03:22 Midterm meditations. (Getting close.)
08:23 Friends and the housing market. (Trump had a clue.)
16:05 Twitter’s new boss. (I hope he’s up to it.)
26:01 ”Face assassination” in Peking. (And Long Island.)
34:32 Celebrity culture. (Matthew Perry offers insights.)
36:00 U.K. gets new P.M. (Is it a globalist coup?)
38:04 Ode to Suella. (She will tell us.)
38:51 Signoff. (Fall music.)
01—Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your eminently genial host John Derbyshire, here to bring you some random commentary on the week's news.
To begin with this week I have an erratum. In the October 14th podcast, the one before last, I covered Tucker Carlson's hour-long interview with Kanye West. I said, inter alia:
I knew the name Kanye West because it shows up in New York Post headlines, attached to stories that I skip right over. I knew he was some kind of celebrity, and I think I knew that he was showbiz, not sports. That was the sum total of my Kanye West knowledge last Friday evening. I don't have to engage with celebrity culture, and you can't make me.
An alert listener emailed in to remind me that I had in fact engaged with Kanye West four years ago. In the podcast on October 12th 2018 I gave over a whole long segment to discussing West's visit to President Trump at the White House that week.
I began that segment just as I began the later one, by saying that, quote: "Until this morning I had only the very faintest idea who Kanye West is." End quote. I went on to tell listeners I'd looked up West on Wikipedia and discovered that he got part of his education in China, and had learned the language.
Interesting stuff about Kanye West … stuff that, after the lapse of four years, I had utterly forgotten.
Sorry about that. Fortunately my excuse is right there in the 2018 segment. Wikipedia tells us that having learnt Chinese in his pre-teen years, West has since forgotten most of it. On his behalf I wielded the Chinese saying 貴人多忘事—"an eminent person has so much to deal with, a lot gets forgotten."
Indeed it does, indeed it does.
02—Midterm meditations. Eleven days to the midterms, and there is still no certainty about what the effect on our national politics will be. That there will be a "red wave" of some magnitude is pretty generally agreed. Probably the House of Representatives will get a Republican majority, but what about the Senate?
MarketWatch tells us that all through August and September the Democrats were favored to keep control of the Senate, but that opinion has turned. As of this week betting markets are giving the GOP a two-in-three chance of taking back the upper house.
Those of us in the cynical community naturally want to know which GOP is being talked about here. Is it the GOP of Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Pence, and Susan Collins? Or is it the GOP of Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Josh Hawley?
Shall we be vindicated in our suspicion that neither of our two big political parties, neither Democrats nor Republicans, will reverse the anti-family, anti-white, pro-war, open-borders status quo?
To be sure, only one of the parties will defend that status quo vigorously and do all it can to advance those causes. The other will just shrug impotently, turn back to counting its donor checks from big military contractors, then dive behind the sofa in panic when someone calls out "racist" or "transphobic."
And how fair will the elections be, anyway? The ruling class has, as I described last week, fully recuperated from the trauma of 2016. They already had their strength back by the 2020 election, and they used it to pull off something really quite amazing: the victory of a joke politician whom no-one had ever taken seriously even before he became geriatric and incoherent, campaigning via amateurish blurry video clips from his basement.
They worked all the levers to make that happen. With COVID as an excuse, the notion that able-bodied citizens not serving in the military abroad could cast a vote only by showing up at a polling station on election day and giving proof of identification, was thrown out of the window. Mail-in votes and drop-boxes took over.
They carried out a full-court press on their willing allies in the media and Big Tech companies to silence negative information about their candidate—most famously, the revelations in his son's laptop computer about shady dealings with foreign governments. The federal government's own police agencies were enlisted to help.
Today the anti-family, anti-white, pro-war, open-borders Uniparty is stronger than ever. Will they do all they can to fix key results on November 8th—a drop box here, a phone call to Google HQ there? Of course they will.
How much difference will it make? We may never find out. If we do, it will be twenty years on, when official records are unsealed and memoirs published.
All that said, let's do what we can while we still can. Senators, congressmen, governors, judges: Try to figure which candidates in your locality are most likely to oppose and annoy the Uniparty, and tick those boxes.
03—Friends and the housing market. I'm going to walk back just a little that earlier assertion that I don't engage with celebrity culture. I do have occasional brushes with it.
For one thing I am a keen daily reader of The New York Post, which has a good complement of celebrity gossip that, no matter how quickly soever I turn the page, occasionally—very occasionally—snags my attention.
For another, I am married to a lady who is fully feminine in all aspects, including the aspect of finding celebrities interesting. Way back in 2009, in one of my Diary entries, I recorded her urging me to sit and watch a late-night TV sitcom with her. Quote from that diary:
I groaned inwardly, sure it would be some girly Friends-type show, with clever women outwitting slow, dull men, estrogen dripping out of the screen onto the carpet.
As it turned out, the sitcom Mrs Derbyshire wanted me to watch with her was Two and a Half Men—the old, good one with Charlie Sheen, not the lame later version. I enjoyed it, in fact got addicted to it; but that's by the by.
It was that remark about Friends that came to mind on Thursday this week as I was perusing my, yes, New York Post.
I really did dislike Friends. It was way too girly for my taste. Then, here in Thursday's Post, was a two-page spread about the actor Matthew Perry, one of the principals in the show. Matthew Perry has just published a memoir.
I hastened to turned the page, truly I did. I had noticed the story, though; and today, Friday, reading Ed West's latest Substack post, it bobbed back up into my consciousness.
Why? Well, Ed West—no relation to Kanye, so far as I know—Ed West's topic today is house prices. The title on his post is actually "House prices and the slow death of city life." Subtitle: "A lack of affordable housing plays an outsized role in almost every social ill." Sample quote:
Rather strangely to me, my children's favorite sitcom is Friends. Quaintly dated now, part of its allure is the dream of 20-somethings with average jobs being able to live together fairly centrally in a big city. It was a fantasy even in the 1990s, but today is beyond even plausible dreaming. ["House prices and the slow death of city life" by Ed West; Substack, October 28th 2022.]
I have passed similarly despairing remarks about today's housing market myself, lamenting the fact that my two late-millennial kids are stuck in rented accommodation, with little hope of getting on the homeowner ladder for years to come.
Just to repeat Ed West's subtitle: "A lack of affordable housing plays an outsized role in almost every social ill." Yes it does. It ought to be a major political issue, yet candidates rarely mention it. One more quote from Ed:
Most high-income countries now have a problem with large numbers of disaffected younger people turning to more extreme politics: in the English-speaking world these tend to be on the left, while in much of continental Europe they are on the right, but the common thread is the unaffordability of housing.
There are things that can be done, but they are mostly regulatory things—Ed West points the finger at land use regulations—and the topic of government regulation is notoriously boring to voters.
To everybody, in fact. A friend of mine, now retired but formerly a college teacher of Political Science, tells me that regulation was the hardest topic to teach, the only one of his courses where students regularly fell asleep in class and groaned aloud in chorus when given reading assignments.
Of recent major politicians, only Donald Trump took regulation seriously when in office. Quote from a Brookings Institution report, quote:
On average the Trump administration imposed annual net regulatory costs of $10 billion, compared to $111 billion for the Obama administration and $43 billion for the George W. Bush administration. ["Examining some of Trump's deregulation efforts" by Philip A. Wallach and Kelly Kennedy; Brookings, March 8th 2022.]
It can't be a coincidence that Trump had spent most of his working life buying, selling, and constructing buildings. All right, those buildings mostly weren't houses, but they were enough like houses to give Trump an intimate acquaintance with the world of regulation. And all right, Trump's war on regulation doesn't seem to have helped the housing market any; but perhaps in a second term he would have opened a new front in that war.
It may be too late for the midterms, but as we move on to gearing up for the big one in 2024, could we please hear candidates' proposals to get us back to a housing market that young people wanting to start families can actually afford?
04—Twitter's new boss. Headliner in the business news this week is Elon Musk's taking over Twitter.
It sounds like good news to me. Musk has the very endearing character trait—rare in the business world and extremely rare in the upper management of social-media platforms—of not taking himself too seriously.
On Wednesday, for example, he tweeted out a video clip of himself coming into the lobby of a grand office building carrying a porcelain sink fixture. Above the clip was the legend, quote:
Entering Twitter HQ—let that sink in!
The contrast with Twitter's co-founder and earlier CEO Jack Dorsey could hardly be more striking. If Jack Dorsey ever tweeted a joke, I missed it. If there are any pictures of Jack Dorsey smiling, I haven't seen them.
Dorsey was a major donor to woke and lefty causes, a fan of New-Agey meditation cults, and the guy who banned President Trump from Twitter. He took himself very seriously.
When Dorsey stepped down a year ago he handed off the CEO title to Parag Agrawal, an immigrant from India. The New York Times tells us that Agrawal was seen by some observers in the tech world as a, quote, "spiritual successor" to Dorsey. I'm not quite sure how we should take that, but the issue is anyway moot: Agrawal was let go this week with, according to The Times of India, a $60 million handshake.
The hope is of course that under Musk's ownership Twitter will be more tolerant of heterodoxy—of ideas, intelligently expressed and supported by facts, that lie outside the narrow boundaries dictated by the academic, media, and political guardians of public speech.
I said "the hope is"; but of course to those guardians it's not a hope but a fear. Here was the BBC website reporting just this morning on the Musk takeover, quote:
There are fears that more lenient free speech policies would mean people banned for hate speech or disinformation may be invited back to the platform. As well as Mr Trump, that could include political extremists, QAnon loyalists and Covid-19 deniers. ["Elon Musk takes control of Twitter in $44bn deal" by James Clayton & Peter Hoskins; BBC News, October 28th 2022.]
Note the obligatory cant terms there: "hate speech," "disinformation." Yes, the Beeb has fears, not hopes. Likewise, I am sure, every other mouthpiece for globalist orthodoxy.
To be perfectly fair to them, there are nontrivial issues here. Speaking of heterodoxy a minute ago, I said, quote, "ideas, intelligently expressed and supported by facts, that lie outside the narrow boundaries dictated by the academic, media, and political guardians of public speech," end quote. I'd like to see ideas like that discussed openly on social media.
The problem is, a lot of ideas are not like that: not intelligently expressed and/or not supported by facts. There are a great many shrieking lunatics out there—far more than there used to be, is my very strong impression. As the recent troubles around Kanye West remind us, not all ideas are intelligently expressed.
Nor, in the social sphere, are facts much known or respected. I'm sure you've seen reports on polls carried out asking people how many unarmed blacks are killed by police each year. Here's one from February last year. Quote:
The survey says among the very liberal, more than 50 percent believe American law enforcement killed 1,000 or more unarmed black men in 2019. Nearly 8 percent of the very liberal respondents believe officers killed more than 10,000 unarmed black men in 2019. ["Half of Survey's Very Liberal Respondents Believe 1,000 or More Unarmed Black Men Killed by Police in 2019" by David Griffith; Police magazine, February 25th 2021.]
That's very liberal respondents. The survey goes on to break down the responses for just-liberal, moderate, conservative, and very conservative respondents. Even among those identifying as "very conservative," four percent of respondents thought the number was more than ten thousand.
The actual number is either 12 or 27, depending on whether you use the Washington Post database or the one from the anti-cop "Mapping Police Violence" website.
So yes, there is an ocean of stupidity and ignorance out there. It's liable to throw up frequent tsunamis of nonsense on any completely uncontrolled social media platform. There are lines to be drawn, with thought and care and impartial good judgment to be used in drawing them.
Elon Musk seems to be aware of this. That BBC report I mentioned earlier includes the following, quote:
Earlier this week, Mr Musk said that he doesn't want the platform to become an echo chamber for hate and division. [Inner quote from Musk.] "Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hell-scape, where anything can be said with no consequences!" [End inner quote] he tweeted.
End quote. And I'll just note that the word "hate" there, used to mean "heterodox thoughts," is the Beeb's usage, not Musk's.
To those of us who remember the early days of the internet—the era of listservs, before the word "blog" was coined, or the phrase "social media"—this is all nostalgia-inducing. The early internet was free and wide open.
That was then, though, and this is now.
Sure, colleges were headed over the cliff 25 years ago. They weren't there yet, though; not to the point where a respectable university would give a low-IQ poseur like Ibram X. Kendi his very own research center.
Executive summary: We were more civilized then than we are now.
So keeping a more open Twitter on an even keel will need vigilance and good judgment. I hope Elon Musk is up to it. I believe he will be. Heck; a guy who lived his first seventeen years in South Africa may even be a race realist …
05—Face assassination in Peking (and Long Island). On the China beat: What was that business with Hu Jintao being hustled out from the closing ceremony of Twenty Big—the ChiComs' Twentieth Party Congress?
Hu Jintao was China's Supreme Leader before Xi Jinping: Party General Secretary, President, Commander-in-Chief. The easy way to remember that is that Supreme-Leader-wise, between Xi and Hu, Hu was on first. [Boo, hiss.] Sorry, sorry. He was accordingly seated right next to Xi in the front row of the auditorium.
Then, just as the two thousand-odd delegates had got through a key vote, two of the other front-row delegates part-coaxed, part-lifted Hu out of his seat and escorted him from the chamber. It looked as though Hu really didn't want to go.
Was the whole weird incident deliberately staged by Xi to tell viewers that his predecessor's comparatively liberal policies are now a dead letter? Did some health monitor Hu was wearing send out a signal that he might be about to have a heart attack? (The guy is 79.) Did his wife, who is 82, have some kind of health event and call for him? Theories have been flying around all week—during which time Hu has made no public appearances.
I'll take Door Number One there. Yes, the whole thing was staged by Xi. "A face assassination," The Epoch Times English-language edition called it, referring to the extreme Chinese sensitivity to "losing face."
I liked the expression "face assassination" so much I asked Mrs D if it's a translation from some Chinese idiom. No, she said, she never heard anything like that. So I guess it was just some subeditor at The Epoch Times being creative. Give that man a raise!
Of all those theories swirling around, the most off-the-wall one is that Hu was removed because, unlike all the other over-60 delegates, he hadn't dyed his hair black.
That theory is rather easily disproved. Scanning the hall, there seem to be other guys showing natural hair color. One such, in fact, 66-year-old Cai Qi, has such a neat close-cut silver hairstyle that somebody on Twitter said he looked as though Xi Jinping had a baby by Mike Pence.
I doubt Comrade Cai gives a flying wonton what we think about his hair. He just got elevated to the seven-member Standing Committee of the ChiCom Politburo, the tippy-top of the greasy pole in China's politics.
One of that supreme seven is of course Xi Jinping. Of the other six, the median age is 65½. None of the six is young enough or experienced enough to take over from Xi. Nice job there, guy.
Also in China news: The ChiComs have canceled Mrs Derbyshire!
My wife graduated from college in China in 1983. She married me and came to join me in New York three years later. She kept in touch with her college classmates somehow, though—mainly by snail mail—all through the eighties and nineties.
With the rise of the internet around the turn of the century, she was able to email them. Then, when Chinese social media came up in the early 2010s, she joined the most popular platform, WeChat. She set up a WeChat group for herself and her friends in China, and they gossiped away happily for ten years.
Then, a few days ago, she couldn't access the group. The ChiComs have wiped it out.
From WeChat conversations relayed back to me by my spouse over the years I don't believe that she and her classmates were plotting to overthrow the Chinese government. I don't think they talked Chinese politics at all.
My guess is that this is just a further enlargement of ChiCom xenophobia. They don't want their citizens having anything to do with foreigners at all. It's also probably just technical advance: their Artificial Intelligence algorithms constantly being refined to capture more and more of internet traffic that the authorities don't approve of.
Merrick Garland's FBI is looking on with keen interest.
In the same general zone, the ChiComs are trying to kill the YouYube channel China Uncensored.
If you don't know the channel, it is absolutely the best place to go for a quick fifteen-minute check on China-related issues. China Uncensored is an offshoot of The Epoch Times, which is itself an offshoot of the Falun Gong movement.
They are of course hostile to the ChiComs; but they present their commentary with wit and style. I don't agree with all their opinions, but they're well-informed, not vituperative, and when their factual knowledge overlaps with mine, they are correct.
The ChiComs naturally want to destroy China Uncensored. They launch regular bot-swarms at YouTube, complaining that the channel's vidcasts are age-inappropriate, which is ridiculous. The bot-swarms, however, cause YouTube's algorithms to blank out the channel's short and occasional ad spots, killing revenue.
You'd think this would be something YouTube could deal with, but they don't seem in a hurry to do so. The October 22nd edition of China Uncensored explains in more detail and tells you how you can help. Please check it out.
06—Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: A somewhat shame-faced footnote to the segment about housing prices.
I'm going to confess that I have now, after all, read some of the actual text in that Thursday New York Post story about Matthew Perry's memoir.
Perry has been a very naughty boy. Most of the naughtiness he inflicted on his own body: alcohol and opioids in wild abundance.
Other people's bodies figure in the story too, though. Julia Roberts, really? Valerie Bertinelli … Gwyneth Paltrow … Hoo-ee. But Jennifer Aniston gave him the elbow—wisely, in my opinion. Cameron Diaz punched him in the face—"accidentally," he tells us. Yeah, right, Matt.
Enough. On my personal scale of engagement with celebrity culture, that's about five years' worth right there.
Item: The U.K. government seems to have found some kind of equilibrium point under new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is British-born of Punjabi ancestry.
So … was this all a globalist coup? The ascent of Rishi Sunak is suggestive. He was once a Goldman Sachs employee. That is what in the financial markets is called "a leading indicator."
We may soon find out. Last week I mentioned the resignation of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, another Brit of Indian origins. The Home Secretary is like our Attorney General, ultimately responsible for matters relating to immigration. Mrs Braverman is an outspoken immigration skeptic, and that did not sit well with last week's Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Well, rather to my surprise, the new boss, Rishi Sunak, has re-installed Mrs Braverman. Now she is Home Secretary again. She was only six days off the job.
Will Mrs Braverman continue to voice her demands for immigration restriction when serving under Rishi Sunak? Or will her cabinet colleagues tell her to button her lip if she knows what's good for her? There is a quick'n'easy test of whether or not this has been a globalist coup. Let's see.
Item: Concerning last week's resignation of the aforementioned Mrs Braverman, I commented on it at Twitter … in verse. For those of you who don't follow my Twitter account, here is the poem. Ahem:
A Tory gal, name of Suella,
Was Asian—the brown sort, not yella.
She went too far right,
Gave her colleagues a fright,
So they replaced her with a white fella.
[Applause.] Thank you, thank you.
07—Signoff. That's all, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and for your emails and donations. And, of course, a very Happy Halloween! to one and all.
Out here in the bosky Long Island suburbs there are great piles of dead leaves everywhere. As fast as you can bag them up, new piles appear. Yes, it's Fall. I have signout music for that.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Yves Montand, "Les Feuilles Mortes."]