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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. This is your statistically genial host John Derbyshire, broadcasting to you from Taki Magazine's state of the art sound studio here on Taki's private island in the wine-dark Aegean Sea.
Before we get under way this week, I have a request to fulfil. The request concerns Mrs. Dena Culpepper, who lives in a small town in the Magnolia State, Mississippi. Mrs. Culpepper had a birthday this week, and I've been asked by her loved ones to wish her a belated "Happy birthday!" I am very glad to do so. Happy birthday, Mrs. Culpepper!
I had actually planned to offer the lady something more. My idea was for my research assistants, Mandy, Candy, and Brandy, to sing the birthday song. When I proposed this to the girls, however, they said they would only perform if they could twerk along with the singing. I didn't know this word "twerk," T-W-E-R-K, so I asked them to show me what they meant.
Well, I'm sorry, but this is a family show. Call me an old stick-in-the-mud if you like, but some things are not, in my opinion, suitable for the airwaves. I dismissed the girls and was going to resign myself to there being no performance, when who should come ashore visiting from a passing cruise ship but my old friends Alvin and the chipmunks. Older listeners will remember Alvin and the chipmunks. They're a little long in the tooth now, but, hey, what else should they be? They're chipmunks. They have very kindly agreed to do the birthday song for Mrs. Culpepper. Over to you, lads.
[Clip: Chipmunks, "Happy Birthday …"]
Not bad, though I think Alvin could have used a couple more rehearsals. [Clip: Alvin, "Yeah, yeah, everybody's a critic."]
Right. On with the motley!
02 — You cannot be Syrious. It's not often that a news story makes me want to stand up and cheer, but the news last week that British Prime Minister David Cameron had lost a vote in Parliament that would have authorized war against Syria, filled my heart with joy.
For one thing, I loathe and despise Cameron, who is the worst kind of sanctimonious creep. No, perhaps not the worst kind: That would be Tony Blair. Blair came from a party of sanctimonious creeps, though; Cameron came from the party of Disraeli, Lord Salisbury, Winston Churchill, Enoch Powell, and Margaret Thatcher, so his sanctimonius creepiness is doubly offensive coming from a man standing in the giant footprints of those magnificently non-sanctimonious non-creeps.
For another thing, though I have no hope for the salvation of Britain, now a land of mosques, minarets, and old WW2 veterans being prosecuted for Hate Speech if they object to having their pockets picked by Bulgarian gypsies — although, I say, I have no hope for the old country, I'm glad to see that the ancestral forms and liberties are not quite dead yet. It's like seeing the executed prisoner, as the noose tightens round his neck, somehow find enough energy left in him to spit in the executioner's face. You can't help but cheer.
Unless, that is, you are a member of the American government. Seeing the House of Commons poke its collective finger in Cameron's eye threw the White House into panic mode. What if our own congresscritters were to get ideas above their station? Anarchy might ensue!
The administration scrambled to cover its rear end. He absolutely would ask Congress to authorize bombing Syria with cruise missiles, the President said. However, he wouldn't recall Congress specially for the purpose, as Cameron had done. He'd wait till they're back in regular session next week. Furthermore, he might just go ahead and bomb anyway, even if Congress didn't authorize it, because, you know, the President has to look tough and resolute, else unfriendly nations will laugh at us.
It was all pitifully unconvincing and obviously reactive. Vladimir Putin wasn't exactly laughing out loud, but you could see his mouth twitch.
If Obama needs congressional authority to make war on Syria, why didn't he get it a year ago, before warning the Syrians he'd bomb them if they crossed his red line? Come to that, why didn't he go to Congress for authorization to bomb Libya two years ago?
Say what you like about George W. Bush's Iraq War, but he did things by the constitutional book, going to Congress six months before to get authority, conditional on diplomacy failing and Saddam defying the U.N.
Why does the administration want to bomb Syria anyway? Journalist Daniel Greenfield voiced a common opinion, quote:
The message from the attacks won't be that America takes human rights atrocities seriously. Sudan, Rwanda and countless other genocides make a mockery of that. The message will be that the Saudis can still call in the United States Air Force and Navy to clear the way for their regional objectives.
If you substitute "the Israelis" for "the Saudis" in that, you have another popular explanation going round.
I wish I could be that cynical! In my opinion, these sheltered, narcissistic moralizers in our government actually do believe the flapdoodle about "human rights" and the "international community," at least when it relates to something they've seen on TV and are therefore emotionally engaged with.
These are children of the Civil Rights era, remember, taught from childhood that good people must go out and confront evil. They believe that's what they should do, even when evil is minding its own business in some obscure foreign nation of no concern to U.S. interests. And let's face it: This belief of theirs appeals to something old and deep in the collective psyche of the U.S.A. — the City on the Hill, the Hope of the World, the Arsenal of Democracy, ready to bear any burden, pay any price …
Meanwhile, chess grandmasters with cold eyes are sitting watching in Moscow, Tehran, Riyadh, Jerusalem, Peking.
03 — Post-intervention probabilities. Suppose we did bomb Syria, and suppose this so weakened the Syrian government and emboldened the rebels, the government fell and Bashir Assad fled to asylum in Iran. What would follow?
For clues to an answer, we might look at Libya, the last place where we successfully weakened the dictator's government by bombing, so that rebels took over. How are things going there now, two years later?
Not too well, according to a September 3rd report in the Independent, a London broadsheet newspaper with a center-left editorial line. Sample quotes:
Libya has almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government loses control of much of the country to militia fighters … Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country … Though the NATO intervention against Gaddafi was justified as a humanitarian response to the threat that Gaddafi's tanks would slaughter dissidents in Benghazi, the international community has ignored the escalating violence.
Our rulers are like irresponsible children, picking up some bright shiny thing to play with for a while, then dropping it in favor of something else, and forgetting all about it. "Libya? Oh, that was so 2011! Now I'm all, like, Syria! Syria! Anyway, didn't we get rid of that awful man, what was his name? Kaffady? Whatever. Did you hear what Assad did to those poor children? Oh my God!"
Further quote from the Independent report on Libya:
Foreigners have mostly fled Benghazi since the American ambassador, Chris Stevens, was murdered in the US consulate by jihadi militiamen last September. Violence has worsened since then with Libya's military prosecutor Colonel Yussef Ali al-Asseifar, in charge of investigating assassinations of politicians, soldiers and journalists, himself assassinated by a bomb in his car on August 29.
So, lots to look forward to there for Syrians, assuming Obama achieves his war aims as he did in Libya. It's too bad about Colonel Yussef Ali al-Asseifar; but hey, at least he wasn't killed with poison gas.
That jolly outcome assumes that the Law of Unintended Consequences doesn't kick in big time, as it has a habit of doing when military enterprises are launched. So we bomb Syria, and Iran, with its legions of fanatical terrorist cats-paws all over the region, does … nothing? Hezbollah does … nothing? Russia, with its key naval base in Syria, does … nothing? Assad himself, with his massive stockpiles of chemical weapons inherited from Saddam Hussein, does … nothing?
Let's hope so. Let's really hope so. Let's hope even more fervently, in fact, that after all his bluster and moralistic posturing, Barack Obama at last does … nothing.
04 — The arithmetic of the state. The Latin verb sto, stare, steti, statum has a lot to answer for. It's the verb "to stand," and we get a lot of English words from it. "Status," for example, which is your standing, your metaphorical posture; and "estate," as in "estates of the realm," those classes of citizens who have political standing — nobility, clergy, merchant guilds, whoever. Thence to "state" as the governing body of a place, and the modern idea of a state as a self-governing unit.
Off at a tangent you have the word "statist," which originally meant someone skilled in the arts of governing. Included in those arts was the gathering of information about the people you governed, the arithmetic of the state. That's the origin of the word "statistics."
I have a soft spot for statistics. I studied it at college, and later taught it. It's an interesting branch of practical mathematics. Oh, I know, people like to scoff at statistics. "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics," said some British politician. Yes, you can use statistics to pull the wool over people's eyes; and yes, statistics can be misleading if mis-applied. The practice of statistics is in fact a bit like bomb disposal: for good results, you really need to know what you're doing.
These thoughts were inspired by a news story out of Britain. The government over there has decided to scrap the national census. Like the U.S.A., the Brits do a census every ten years. They started in 1801, after Dr. Malthus scared the breeches off the British ruling classes by telling them their population would increase till the food ran out, then there'd be revolution, like in France a few years before. Whoa, said William Pitt the Younger, we'd better start keeping track of the great unwashed before they come round and drag us off to the guillotine in tumbrils. Ever since then there's been a census in years ending with a one, the last time in 2011.
Well, now they're going to stop. The official reason is, an old-style census is too expensive, and with modern data-mining methods, there are cheaper ways to do it. Dissident Right types over there suspect that the true reason is to conceal the scale of immigration into the country, especially with the floods expected from Romania and Bulgaria when they get full movement rights under European Union rules next January.
I share those suspicions. In Britain, as in the U.S.A., the most powerful demographic force is the determination of business and political elites to "elect a new people" — that is, to swamp the native population with immigrants who will work for low wages, validate elite multicultural ideology, and vote their gratitude. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the British overclass has this in mind.
On the other hand, lovers of liberty have always looked askance at censuses. They were traditionally regarded as tools of despotism. The first one in Britain was the Domesday Book of 1086, ordered by William the Conqueror to improve his control over the conquered Anglo-Saxons.
The U.S.A. bucked that traditional prejudice against censuses by writing one into its Constitution so that congressional seats can be apportioned. That was understandable, and necessary for a fast-expanding country; but many of us think the U.S. census has gotten far too intrusive in recent decades, asking us questions about our household arrangements and family matters that government has no business knowing.
The conservative Stephen Harper government in Canada actually canceled that nation's compulsory census back in 2010, precisely because of concerns about personal freedom. They now rely on a voluntary National Household Survey, supplemented with some data-mining from private sources.
Statistics in this original sense — "the arithmetic of the state" — is going to be a major issue in the years to come. National censuses are one aspect of it; another is the gathering of data by security agencies like the NSA. There are oceans of data out there now about all of us: our habits of finance and consumption, our subscriptions and associations, our health and travel. Who gets to see it, and what may they use it for? Welcome to the 21st cetury.
Edsall chews through some familiar territory on trends in voting. The country's become more polarized in recent decades, with sparsely populated rural places like West Virginia now definitely "red," which is to say Republican, while denser urban and suburban districts, like the four counties surrounding Philadelphia, are solidly "blue," i.e. Democratic.
Edsall introduces me to a term I didn't know before: the "SDT" That's the Second Demographic Transition, which he defines thus, quote:
postponement of marriage, greater prevalence of cohabitation and same-sex households, postponement of parenthood, sub-replacement fertility, and a higher incidence of abortion.
End quote. I must say, from a Darwinian point of view, the SDT sounds like a fast path to extinction. Remember, though, we're talking about a coalition here: All those same-sex households and career gals postponing parenthood are coalitioned — coalesced, whatever — with floods of high-fertility immigrants to clean their houses and watch the one child they'll eventually have, maybe.
It's a Ponzi scheme, of course; but this is politics. Nobody's thinking long-term here.
Edsall also tells us that, quote:
The higher the non-Hispanic white birthrate of a state, the stronger its vote in 2004 for [George W.] Bush.
That won't be any news to fans of Steve Sailer, who's been telling us this for years. And therein lies the answer to Edsall's title question. How fragile is the New Democratic Coalition, the coalition of SDT liberal yuppies, new immigrants, and government-dependent minorities? Answer: Not fragile at all. It's held together firmly by its loathing of non-Hispanic whites living in places where there's plenty of space to live cheaply and raise kids.
The great paradox of American politics is that this latter group — white Americans who want to raise families the traditional way some place where you can buy a home with a yard for less than half a million dollars — this group, though very numerous, doesn't have a party representing it. They vote Republican, but with less and less enthusiasm. On the numerical evidence, in fact, their lack of enthusiasm is what lost Mitt Romney the Presidency last year.
In matters of values and policies — think of same-sex marriage, think of amnesty for illegal aliens, think of affirmative action, think of bombing Syria — the GOP can hardly be distinguished from the Democrats. A friend of mine likes to quip that there are two parties in the U.S.A. today: the Pro-Choice Cultural Marxists, and the Pro-Life Cultural Marxists. That's about the measure of it.
Thomas Edsall finishes off his New York Times piece with the question: "Does the Republican Party have the ability to fracture this new Democratic coalition?" Is he kidding? To judge by the actions of its leaders, the Republican Party doesn't want to fracture the Democratic coalition; it wants to join it.
06 — Is Australia still too white? Over at the other end of the Anglosphere, Australia is having an election this Saturday. The center-left governing party under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is being challenged by a conservative coalition led by Tony Abbott. As we go down to the wire, polling suggests a clear victory for Tony Abbott, the conservative challenger.
I'll just pause to note a peculiarity of Australian politics: voting is compulsory. If you don't show up to vote, you can be fined twenty dollars. Australia's the only Anglosphere country with compulsory voting, unless you count Singapore. Otherwise, only a handful of South American countries have it. Compulsory voting: there are arguments for and against, but I'll leave you to discuss them among yourselves.
OK, why should non-Australians care about this election? Well, there are of course many big issues on voters' minds. There are economic issues: Australia's been doing very well, but mainly by pulling raw materials out of the ground and feeding them to China's booming economy. China hasn't been quote so boomy lately, and some Australians anyway think that one dominating dependency is not a good thing. There are personal issues, too: Incumbent center-left Kevin Rudd has a kind of low-key, common-man sincerity that Australian voters like, while challenger Tony Abbott has a reputation as more abrasive, though he's toned down his act recently.
The big general issue, though, that makes the election interesting to outsiders is the boat people. Australia's a huge island, of course, and thinly populated — eight people to the square mile, compared with the U.S.A. at 90 or Britain at 680. It's a prime destination for people from failed states, and boatloads of them are shipped there by people-smugglers: 18,000 so far this year, the great majority Muslims from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.
As in the U.S.A. and Britain, there's a left-liberal elite, prominent in the media and the Academy, who hate their own whiteness and would be happy to see modern Australia's founding British, Christian population swamped by these aliens. There are also the usual business interests drooling at the thought of cheap labor.
To judge from the election rhetoric, though, these multicultural lobbies don't have the stranglehold on public opinion they have elsewhere in the Anglosphere. Both incumbent Rudd and challenger Abbott have taken strong lines against admitting more of the boat people for settlement.
Abbott's line has been stronger, though. He says he'll have the Navy intercept the smuggling boats and tow them back to Indonesia, where most of them sail from. Should any of them make it to Australian territory, Abbott swears they will never be given settlement rights. Note that Australia does not have birthright citizenship. They abolished it in 2007.
Even genuine refugees — and of course there are some, nobody denies that — would be obliged to return home when conditions allowed it.
Quote from Tony Abbott: "The essential point is, this is our country and we determine who comes here," end quote. Any American politician who said that would be drummed out of public life as a raving bigot.
This week Tony Abbott went even further in the direction of placing his own countrymen's interests ahead of foreigners': He promised to reduce the country's foreign aid budget by a billion dollars a year. I so wish I could vote for this guy.
Incumbent Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a little gentler on the so-called "asylum seekers," but not by much. He wants to settle them in Papua New Guinea, a sort of antipodean Haiti, technically independent but yoked to Australia by aid and administrative assistance.
How much of this hard-line rhetoric will survive the election and become policy, against all the pressure from lobbies in business and the cultural elite, remains to be seen. For Americans, though, it's heartening to see major politicians in an Anglosphere nation speaking out on behalf of their own people against uninvited foreigners from hostile, alien cultures. We can only dream of such things.
07 — Life's underside. Here's a story that touched my heart. It's out of Louisville, Kentucky.
In that city there lives an artist, a painter named Mark Barone. Mr. Barone learned that 5,500 healthy dogs are put to sleep in shelters across the U.S.A. every year. As a dog lover himself, he was upset about this, and figures there must be a better solution.
In the meantime, to get other people thinking about the issue, Mr. Barone determined to paint portraits of 5,500 doomed dogs. He's two years into the project with 3,500 dogs so far painted. The pictures are very well done. Seeing them, if you're a dog lover, you can't help but think of these dogs who'd be glad to give love and companionship to some loving owner, except that there are more of them than there are people who want them.
If you don't mind me sermonizing a little here: This is one aspect of what I call the underside of life. Most of the time we live oblivious to it. We get a good night's sleep, eat a hearty breakfast, go off to do interesting work among colleagues, play with our kids, take our wife to dinner, mingle with friends, watch TV … Meanwhile, out of our sight, old folk sit in nursing homes waiting for visitors who never arrive, little kids cry themselves to sleep wondering why Daddy doesn't come home, and healthy, loving dogs are killed and cremated because nobody wants them.
It's the underside of life. Adult people all know it's there, and most of us, when it crosses our mind, try to do some little thing to ease the suffering, if it's only put a twenty in the church collection plate, thinking to ourselves that we should probably do more: but there's the mortgage to pay, and the kids to feed, and don't we have a welfare state?
Well, not for dogs, we don't. It's sad, and I commend Mr. Barone for his efforts. There probably should be some better way to deal with this: stricter rules for neutering and spaying, perhaps, and stiffer fines for people who abandon their pets.
In the grand scheme of things this is not a major item; but it's there, and Mr. Barone's trying to deal with it in an original way, and I offer him my heartiest best wishes.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: A note from the news on Chinese literature. There was a Chinese writer in the early 20th century named Lu Xun. A lot of people think he was the greatest Chinese writer of that period — he died in 1936, aged 55. You can find his complete works in an English translation.
Lu was mainly an essayist, though he wrote short stories and some longer pieces of fiction. His writing speaks to the troubled, disorderly, chaotic China of his time, and not all of it has aged well. He has a distinctive voice, though, as the best writers have, and it's a voice I find very attractive: cold-eyed, objective, thoughtful, skeptical, profoundly humane yet with an undercurrent of despair — a sort of Chinese Orwell.
Lu wasn't the type to go along uncritically with any kind of orthodoxy, and if he'd survived into the communist period he would certainly have been shot as a counter-revolutionary. Notwithstanding that, for some unfathomable reason Mao Tse-tung admired his work, and so he was widely read in communist China, his essays even included in the high-school curriculum.
Well, no longer. New editions of middle-school textbooks are being purged of Lu's essays, especially of one that urges the importance of historical memory. The official ChiCom news agency quotes an official involved in the purge as saying, quote: "We shouldn't make students undertake reflection and critical thinking too soon," end quote.
One Chinese blogger expressed what is really going on in Lu Xun's own sarcastic style, quote: "It's actually better for the children. Ignorant swine are far happier than humans who know what's going on."
Item: Across the border in North Korea, meanwhile, we learn that a female pop singer named Hyon Song-wol, along with eleven other supporting singers, dancers, and musicians, was executed by machine-gun fire on the orders of Excellent Leader Kim Jong-un, allegedly for making a porn video.
Since nobody has been able to find a copy of the video, the story about it is widely disbelieved. The commonest alternative theory is that Ms. Hyon, known to be an ex-girlfriend of the Excellent Leader, was framed by his wife.
I don't know the truth of the matter, and neither does anyone else this side of Pyongyang. I am, though, thoroughly enjoying the fantasies of ordering ex-girlfriends to be machine-gunned.
Item: In Casper, Wyoming, a historic meeting took place August 31st between the NAACP and the Ku Klux Klan. John Abarr, an organizer — or kleagle — for the United Klans of America met with Jimmy Simmons, president of the local NAACP branch. Some black men walking out with white women said they'd been beaten up, and Klan literature had been distributed around the town. The NAACP decided to try negotiation, and asked for the meeting.
So there was Mr. Abarr, minus his hood, and across the table Mr. Simmons, minus his hoodie. To judge from the TV clip, there was a certain amount of tension in the room, but I guess that's understandable.
Mr. Abarr seems to be a get-along kind of guy. At the end of the meeting he actually signed a membership application for the NAACP. He paid the $30 application fee and added a $20 donation. You can't get any more get-along than that. Mr. Simmons did not return the favor by taking out a Klan membership.
The thing that surprised me about this story was that there actually are members of the Ku Klux Klan. I thought the whole thing was a product of Chris Matthews fevered imagination. No, there was a real live kleagle, and he didn't look like an undercover FBI agent. Let's just remember that this is Wyoming, and there's not a lot to do out there of a summer evening.
Item: And a final dazzling fireburst of one-line news items here: The American porn industry is in crisis after two leading porn stars have tested positive for HIV. The North Koreans would know how to deal with that, I'm sure … In Oakland, California a man has been found guilty of first-degree murder for shooting and killing his friend during an argument over the existence of God. It's some comfort, I guess, to reflect that the friend now knows which of them was right.
Leaping over to Cleveland, Ohio, a 58-year-old man who threatened a police officer has been ordered to stand outside the station house for three hours every day wearing a large sign that says I APOLOGIZE FOR BEING AN IDIOT. A good thing they don't impose those kinds of penalties in Washington, D.C. There'd be no room on the sidewalks.
Anything else? Lemme see … Oh yes: A million cockroaches have escaped from a farm in China where they were being bred for use in traditional medicine. A million cockroaches. If they can make it across the Pacific, there's a home for them in New York City. New Yorkers wouldn't notice an extra million; take it from one who's lived there.
09 — Signoff. And there we are, ladies and gents.
Just in case I didn't depress you enough talking about the underside of life, here's Hank Williams, who expresses the thing slightly differently: "Pictures from Life's Other Side."
More from Radio Derb next week!
[Music clip: Hank Williams, "Pictures from Life's Other Side."]