01m08s The DNC's really bad week. (Who can stop the Limousine Leninist?)
08m13s Stalinesque extravaganza, cont. (Another SOTU, no-o-o-o...)
15m29s Discontent stirs in China. (At home with the Derbs.)
25m07s The price of stupidity. (Race denialism might kill us.)
28m55s The most interesting place in the world. (Ireland's election.)
35m02s Honoring our heroes. (If Rush, why not Pat?)
36m55s No more Queen's English in the EU. (They'll be after replacing it.)
38m22s Keef quits. (The indestructible Stone.)
38m44s Signoff. (With Boris Pasternak.)
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings once again, listeners. This is of course your unimpeachably genial host John Derbyshire, with news from all over — mainly this week from the domestic front, as that's where the big political action has been. Later, though, we shall visit the land of chopsticks and bat soup, then the land of hurley sticks and cabbage stew.
Enough of these preliminaries: On with the motley!
[Clip: Pavarotti, "Vesti la giubba.".]
The headquarters of the Democratic National Committee are located at 430 South Capitol Street Southeast, Washington, DC 20003. If you happen to be walking along South Capitol Street Southeast any time this weekend, I advise you to cross to the other side of the road, as DNC staffers are hurling themselves from the roof of number 430. It's only a three-storey building, I know, but some of those DNC staffers are pretty well-upholstered, and having one landing on top of you could seriously spoil your weekend.
End of public service announcement.
Yes, it's been a bad week for the Party of the Little Guy. Monday's Iowa caucuses did not go well for the Democrat Party bosses. Their dream of a Joe Biden / Amy Klobuchar ticket is dwindling fast in the rear-view mirror. Mayor Peter Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders swept the field in Iowa, with Elizabeth Warren a sad third, Biden a distant fourth, and Klobuchar a far-distant fifth.
From the point of view of the DNC suits, this is not good. Blacks in the generality don't like homosexuals, so Buttigieg could lose the party a lot of votes there. Limousine Leninist Bernie Sanders fires up the college radical crowd nicely; but there is still a big cohort of Americans who remember the U.S.S.R. with no affection at all, and won't be happy when the Trump campaign airs — as they surely will — clips of young Bernie yukking it up with his KGB minders.
And come to think of it, I'm going to withdraw the word "young" from that sentence. Bernie was 46 at the time, old enough to know who he was schmoozing with.
Now he's 78. Eight months into his first term he'll turn 80. Don't expect the Trump campaign to keep quiet about that, either.
Sure, the matter of age will need some careful handling; Trump himself is only five years younger than Bernie. Numbers have a shape and a resonance all their own, though, above and beyond their quantitative significance. Eighty. Roll it around on your tongue a couple of time: eighty.
Bernie's vulnerable on the class issue, too. Although not in the Donald Trump, Michael Bloomberg league, nor even anywhere close to it, he coins upward of a million dollars a year, owns three houses, and lives pretty large.
Writing about Uruguay in my January Diary I mentioned former president of that country José Mujica and called him, quote, "a sort of honest version of Bernie Sanders." Mujica lived frugally on a small farm and drove a beat-up old car. When he retired from public life in 2018 he refused to take a pension. He was a lefty — a radical socialist — but an honest one. He lived his beliefs, wacky as they were.
Sanders is not an honest man. He may not be a billionaire, but he's got enough moolah to remind voters that the Democratic Party is the bread in our political sandwich: the top and the bottom in league against the middle.
And in the matter of honesty, there is that awkward video clip of Sanders in 2015 telling Ezra Klein that:
[Clip: Open borders? That's a Koch brothers proposal … That's a right-wing proposal that says, essentially, there is no United States …]
Open borders is of course cast-iron dogma in today's Democratic Party while nationalism is poison. Sooner or later Bernie's going to be confronted with that video clip. I suppose he'll claim to have had some sudden flash of insight, like St Paul on the road to Damascus … but it's going to be hard to make that convincing.
Some number of those new Democrat voters that both our big parties have been busily importing this past thirty years will take umbrage at Bernie having once wanted to exclude them.
So the DNC has to know that Sanders is not a good prospect for the general, and Buttigieg is very little better.
If Sanders and Buttigieg keep piling up the delegates, though, while Biden and Klobuchar sink below the quicksand, then, as Pat Buchanan wrote yesterday, the only thing standing in the way of a Sanders/Buttigieg ticket would be Michael Bloomberg's billions.
Hey, watch out there — here comes another DNC staffer. [Scream, falling body sound.]
03 — Stalinesque extravaganza (cont.). Oh no, not another State of the Union spectacle. Don't make me report the damn thing, please. For pity's sake, don't make me watch it. I promise … [Phone ringing.] Excuse me … Hello? … Yes … Oh, hi … What's that? You'll pay me time and a half? … No, even for time and a half I won't watch it … Double time? … Deal … Okay … thanks. [Hangup.]
Right. So. The State of the Union.
If you've listened to Radio Derb for a year or more you will know my invariable line on this. It starts with a sentence that includes the phrase "Stalinesque extravaganza." I go on to wonder aloud what the justices of the Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs are doing there, when our Constitution only says "He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union."
Then I jeer at the congresscritters standing to applaud at every punctuation mark; or else, if they are not of the President's party, ostentatiously scowling and sitting on their hands.
Finally I roll my eyes at the parade of Lenny Skutniks planted in the public gallery for our admiration and emulation, like Model Workers in a Soviet factory; although I add some qualifying remarks about them being worthy persons in themselves, but, to quote my actual words from last year, quote:
I'm only regretting that they don't see what I believe I see: the utterly un-republican — small "r" — nature of the spectacle as it's developed.
I wrap up by pledging my sacred honor and undying loyalty to any candidate of any party who will return to the pre-Woodrow-Wilson style — a properly modest republican style — of just having the address typed up and mailed to Congress, sparing us the Busby Berkeley spectacular put on by people who can't sing, dance, or even act worth a damn.
Of course I am hopelessly behind the times with all that. We are an empire now, not a republic; and the God-Emperor is expected to put on a show. Watching the State of the Union in that spirit, and setting aside my own absurd hankering for republican modesty among those in power, how was it?
I must say, I thought it went rather well. Trump was Trump, confident and unapologetic, pleased with things he has done and with the state of the nation's economy, which is indeed humming along nicely.
Was there some empty bluster in the claims and statistics he was throwing out? I bet there was some, but estimating how much is above my pay grade.
The Washington Post did a lengthy fact-checking piece, pooh-poohing most of the President's claims; but then David Harsanyi over at National Review did a fact-check of the fact-check, arguing that the Washington Post was just spinning it all to make Obama look good. Take your pick.
Our own Ed Rubinstein, who has been crunching the numbers, reports month-on-month declines in the immigrant workforce since last September. In December, Ed tells us, immigrants lost 357,000 jobs, while native-born Americans gained 567,000.
Trump has apparently been able to reduce the inflow through administrative measures: his Muslim ban, (upheld by the Supreme Court) his revised public charge rules, even more thorough adjudication by USCIS. Note also that Trump has sharply reduced the "refugee" intake, from Obama's peak of 85,000 to a proposed 18,000 for fiscal 2020.
That's all good. Sure, a blanket moratorium would be better, along with universal compulsory E-verify, a tax on remittances, an end to birthright citizenship and the Green Card lottery, … You know the wish list.
And a proper wall for crying out loud; one that doesn't blow down in high winds, as a newly-built California section of wall did on January 29th. And can someone please explain to the President what legal immigration is doing to the fortunes and career choices of our college graduates and tech workers?
Still, Ed's numbers are very encouraging, and we'll take what we can get. With those numbers in mind, I won't begrudge the President his imperial triumph on Tuesday — made all the sweeter, of course, by the wormwood and gall that Nancy Pelosi was obviously trying to digest as he spoke, and then on Wednesday by the end of the impeachment farce.
Not forgetting, also, Trump's sensational victory in the Iowa caucuses for his party. The President won 97 percent of the vote against some gentry Republicans whose names I can't be bothered to remember.
So, from Radio Derb for once: Well done, Mr President!
Mrs Derbyshire is sitting in her favorite armchair fiddling with her smartphone. She has an account at WeChat, which is a mainland-Chinese social medium. Her relatives in China, and her high-school and college classmates, now middle-class or retired fifty- and sixty-somethings, are all on WeChat. She likes to keep up with them.
I'm in the adjacent study with my door open, sitting at my computer trying to catch up on email.
Mrs D calls out to me: "I'm sending you a link by email. Would you print it out for me right away, please?"
I leap to obey. For reasons I have never inquired into, my lady's smartphone can't send stuff to our printer. I open the email, click on the link, and print. The durn thing is 13 pages, all in Chinese. To spare myself a brain aneurism trying to read the Chinese, I hit the Google "translate" button. Headline:
Professor Tsinghua Xu Zhangrun posts: Angry people are no longer afraid.
A little shaky on the word order there, Google, but I get the idea. Xu Zhangrun — surname first, of course — is a law professor at Tsinghua University, a big and prestigious institution in Peking. These 13 pages are an essay he's just published; a long angry diatribe against the ChiCom system of government and media control. Samples, quote:
The political system has collapsed under the tyranny, and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build has floundered … The mess in Hubei [that's the center of the coronavirus outbreak] is only the tip of the iceberg and it's the same with every province … All chances of public discussions have been smothered, and so was the original alarm mechanism in society … The anger of the people has erupted like a volcano, and the angry people will no longer be afraid.
I lifted the English there from the South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. I don't agree with "floundered" as a translation of 终结. I suppose they mean "foundered," but I don't even agree with that. 终结 just means "come to an end" … all right, I'm being pedantic.
Professor Xu is a brave man. He was suspended from teaching at his university back in 2018, after he publicly criticized Xi Jinping's move to make himself President-for-Life. A law professor having classes suspended for political incorrectness — Amy Wax at U. Penn. might have a comment on that.
With all proper respect to Prof. Wax, though, the political environment in China is still somewhat harsher than ours. Along with losing his classes, Prof. Xu was forbidden to leave China. Now, after this latest essay, his friends fear he will be disappeared.
Oh, I forgot to explain why Mrs Derbyshire was in such a hurry to get the essay printed off. Dissident opinions like that on Chinese-language outlets get taken down as soon as the ChiCom authorities notice them. The editors at YouTube and Twitter could explain how it's done.
Prof. Xu's essay, as it happens, was published on an overseas-Chinese platform, so it's harder for the censors to put the screws on, although they generally manage to sooner or later by making threats. "Nice little offshore website you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it …"
Well, that was Tuesday. Forward to Thursday. We're in the Derb family living-room after dinner again. I'm crossing the room to get something from the kitchen. Passing Mrs Derb in her armchair, from her smartphone I hear a bagpipe band playing "Amazing Grace."
"What's that," I ask, "a cop funeral?"
No, says my lady, it's someone on WeChat mourning the death of Li Wenliang, the doctor in Wuhan who sounded the alarm over coronavirus back in December. He was arrested for his trouble and forced to sign a statement confessing he had made "false comments" that "disturbed the social order."
Dr Li died on Wednesday or Thursday from exposure to the coronavirus. He leaves behind a pregnant wife and a young child. He is being mourned extravagantly on social media sites, faster than the censors can scrub them. There have even been demands he be given a state funeral.
That bagpipe band playing "Amazing Grace" that I heard while crossing my living-room was a popular nonverbal way to mourn. The censors rely on keywords in text; it takes them longer to figure out nonverbal protests.
So there is real, widespread public anger in China against the authorities. Will it come to anything? I wish it would. I'm bound to say, though, as I enter my sixth decade of amateur China-watching, I doubt it.
VDARE.com is not a neoliberal website; so when I quote The Economist magazine at you, please understand that I read the damn thing so you don't have to.
Even neoliberals get things right once in a while, though. In this case I agree with The Economist's pseudonymous China correspondent "Chaguan." Longish quote from him in the February 1st edition:
Mr Xi's China is two things at once. It is a secretive, techno-authoritarian one-party state, ruled by grey men in unaccountable councils and secretive committees. It also claims to be a nation-sized family headed by a patriarch of unique wisdom and virtue, in a secular, 21st-century version of the mandate of Heaven. If forced to choose between those competing models, bet on cold, bureaucratic control to win out. For Mr Xi and his team learned their own lesson from the Soviet Union's fall, five years after the Chernobyl disaster. Expressions of public love for Mr Xi, the "People's Leader", are all very well. But keeping power is what counts.
05 — The price of stupidity. As a footnote to that, let me direct your attention to our own Lance Welton's very striking article here at VDARE.com last weekend, putting some race-realist spin on the coronavirus scare.
Lance notes that so far as he could tell at that point, all the victims of the virus were East Asian — including the cases outside China. From the point of view of evolutionary biology, it is entirely possible that the coronavirus is race-specific. As Lance writes, quote:
Because [different races] were exposed to different pathogens in prehistory, there are very likely to be race differences in susceptibility to the pathogens and in how well the immune system can fight them.
The no-such-thing-as-race crowd are all swooning and clutching their pearls at that, but Lance references serious studies, and there is nothing scientifically implausible in what he's saying.
Lance admits of course that he doesn't know the virus is race-specific, and it may well not be. The Black Death, back in the 14th century, had no trouble crossing from Asia to Europe. His main point is only that our absurd neurosis about race — our refusal to admit that such an obvious feature of the natural world is real — hinders us from thinking about coronavirus in ways that might help us deal with it … Or with the next new infection that comes along. Wilful stupidity has a price.
As a thoughtful race realist, well-educated in the sciences, and with a Chinese spouse, am I worried about coronavirus?
I can't say so. It is of course difficult to know the numbers in China. The ChiComs have been putting out lots of numbers, to be sure; but given that every word they say is a lie, including "and" and "the," their numbers mean nothing.
So far as I can judge from the on-site stories coming through Mrs Derbyshire's WeChat account, this is more a phenomenon of mass hysteria than of mass infection — more a social crisis than an epidemiological one. Much of the hysteria has, as Prof. Xu says in his essay, been caused by the cack-handed responses and clumsy misinformation of the ChiCom authorities.
That could be all wrong, though. Mother Nature is not mocked, and she has some nasty tricks up her sleeves. There is a nonzero possibility, down at the ten percent level as best I can judge, that we are facing a worldwide medical crisis. I have bought a pack of surgical face masks in case the stores run out.
06 — The most interesting place in the world. Tomorrow, Saturday, they are having an election in the Republic of Ireland.
I've been writing about Ireland for 20 years. In one early piece, back in 2002, I asserted that, quote from myself:
I believe Ireland to be the most interesting place in the world right now, and … I think we should all be wiser, better informed, healthier and more attractive to potential romantic partners if we paid more attention to Irish matters.
Well, I may have gotten a little carried away there, but for nationalists, Ireland is very interesting.
For decades there through the middle of the 20th century, we all knew what Irish nationalism was. It was deeply conservative, profoundly religious, a nationalism of the countryside not the cities, a nationalism that scorned engagement with other countries and stayed resolutely neutral in WW2.
That was the Ireland of Éamon de Valera, which I once described as, quote: "a stagnant rustic theocracy with little appeal to anyone whose aspirations rose to anything higher than sitting around a peat fire discussing the Council of Trent in Gaelic." End quote.
Then quite suddenly (it seems to me, glancing back across the decades) that Ireland was swept away, replaced by something utterly different — the most woke country in Europe. The current Taoiseach — i.e. Prime Minister — is an open homosexual whose father is an Indian from Bombay. Heaven only knows what de Valera would say.
It has been the most dramatic national transformation since Japan turned itself from a feudal rice-farming society into a military and industrial giant across a similar short span of time, a hundred years previously. The Japanese held on to their nationhood, though; the Irish are discarding theirs.
In particular, Ireland has gone from being a nation of e-migration to one of mass imm-igration, to the degree that demographers are now predicting that native Irish people will be a minority in their country by mid-century.
Is there resistance to this? You bet there is; although it labors under the same disadvantages as National Conservatism everywhere.
The hostility of the media, for example. Here is a clip from a speech made by an Irish patriot a year and a half ago to an organization for Irexit — that is, seeking to get Ireland out of the EU, restore her sovereignty, and protect her national culture. The entire speech is 26 minutes long: I have just extracted this clip because it gets the loudest, most prolonged applause of the whole speech.
[Clip: We have a real problem. Yes, freedom is there, but our leadership stands between us and freedom. We have to remove them; and in order to remove them we need to have a conversation, which means we have to remove the media, because they will not permit us to have a conversation. (Loud, prolonged applause.)]
That's what Irish patriots think of their media — pretty much what you and I think of our media.
The speaker there is Irish author and playwright John Waters. He is a thoughtful, literate, very well-read man who deplores Ireland's loss of nationhood. He deplores it so much that he is standing as an independent candidate in tomorrow's election in Dún Laoghaire outside Dublin, just about the most woke place in the country — a sort of Irish equivalent of Portland, Oregon.
If you want to hear more from John Waters, and to learn about Irish politics and tomorrow's election from a National Conservative viewpoint, I urge you to read John's February 4th essay at the First Things website. The essay's title is Irish Politics Plays Musical Chairs. You can find it at firstthings.com.
Imprimis: I quoted Pat Buchanan back there. That reminds me that back in March of 2016, when Donald Trump was racking up delegates for that year's election, I suggested on Radio Derb that if Trump were to make it all the way to the White House in 2016, he should find some way to honor Pat.
Quote from me:
Trumpism is just Buchananism. Like Pat, the Donald thinks the first priority of the U.S. government is to mind the interests of Americans … All through those years, Pat Buchanan's voice was one of the firmest, most consistent, most per-sistent in speaking up for we, the people.
Watching the First Lady put the Medal of Freedom on Rush Limbaugh Tuesday evening I found myself thinking again, with no prejudice whatsoever to Rush, that Pat is at least as worthy of that honor, which is in the President's gift.
If we truly are looking at a new birth of National Conservatism, and President Trump is its embodiment, the President should do the right thing by Pat, whose voice has been clear and unwavering all these years — decades. Over to you, Mr President.
Item: Returning to Ireland for a moment, this news story caused somewhat of a stir around the internet last week. Headline: Irish English replaces British English as EU working language.
The gist of it was, that now Britain has departed from the European Union, the biggest English-speaking country there is now the Republic of Ireland; so it's only fair that Irish English replace British English in EU councils, so it is, to be sure.
European Commission president Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen was after saying, quote:
Starting today, all of youse will switch to Hiberno-English for all meetings and the drafting of documents, translations, and the like.
It was, alas, all a spoof. Thousands were taken in, though. As a columnist at the Irish Post remarked, quote:
Sure look, didn't we have a bit of craic all the same.
Item: Finally, from the world of show business: Rolling Stone Keith Richards has given up smoking cigarettes.
Who among us will ever forget where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news?
Ah yes, February. There's St Valentine's Day, a bright spot right there in the middle of the month. That aside, I don't think February is anybody's favorite month.
It sure wasn't the favorite month of Russian poet Boris Pasternak. He wrote a poem about February in the fine Russian tradition of gloomy hopelessness. You can practically hear some Solzhenitsyn character in the background wailing, "Our lives are not worth a kopek!"
I confess I didn't know this poem of Pasternak's until I read that essay I mentioned back in my China segment, the one by law professor Xu Zhangrun. Professor Xu actually starts off his essay with the first stanza of Pasternak's poem, in a Chinese translation. Here are the lines, in the best English translation I can find.
February. Get ink, start crying!
Start crying over February.
The dirt, as loud as rumbling thunder
Burns in the blackness of the spring.
That's the first stanza, and it goes downhill from there. Hard to believe, but true — this is a real wrist-slitter. So I guess we know where Professor Xu's mood was at when he set out to write his essay.
It's always a bit unfair to present poetry in translation, of course. The old Italian quip applies. "Translated poems are like women: The beautiful ones are not faithful, the faithful ones are not beautiful." So to play us out we'll hear Pasternak's lines in the original. No, don't panic, I'm not going to inflict my Russian on you. This is Michael Sayamov reading Pasternak's "February."
There will be more from Radio Derb next week … if we are still alive.
[Clip: Michael Sayamov reading Pasternak's "Февраль."]