.

Until the late 17th century there was no Chinese administration in Taiwan, although some Chinese peasants fleeing famine or civil war had settled there. Mainland Chinese thought about the place, if they thought about it at all, as a malarial haunt of bandits, outlaws, pirates, Polynesian cannibals, and European adventurers (Dutch, Spanish).

In 1683 China's Qing dynasty declared Taiwan a prefecture within mainland Fujian Province. It stayed that way for two hundred years, though unruly and only feebly governed.

In 1887, after some argy-bargy with rising Japan, Taiwan was upgraded to a province. It was a Chinese province for eight years, until China surrendered it to Japan after the Sino-Japanese War of 1895, which China lost.

After Japan's defeat in WW2, Taiwan ceased to be a Japanese colony. It returned to Chinese sovereignty under Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government. Four years later, when the Nationalists lost the civil war against Mao Tse-tung's Communists in 1949, mainland authority over Taiwan ended. Taiwan was no longer ruled from mainland China.

So…eight years (1887-1895), then four years (1945-1949). Taiwan has been a Chinese province ruled from mainland China for twelve years.

If you want to really narrow the scope you could ask: In all of human history, for how many years has the island of Taiwan been a Chinese province ruled by a Chinese government in mainland China? Since the Qing Dynasty that ruled China in those first eight years was Manchu, not ethnically Chinese—the Manchu were a Siberian tribe—the answer now is: four years.

Sacred soil of the Motherland? Not really. Handy base for an imperial power seeking to dominate the Western Pacific? Oh yeah.


Audacity of the witch-finders    I'll say this for the CultMarx sniffers-out of heterodoxy and "hate": They are not short on audacity. This cropped up in my inbox mid-January:

Media Request—[name]
Jason Wilson<>
Fri, Jan 14

Mr Derbyshire,

I am a reporter with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch. SPLC is a civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Alabama.

We've used multiple, mutually corroborating lines of inquiry to identify the writer and podcaster who operates under the guise of [pseudonym] as one [name], of [city, state].

As we'll be reporting that you and he appeared to share a mutual admiration, I thought it best to give you a chance to comment on what it was about his work that you found so appealing …

[Mention of my having met the subject at a Dissident Right gathering where we were observed by an SPLC mole, followed by a request for my recollections of the meeting.]

Please do call on the number in my signature below if that's more convenient. Thanks in advance for any help you're able to offer me.


Jason Wilson
Senior Investigative Reporter ¦ Intelligence Project
Southern Poverty Law Center
T  470.728.2927 ¦</>

I'm sorry to say I replied somewhat intemperately:

Uh, you're asking me to assist in the SPLC's antiwhite defamation racket?

What are you doing, working for those gangsters? North Korean State Security didn't have any vacancies?

To which Mr Wilson countered:

I think it's a little unfair to call the SPLC gangsters, though admittedly the Center is not so noble as to have its own castle.

I replied with:

With the entire ruling class on their side, SPLC doesn't need a castle.

And there the correspondence ended. I'll admit, I do regret having referred to the SPLC as "gangsters." They don't have the courage to be gangsters. "Weasels" would have been better.

As for the SPLC not having a "castle," their Montgomery, AL headquarters, known to people like us as the Poverty Palace, is literally fortified and guarded by armed guards.

Here's how the architects described it after a redesign:

This internationally renowned civil rights organization created a landmark headquarters building in its longtime home, Montgomery Alabama. The 150,000 square foot building contains two levels of parking for 100 cars below six floors of office clad in a metal panel and precast concrete façade constructed on a pile foundation system. The unusual and award-winning design is a blend of aesthetic with practical precautions for security. The eight floors of steel frame structure rise out of a hillside in the middle of the city.

But he's right, the Center is not "noble" at all.


Lionel Shriver's So Much for That.     I doubt I shall take much of a bite out of Rider Haggard's 56 novels before I hand in my lunch pail, but I believe I'll do better with Lionel Shriver's 17.

I was late coming to Shriver, who has been publishing novels since 1987. In my November 2019 diary I recorded having read The Mandibles, which had come out three years previously. This month I happened on a copy of So Much for That (2010) and read right through it when I should have been doing household maintenance chores. It's official: I am a Shriver fan.

Set mainly in the years 2004-2006 in and around New York City, So Much for That features two middle-aged, lower-middle-class, heterosexual white American males, along with their wives, siblings, parents, and children. Foremost of the two is Shep Knacker, who dreams of dropping out of the rat race to live in some quiet, cheap Third World location.

What would I like to get away from? Complexity. Anxiety. A feeling I've had my whole life that at any given time there's something I'm forgetting, some detail or chore, something that I'm supposed to be doing or should have already done …

Ordinary enough; but these are ordinary people, dealing with the ordinary stuff we all have to deal with: family finances, computer-addicted teenage sons, impossible bosses, aging parents who need care, taxes, housing, lawyers, doctors.

Especially doctors. To the degree that it's about anything, other than the lives and personalities of its characters, the novel is about sickness, and America's infuriating, byzantine, colossally inefficient healthcare system. As well as having enjoyed a good story well told, I finished the book much better acquainted with mesotheliomafamilial dysautonomia, and Clostridioides difficile.

So Much for That is also, in an indirect way, about class. Shriver's own opinions are National Conservative. Wikipedia gasps in horror at her having written in 2021, in Spectator column about immigration into the U.K., that: "For westerners to passively accept and even abet incursions by foreigners so massive that the native-born are effectively surrendering their territory without a shot fired is biologically perverse." Security! Someone call Security!

Shriver is not a didactic writer and doesn't beat you over the head with her own views. The novel's second male lead, though, Shep Knacker's longtime friend Jackson Burdina, is furiously opinionated about the system in a not-very-coherent way that Shep doesn't have much time for. Socialized medicine?

"You realize fortysomething percent of this country is either on Medicaid or Medicare? … All this ooh-ooh about how we don't want 'socialized medicine.' Well, we got socialized medicine, for nearly half the population. So the other half is paying twice. Your Mugs are paying for your Mooches' CAT scans with confiscatory taxes … and a second time for their own damn scans."

On the Mugs-Mooches paradigm, Shep and Jackson are both Mugs—what I called in a previous segment Suckers. They obey the law, care for their families, try to do the decent thing, and get repeatedly shafted by the system. Both have worked steadily all their adult lives. Neither has a college degree. Ten years further on from the novel, they would have been Trump voters.


February's Chinese parentheses.     February this year begins and ends on a Chinese note.

February 1st is Lunar New Year—the Year of the Tiger. A person very close to me is Chinese by birth and a Tiger. She will be wearing a red belt all year, as prescribed by custom.

At the other end of the month, February 28th is the seventy-fifth anniversary of 2-2-8. That's how Chinese people remember key historical events, by the digits of the month and day.

On February 28, 1947 there was an uprising in Taiwan against the authorities of mainland China. There had been widespread discontent at the brutality and corruption of the mainlanders, who had taken over the island in 1945 from the Japanese. These mainlanders were in the service of Chiang Kai-shek, whom U.S. General Joe "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell referred to as "Generalissimo Cash My Check," among other even less flattering epithets.

The uprising was put down with major force. Twenty or thirty thousand Taiwanese were killed. Bitterness over the incident has since faded, but older Taiwanese still remember.


Math Corner.     This month I am not going to fulminate against wokeness in the math journals. I got a month's-worth of fulmination off my chest in the January 21st Radio Derb. Instead, here's a problem from the 2021 International Math Olympiad held in St. Petersburg, Russia last July.

This isn't really intended as a brainteaser, more as an illustration of how damn hard math is even at the high-school level. (The IMO is for high-school students.) It took me half an hour just to work up a satisfactory diagram for this one. Actual IMO contestants are given six problems to tackle in two sessions on consecutive days. They are given 4½ hours for the first three problems on Day One, 4½ hours for the second three on Day Two; so if you can crack this one in an hour and a half, you are IMO material.

And this was the problem, of the six they had to tackle, that the USA team found easiest. It was Problem 4 of the six, and every single USA team member got the full seven marks for it!

I shan't be posting a solution on my own website as you can find plenty on the web, including at least one on YouTube with a diagram even niftier than mine.

By all means have a go at it, though. It's not actually that hard once you have a decent diagram.

IMO 2021 Problem 4.   Let Γ be a circle with centre I, and ABCD a convex quadrilateral such that each of the segments AB, BC, CD and DA is tangent to Γ. Let Ω be the circumcircle of the triangle AIC. The extension of BA beyond A meets Ω at X, and the extension of BC beyond C meets Ω at Z. The extensions of AD and CD beyond D meet Ω at Y and T, respectively. Prove that

            AD + DT + TX + XA = CD + DY + YZ + ZC.

The 2022 IMO will be held in Oslo, Norway, July 6th to 16th.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire's writings at can do so here.

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