Derb's November Diary: Peter Wehner's Bush Mush; Bernie Sander's Communism; etc.
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Reformocons are wan. Peter Wehner is a sort of St. Paul of Compassionate Conservatism, taking George W. Bush to be the Christ … Or, to tighten up the theological parallel: taking Bush 41, Bush 43, and ¡Jeb! to be the Holy Trinity.

If you like Karl Rove, you'll love Peter Wehner. With Rove and Michael Gerson, Wehner shares most of the guilt for unleashing on our unsuspecting nation what writer/blogger Jen Kuznicki calls "Bush mush."[Magnificent Imbeciles: The Enemy Within,, October 14, 2013]

Wehner has been around Washington, D.C. pretty much for ever, think-tanking and opinionating and consulting and speech-writing, always trying to get the Republican Party to follow the advice so generously and selflessly offered to them by the New York Times (where he has an Op-Ed gig).

I did a few rounds with Wehner five years ago over George W. Bush's PEPFAR program to subsidize AIDS drugs for sub-Saharan Africans. I thought the thing was an inexcusable waste of public money; Wehner thought I was a shamefully un-compassionate brute for thinking so. I posted a record of the bout in my December 2010 diary

Imagine, then, the expression that crossed my face on reading George Packer's article "The Republican Class War" in the November 9th issue of The New Yorker (which, you understand, I only buy for the cartoons). Opening:

One recent morning at the Jefferson Hotel, in Washington, D.C., Peter Wehner, a conservative writer who served as an adviser for the past three Republican Presidents, described his party's problems over a bowl of oatmeal. [Bush Mush brand? … sorry —JD.] He said, "We got clobbered in 2012" — the fifth Presidential election out of the past six in which the Republican candidate lost the popular vote. "There's a demographic problem …"
Wehner, Packer tells us, is a leader of "a group of Republican thinkers who call themselves 'reformocons'."

What do they want, these reformocons? Why, a Bush-41-style kinder'n'gentler GOP, which is to say a Bush-43-style Compassionate Conservatism, which is to say … er, I don't think ¡Jeb!'s speechwriters have yet put a marque of his own on Bush mush.

The reformocons are definitely in the ¡Jeb! tent.

When the 2016 Presidential campaign began, an organizer of the [first reformocon] conference [in October 2013], April Ponnuru, became a policy adviser to Jeb Bush.
April is the wife of my National Review nemesis Ramesh Ponnuru. She has to be wondering right now whether signing on to ¡Jeb!'s campaign was as smart a career move as it seemed nine months ago.

Hold back your tears, though. Mrs Ponnuru will be all right. These high-end wonks are like roaches: they'll survive a thermonuclear war. Of the few I've met in person — Karl Rove is representative — not one looked like he'd been missing any meals. BMI-wise, the mode is portly. I have not met Wehner, but he too looks well-upholstered in photographs.

And speaking of Karl Rove: My latest information is that Rove's son has so far not had to pick tomatoes.

The reformocons are certainly teeming with appropriate wonkery:

school choice, health-care savings accounts … having college education underwritten by private investors, then repaid over the next decade as a predetermined percentage of graduates' earnings … a wage subsidy that would increase the pay of workers making less than forty thousand dollars a year, building on the Earned Income Tax Credit …
No doubt it is all, like the PEPFAR extravaganza, sincerely well intended. Alas for good intentions:
To the reformocons, the Republican Presidential race appeared to be stocked with candidates who were eager to take the Party into the twenty-first century. "I thought it was a group of people who would make that case," Wehner said. He looked up from his oatmeal with a wan smile. "But then came Mr.Trump."
I'm sorry, really sorry, but I couldn't help smiling myself at that point, and not at all wanly.

I didn't actually get much further. It's a long article — 7,200 words — and I'm not that interested in party politics. Foolishly supposing that I might at least turn up something relevant to the National Question for a blog post, I tried Ctrl-F on "immigr." That got four hits:

Donald Trump's campaign first attracted attention, in the press and among Republican voters, when he disparaged Mexican immigrants.
[Executive editor of National Review Reihan] Salam, the son of Bangladeshi immigrants, is critical of increased immigration and believes that Trump, though the wrong messenger, has forced an important issue into the open.
A [steel mill] worker named Mike Yeater said that he liked Trump's positions on "immigration stuff and issues like that — he's got patriotic beliefs."
Good for Salam. I would have preferred "favorable towards massively reduced" over "critical of increased," but … baby steps.

Salam aside, Wehner and the other reformocons apparently aren't interested in asking the National Question.

Vladimir Ilyich Sanders. In a November 17th interview with Yahoo Politics, Donald Trump called Bernie Sanders a Communist.

In fact, Trump said, Sanders, who describes himself as a "democratic socialist," isn't really a Democrat at all.

"I think he's a communist. I think he's actually a communist with a socialistic bent," said Trump, adding: "Anybody that would say that the Paris attacks were caused by global warming, there's something missing. Even the most ardent global-warming believers aren't buying that one."

Leaving aside the difficulty of extracting any sense from the phrase "a communist with a socialistic bent," there is something quaintly mid-20th-century about calling someone a Communist. What does it even mean any more? Five-Year Plans? A People's Democratic Dictatorship? Public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange? From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs? The very phrases have a cobwebby look about them.

(Although in regard to socialism, we should remember what American socialist warhorse Norman Thomas, in his old age, told William F. Buckley, Jr.: that by the late 1960s, most of the social programs Thomas had been fighting for all his life had been implemented, often by Republican administrations.)

There are of course still countries governed by Communist Parties, but those countries are as different from each other as countries can be. The only things in common between the high-IQ craziness of North Korea, the flyblown Caribbean squalor of Cuba, and the brisk entrepreneurial vigor of China, are absence of elections, rubber-stamp legislatures, controlled media, and the word "Communist."

I smiled anyway when I read about Trump calling Sanders a Communist. The word doesn't have the force it had fifty years ago, when we all understood it to mean "a person who thinks the U.S.S.R. is a better place than the U.S.A."

Still, if Lefties and their GOP stooges can throw the word "Nazi" around with wild abandon, I don't see why we shouldn't do the same with the name of the other — much more widespread, way longer lasting, and far, far more lethal — 20th-century cult of politics by mass murder.

And after all Bernie, when Mayor of Burlington, twinned his city with Yaroslavl in the U.S.S.R., and took his honeymoon there. (This was 1988.) To be fair to the old fool, though, he did allow, in an interview with Yaroslavl's Mayor, that:

The quality of both housing and healthcare in America appeared to be "significantly better" than in the communist state. "However," he added, "the cost of both services is much, much, higher in the United States."
Crony communism. Here is a story about how things work in the biggest communist country today.

My wife spent much of her childhood in Bei-bei, now a district in the Chongqing megacity, southwest China. We visited with some of her old high-school friends there in 2001.

beibeiBei-bei has a pleasant public park, much loved by the locals. Recently, however, the Bei-bei townspeople have been told that the park has been sold to a private developer with family connections in the provincial Communist Party hierarchy. It will no longer be public space.

There has been much indignation about this, and even some protests — a brave business in a country where such events are covered by the Chinese media as, to quote a headline I actually saw once about coal miners in Manchuria protesting their working conditions, BAD PEOPLE MAKING TROUBLE.

Here's the punchline: The park was created in the 1930s by "patriotic industrialist" — which is to say, capitalist —Lu Zuofu as an act of public-spirited charity for the townspeople. Now, under communism, the Bei-beiers' park is being taken away from them.

This kind of thing happens every day somewhere in China. It's a sort of ChiCom mirror-image of eminent domain. Call it "crony communism."

Low life in China. There's a link in that last segment to my 2001 China Diary. Here's another extract from that same diary. It concerns internet cafés — wang-ba in Chinese.

Before leaving New York I was apprehensive that I might not be able to find a wang-ba, having heard that the government was cracking down on them, had in fact closed 8,000 of them so far this year.

I supposed, when I read this, that the crackdown was political — a way of keeping people in the dark about what's going on in the rest of the world. No doubt this is something to do with it; but having now frequented three or four of these places, I feel sure that the main motive is social, not political.

The wang-ba is low life. The computers are stripped-down, beaten-up and grimy. You sit jammed in an unlit back room with a dozen other tube jockeys, practically all young men of the kind your parents (if you were Chinese) would warn you not to associate with. They have long hair, sometimes dyed surprising colors. They are round-shouldered and sunken-chested. They wear T-shirts bearing legends in English that do not quite make sense yet manage none the less to be mildly suggestive (SING PRECOCIOUS GIRLS).

The air is thick with cigarette smoke. Pop music of the maximum-parental-disapproval variety (which in north China means Cantonese pop from Hong Kong) is being played much too loud through poor speakers. The youths — definitely "youths," not "young people" — converse in slang and croon hoarsely along with the music. Slutty-looking girls wearing make-up and short skirts occasionally drift in.

A wang-ba is, in short, the Chinese equivalent of a pool parlor.

Well, you heard it from me first, back there in 2001. Now here it is in the news again. From MailOnline, November 23rd:
Chinese woman, 24, who was missing for a decade and presumed dead is found living in an internet café after playing games for 10 years.

A Chinese woman, who was missing for 10 years and — at one point — presumed dead by her parents, has been found living in an internet cafe for a decade.

The woman, known under the pseudonym of Xiaoyun, was found by police at a cyber cafe in the city of Hangzhou, east China, reported the People's Daily Online.

She said she had been supporting herself by playing games at internet cafes …

Xiaoyun … said she was a rebellious teenager and decided to leave home after an argument with her father.

She told Qianjiang Evening News: "[I] had ran away from home before. And at that time when I tried to ask my dad for some money, [my parents] wouldn't give it to me, saying I must be lying."

Xiaoyun would only have been ten years old in 2001, so she couldn't have been one of those slutty-looking girls I'd noticed (who stirred much interest among my readers). Good to know, anyway, that it's not all Tiger Moms over there, and low life is still going strong in the People's Republic.

At least the kids will have some place to go when all the parks have been taken by property developers.

The Great Liberal Death-Wish. On November 12th I reviewed Michelle Malkin and John Miano's excellent new book Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires and Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels Are Screwing America's Best and Brightest Workers here at My review included the following:

In North America, immigration romanticism — famine ships, huddled masses, sweatshops — runs strong. Layered on this today is a peculiar racial death-wish afflicting white people everywhere in the West: a sickly blend of ethnomasochism and xenophilia, colored by guilt over slavery and colonialism.
Adding in the hyperlinks, I wanted one to Malcolm Muggeridge's 1966 essay "The Great Liberal Death-Wish." The essay is pretty well-known; there are references to it all over. Oddly, though, I couldn't find the essay itself on the internet. (Possibly this was just incompetent googling on my part. If any more diligent reader knows where it is, I'll post the link.)

My normal recourse in situations like this is to head over to the New York Public Library main branch, Periodicals Section, Room 100, which "has copies of every newspaper and magazine from everywhere in the world for at least a couple of centuries back." [Amity Shlaes And The Ballistic Trajectory of Political Correctness, by John Derbyshire;, June 18th 2012.]

However, I was pretty comfortable at my desk just then and didn't feel like taking a one-hour train ride into Manhattan. I added a hyperlink to an American Conservative piece that referenced Muggeridge's essay. Then I finished up and filed my review.

My inability to find the Muggeridge original nagged at me, though. This was more than just idle perfectionism. The essay had appeared in the British political/literary magazine New Statesman, issue dated March 11th 1966, back in my undergraduate days. I was a keen reader of that magazine at the time, and I remember reading that essay when it first appeared.

In fact I don't just remember reading it, I remember an extraordinary amount of context around the reading of it. I remember where I was sitting: on a sofa in the student union lounge at University College, London, facing the entrance to the lounge. I remember why I was sitting there: There was a girl I fancied, and I wanted to see her come into the lounge. I remember what I was wearing: a gray corduroy jacket I was rather pleased with. I remember what I was smoking: a Golden Virginia roll-up. (In 1966 you could smoke everywhere.) I remember the placement of Muggeridge's article: recto, full page, opposite Paul Johnson's Diary (heh). I remember the lecture I had come from: Dr. Kestelman on Functional Analysis.

Why all that context? I don't know. My memory isn't normally that good. Nowadays, of course, I can't remember where I left my damn car in the supermarket parking lot. Muggeridge's essay is good; but I've read a lot of much better stuff without retaining so much context around the reading of it. On general psychological grounds, I'd surmise that I was in the grip of some emotional turmoil: to do with the girl I fancied, perhaps, or the girl I was actually dating, with whom relations were fast deteriorating. I have no memory of such emotions; but that's how the mind works sometimes.

Well, I recalled that somewhere in my fruitless googling I had come across a British site selling old magazines, including the relevant issue of New Statesman. On a whim I hit Ctrl-H, found the site, and placed an order.

pullquoteNow I own the March 11th, 1966 issue of New Statesman, Muggeridge and all. You should imagine me turning the pages slowly, dropping a nostalgic tear now and then.

As a public service, I have scanned in "The Great Liberal Death-Wish." You can read it here. It's a bit of a Cold War period-piece, but prime Muggeridge — the man could hardly write a dull word:

There is a story (probably apocryphal) that in the days of the Third Reich a Nazi procession included a contingent of liberal intellectuals bearing the banner: "Down With Us!" Had they but known it, they were speaking on behalf of all liberals everywhere.
Math Corner. Just a brainteaser to see you through coffee break.

Representing a positive whole number as the sum of two squares is an old problem, going back at least to Diophantus. It gets three full pages in Hardy and Wright's Theory of Numbers. There is stuff all over the internet.

Representing a number as the difference of two squares is less worked over, frankly because it's easier.

So give it a try. In how many way can you express 90,000 as the difference of two squares? The numbers you're squaring should of course be positive (> zero) whole numbers.

Are there any numbers that can't be so expressed?

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's had two books published by 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

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