Derb's July Diary: Numbers In Africa (And Here), The Ultimate Weapon, And Derb On Film, Etc.
August 02, 2018, 03:17 PM
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Numbers, numbers, numbers.     There was an interesting piece in The Spectator, July 5th: Imperialism is back — and this time it's politically correct. The author, James Delingpole, argues that the aid industry, in spite of enormous investments of money and manpower, hasn't actually done much for Africans — though it has, of course, made lots of people in the West feel really, really good.

I take Delingpole's point. Heck, I've made it myself. He misses one key factor, though: here, for example:

There are now 100,000 aid workers in sub-Saharan Africa. As Jonathan Foreman notes in his superb Civitas pamphlet Aiding and Abetting, [PDF] this "greatly exceeds the number of foreign administrators engaged by the former colonial powers at the height of the imperial era."

atlasI'm sure it does, but the correlation of forces was wildly different back in the day. My favorite illustration of that:

At this point I reach for my grandfather's 1922 atlas, which includes population numbers. Back then the British Isles had a population of 47.31 million. British West Africa, for contrast, had a population of 22.48 million. So the British Isles had over twice the population of British West Africa 93 years ago.

Forward to today. The British Isles are still here, now the U.K plus Ireland: total population 68.97 million. British West Africa is nowadays the independent nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Gambia: total population 215.74 million. That's over three times Britain's number.

Once again: 1922, British Isles had over twice the population of British West Africa. 2015, British West Africa has over three times the population of the British Isles.

Birthrate differentials will do that.

Yes they will. European imperialism was not just a matter of "We have got / The Maxim gun, and they have not." It was also a case of their numbers being small enough, and ours by comparison big enough, that it was no great stretch for us to send a few thousand administrators to rule over them.

Which is no longer the case. Not at all.

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The ultimate race war weapon?     Towards the end of the month, in aid of something I was writing for a different outlet, I needed to refute the notion that a person's self-identified race cannot be predicted from his genome.

Without trying hard at all I turned up a 2005 study out of Stanford University Medical Center finding that in a sample "consisting of 3,636 people who all identified themselves as either white, African-American, East Asian or Hispanic … only five individuals had DNA that matched an ethnic group different than the box they checked at the beginning of the study. That's an error rate of 0.14 percent."

Accuracy at the 99.86 percent level is pretty darn good in the human sciences; and I assume that now, thirteen years later, the geneticists have it up way over 99.9 percent.

Which raises the question: Could some malign nation, or person, with a really good genetics lab develop an artificial, lethal pathogen that targeted just one race? The ultimate race war weapon?

I don't know enough about genetics to tender an informed opinion. In lieu of science, I offer literature.

The December 1967 issue of Playboy magazine (available at Archive.org) ran a long short story — 12,000 words — by Irwin Shaw titled "The Mannichon Solution."

(Along with what a reviewer called "one of the most virginal centerfolds I can recall." This was peak Playboy: lotsa skin of course, but also first-rate storytelling and social/political commentary. Today's social-media-addled, tiny-attention-span, PC-whipped, soy-neutered millennials would find it simultaneously boring and outrageous. All right, yes: I miss Boomer culture.)

"The Mannichon Solution" is included in Shaw's anthology God Was Here But He Left Early. The story concerns Collier Mannichon, a low-ranking research chemist doing drudge work for a big corporation.

00mannichonMannichon's department, Detergents and Solvents, is a research Siberia: "Nobody had ever won the Nobel Prize for inventing a new detergent." Mannichon quietly resents colleagues doing more glamorous work on pharmaceuticals and such. They drive around in sports cars with pretty girls and get rich from patents; loser Mannichon drives a 1959 Plymouth, lives on his meager salary, and is "married to a woman who looked like a casaba melon."

Then by chance Mannichon discovers a solution that kills lab mice, but only yellow ones. He shares his discovery with two of those hotshot colleagues, a Yankee named Crockett and a Japanese immigrant ("top man in his year at Kyoto and then top man at Berkeley") named Tageka. They make him conduct further tests.

A yellow Afghan with an illustrious pedigree, bought at great expense, lasted less than an hour after lapping up several drops of Mannichon's solution in a bowl of milk, while a black-and-white mongrel liberated from the pound for three dollars barked happily for two days after sharing the same meal. Dead goldfish lay by the hundreds in Tageka's refrigerators and the yellow-bottomed baboon … was laid to rest only ten minutes after its relevant parts had been laved in a purposely weakened variant of the solution.

They try the solution on a yellow-colored horse; it keels over dead. Tageka has an oncologist friend treating terminal-cancer patients at a San Francisco hospital. They bring him in on the deal. He administers the solution epidermally to eight subjects, five white, two black, and one yellow.

"Seven of the subjects have registered no reaction. The autopsy on the eighth …"

They cut a deal with the CIA, who pay them two million dollars for the formula, cold cash.

"The CIA, man," said Crockett, "knows exactly what is yellow and what we are overrun with." He paused, dropped a piece of ice into his drink and stirred with his finger. "Chinamen, man."

At the end of the story we see Tageka thoughtfully practicing calligraphy in his apartment.

After a while, he pressed a buzzer. The Negro butler came in, dressed in his yellow striped vest and white shirt sleeves with heavy gold cuff links.

"James," Tageka Kyh said to the butler, "tomorrow I want you to order five hundred grams each of dioxotetramercphenoferrogene, 14, 15, and 17. And five hundred white mice. No — on second thought, better make it a thousand."

"Yes, sir," said James.

"Oh, and James" — Tageka Kyh waved the brush negligently at the butler. "Will you be good enough to put in a call to the Japanese embassy in Washington. I'll speak to the ambassador personally."

"Yes, sir," James said and picked up the phone.

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My enemy's enemy is … no good.     In the July 20th Radio Derb I said unkind things about Vladimir Putin and his country.

Putin is the illegitimate leader of a corrupt and dysfunctional nation, an economic nonentity among nations, geographically overstretched, with a rusting military and a population increasingly composed of aging drunks. Trump is the constitutionally elected leader of a nation so prosperous, buoyant, and secure, our main national problem is holding back the tide of people trying to break in across our borders to share in our blessed bounty.

I mentioned that Russia was responsible for the poisoning in England of former GRU operative and double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. (They survived, but there has been a collateral death from the poisoning.)

That brought the pro-Putin trolls out in force, mainly on the comment thread at Unz.com, but a few in my email bag too. Common themes:

  • Russia is great, "the 4th largest economy in the world by proper measure" according to one emailer.
  • Putin is a more legitimate ruler than Trump. "Putin was supported by an overwhelming majority, while Trump received only 46 percent of the votes."
  • "Russia's military could kick our butts."
  • Alcoholism is down and the birthrate is up, thanks to Putin!
  • I am pitifully naive — a babe in the woods! — for not seeing that the Skripal poisoning was obviously a false flag by U.K. intelligence people.
  • Something something Jews something Jews something something something Jewish something Jews …

Uh-huh. Some of these comments no doubt come from a Russian government-sponsored troll army, like the "fifty centers" employed by the ChiComs. I know from personal encounters, though, that some others are sincere. What's up with that?

Some points:

  • If you subtract out processing and exporting of Russia's vast natural resources of oil, gas, and minerals, there's not much of an economy there. There is no item in your house or garage, and none at your place of work, stamped "Made in Russia."
  • Russia's GDP per capita is less than half the U.S.A.'s.
  • Transparency International has Russia ranked 131 on corruption for 2017, between Paraguay and Bangladesh.
  • Freedom House scores Russia as seriously Not Free.
  • Russia has the most unequal wealth distribution of any major nation. The top ten percent of the population controls 85 percent of Russia's wealth. (The figure for the U.S. is 75 percent.)
  • I can't find data on alcoholism, and I'm not sure I'd trust it if I could; but the Russians themselves are bemoaning a continuing decline in the nation's birthrate — it dropped more than ten percent last year.
  • Russia has two aircraft carriers (on the loosest definition). The bigger one is the 33-year-old Admiral Kuznetsov, and she seems not to be in very good shape. The U.S.A., on that same definition, has twenty.

Forgive the enthusiasm of an immigrant for his adopted country, but I'll stick with what I wrote. Russia's a basket case; the U.S.A., despite the best efforts of our fool politicians, is paradise by comparison. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Some of the swooning Putinophilia in those comments and emails is based on the notion that Putin's Russia has kept itself white and Christian and shunned Political Correctness. I'd be on board with that if I thought Putin had much do do with it, but I don't. The man's an unprincipled crook, who would sell his country to the highest bidder if anyone was bidding.

Russian religiosity is anyway overstated. "No more than about one-in-ten Russians said they attend religious services at least once a month," according to a 2014 Pew survey.

For sure Saint Vlad doesn't seem to mind the swelling numbers of Muslims in Russia — 25 million and growing fast, according to al Jazeera.

Some other of this Putinophilia is a reaction to all the anti-Putin propaganda out of the Democratic Party, still desperately trying to explain their 2016 election loss. That's just a false syllogism, though.

  • Major premise:  Leftists & neocons are bad.
  • Minor premise:  Leftists & neocons hate Putin.
  • Conclusion:  Putin is good.

Sorry, but the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises. The enemy of my enemy may be my friend; but he may also be an obnoxious jerk I'd prefer to have nothing to do with.

For one more explanation, this one from out of left field, I refer you to Progressive writer Jeff Sharlet's July 21st column: "Why the Christian Right Has Embraced Putin."

Why? Because, according to Sharlet:

American fundamentalists admire his anti-LGBTQ crusades, his revival of the Russian Orthodox Church, his "family values" lip service, his bare-chested manliness … Most of all, they admire Putin's strength — and they're glad at last to have an American leader who hits just as hard, even if he may be nearly as corrupt.

Sounds to me like just a hifalutin iteration of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Trump "nearly as corrupt" as Putin? You got evidence for that, pal? I call b-s on Mr. Sharlet.

But then, what do I know? I'm so gullible I think the Skripal poisoning was a Russian operation, when anyone whose eyes are set opposite the holes in his head can see it was a false flag — just like 9/11, and those faked Moon landings, and the JFK assassination, and … zzzzzzzz6qj f9w=jgt]sg v/jso78t5pn osdgojhzzzzz … (falls asleep over keyboard).

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Demographic insecurity.     Putin may not be doing anything for Russian fertility, but Viktor Orbán may have done something for Hungary's.

The evidence is knotty and not altogether decisive — there's a lengthy summary of the pros and cons at the Institute for Family Studies website — but some kind of fertility boom has been under way this past few years. Total Fertility Rate climbed from 2011 to 2016, though it seems to have leveled off the past two years. (Orbán became Prime Minister in 2010; strong pro-natalist policies have been in place since 2015.)

As a Hungarophile from way back, I congratulate the Magyars on having persuaded their citizens to make more babies. This seems to be an extraordinarily difficult thing for governments to do: ask Singapore.

From my sketchy knowledge of Hungarian history, it seems to me the Hungarians have always suffered from demographic insecurity. They have never felt there were enough of them. One of their 12th-century kings was so worried about there not being enough Hungarians to guard the nation's borders, he gave land grants to German settlers, provided they were willing to fight. That is the origin of the Transylvanian Saxons.

Perhaps demographic insecurity is inevitable for a small nation isolated from its neighbors by a radically different language. Whatever: I'm always glad to welcome more Hungarians into the world.

Now, Mr President, when are you going to invite Prime Minister Orbán to the White House? When you do, be sure to hire in a traditional Hungarian chef for the occasion: the cuisine is superb.

(And no, I can't offer to interpret for you: my Hungarian is very poor. Ramzpaul's is way better.)

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Where's my star on the Walk of Fame?     At the very beginning of the month — Sunday, July 1st — I got to play movie star, basking in my celebrity.

This is something that happens to me occasionally. That it happens at all is pretty amazing. My entire movie career consists of a ninety-second non-speaking role in a low-grade Chinese kungfu flick made 46 years ago.

The point of my role, however, was to get knocked out by kungfu superstar Bruce Lee, who still has a big fan base among martial-arts enthusiasts all over the world.

Since it's become easy to locate people via the internet I have gotten pretty regular (two or three a year) requests to sign photo clips from the movie. For reasons I do not understand these requests come almost entirely from either (a) Northern and Eastern Europe, or (b) South America. One arrived as I was putting this diary together, as it happens — from Cologne, Germany.

Much more occasionally than that (once every three or four years) one of these enthusiasts emails to tell me he's coming to New York and would like to meet me. That's what happened this time. A Lee fan visiting from France had organized a lunch for several others at Angela Mao's restaurant in Queens. Would I please join them?

You bet I would. One of my basic life rules, learned at my father's knee, was never to turn down a free meal. So I showed up at Nan Bei Ho July 1st and enjoyed a very convivial meal with our French host and seven or eight other Lee fans.

Martial Arts people are, in my experience, invariably easy-going and fun to be around. There is of course the additional benefit that in the event the restaurant gets robbed while you're there, or some customers get drunk and aggressive, the situation will be well and speedily taken care of.

Pictures were signed and photographs were taken. For the latter, we tried to re-create a scene from the movie, but it wasn't very convincing. Hey, it's been 46 years.

Many thanks to Thierry for organizing this anyway, and to the other guys who showed up and made it a fun event. Also to Angela Mao, the perfect hostess.

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American Shaolin.     One of the participants in that lunch was writer Matthew Polly, whose biography of Bruce Lee came out a few weeks ago. Matthew very kindly gifted me a copy of the book, signed with his name both in English and Chinese (包默思, Bao Mosi). I read it and had words to say about it on Radio Derb July 13th.

I liked the biography so much I up and bought Polly's earlier (2007) book American Shaolin. This is a personal memoir. In 1992 at age twenty Polly had signed up for martial arts instruction at the famous Shaolin Temple in central China. American Shaolin is the record of the two years he spent there, as recollected a decade later.

If you think it's a bit odd that a Buddhist temple should be at the heart of traditional Chinese fighting skills, you have forgotten the fact — noted most famously by George Orwell — that we human beings have no difficulty, no difficulty at all, holding two contradictory ideas in our heads at the same time.

Here is Polly on his way to a tournament where he will face a national kick-boxing champion. The other monks, aware that Polly is a comparative novice, are giving him advice. "Charge while punching to his head … Make sure you turn your hips into each kick … Step on his lead foot and jab …" Then:

"You could try begging for mercy," Deqing suggested. "'Please, stop hitting me. I can't take it anymore.'"

I turned to Monk Xingming. "What would the Buddha suggest?"

"He taught us the principle of universal love," Monk Xingming replied. "You could try loving him. But the Buddha had lousy kungfu."

As well as, of course, telling us a lot about martial arts in China, Polly is very good and funny about life in that country twenty-five years ago, when foreigners who could speak Chinese were still something of a novelty, and were shamelessly treated as cash cows.

He's also good on the oddities of the Chinese language: the great teeming rain forest of nouns identifying relatives, for example — five different words just for "uncle." He has fun, too, with the way Chinese people say "Where? Where?" in response to thanks or a compliment. (The sense is something like: "Where is this admirable quality you claim to have found in me? I can't see it.")

The book is fun, even if you're not interested in martial arts. I'm glad to have made its acquaintance, and Matthew's. Thanks, guy! (In my mind's eye I see Matthew — who is a jovial fellow — nodding, grinning, and saying: "Where? Where?")

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Down on the tank farm.     I read in the Wall Street Journal that sensory deprivation tanks are back in fashion.

Hng, everything old is new again. I've never tried one of the things myself; but I'm a 1970s survivor so I did read George Goodman's 1975 book Powers of Mind (written under his pseudonym "Adam Smith"). Among Goodman's explorations of the consciousness-raising (or -messing) movements of that time was an encounter with a mystic named John Cunningham Lilly.

Lilly became interested in sensory deprivation tanks. He "bought a place in the Santa Monica mountains and turned it into a tank farm." Goodman gave it a try.

There was nobody in the tank but me, and the little sounds were all me. Thump thump thump, and little gurgles in the stomach and intestines, and something in the ear, amazing how many little sounds there are that normally you don't hear because the outside world is making so much noise … so what. The sergeant-voice arrived, slightly breathless from the tennis court. You dummy, you're not supposed to just lie there, you're supposed to Have an Experience …

Thump, thump, gurgle, gurgle. Let's do a meditation. What color is your left foot? Where is your left foot? Left … there it is.

Hey, let's go, said the sergeant-voice. You dummy, you're using up your tank time with the same old ratcheta ratcheta. Go somewhere! Inner space! Outer space! But stop that!

Certainly is black in here …

And so on for another full page (though it gets a bit weirder). Reading it does not make you want to head for the nearest sensory deprivation tank.

See, there is the beauty of Boomer culture. We tried everything; or if we didn't try it, someone tried it for us and we read about it — in books or longform articles between the skin pics in men's magazines, not in 140-character tweets. What does the 21st century have to offer? Facebook? Instagram? The smartphone? Reality TV? A cup of coffee that costs five dollars and has twenty-two syllables in its name? Feugh!

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A plague of lame puns.     The July 23rd mass layoffs at the New York Daily News are good news and bad.

It was good news because the Daily News is loud against Trump and for open borders, anti-white and pro-multiculturalism. I'm all for diversity of opinion; but when the legacy media is 99 percent one way and one percent the other, it's hard to lament the 99 percent being shaved down to 98 percent.

It was bad news as a portent for print media at large. If the News is going down, can the New York Post be far behind?

I hope it can. The Post is the only daily paper in my neck of the woods not mainly CultMarx-compliant. I have a long lifetime's habit of reading a newspaper over my breakfast porridge, and if the Post sinks, I'm left with terrible choices.

I absolutely will not take in the New York Times, or Newsday, or USA Today. The Wall Street Journal? Eh, maybe, especially if they're going to publish more of Michael Anton's pieces; but it's kind of pricey, and the open-borders stuff sticks in my throat.

So I'm clinging bitterly to the New York Post. I must say, though, that their relentless punning is starting to get on my nerves.

Raceless Killer In Tabloid HeadlineI enjoy a clever pun as well as the next language maven, and puns in newspaper and magazine headlines are a fine old journalistic tradition. When I reviewed a trilogy of novels about the scattered Hungarian minority in Transylvania for The New Criterion and they printed it under the title "The Goulash Archipelago," I emailed the editor urging a pay raise for whichever employee was responsible. (Although I still think "Onan the Librarian" wins the championship cup in this league.)

The trouble with the New York Post's punning is, it's lame.

Here are a few examples from this month's front pages.

July 1st: A SCHOOL HOUSE DIVIDED. An expensive prep school had minorities-only classes for part of the school day.

July 7th: THE IDLE RICH. The city is paying bounties to people who report drivers who leave their engines running for longer than permitted by city ordinances.

July 14th: ONE TRUMP OR TWO? The President and First Lady take tea with the Queen of England.

July 22nd: MoMA MIA! Some paintings by Willem de Kooning suitable for the Museum of Modern Art were found in a storage locker.

July 31st: ABUSE OF SOUR. A 7-year-old kid's lemonade stand was undercutting vendors at the State Fair, so they had state bureaucrats shut him down. (I admit I had to think about this one. It's a pun on "abuse of power," see?) Oh, and then Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in on behalf of the kid. The next day's Post print edition reported this under the headline "Ade from the Gov." Please, make it stop.

Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame-lame. Nobody wants to see an incompetent dancer, singer, juggler, conjuror, or trapeze artist. Punsters likewise. Not only do we not want to see them; having their incompetence thrust on our attention is annoying (and in the case of the trapeze artist, nerve-wracking).

Practice in private, out of sight, guys, until you attain a standard high enough for public display; or else leave it alone.

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Trump Derangement Syndrome all over.     You can't get away from it.

I went to the local post office to check my P.O. box. There was a slip in the box saying I had a package that was too big for the box. I should go to the counter to pick it up.

Round to the counter. There were three clerks on duty: Left, Center, Right. Left and Right were both busy with customers. Center was not; which was odd because there were two customers on line waiting to be served.

As I came up I heard Center calling out an explanation to the two waiting customers: something about her being a supervisor, not a clerk, and so not authorized to accept payments — sorry! The customers looked annoyed and baffled.

When she saw me come round from the boxes area holding my yellow slip, Center beckoned me forward. "I can deal with you, Sir."

I walked past the two waiting customers, up to the counter, and gave her the slip. She disappeared round the back to find my package.

To lighten the mood, I stepped back to the two still-waiting customers and said: "See: there's the right way, the wrong way, and the government way."

One of them, a frumpish middle-aged woman, scowled and replied: "Yes, and then there's the Trump way. We don't want any of that around here!"

Ye gods! To some subset of our population, everything is about Donald Trump. They spend every waking minute seething about our President.

What must it be like to be one of those people? I thought Bill Clinton was a scoundrel, George W. Bush an amiable nitwit, and Barack Obama a bag of wind, but I can't recall ever feeling about a politician the way these people plainly feel about our current President.

Trump Derangement Syndrome, indeed: We truly are in the realm of psychopathology here.

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Math Corner.     Some recent math competition results here, with a wee brainteaser at the end. I am very much obliged to a friend who tracks these results much more diligently than I do. Thank you, Sir! (Where? Where?)

(1)  The 59th International Math Olympiad (IMO) for high-school students took place July 3rd-14th in the pleasant old Romanian city of Cluj (Kolozsvár to Hungarians, Klausenburg to Transylvanian Saxons). You can download the six competition problems from here in any one of umpteen languages. To judge from results, Problem 3 seems to have been the beast.

I am proud to report that the U.S.A. team came first in the national rankings. That's the seventh time this has happened since we started competing in 1974. Congratulations to team leaders Po-Shen Loh and Oleksandr Rudenko, and to the team:

James Lin
Mihir Anand Singhal
Vincent Huang
Andrew Gu
Michael Ren
Adam Ardeishar

There is a team picture at the MAA website, individual pictures at the IMO website.

Evan Chen, Assistant Academic Director for the U.S. team, who worked up much of the training material, should also get thanks. Evan has a neat blog, with some pictures, here.

(2)  A few weeks prior to that we got results for the 2018 Mathcounts national competition for 6th to 8th grade U.S. students, held May 14th in Washington, D.C. The national champion, ranked first of the 56 participants, was Luke Robitaille, a 14-year-old homeschooled eighth grader from Euless, Texas. Luke is the first ever repeat national champion.

The HBD aspect of both the IMO and Mathcounts results are too obvious to belabor. I'll just note that of the 56 ranked Mathcount participants:

  • Only ten were not obviously of Chinese, subcontinental Asian, or Jewish ancestry.
  • Of the 47 I can identify by sex, only one is female.
  • Jaedon Whyte of Florida, ranked 12, is the only black.

(3)  Oh, you want a brainteaser? Here you go.

Luke Robitaille won the final round of the Mathcounts Competition by answering the following question:

The first three terms of an infinite arithmetic sequence are 3.46, 2.47 and 1.48, in that order. What is the first integer term in this sequence?

Luke gave the correct answer in 14.55 seconds.

What is the correct answer, and how long did it take you?

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