00m55s Judge Barrett keeps a straight face. (But where is she on Disparate Impact?)
09m00s Bending the knee to CultMarx orthodoxy. (Just strategically, I hope.)
15m48s Our new state religion has zealots. (Keith Olbermann lets loose.)
21m29s Remembering Salamis. (But the math is wrong.)
25m10s Packing the Court. (A nasty mathematical hazard.)
29m18s Approaches to diversity. (Ours, and China's.)
38m37s Signoff. (With harmony.)
01—Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Welcome, listeners, from your harmoniously genial host John Derbyshire, here with some snippets from the week's news and commentary thereon.
I have a very nice lady for you, and a very nasty guy. Then I have some math and some history, all seasoned with a sprinkling of jurisprudence and metaphysics.
Let's see how it goes. First, the lady.
02—Judge Barrett keeps a straight face … Political spectacle of the week has been the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I agree with the general opinion that Judge Barrett has handled things very well. I also agree with the particular opinion voiced by Ann Coulter with her usual penetrating eloquence on Wednesday, quote from Lady Ann:
If there were an Olympic sport called "Keeping a Straight Face While Being Lectured by Morons," ACB would take the gold.
None of the Democrats has been able to lay a glove on Judge Barrett. Her personal circumstances make it difficult for them. She's a woman; two of her seven children are black adoptees. That rules out charges of toxic masculinity and racism—unless you buy into Ibram X. Kendi's argument that for whites to adopt nonwhites is a species of colonialism, which apparently none of the committee Democrats do buy into, at any rate not in public.
With toxic masculinity and racism ruled out, the Democrats don't have many other arrows in their quiver. If the lady could also manage somehow to be a Muslim lesbian, she'd be totally fireproof, waterproof, and anti-magnetic.
The Democrats have done the best they can with charges that a Court with Judge Barrett on it will strike down Obamacare and Roe v. Wade. Then sick people with no money will be left to die in the gutter and women nationwide will suffer permanent injury from amateur backstreet abortionists.
To the degree there's any real issue there, the remedy is, as the great Calvin Coolidge used to say, in the ballot box. If voters want Medicare for all or abortion on demand, let them vote for legislators who will make the appropriate laws. It's not the job of a Supreme Court Justice to legalize or outlaw anything. That's what legislators are for, yo Senators.
Judge Barrett seems to understand that. She fielded the hostile questions without breaking a sweat. She's obviously a smart lady well able to take care of herself.
Let's not expect too much from her, though, supposing she is confirmed. At this point in our understanding, we shall not get sensible or useful jurisprudence from a person with no grounding in the human sciences. Judge Barrett's background is all Humanities. She seems to have no scientific interests at all.
That's a sad contrast with a different Amy, Radio Derb's favorite legal scholar, Professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prof. Wax started her academic career in microbiology and actually practiced medicine before turning to the law.
That's exceptional, though. The spirit of cold scientific inquiry is not much taught or cultivated in our law schools.
If I were on the committee questioning Judge Barrett I would, for example, ask her about the Disparate Impact doctrine.
Question One: Judge, in current American society, black and nonblack citizens present vastly different statistical profiles on many key indices of socialization, most notably school misbehavior, educational outcomes, and crime. Decades of legislation, numerous Supreme Court rulings, and great social-engineering projects have done nothing to shrink these differences.
Our conventional wisdom, jurisprudentially enshrined in the doctrine of Disparate Impact, says that these differences are caused by malice—conscious or unconscious, past or present—on the part of nonblacks. Do you think this doctrine is sound?
That would be my first question. I might follow it up with another, even more impertinent.
Question Two: Judge, the opinion of the Supreme Court, delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in Grutter v. Bollinger seventeen years ago, was that, quote: "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." End quote.
The interest referenced there was the University of Michigan Law School's interest in striving to, quote, "achieve that diversity which has the potential to enrich everyone's education and thus make a law school class stronger than the sum of its parts." End quote.
Do you agree with the Court's opinion that by year 2028—eight years from now—the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary for the furtherance of those interests?
Probably Judge Barrett would deflect those questions as skilfully as she has the many others posed to her this week. It would be thrilling to hear them asked in a televised hearing, though.
As thrilling as it would be, the event is inconceivable. Anyone who hinted, even interrogatively, at race realism in a forum as public as that would be chased from the hearing chamber by a baying pack of senators and reporters, bipartisan of course, and would never be allowed on any public platform again. So deep are we sunk in fantasies about human nature.
03—… but bends the knee to PC orthodoxy. There was in fact some depressing evidence that in the matter of conventional wisdom, Judge Barrett's thinking is … conventional, to a degree not really fitting for a court that is supposed to perform at the highest levels of judicial objectivity.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, for example, asked Judge Barrett what her reaction was to the much-aired video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of uncooperative juiced-up criminal suspect George Floyd back in May. The judge replied, inter alia, quote:
I think it is an entirely uncontroversial and obvious statement, given as we just talked about the George Floyd video, that racism persists in our country.
Coming from a person supposedly steeped in formal courtroom procedure, that is unacceptable. It has not been proven to any standard of evidence I recognize that racism—ill will by a person of one race towards a person of another—was a factor in the death of George Floyd. Even supposing that Officer Chauvin caused Floyd's death—also not proven—police officers have been known to cause the death of suspects without racism being a factor at all: Google "Daniel Shaver."
So Judge Barrett is jumping to unwarranted conclusions there. Supreme Court justices should not jump to unwarranted conclusions.
And then, for comic relief, there was the strange little flap about Judge Barrett having used the phrase "sexual preference" when referring to homosexuals and people confused about their sex.
Responding to a question from Dianne Feinstein, Judge Barrett said, striving to be politically correct, quote:
I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.
Unfortunately the lady had not read the latest ukase from PC Central. As of sometime last week it is disgracefully, shamefully heteronormative to suggest that sexual eccentricity is a choice. "It is not," scolded Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, "Sexual orientation is a key part of a person's identity."
Here we get into deep metaphysical waters about identity and free will. I had things to say on this particular subject in Chapter Seven of my paradigm-shifting book We Are Doomed, quote:
Until a generation ago, homosexuality was widely assumed to be something you did, because you chose to. That was the basis of public attitudes, and of our laws.
Now more and more of us are subscribing to the view that homosexuality is not something you do, it's something you are.
Human nature being as complex as it is, there are fuzzy boundaries here. The majority opinion among homosexuals is: "I have always been this way. I have always known." Out on the borderlines, however, there are persons who might have ended up either one way or the other, depending on accidents of fate and, yes, choice. The crude reductionism of the Senator from Hawaii does not belong in the human sciences.
Where free will is concerned, if anyone wants to know, I am at one with Art Schopenhauer, quote: "Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will." End quote. Translation: "You can do what you want, but you can't want what you want."
Be all that as it may, Judge Barrett cucked, groveled, and genuflected in the face of the Hawaii lady's scolding. Quote:
I certainly didn't mean and would never mean to use a term that would offend LGBTQ Americans. If I did, I greatly apologize for that.
I personally would exclude from our public life, after first branding them on the forehead, any person who uttered the phrase "LGBTQ Americans" non-ironically.
That's just me, though; and I will allow that Judge Barrett's cucking may have been strategic. She wants to get confirmed, and this petty annoyance wasn't worth starting a prairie fire over.
04—Our new state religion has zealots. You probably caught Keith Olbermann's October 9th address to the nation. In case you didn't, or need reminding, here it is.
[Clip: Trump can be, and must be, expunged. The hate he has triggered, Pandora's boxes he has opened, they will not be so easily destroyed.
So, let us brace ourselves. The task is two-fold: the terrorist Trump must be defeated, must be destroyed, must be devoured at the ballot box, and then he, and his enablers, and his supporters, and his collaborators, and the Mike Lees and the William Barrs, and Sean Hannitys, and the Mike Pences, and the Rudy Gullianis and the Kyle Rittenhouses and the Amy Coney Barretts must be prosecuted and convicted and removed from our society while we try to rebuild it and to rebuild the world Trump has destroyed by turning it over to a virus.
Remember it, even as we dream for a return to reality and safety and the country for which our forefathers died, that the fight is not just to win the election, but to win it by enough to chase—at least for a moment—Trump and the maggots off the stage and then try to clean up what they left.
Remember it, even though to remember it, means remembering that the fight does not end on November 3rd, but in many ways, will only begin that day.
An hour or so after watching that, while it was still bouncing around in my head, I took my dog for a walk. Basil gets a good long daily walk: forty-five minutes around the quiet, arborose streets of our middle-middle-class suburb.
So we're strolling along one of those streets when I spot a big yard sign. At first glance from a distance I thought it was something promoting a candidate for the coming election. Then I read it: HATE HAS NO HOME HERE.
That was it. No candidate or party mentioned, just that affirmation of faith in our new religion of Antiracism: the same affirmation Judge Barrett felt obliged to make before the Judiciary Committee, the same affirmation white-collar employees have to make if they don't want to lose their jobs, the same affirmation schoolchildren and college students have to make if they don't want to be shunned by their classmates and marked down by their teachers.
I indulged myself in a brief fantasy about the homeowner coming out from the house just as I was walking past. What would I say to him? In my fantasy, I'm sorry to admit I fell to sarcasm, which my schoolmasters told us is the lowest form of wit. In my imaginary encounter I said something like this:
Hey, I saw your yard sign there. What good people you must be! What good, moral people! I'm proud to share my neighborhood with such virtuous citizens. Thank you, thank you for living here! Down with hate! …
Something like that.
Back at home, I wondered where they had acquired the sign. Doing a Google search, I found pages and pages of these signs, from a dozen or more vendors, in all patterns and colors. Walmart will sell you one; so will Amazon. There's money to be made in virtue signaling.
Then the Keith Olbermann connection clicked on. Is there any doubt that the owner of that yard sign votes the same way Olbermann does, and quite possibly agrees word for word with the sentiments Olbermann expressed last week? Olbermann isn't that far out in left field. I know a couple of sober, well-educated middle-class citizens who share those same sentiments.
Antiracism is an ersatz religion, but it's a religion none the less and religions have zealots. A religion of peace, love, and divine justice can burn heretics alive and wage pitiless war against infidels. People who proudly advertise their intolerance for "hate" can shriek hot hatred at those who disagree with them, as Keith Olbermann's rant illustrates.
Our society has taken a seriously wrong turn somewhere.
05—Remembering Salamis. Will you permit me a couple of math items, please? Just short ones, I promise. Thanks!
For this first one, I swing into nitpicking mode. Yes, I'm going to pick a nit, just a tiny one.
Reading last week's Economist, in the section on Europe I noticed a brief article about the Battle of Salamis, the greatest naval engagement of the ancient world, fought between Greeks and Persians in the early fall of 480 b.c. off the little island of Salamis, near Athens.
Here comes the math: 480 b.c., Battle of Salamis; a.d. 2020, this year; 480 plus 2,020 equals 2,500. So this year looks like the 2,500th anniversary of the battle—the quinquiesquincentennial, formally speaking.
The island of Salamis is still with us, although The Economist tells us it's a bit of a dump nowadays, with nothing much to see related to the battle other than a couple of bronze statues. The inhabitants had been planning a big celebration none the less; but the coronavirus has put the kibosh on that. The Salamisians are naturally vexed. "It's been a big disappointment," says Georgios Panagopoulos, the mayor.
Here comes Radio Derb to vex them some more by pointing out that their arithmetic is wrong. You see, our system for numbering years was worked out by people who did not have a properly modern approach to numeration. If they had had, they would have given us a year zero in between the year 1 b.c. and the year a.d. 1. They didn't, though, so 1 b.c. is followed directly by a.d. 1.
It follows that the 480th anniversary of the Battle of Salamis falls not in the year zero, because there isn't one. The 480th anniversary falls in the year a.d. 1. Adding 2,020 to both parts of that, the 2,500th anniversary falls in the year a.d. 2021—next year, not this year.
That may be the smallest nit Radio Derb has ever picked.
06—Packing the Court. From picking to packing. My other math item is actually related to the political news, to news about the possible packing of the Supreme Court by the Biden-Harris administration. It comes with a tip of the hat to Dennis Prager over at the American Greatness website.
Prager points out a mathematical hazard in the idea of packing the Supreme Court. Let's suppose, says Dennis, that Judge Barrett is confirmed to the Court, and that conservatives then have a 6-3 majority, counting Justice Roberts as a conservative—which, as Prager says, is a stretch, but hey.
And let's suppose then that President Joe Biden appoints six new liberal justices, giving the left a 9-6 majority. Nine out of fifteen is three-fifths, so Dennis calls that a 60 percent advantage.
So far, so good. But now suppose Republicans gain Congress and the White House in some future election cycle. Pointing to the precedent set by Biden, they'd want to have a 60 percent advantage of their own on the Court. That would mean appointing 7½ more conservative justices, which would be a little tricky. They'd probably appoint eight, giving them a not-quite-61-percent advantage, fourteen justices to nine on a 23-seat Court.
Lather, rinse, repeat every time there's a total change of party control. If you understand the meaning of the word "exponential," you can see where this is going.
Prager takes it to the year 2120, a hundred years from now, when the Court comprises 522 justices, with a conservative majority of 104. The Democrats regain Congress and the White House and expand the Court to 783 justices …
Prager's math is sound, but his politics is too optimistic. If the Democrats win Congress and the Presidency next month, they will do all they can think of to make sure that no other party takes power for decades to come. Mass amnesties, open borders, statehood for Puerto Rico, D.C. American Samoa, Guam, and any other place they can think of. Our Antarctic territories? Why not?
It will be like the Whig Supremacy in 18th-century Britain, only more corrupt and totalitarian.
That aside, the math is kind of neat. Prager, as I said, only takes it to the year 2120. If you roll that exponential forward a further 180 years, there will be a million justices on the Supreme Court. They could secede and form a nation: Supremistan!
07—Approaches to diversity. Let's have some foreign news. Lifting my gaze above our nation's borders, I see … Mongolia.
Say what, Derb? Mongolia? I should care about Mongolia … why?
Patience, please. I'm going somewhere with this.
First, a little history. We all know about Genghis Khan and his empire back in the 13th and 14th centuries. That empire rose and fell, as empires do. By the end of the 17th century Mongolia had been swallowed up by the Manchus, a Siberian tribe who had, earlier in that century, taken over China. So Mongolia was part of the Manchus' Chinese empire.
In the fullness of time, actually in 1911, that empire also fell. China became a republic under Chinese rulers. The central goverment was weak, though. Regions of the Manchu empire that didn't have many Chinese people in them became de facto independent—notably Tibet.
Also Mongolia … except that, for complicated reasons to do with the way the Manchus had dealt with Mongolia's elites, only the northern part of Mongolia got real independence. In 1924 it became a People's Republic under communist rule—a Soviet satellite.
China's rulers were not happy about this, but they were too weak to stop it. Northern Mongolia—commonly called Outer Mongolia—stayed independent even when China got her political act together, more or less, under Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist Party in the late 1920s. The other piece, Inner Mongolia, was organized as Chinese provinces, although there was still a big Mongolian population in them.
Then the Japanese invaded China and everything got messed up. When the dust settled after WW2, China herself fell into civil war, Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists versus Mao Tse-tung's Communists.
That bout was decided in 1949. Chiang decamped to the island of Taiwan and governed there as the Republic of China, with a seat in the United Nations, in fact on the Security Council. Mao took over the rest of China, including Inner Mongolia, as the People's Republic. Outer Mongolia went on being a Soviet satellite nation.
Neither Mao nor Chiang was happy with Outer Mongolia being independent. Both of them figured that China's territory should include all the pieces claimed by the Manchu Empire: Tibet, East Turkestan, and all of Mongolia, even though Manchu rule over those places was mostly light-handed.
So when the Soviets tried to get Outer Mongolia a seat in the U.N. in 1955, Chiang Kai-shek's government, which still held China's seat in the Security Council, used its veto—the only time they used it. And when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited Mao in Peking in 1958, Mao demanded the "return" of Outer Mongolia.
Fast forward to the present. China is now rich and strong under totalitarian government. Outer Mongolia is still the sovereign nation of Mongolia, with a capitalist economy and democratic elections and, yes, a seat in the U.N.
Inner Mongolia is officially an "autonomous region" within China, along with Tibet, East Turkestan—called Xinjiang nowadays, home of the Uighurs you've been reading about—and some lesser specimens. The autonomy is of course fictitious; all significant decisions about the place are made in Peking. The population is about eighty percent Han Chinese, but that's not evenly distributed. Quite big areas are solidly Mongolian.
Still, there's no prospect the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia will make as much trouble for the ChiComs as the Tibetans and the Uighurs have. The ChiComs, however, are taking no chances. As in Tibet and East Turkestan, they've instituted a stiff program of Sinification, suppressing local language, culture, and religion.
In June this year they announced that schools in the region would change the language of instruction from Mongolian to Chinese. That's got the Mongolians riled up. Quote from the Guardian, September 1st:
Parents threatened to keep their children home and circulated petitions, and large crowds gathered outside schools to chant protest slogans and sing.
Attacks on the Mongolian identity by Xi Jinping's government have now spread abroad. A museum in France had planned to stage an exhibition about Genghis Khan, in collaboration with a museum in Inner Mongolia. They've had to postpone the show indefinitely because of Chinese interference.
The ChiComs wanted the exhibition's brochures, maps, and explanatory materials all rewritten to conform to their version of history, with certain words omitted, including "Genghis Khan," "Empire" and "Mongol." You can see the French museum's problem. It's tough to stage an exhibition about a guy and his empire if you can't use the guy's common title or the word "Empire."
Bottom line here: China's approach to demographic diversity is like a photographic negative of ours.
Two great nations, embarked on two utterly different courses. They both seem wrong-headed to me, but history will judge.
08—Signoff. That's all I can offer you this week, ladies and gentlemen. I'm afraid I must forgo the usual closing miscellany; I've overrun my time. Thank you for your time and attention; and if you have a birthday round about now, may it be a happy one!
I mention that because both Mrs Derb and a dear friend have birthdays on the same day towards the end of this week, so we'll be doing some serious partying with our friend and his family this weekend.
Something new for signoff music here. In this line of work, you don't get away with anything. Mis-statements of fact, grammatical flubs, eccentricities of pronunciation: Some listener or reader will be sure to email in with a correction.
I don't mind this myself. It keeps us honest, and online opinionating is not a sphere of activity overloaded with honesty. My correctors are anyway always polite, with at worst a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger style of criticism. Nobody acquainted with human fallibility could mind these gentle corrections.
Well, here's one from a few days ago, writing in about a segment in my October 2nd podcast. I was scoffing at the idea that white supremacy was any kind of a factor in our public life today. Along the way there I said the following thing, quote from self:
I understand of course that white supremacy was once a thing in the U.S.A. There was a system of social rules, and in some places actual laws, to keep black Americans subordinate to whites. That you can fairly call "white supremacy."
It's long gone, though, and about as likely to come back as barber-shop quartets or three-pack-a-day cigarette habits. In fact we haven't just corrected ourselves; we've over-shot the correction mark, into a zone where blacks enjoy favors and privileges not available to nonblacks — a state of affairs you could fairly call "black supremacy."
That brought a gentle rebuke from a listener, quote:
The barbershop quartet is indeed a song form that was popularized more than a century ago, but it is most assuredly not dead. I am a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, and we are more than 20,000 men (and now women, as per modern Woke sensibilities) who enjoy the fine old art of quartetting.
I should actually have known that. A cousin of mine in England, who unfortunately I lost touch with forty years ago, was at that time—i.e. around 1980—a keen quartettist. I'm glad to know it's still a thing forty years further on—a healthy, social, upbeat pastime giving pleasure to thousands. Good luck to you all!
So, continuing the Beatles theme from last week, here's a bit of the Trudbol Barbershop Quartet singing "When I'm Sixty-Four."
And there will of course be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: The Trudbol Barbershop Quartet, "When I'm Sixty-Four."]