02:01 War, what is it good for? (Isolationism explained.)
11:12 It's a Nazi Nazi Nazi world. (The only history people know.)
22:02 Nigeria to Germany via Ukraine. (Refugees, real and fake.)
29:06 China's Zero COVID flop. (The grown-up in the room?)
36:31 Jussie's off the hook. (Shouldn't have been on it.)
39:10 Turkmenistan's election. (And the winner is…)
41:31 Juiced billionaires. (It's not fair.)
43:19 Headline of the month. (Call for the head detective.)
44:32 Ruling class rehearsal. (America's future leaders.)
46:18 Signoff. (For St. Patrick's Day.)
And yes, this is your inspirationally genial host John Derbyshire with our weekly edition of Radio Derb: a song, a smile, a laugh, and an unsparing look at our national neuroses.
One of which is a widespread desire that America be the leader of the Free World.
That's not a bad idea in itself if you understand it as the Founding Fathers surely would have: as leading by example. The problems today are, one, that a lot of our politicians want our leadership to be much more than just exemplary, and two, that we are not currently setting a very good example.
Permit me to enlarge on those.
Still, having come out as an isolationist in my February Diary — that is, having opined that the Russia-Ukraine War is not properly any business of the U.S.A. — I should offer my responses to readers who raised questions about that.
Before I do, let me just take note of the current state of play, and possible outcomes. I'll plagiarize here from the March 17th Daily Mail, which lists what they refer to as, quote, "five possible scenarios for the weeks and months ahead, according to Western government sources and think-tank experts," end quote.
I think that's a fair summary; although as always in exercises of this sort one is tempted to add:
Now for those responses to Diary readers asking about my isolationism.
I'd written that Europe, with three times Russia's population and ten times its wealth, should be able to take care of itself with some kind of common security force. There is no need for us to be involved. We should have dropped out of NATO when the Warsaw Pact disbanded.
Reader response: Yes, maybe we should have, but we didn't. We have to cope with the situation we have, including those parts of it generated by our own past blunders.
Do we? My understanding is that our president could remove us from NATO with a stroke of the pen. I'll agree this isn't an optimal time to do it; but better late than never.
And in fact, as many commentators have said, the Russia-Ukraine blowup has concentrated European minds on common defense. The Germans are pumping extra money into their defense budget — $110 billion extra, according to this week's issue of The Economist. Sure, that should have happened thirty years ago; but again, better late than never.
Another reader agreed that, yes, we have no business getting involved militarily in a European war; but given Russia's invasion of a neighboring nation in violation of all international norms, surely I won't quibble with the sanctions we've imposed?
Actually I will. The sanctions have all sorts of potential downsides: driving Russia into China's arms, alienating pro-Western Russians, perhaps dethroning the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency of choice, et cetera. You've heard the predictions.
Not all of them will come true, but any of them might, with negative consequences for us. Absent a congressional declaration of war against Russia, I don't see why trade shouldn't continue as normal.
Just one more. This reader got personal. "Mr Derbyshire: If the U.S.A. had not gotten involved in the last big European war, you, as a native Brit, would be speaking German. You're welcome!"
To which I reply: Possibly so. The U.S.A. was not fighting Germany for altruistic reasons, though. We were fighting Germany because Germany had declared war on us.
Here's the relevant passage from Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Chapter 25. Shirer has just finished describing Hitler's address to the Reichstag on December 11th 1941. Then, quote:
At this point the deputies of the Reichstag leaped to their feet cheering, and the Fuehrer's words were drowned in the bedlam.
Shortly afterward, at 2:30 p.m., Ribbentrop, in one of his most frigid poses, received Leland Morris, the American chargé d'affaires in Berlin, and while keeping him standing read out Germany's declaration of war, handed him a copy, and icily dismissed him.
If some similar scene is acted out in Moscow any time soon, then I shall support a general mobilization.
Until then, I'm an isolationist. Our country, the U.S.A. — my country for twenty years this coming April 19th — is the most remote, most secure in the world, the most difficult to overrun and occupy. We have plenty of business of our own to attend to; there is no cause to go interfering in other peoples' squabbles.
Our country might of course be annihilated by an almighty downpour of hostile ICBMs. However, the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction has prevented that for sixty years. I'll go on trusting to it until someone comes up with something better.
03 — It's a Nazi Nazi Nazi Nazi world. Pulling down my copy of Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich from my bookshelf there stirred the memory of an incident seventeen years ago. Here's what happened.
My house originally came with an unfinished attic. Back in 2005 I turned that attic into a study for myself. I posted some before-and-after pictures on my personal website.
At the time I was contributing random thoughts to the blog of National Review Online — "The Corner," it was called, and still is. Proud of my handiwork at rebuilding the attic, I posted some of the pictures on that blog.
One picture showed a corner of the room with some shelves of books. One of those books, clearly visible in the middle of the picture, was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It was the same edition I pulled down just now, the 1960 edition.
The spine of that book's dust cover is all black except for the title, in small dark letters hard to make out, and a big white circle with a big black swastika in it.
Some readers of the National Review blog, seeing only the swastika, were outraged. Derbyshire has Nazi literature on his bookshelf! National Review is harboring a Nazi!
I knew of course about leftists' obsession with the Third Reich, calling everyone who disagreed with them about abortion or capital gains tax a Nazi. I was just a bit surprised to get the Nazi-Nazi treatment from National Review followers, although I suppose some leftists read conservative blogs looking for thoughtcrime.
Shirer's book is a classic in its field, meticulously documented. Shirer was a seasoned American journalist of sensible opinions who was based in Germany from the early 1930s until he had to flee with the Gestapo at his heels in December 1940. "Nazi literature"? Not exactly.
Well, that little incident on the blog was a reminder of how Nazi-obsessed great swathes of the Western public are. There are, I am sure, tens of millions of Americans for whom 20th-century history began in 1933 and ended in 1945.
It's the same in Britain, perhaps worse. The distinguished British historian Niall Ferguson wrote a scathing piece in The Financial Times twelve years ago about the teaching of history in British schools.
The selection of subject matter, Ferguson wrote, was "absurdly skewed." Referring to standard nationwide exams taken in secondary schools over there, the GCSE around age 15, the A-level at 17, Ferguson observed, quote:
According to 2006 exam data, 51 per cent of GCSE candidates and a staggering 80 per cent of A-level candidates study the history of the Third Reich. As someone who wrote his D.Phil. thesis on inter-war Germany, I yield to no one in my respect for the historiography of Adolf Hitler's rise and fall. But there can be no justification for this excessive focus on the history of a single European country over a period of just a dozen years.
Ferguson did allow that British school history lessons sometimes glance at other topics. The Tudor monarchs get some coverage: that Financial Times piece in fact has the title: "Too much Hitler and the Henrys."
And then of course all the race and sex propaganda. Ferguson again, quote:
When I asked them a year ago, all three of my children (aged 16, 14 and 11) had heard of the Rev Martin Luther King Jr., but none could tell me anything about Martin Luther.
It's therefore not very surprising, although it is depressing, to see that both sides in the Russia-Ukraine war are being described as Nazis.
Addressing a NATO gathering in Brussels this week, Ukraine's defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said that Vladimir Putin is, quote, "the Hitler of the 21st century," end quote.
On Wednesday this week our own beloved Senator Lindsay Graham, not to be out-Nazied, called for Putin's assassination, quote:
If John McCain were here, he'd be saying the same thing, I think. It's time for him to go. He's a war criminal. I wish somebody had taken Hitler out in the [1930s].
On the other side, scanning the transcript of Putin's speech, also on Wednesday, I find six occurrences of the word "Nazi," all in reference to Ukraine. Here are the six references from the transcript — which, I should say, was remarkably difficult to find. Quotes from Putin:
End Putin quotes.
So Vlad himself has been going full Nazi. It's truly international.
You might say that Russians have a license to throw around the word "Nazi," given that they suffered considerably under Nazi occupation in WW2. To which I'd reply that
I'm spitting into the wind, of course. The ruling classes, both ours and Russia's and Ukraine's, will go on tagging dissenters from state dogma as Nazis; not because it makes any sense, but because they are mentally lazy and view the world in terms of simplified narratives.
It's useless to complain, but not yet illegal.
04 — Nigeria to Germany via Ukraine. And then, the refugees. The regime media has been full of finger-wagging stories about how Ukrainian refugees are being treated so much better than those from Africa and the Middle East. Steve Sailer posted about this here at VDARE.com on Tuesday.
As Steve and others have pointed out, there is a world of difference between
(a) a Ukrainian mother and child fleeing for their lives after their town was wrecked by Russian artillery, and
(b) an upper-middle-class healthy male medical student from Sudan looking for the easy life in Germany or Britain.
Silesia, which was part of Germany before the war, became part of Poland; so the Silesian city of Breslau, which my Grandad's 1922 atlas shows in Germany 50 miles west of the border with Poland, is now called Wroclaw and is inside Poland, 100 miles east of the border with Germany.
On the maps of Ukraine we've been seeing this past couple of weeks you may have noticed a city named Lviv in Western Ukraine, 90 miles east of the Polish border. Grandad's atlas shows it as Limberg in Poland 50 miles west of the Ukraine border.
So there's a big slab of Western Ukraine that was, well within living memory, part of Poland. Stalin, in 1945, preferred it belong in the U.S.S.R. and no-one in that neck of the woods was in a position to argue with him; so he picked up Poland bodily and moved the whole country 150 miles westwards.
Given that the territory had been Polish, albeit I believe with a good mix of Ukrainians, there must have been a huge westwards migration of Poles out of cities like Lviv — Polish people who preferred to live among fellow Poles rather than in a place run by Ukrainians. I suppose their descendants still live in Poland. Given the historical resentments that must be in play there, the welcome Poles today are giving to Ukrainian refugees speaks very well of the Poles.
And yes, of course: given the endless troubles and rancors that arise in a society that is multiracial or multicultural, any sensible nation will give preferential settlement rights to people of the same stock as themselves — in this case, northern Slavs.
Why does anyone think this odd or reprehensible? Does anyone think that Africans or Middle Easterners would take a different approach, if they had any countries that were attractive to immigrants?
In that context, this story from Breitbart on Thursday was interesting. It's about young men in sub-Saharan African countries telling the BBC they are keen to go and fight on Ukraine's side against Russia.
Here's one of them: 27-year-old Nigerian Ottah Abraham. Mr Abraham lives in a "small apartment" in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, and is, he claims, a "philosophy graduate." Quote from Breitbart.:
Despite having an education and a home, Abraham says he imagines life in war-torn Ukraine would be an improvement from his current environment.
Mr Abraham is not alone; there are hundreds of similar mind in Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Algeria, Mozambique, and Botswana. Ukraine is encouraging them. Another quote from Breitbart:
[Inner quote.] "The government [of Ukraine] has temporarily axed its visa requirements and offered equipment and a salary to those with a valid passport and military training," [end inner quote] the BBC observed on March 16 of Kyiv's scheme to lure foreign fighters to Ukraine.
The charitable assumption here is that these young African men are fired up by a combination of martial spirit and sympathy for Ukraine's plight.
The un-charitable assumption, towards which I of course lean, is that they see a new path opening up, a new opportunity to fulfill their dream of an easy life in Germany, Sweden, or the U.K. … via a brief — preferably very brief — spell in Ukraine.
05 — China's Zero COVID flop. I told you when the Russia-Ukraine war started that the ChiComs would strike a pose as the grown-up in the room, with lots of serious-sounding talk about how everyone should show restraint and try to get along — "Use your words!" as we used to tell the kids when they were little — while, quietly and behind the scenes, doing all they could to help Russia in a common spirit of anti-western mischief-making.
That common spirit didn't start with this war. The New York Times told us on Sunday that Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have met 38 times as national leaders. That's more times than Xi has met with any other leader. I'm guessing that those meetings were not primarily to discuss the comparative merits of borscht versus sharks fin soup.
Now, according to inside sources claimed by the Times, Russia is asking China for military supplies, although the sources wouldn't tell us exactly what kinds of supplies were being requested.
Sure enough, when the reporters asked the ChiCom Embassy in Washington about this, the embassy spokes-commie adopted the grown-up pose. Quote from the Times:
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said he had never heard of the request from Russia. [Inner quote.] "The current situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting," [end inner quote] he said, adding that Beijing wants to see a peaceful settlement. [Inner quote.] "The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control." [End inner quote.]
Of course it is! That's what we all want, isn't it? A peaceful settlement! Harmony!
Aren't we lucky to have serious people like the ChiComs at hand to pour oil on these troubled waters? … after, of course, figuring out the financial arrangements for buying the oil from Russia without using dollars.
Meanwhile the news from within China itself is not good. The Zero COVID policy they have been boasting of this past two years seems to have been a failure. There has been a surge of new cases, with Mrs Derbyshire's home region up in the northeast particularly hard hit.
Her home town of Changchun is under lockdown, only one person from each household permitted to go out twice a week for food shopping. And yes, social control, facial recognition software, and phone monitoring is sufficiently advanced they really can enforce that, with severe penalties for transgressors.
Down south, the new city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong, a great hub of high-tech firms like Huawei and Tencent, also went under lockdown last Sunday, with one resident telling Agence France-Presse conditions are the worst since 2020. Hong Kong itself is in the worst shape of all, with a huge spike in COVID deaths and crematoria working overtime.
Part of the problem is that the ChiComs only allow vaccination by locally-produced vaccines. As is so often the case with cheap Chinese knock-offs, the quality isn't very good, with low rates of effectiveness and high rates of adverse reactions.
Another part is that Zero COVID, with immediate area-wide lockdowns when a handful of cases are detected, is just not a good strategy for dealing with a pandemic. It leaves the majority of people with no antibodies against the virus; so when the lockdown is lifted, millions are vulnerable.
Older Chinese people have particularly high death rates from the disease. Along with the heightened vulnerabilities of old age, they were always low priority for vaccination.
Wild speculation but might the Chinese Communist Party be thinking best outcome contain COVID to show superiority over West, but if not possible second best outcome lots of its elderly die to improve its dependency ratio?
Having been a close observer of the ChiComs for sixty years, and having engaged with them at close quarters, I wouldn't be surprised. Back in the Mao Tse-tung era, the expression "useless mouths" was sometimes heard in similar contexts.
To say that is of course disgracefully irreverent of me towards the grave, serious ChiCom leaders — the adults in the room! — when they are trying so hard to seek a peaceful settlement of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Shame on me!
… and then, less than a week later, he was let out on bail pending appeal. This was not a big surprise. As one of Steve's commenters remarked: Jussie is rich, black, and homosexual; you can't get any more privileged than that.
Steve himself observed here at VDARE.com that the nation owes grudging thanks to Jussie for educating millions of otherwise-oblivious Americans to the reality of hate crime hoaxes.
I put down a marker of my own back in December when I argued that Jussie, while undoubtedly a loathsome person, had been unfairly treated. For the offense he had committed — wasting a lot of police time — the original penalty of sixteen hours community service and forfeiture of his ten-thousand-dollar bond was appropriate. Further charges and court time, I said, would be a waste of public money.
I stand by that, but a lot of listeners were mad at me for it. He committed a blood libel against white people! they scolded.
Well, perhaps he did. That's not a crime on any statute book though, nor ought it be. Even plain one-on-one libel isn't a crime, although under certain narrow circumstances it may be tortious.
Police and courts exist to enforce the people's laws. (Well, except the immigration laws, which politicians don't want enforced.) Being a repulsive jerk is not against the law in any jurisdiction. I'm surprised how many people seem not to understand this.
Item: As advertised in last week's podcast, the people of Turkmenistan went to the polls Saturday to elect a new national leader, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov having gracefully stepped aside at age 64 — that's six-four, 64, Washington, D.C. please note — to allow younger men to take up the reins of power.
The result was declared on Tuesday. The winner with 73 percent of the vote, and so Turkmenistan's next president, is 40-year-old Serdar Berdymukhammedov, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's son.
That 73 percent is not as spectacular as the ninety-seven percent attained by Berdymukhammedov Senior in 2017. Plainly the wise citizens of Turkmenistan are withholding some portion of their approval until they see how the younger Berdymukhammedov performs in office.
I have no doubt he will surpass all expectations. In another election cycle or two Serdar Berdymukhammedov will attain the same stratospheric vote margins as his sire.
Democracy, true democracy in action! Long live the wise citizens of Turkmenistan! Long live President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and his chosen successor!
Item: In relation somehow to Womens' History Month, Melinda Gates has been telling the world about her break-up from Bill. "My lowest moment in life," she sobbed to Us magazine, March 15th.
Melinda denied, however, that Bill's affair with one of his employees at Microsoft twenty years ago was a key factor in the break-up. It had been, she said, a gradual accumulation of dissatisfactions.
Talking to an acquaintance about this, he expressed surprise that geeky Bill had engaged in extramarital hanky-panky.
Having had some slight — all-too-slight — acquaintance with seriously rich guys, I was able to set my friend straight. Every one of them, I told him — well, every one I had known — is juicing. Human Growth Hormone, testosterone supplements, you name it.
Once you get up into the nine-digit, ten-digit, eleven-digit stratosphere of personal net worth, along with the yacht, the private island, and the Malibu beach house, you get a physician on monthly retainer to supply you with this stuff.
It's unfair to the rest of us, I know, but there you are: life is unfair.
Item: When my son was a pre-teen with the usual male pre-teen's macabre sense of humor, I had a sure-fire way to make him giggle when I was driving along with him in the passenger seat. What I would do is, when we came to a sign that said STOP AHEAD, I would call out: "Stop! A head!"
That came to mind the other day reading this story at Breitbart, March 6th. The headline is worth a subscription fee just by itself, if Breitbart had a subscription fee, which it doesn't. Headline: Box of Human Heads Stolen from Truck in Denver.
I'm going to leave you to look up the actual story for yourself. And yes: the real fun here is in the comment thread.
Item: You probably read about the ruckus at Yale Law School on March 10th. If you didn't, there's a report by Aaron Sibarium at the Washington Free Beacon, March 16th.
In brief: the Yale Federalist Society held a panel discussion on issues relating to free speech. One of the panelists was from a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty. About 120 student protesters showed up to shout down that panelist. Police had to be called at last to escort her out of the building.
Once again, this was Yale Law School. The students present, including those 120 howling anarchists, will graduate into our country's ruling class.
"If you want a picture of the future," O'Brien told Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four, "imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever."
Looks like he got it wrong. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a graduate of Yale Law School screeching obscenities in your face and vowing to, actual quote, "literally fight you, bitch" — for ever.
07 — Signoff. That's all I have for you, ladies and gents. Thank you as always for your time and attention. I shall now proceed to the signoff music. It's a bit longer than usual this week, and furthermore comes with a short preface.
Thursday this week was St Patrick's Day. I failed to notice that last week, so I felt I should make up for the omission. Once I'd had that thought, it rang a distant bell down in the dusty cobwebbed depths of my cerebellum.
A few moments research in the Radio Derb archives found the bell … or perhaps the bell-ringer, I'm not sure how this metaphor works. It was my podcast on March 23rd 2012 — ten years ago almost to the day.
All I have to do now is step into my time machine, dial up March 23rd 2012, and press the red button.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
Somewhere in between recording last week's Radio Derb and recording this week's, there came St Patrick's Day. I lacked the forethought to include a tribute last week, so I'm going to make up for it here.
Here is one of the loveliest and, to my way of thinking, most spontaneously Irish of all the Irish exile ballads. You'll get an argument from lovers of Irish ballads — in fact, if you're in an Irish bar, you'll quite likely get a fist-fight — about whose interpretation is the best. I first heard it from the Clancy brothers forty-odd years ago, and as is always the case with first impressions, that's the definitive one for me. I can't find a good-quality clip of it, though, so here's a replacement darn near as good: Jim McCann and the Dubliners.
If this doesn't make the bristles stand up on the back of your neck, ye've not a drop of Irish blood in ye.
[Music clip: Jim McCann singing "Carrickfergus."]