Radio Derb: Rumble In Wisconsin And The Curse Of Midwestern Nice, Etc.
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02m53s — Trump crumps, Cruz crows, Will thrilled. (Rumble in Wisconsin.)

11m51s — Another triumph of the squares. (The curse of Midwestern Nice.)

21m03s — Demography is electoral destiny. (Our regional cultures.)

29m20s — The Bonnie and Clyde of U.S. politics. (You know who.)

35m22s — A dark miasma of superstition. (The Middle Ages on campus.)

41m03s — Rich people hide their money! (Offshore politics.)

47m58s — A coming anniversary. (Fifty years of white ethnomasochism.)

51m02s — Tats on tars. (The military loosens up.)

53m23s — Death in Shanghai. (Simulated for $70.)

55m08s — Signoff. (Wisconsin on my mind.)

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air. Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, from your imperiously genial host John Derbyshire.

Apologies to listeners who actually tried to find tickets to the musical show I advertised last week, the life of Martin Luther King done in whiteface. The tickets were, of course, not to be found. If you are still perplexed, listeners, look at the date on that podcast.

We have an article coming up on the website Friday evening, about the same time as the podcast, about the March 29th report on concerning the Alt-Right. Our article is by our correspondent Alexander Hart, and I recommend it to you.

I'm glad to see the Alt-Right getting some non-hysterical coverage — coverage, I mean, that actually reports what we say, as opposed to just pointing and sputtering. I don't mind, I really don't … well, not very much, that Richard Spenser's term "Alt-Right" seems to have won out over my own much more elegant usage "Dissident Right." It's OK, Richard, really.

I do, though, whenever I see that term "Alt-Right," find myself thinking of the computer keyboard. In my text editor you can actually set up a keyboard macro so that when you hit the Alt key and the right arrow together, it automatically types "Dissident Right." I can email the macro to anyone who wants it.

And right next to the Alt key is of course the Ctrl key. If there's an Alt-Right, shouldn't there be a Control-Left? But of course there is: control is what the Left is all about.

That's a segue into this week's political news. Not the deftest segue I've ever pulled off, I'll allow, but we do our best.

02 — Trump crumps, Cruz crows, Will thrilled.     The big headline in this week's political news was the results from the Wisconsin primary.

Republicans and Democrats were both voting in Wisconsin, but with absolutely no offense to Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders, the Republican result was more interesting. Ted Cruz got 48 percent of the votes to Donald Trump's 35 percent. That translates into 36 more delegates pledged to Cruz, six more pledged to Trump. John Kasich won zero delegates.

Remember that the key number here is how many delegates Trump has going into the GOP convention on July 18th. If he has 1,237 delegates pledged to him, he wins nomination on the first ballot. If he doesn't, it goes to a second ballot in which delegates are no longer pledged. They can vote as they like. Ted Cruz has been running a proactive schmoozing operation to get as many as possible of them to like him. Trump's people have been nothing like as busy schmoozing delegates.

After Wisconsin, that's making Ted Cruz look pretty smart. Could Trump still get to the convention with that first-ballot majority he needs? Yes he could. Could he show up at the convention short of that majority? Yes he could. So this is now a real cliff-hanger. The consensus among analysts seems to be that the odds are against Trump getting his first-ballot majority; but analysts can be wrong, and it's an open situation.

The political establishment and their media shills are of course delighted with Cruz's Wisconsin victory; not because they like Cruz, who they regard as not quite comme il faut, but because they hate Trump for his Pied Piper trick — seducing the slaves away from their happy little voter plantation.

George Will, in his Wednesday column, was crowing like a rooster over Trump's defeat. Sample quote:

Wisconsin has propelled Trump, a virtuoso of contempt, toward joining those he most despises: "losers" … His act — ignorance slathered with a congealed gravy of arrogance — has become stale … Regarding policy, he is flummoxed by predictable abortion questions because he has been pro-life for only 15 minutes and because he has lived almost seven decades without giving a scintilla of thought to any serious policy question.
End quote.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Crow away, George. Since you mentioned losers, though, let me offer you the names of some losers: George Herbert Walker Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney. Loser, loser, loser, loser. Yet all of them had given many, many scintillas of thought to a multitude of serious policy questions. Bob Dole had been in Congress since the Creek Wars. He'd not only given thought to policy questions, he'd voted on them all several times over.

And as I pointed out last week, Trump's 15 minutes of thought about abortion came up with an answer that was less incoherent that the standard one from the Republican playbook, which is: We'll make laws against abortion, but there will be no penalties for breaking those laws.

We're sick of your polite losers, George. We want a candidate who's a winner; or who, at worst, will go down with fists flailing, like a man.

Come to think of it, we're not much thrilled by your last establishment winner, George W. Bush. What did that win get us? Endless futile missionary wars; the destruction of sound credit principles in pursuit of political correctness, leading to a horrendous financial crash; and wide-open national borders.

The hell with your establishment candidates, George, who've given such deep, deep thought to "serious policy questions" but done not a damn thing about them, or done things that led to expensive disasters.

No, Trump's not an ideal candidate, certainly not mine. He's the least bad, though; and the only one who looks able and willing to carry out the creative destruction our political system so badly needs.

He's also the only one who shows a gut instinct towards patriotism. Trump loves the U.S.A. He actually seems to put the interests of Americans before the interests of Mexicans, Iraqis, Israelis, Chinese, Afghans, and Europeans. That's a new thing in our politics this past thirty years, George.

Sure, the other GOP candidates have learned their scripts. They say the right words and make the right faces. So did Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain, and Romney. The new thing with Trump is, he looks like he means it.

His vagueness on precise policy prescriptions enhances that, if anything. King Lear told his daughters that, quote: "I will do such things — What they are, yet I know not — but they shall be the terror of the earth," end quote. Trump is telling us he will do such things — what they are, yet he knows not — but they shall be good for America! The details are vague, but the intention is plain and credible.

Might President Trump prove at last to be as ineffectual as King Lear? Could Trump be as shallow as George Will believes him to be, and renege on all the hopes we've pinned on him? Yes, that might happen. But, to quote an old friend of mine, commenting at Steve Sailer's blog, quote:

Trump may well flake if he gets into office, but that's a better outcome than not getting into office, for his defeat repudiates his policies, while his reneging on the policies doesn't undermine their validity and appeal, the reneging simply becomes a reflection of Trump, the man, not the policy agenda he ran on.
End quote.

But hey, crow away, George. It's possible — the analysts say better than even — that Trump will fail to get his first-ballot majority and go down to Ted Cruz or some other donor glove puppet at the convention. And then, I and millions of other Trump supporters will stay home in November; so then you'll have another polite loser to invite to your genteel Georgetown dinner parties, George.

03 — Another triumph of the squares.     What accounts for Trump's relatively poor showing in Wisconsin? There were of course plenty of explanations on offer.

Lion of the Blogosphere gave us the most succinct one. There just aren't enough blacks in Wisconsin, he said. The theory here is, where you have a lot of blacks, whites go tribal. Here I get to quote one of my favorite statistics from the 2012 general: Whites in Mississippi went 89 percent for Romney, while the figure for whites in Vermont was 33 percent.

It's a neat theory, and those Mississippi-Vermont numbers suggest it's not an empty one. It's hard to make it work for this week's Wisconsin vote, though. If you look at the county-by-county voting map, the bigger urban areas, where most of the blacks are — the Mississippis, as it were — all went for Cruz. The more rustic areas with few blacks — the Vermonts — went for Trump.

Milwaukee County is 27 percent black against a state average of six percent: Ted Cruz took it, 54 percent to Trump's 26. Contrariwise, Douglas County is 93 percent white, one percent black — practically a little Vermont. Trump took that county by 55 percent to Cruz's 31.

If it's not simply a race thing, though, what is it? Trump's looking strong to win New York April 19th; why couldn't he win Wisconsin? New York Republicans are more Trumpish than Wisconsin Republicans? What's up with that?

For a clue, I refer you to last week's Radio Derb, where I noted the passing of Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel the maker of computer chips, and a key player in the early growth of Silicon Valley. I referred to Tom Wolfe's 1983 essay, "The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce: How the Sun Rose on the Silicon Valley." Robert Noyce was another Silicon Valley founder. He originally came from Iowa — a real Midwesterner. That's your clue.

How so? Well, just to remind you further: In that 1983 essay, Tom Wolfe delved into the sociological origins of Silicon Valley. A surprising number of the early movers and shakers were engineers from the Midwest, like Noyce. The same was true of the Apollo program that put men on the Moon.

The people who made these marvellous things happen — the Moon landings, the microchip revolution — were disproportionally middle-class, middle-American kids from Midwestern small towns. Tom quotes a senior NASA official, speaking of the Apollo program, quote: "This was the triumph of the squares," end quote.

Now we're getting warm. Tuesday's Wisconsin result was another triumph of the squares. Stand Trump next to Cruz: which one is more square? Right.

Back when Mitt Romney was running for President in 2011, I grumbled about his Midwestern niceness. Couldn't the Republican National Committee hire in some geneticists, I wondered, to give Romney a mean streak — splice in some of Rudy Giuliani's genes?

I more and more think that Midwestern niceness is a serious national problem. You Midwesterners are so damn nice. I go out there to Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, the niceness is overwhelming. Seldom is heard a discouraging word.

My poster boy here is Charles Murray, who comes from the very middle of Iowa, which is in the very middle of the Midwest. Charles is the nicest man I know: kind, generous, hospitable, exquisitely well-mannered. When I hear lefty imbeciles like that Virginia Tech President the other week sputtering about how Charles wants to round up blacks, put 'em in cattle wagons, and ship them off to slave labor camps, I just fall around laughing. I don't know any person in the world less likely to contempate any such thing than Charles Murray; certainly nobody on the Left, which pretty much invented cattle wagons for that purpose. Lenin had the wagons rolling to the slave labor camps years before Hitler showed up.

Donald Trump, in his public persona, comes across as not nice. He's loud, he's flamboyant, he's rude, sometimes coarse. He couldn't be less Midwestern. I'm surprised he got as many votes as he did in Wisconsin.

There is actually a paradox there. People around New York, some of them known to me personally, who have dealt with Trump are unanimous that he is in fact a perfect gent. I don't have such good second-hand data on Cruz; but the rumors wafting over from Washington, D.C. all say that Cruz is universally detested. I suppose that might be spin from political enemies, but it's not a usual thing to hear in a Presidential campaign, even a rancorous one like this. These are the mysteries and paradoxes of politics.

And while niceness is what you want at the level of personal transactions, I'm not sure I want too much of it in my politics. I nurse a private suspicion, in fact, that Midwestern niceness is America's Achilles heel, and will bring down our civilization one day. I'll expand on that another time, though.

Thinking about it in the context of this Wisconsin result brought to mind that fine closing chapter in David Hackett Fischer's 1989 book Albion's Seed. The subtitle of that chapter is, quote: "The Origin and Persistence of Regional Cultures in the United States."

The chapter includes maps showing state-by-state preferences in all the Presidential elections since 1796. The north-south sectional divide shows up strongly of course, but there are finer levels of detail, too — regional cultures, as Fischer calls them.

This is the point where the Radio Derb audience gets restless. I can hear them muttering out there: Come on, Derb, enough of this speculative arm-waving and impressionistic stereotyping. You boast you're a stone-cold empiricist. Give us some data; give us some science.

All right. I got data; I got science. It's going to need another segment, though. So …

04 — Demography is electoral destiny.     The best aggregator of news from the quantitative human sciences is my colleague at Unz Review who writes under the name JayMan.

JayMan is a real Drudge Report of the harder human sciences. He puts a lot of work into his posts, fills them with maps, tables, and links to scholarly-quality research, all cemented together with thoughtful commentary and speculation. He mixes it up with critics in his comment threads, too, always in a good-natured way. You might almost think he comes from the Midwest, though in fact he's a New Yorker.

Well, JayMan's been blogging on this year's election. If you only have time for one of his posts, read the one titled The Donald Trump Phenomenon: Part 1: The American Nations.

What does JayMan tell us about Wisconsin? Well, a key idea here is what he calls the American nations. This picks up where David Hackett Fischer's "regional cultures" left off.

Quote from JayMan:

The United States … is divided into several broad ethnocultural regions — nations if you will.
End quote. JayMan names these nations: Greater Appalachia, Deep South, Far West, Left Coast, Yankeedom, and so on.

These broad cultural differences are of course the stuff of common conversation, and always have been. We all know that, average-average, New Hampshire Yankees are liable to be more like this while Tidewater Virginians trend more like that, and so on.

What's the origin of these differences? Further quote from JayMan:

These regions exist thanks to the continuing legacy of the founding populations and the various assortative migrations (founder effects and boiling off) that have happened over the history of the country.
End quote. There are some terms of art there I'll pause to explain.

First, "founder effect." If a group of humans — or any other species — settles in some region and goes on living there mostly undisturbed for many generations, the "menu" of genetic variation the original founding group brought with them will shape future generations. If the founders had a high proportion of red-heads, there'll be lots of red-heads in future generations. The same if there's a high proportion of neurotics: neuroticism, like most personality features, is heritable. We know this from sibling and adoption studies. Anything you can measure about human personality is heritable to some degree.

And then, "boiling off." Here we are back with Tom Wolfe and those Midwestern squares who founded Silicon Valley and put men on the Moon. If some region or group has a distinctive culture, some outliers will find that culture doesn't suit them, so they will leave. You see this with, for example, the Amish. The more individualistic, nonconformist members of the community put down their spokeshaves, shave off their beards, and head for the big city. The result is that the community they left now has a higher concentration of Amishness. It's like if you boil off some water from a salt solution. The solution that's left is saltier.

OK, here comes the science. JayMan links to a lengthy paper co-authored by several scholars dividing the U.S.A. into three big zones by a cluster of pychological traits, which they have painstakingly measured. The three zones are:

  1. The friendly and conventional zone.
  2. The relaxed and creative zone. And
  3. The temperamental and uninhibited zone.
Here in Long Island I am apparently in the temperamental and uninhibited zone. Wow. California, on the other hand, is relaxed and creative. Wisconsin? Friendly and conventional.

This is Midwestern niceness carefully studied and quantified.

JayMan's money quote is as follows, quote:

All American regional political differences represent group-level genetic differences.
End quote. In a big country like this, different founding groups make for different regional profiles on politics — and on everything else connected with human thinking and behavior.

One paradoxical consequence of this, which JayMan mentions in passing, is that German-Americans, a key founder population in the Midwest, don't much like Trump, his own German ancestry notwithstanding. The aggressive, brash, colorful Trump is one of those outliers who get "boiled off" to become real estate billionaires in big cities, while the more typical friendly-and-conventional Germans stay back there on the prairie.

Contrast that with Trump's appeal in New York and Massachusetts, especially among Italian- and Irish-American groups. On that three-part schema I mentioned a minute ago, these are in the "temperamental and uninhibited" zone.

"Demography is destiny" we like to say out here in the patriotic immigration reform movement. Yes it is. If you want to know the electoral destiny of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, take time out to scrutinize the demographics of this current Presidential campaign.

JayMan and his wife, by the way, welcomed a new addition to their family on February 22nd. Congratulations there, and may the little one grow up to be as smart and useful as her Dad and Mom.

05 — The Bonnie and Clyde of U.S. politics.     For the month of April, the big primary contests coming up are New York on the 19th and Pennsylvania on the 26th. For the GOP, New York offers 95 delegates, allocated in proportion to how many votes each candidate gets. Pennsylvania yields 71 delegates, winner take all. For the Democrats, New York has 247 delegates and Pennsylvania 189, both proportional.

Latest polls show Trump far out ahead in New York, with Ted Cruz actually polling third, behind John Kasich. Hillary Clinton is well ahead of Bernie Sanders here.

For Pennsylvania the same, Trump and Clinton leading. Trump's not leading by that much, though, and Cruz could possibly catch him. The flaw here for Trump is the people who tell pollsters they're undecided. When they do decide, they tend to break big-time for Cruz. That's why Trump's voter numbers have been lagging his polls.

Again, regional culture is a guide to the likely results. Bernie Sanders' appeal is to the less clannish, more universalist groups, like those Germans and Scandinavians in the Midwest. On a word-association test with the phrase "democratic socialism," the response "Scandinavia" has to score pretty high; although in fact the first real advances towards modern democratic socialism took place in Bismarck's Germany. So it's no surprise that Bernie won in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin.

In New York and Pennsylvania there are more clannish, tribal groups — Americans of Italian, Irish, and Jewish origins — and Mrs Clinton will naturally do better among those, as will Trump.

Meanwhile, Mister Clinton's been out campaigning for his wife. These two are a real tag team, aren't they? — the Bonnie and Clyde of American politics.

Thursday this week Bill was in Philadelphia at a rally for his business partner — I beg their pardon: his wife — when protesters from the George Soros front organization Black Lives Matter tried to disrupt the event by yelling and hoisting banners.

The focus of the protesters was the 1994 federal crime bill, which funded lots of new police hires and prisons, and created new death penalty offenses. The bill was mainly a response to the crack epidemic of the eighties and early nineties, and to demands from black community leaders for more law enforcement.

The blogger M.G. included the 1994 laws in her list of what she calls "diversity whack-a-moles": blacks demand that the government do something about something and then, when the government does do the thing requested, complain that it's hurting blacks.

"Get the crack dealers off the streets of our communities!"

OK, we'll arrest them and put them in jail.

"Too many of our young people are in jail!"

Uh …

So these protestors were yelling at Bubba about that 1994 Crime Bill. Bubba yelled right back at them.
[Clip:  I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children … You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter.]
What's going on here is a classic pivot to the center. The Clintons had to be nice to blacks when the Southern primaries were in play. There are a lot of blacks down there, and Bonnie and Clyde wanted to get them out to vote.

Now that's all over, the nomination is sewn up, and the Clintons are looking to the general in November. For that they need to get working-class white votes; so the blacks can go pound sand.

Incidentally, having mentioned blogger M.G. just there, I note that she's now resumed blogging after a four-month hiatus. This is the blog named Those Who Can See, and it's well worth a visit — beautifully crafted, plenty of links, lots of useful and interesting information gathered in one place. In this latest blog, she gives a thorough work-over to a topic I touched on back in January: anti-racism, and progressive ideology in general, as religions. Check it out.

06 — A dark miasma of superstition.     George Bernard Shaw, according to Orwell, argued that for all the talk in his time of science and progress, people were more gullible and superstitious in the twentieth century than in the Middle Ages.

That came to mind when I read this week's story from the University of Indiana at Bloomington. What happened was, there were rumors that a member of the Ku Klux Klan, in full Klan regalia and carrying a whip, had been seen prowling around the campus.

The rumor reached Residential Adviser Ethan Gill. I'm not too clear what a Residential Adviser is, but he's some kind of employee in the college halls of residence. I think he's the one who puts the toothpaste on the undergraduates' toothbrushes for them, and helps them lace their shoes. Anyway, this Ethan Gill got on the case PDQ. He sent out a Facebook post to the following effect, quote:

There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip. Because the person is protected under the First Amendment rights, [campus police] cannot remove the person from campus unless an act of violence has been committed. Please PLEASE PLEASE [capital letters on the last two pleases] be careful out there tonight, always be with someone and if you have no dire reason to be out of the building, I would recommend staying indoors if you're alone. If you feel unsafe, please contact me …
End quote. It turned out that the Klansman was in fact a Dominican monk wearing the traditional white habit of his order. The whip was actually his rosary beads. The monk, name of Jude McPeak, makes frequent visits to the campus to minister to Roman Catholic students.

Residential Adviser Ethan Gill excused himself thus, quote:

Now, I get it why a person would be scared. There in fact have been Klansmembers on the campus spurting hate speech, but never have they been reported with a weapon.
End quote. Let's just pause to savor the diction there. "Klansmembers" — Heaven forfend that anyone should think that members of the Klan are exclusively male. There are, we must assume, female Klansmembers and transgender Klansmembers, although the use of the suffix "members" in the latter case might be considered by some to be a microaggression.

And then "spurted." I know of course that hate speech is always "spewed" or "spouted," but I'd never before heard of it being "spurted." Were they spurting in Spanish, I speculate? And has there really, within living memory, been a spike in spiteful sputterings among the dreaming spires of Indiana U? Or is this just spurious spin?

Regardless, we see here a mentality that confirms George Bernard Shaw's thesis. These sheltered, pampered college folk live in a dark miasma of superstition and myth, as detached from reality as a medieval peasant's fear of Jews poisoning the well or witches making his cow sick.

The Klan has around 87 members nationwide, and two thirds of those are undercover FBI agents. As a threat to the well-being of college students, the Klan ranks around number two thousand, nine hundred on the list: somewhat above getting struck by a meteorite, but far below, oh, for example, getting mugged or raped by intruders from the local ghetto.

I wish Brother Jude the best of luck in ministering to these clueless rubes. If he would like to make some ready cash on the side, may I suggest he starts selling them indulgences? Something tells me it would be a real easy sell.

07 — Rich people hide their money!     A law firm in Panama got its database hacked and lists of its clients and their business are now all over the newspapers.

I'm not sure why this should be news. The law firm in question, Mossack Fonseca, is in the business of setting up offshore shell companies where you can park assets to protect them from taxmen and divorce lawyers, or hide facts about corporate ownership. There isn't necessarily anything illegal about this, let alone anything immoral. So what's the fuss about?

It seems to be mostly political. Any of us who can acquire a bit of money by lawful means naturally wants to hold on to as much of it as we lawfully can. Politicians, however, are wary of opening up too much of a perceived gap between themselves and those they rule over. In democratic countries, it alienates voters; elsewhere it brings to mind Marie Antoinette saying "Let them eat cake" — an encouragement to revolutionaries.

The only actual political victim so far has been Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, the Prime Minister of Iceland. Iceland! — who woulda thunk it? You're not surprised to hear that politically connected types in Pakistan or Mexico are hiding their billions in offshore shell companies, but Iceland? What happened to that Scandinavian "friendly and conventional," egalitarian stereotype?

The gravamen of the charge against Mr Gunnlaugsson was that he'd failed to disclose his 50 percent ownership of one of these shell companies when running for office seven years ago. The company held bonds in an Icelandic bank that had gone bust. After getting elected, Mr Gunnlaugsson sold his ownership — which was still worth millions — to his girlfriend for one dollar.

The irony here was that Mr Gunnlaugsson had come to power following the collapse of Iceland's banking system in the 2008 crisis. He'd promised to restore integrity to the system. Heh.

The crowds that assembled in Reykjavik to demand the Prime Minister's resignation set some kind of record. The crowds numbered over 20,000, which is ten percent of Iceland's adult population. That would be like twenty million people showing up in Washington, D.C. When ten percent of your people show up in the streets, it's really time to go.

That Iceland surprise aside, as I said, I'm not sure this is even really news. Of course Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and Saudi princes are creaming off their nations' wealth and hiding it in offshore havens. Who thought otherwise?

Publicizing this kind of thing does, though, remind people that our postindustrial welfare states are the final realization of an ancient political pattern: Top and Bottom versus the Middle. These nations we have now are great to live in if you're rich — not too many nations haven't been — but they're also way better than the historical average if you're poor. This is a golden age for software billionaires and illegal immigrants alike. If you're a middle-class shlub trying to hold down a job, a mortgage, and health insurance, it's not so golden; more like zinc.

There's always been this pattern in some form in organized states. "If only the Tsar knew!" murmured the Russian peasant as some tax-gatherer took away his cow. Traditional English Toryism was an alliance between the small rustic gentry, old landed familes at the top of the aristocracy, and the Crown. Opposed to them were the Whigs: middling gentry and the merchants of the towns. Top and Bottom against Middle was probably operating in some shape or form in Ancient Egypt.

You don't want citizens thinking about it too much, though — especially if, like leftwing parties in the modern West, you represent the Top-plus-the-Bottom side of the conflict. There aren't many voters at the top; and too many of the ones at the bottom are too sluggish or dysfunctional to vote. You need to persuade at least some of the middle that you're just like them. You need Middle votes; but if the real political divide is too obvious, they'll see through your appeals.

It's really surprising that people who have enriched themselves in office by shamelessly sucking money out of the system — people like the Clintons — it's surprising they still do have any middle-class appeal. Certain current phenomena — the success of Bernie Sanders, the near-universal loathing of Tony Blair over in Britain — suggest that the game may be coming to an end: that the Middle may be waking up, and these Top-and-Bottom types may need to find a new shtick. Can't happen soon enough.

08 — Miscellany.     And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.

Imprimis:  There's an anniversary coming up next year. It actually comes up later next year, so I'm way ahead of the curve here; but I want to be the first to notice this, and see if we can get the ball rolling.

Here's the thing. Fifty years ago next fall, back in 1967, the lefty magazine Partisan Review published an essay titled "What's Happening in America" by Susan Sontag. Ms Sontag told us that, quote:

The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.
Susan Sontag was white, and that essay is a landmark in the history of white ethnomasochism. A lot of people at the time were shocked by it; but Ms Sontag had lit such a candle as, by God's grace in America, shall never be put out.

White self-hatred is now the conventional wisdom. The media promote it in a thousand ways. Schools and colleges hire in speakers like Tim Wise and Shakti Butler to hammer it into our kids' heads. Business corporations set aside half-day seminars for their employees to learn about White Privilege. White ethnomasochism, dressed up of course as "anti-racism," is our state religion.

I think we should start planning for some kind of commemorative event to celebrate these fifty years of white ethnomasochism. How about an Ethomasochists Ball? New York City would be the ideal place, under our anti-racist Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ms Sontag is unfortunately no longer with us, having succumbed to actual cancer twelve years ago, but we could ask Rachel Dolezal to serve as emcee. Perhaps we could get some celebrities to show up — Angela Merkel would be a big hit, I'm sure.

Come on, people! Let's start planning and make this happen!

Item:  I don't really get tattoos. I mean, I don't know why people do that to themselves. On the other hand, I mostly don't mind it. Tat-wise, I'm live and let live.

Not so the military. All the services have rules against tats. If your tats are too big, or too visible, or too crude, they won't let you enlist.

Tats have gotten so common in recent years, though, the services are loosening up some. Here's a directive from the U.S. Navy, March 31st. Quote:

The Navy is updating its tattoo policy and will authorize Sailors to:
  • Have one tattoo on their neck that does not exceed one inch in any direction.
  • Have visible tattoos below the elbow or knee — no longer restricting their size or amount.
  • Allow Sailors with sleeve tattoos to be assigned to Recruit Training Command and Recruiting Command positions — previously not allowed.
End quote. The change is, says the Navy, quote, "in response to the increased popularity of tattoos for those currently serving and in the population from which the Navy draws its recruits," end quote.

Again, I'm OK with this. A bit more than OK, in fact. To a kid raised in Britain, it's reversion to the tat culture I grew up with, according to which, a guy with tats had been either in the Navy or in jail. (Which Dr Johnson said were basically the same thing, except in the Navy you had the additional possibility of being drowned.)

Girls with tats were unknown back then, like girls in submarines. I do wish that had stayed the same — both things.

Item:  If you find yourself in Shanghai, China with seventy bucks to spare, you might want to buy yourself a session in the Samadhi Death Simulator. The idea is to give you an idea what it's like to die and be cremated; then to be reborn — most Chinese people believe in reincarnation.

So you lie down on a conveyor belt and they pass you through a pretend crematorium oven. I don't know how much heat they actually apply: from the video clip it just looks like a fancy light show. Afterwards you push your way out through a tunnel and a latex rubber contraption — that's the rebirth.

O … kay. So far as the experience of death is concerned, I think we all get a sufficient flavor of that when renewing our license at the DMV. As for reincarnation: I thought the way it works is, if you haven't been righteous in this life, you get reborn as some lower life-form — a beetle or a snake. In which case, if I remember my Introductory Biology course, there's no birth canal involved.

Whatever. I'm glad to know the Chinese have so much time on their hands. Better they should be doing this stuff than waving Little Red Books and lynching college professors.

09 — Signoff.     That's our show, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and may your weekend be as restfully serene as mine promises to be.

We lost country music legend Merle Haggard this week. May he rest in peace.

With no offense at all to the deceased, Haggard just didn't loom large on my own list of musical favorites. I don't know why that was. His was a pleasant and original sound, with some good prole lyrics. Perhaps it was just my having grown up in England, where Haggard didn't get much air time.

I did intend to play us out with a clip of his, though, just to show respect; but I don't have any of his songs in my head, so it was difficult to select anything.

Seeking inspiration, I pulled down Guy Peellaert and Nik Cohn's 1974 classic picture history of rock'n'roll, Rock Dreams. Merle Haggard gets a two-page spread, but still nothing came to mind. Then I absent-mindedly turned the page, and who should I see but Jerry Lee Lewis, whose songs were high up on my list of teenage pleasures.

So, apologies to Merle Haggard, here's Jerry Lee Lewis with a song about, yes, Wisconsin!

More from Radio Derb next week.

[Music clip: Jerry Lee Lewis, "What Made Milwaukee Famous."]

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