»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, May 13th, 2016


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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, piano version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your lugubriously genial host John Derbyshire.

Just a wee bulletin-board notice here before we begin. Next weekend, May 20th-21st-22nd, is the American Renaissance annual conference in Tennessee. I shall of course attend, but the conference schedule is not kind to Radio Derb. It begins with a reception on Friday evening, when Radio Derb is normally put to bed. I shall do my best, and there will certainly be a podcast of some description by Friday midnight — possibly including voices from the conference — but it's all a bit up in the air, and we shall see.

OK, on to the main business here. What's been happening?


02 — On to the general!     The main thing that's been happening on the national stage has been a solidification of the trends leading to the general election in November. Last week Donald Trump was strong for the GOP nomination: now he's stronger, and his voter turnout numbers have been terrific. Hillary Clinton's a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination, but on lackluster turnouts, and with Bernie Sanders nipping at her heels.

We shouldn't make too much of the Sanders phenomenon. On the popular vote numbers in these primaries, Mrs Clinton has racked up 12.5 million to Sanders 9.4, so the nomination is fairly hers.

You could in fact make an argument that it's more fairly hers than the GOP nomination is Trump's. On the popular vote totals in this year's Republican primaries, if you put all the not-Trump votes together, Cruz plus Rubio plus Kasich, they add up to 14.6 million, while Trump himself only got 10.9 million — a plurality, but not a majority.

You can argue that back and forth, though. If there had been three Democrats sharing the ballot papers with Hillary instead of just the one, her popular vote might likewise be just a plurality.

Irregardless, as we lawyers say, barring acts of God or the FBI, the general looks to be Trump versus Clinton. How is that likely to play out?

Don't ask me. "A week is a long time in politics," a British Prime Minister famously said. The general is 25½ weeks away, so that's a really long time, a geological epoch in political time.

About as much as can be said at this point is, it's going to be a real contest. This was illustrated by a poll released Tuesday from Quinnipiac University. It showed the two presumptive candidates basically tied in the key swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Florida Clinton beat Trump 43 percent to 42; in Pennsylvania Trump beat Clinton by the same percentages — but those are ties, well inside the margin of error. In Ohio, Trump's ahead 43 to 39, which is more decisive, but at 25 weeks out still basically a tie. Trump's way ahead with men, Hillary's way ahead with women.

An interesting side result from this poll was that if you replace the name Clinton by Sanders, Bernie beats Trump in all three states — by six points in Pennsylvania. This poll came out Tuesday, remember, the same day Sanders won a thumping victory over Mrs Clinton in West Virginia.

Bernie's not going to get the Democratic nomination, but his numbers show a serious enthusiasm deficit for Hillary. That doesn't bode well for her turnout numbers in November.


03 — Bathroom wars heat up.     The bathroom wars are heating up. The Obama administration has filed suit against North Carolina to block that state's law obliging citizens to use the restroom corresponding to their biological sex. The Governor and legislators of the state have filed counter-suits asking courts to rule that their bathroom law is not discriminatory.

Friday this week, having shown North Carolina the iron fist, the feds gave the entire nation a look at the velvet glove. The administration — precisely, the Justice Department and the Education Department jointly — instructed all the public-school districts in the country to allow self-declared "transgender" students to use the restroom of their choice. There is an implicit threat to withdraw federal funds from school districts that fail to comply; but at present it's just an "instruction."

Probably this is part of a push by Obama and his people to get as much more of their cultural revolution in place as they can before Obama's term ends next January. It's of a piece with the Administration waving a new surge of illegals in across our southern border. While they still have the power to destroy and disrupt traditional American society, they will do all they can.

I'm still having trouble taking this seriously. How on earth did we get to the point where restroom usage is a major national issue?

This looks to me like another case of Thinking Too Much. A lot of life, including social life, goes much better if you don't think about it too much.

That used to be — until, I mean, the week before last — that used to be how we coped with public restrooms. If you were a guy, you went to the guys' room; if a gal, to the gals' room. If you were honestly confused about your sex, you went to whichever room your presence in would be less likely to cause comment and fuss. The amount of brainpower, of cognitive energy, you put into the matter of bathroom-going was very close to zero.

Obvious guys did not go into the girls' room, or vice versa, because it would have been gross bad manners to do so. A person who insisted on doing so would cause pointless trouble and ill feeling. If he or she was doggedly persistent, or made a habit of barging into the other sex's restroom, the authorities might intervene with a prosecution for some catchall misdemeanor like "disturbing the peace" or "causing a public nuisance." This practically never happened though. Mostly people just minded their manners.

That was a rule-governed society, a society in which there were right and wrong ways to behave. Most people most of the time behaved the right way, out of consideration for others and the desire for a life not daily roiled by unnecessary commotion. The rules came first, and most of us followed them without thinking — from habit, and unspoken social understandings. Laws were just a backstop, for dealing with the occasional antisocial delinquent.

Now that's all turning around. Rules count for less and less; everything has to be overseen by the federal Department of Justice. This is the legalistic despotism foreseen by de Tocqueville two hundred years ago, in which federal power, quote, "covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate," end quote.

But really, restrooms? As one of Steve Sailer's commenters said, it's like we're living in South Park.

There is a metaphysical theory — a surprisingly plausible one — that says we are trapped in a computer simulation. I don't want to butt into the metaphysicians' territory, but could they please look into the possibility that we are in fact living in an off-color satirical TV cartoon show?


04 — Yes, Greg, there are big issues.     Another, more upbeat way to approach the restroom issue is to say, well, our society has now attained such heights of prosperity, security, justice, and comfort that we have to seek out ever more picayune issues to keep the public conversation going.

We're down to restroom usage. Stick around another couple of years, the federal Justice Department will be issuing directives on when it's OK to pick our noses.

Have we really attained such a state of social perfection? Should we be basking in happy optimism instead of moaning about national decline, inequality, social collapse, and America being, to quote Ted Cruz, quote, "near an abyss"?

The case for optimism was made by Greg Easterbrook in Thurday's New York Times. Things ain't so bad, Greg tells his fellow Progressives. Sample quote:

Most American social indicators have been positive at least for years, in many cases for decades. The country is, on the whole, in the best shape it's ever been in.

End quote.

He goes on to list the upsides. Unemployment's low, the military is strong, the middle class is doing OK.

Some of the points he makes had this non-Progressive reader saying: "Hey, wait a minute." Easterbrook says, for example, that our manufacturing industry is holding up well. It's just that, quote:

Advancing technology allows more manufacturing with fewer workers … The challenge is to create even more white-collar opportunities.

End quote.

That misses two points. First, white-collar work is cognitively more demanding than assembly-line manufacturing work. Out on the left-hand side of the bell curve are millions of people who can't make much of an economic contribution wearing white collars.

Second point: White-collar work is itself disappearing under the rising waters of the information revolution. Low-level paper-shuffling and paralegal-type document searching are already redundant. "Travel agent" used to be a well-paid white-collar occupation. Have you spoken to one recently?

And then, of course, the obligatory anti-Trump snicker. Quote:

The lack of optimism in contemporary liberal and centrist thinking opens the door to Trump-style demagogy, since if the country really is going to hell, we do indeed need walls.

End quote.

The inference there is that, according to Easterbrook, the country is not going to hell, so our southern border can be left wide open, the way Progressives like it.

A lot of us non-Progressives believe that demography is destiny: that the social, cultural, political, and economic character of a country bears a strong relation to what kind of people live there. We thought that the U.S.A. was a rather nice country before the demographic transformation brought about by mass Third-World immigration post-1965; and that if that demographic transformation continues, our country will become less nice, more like the Third World.

To return to my opening point here: Are we now so secure, comfortable, and happy that we can devote our common energies to picayune topics like bathroom rights? Do big issues just not matter any more?

Well, plainly, to judge from the noise and fuss being generated by that North Carolina law, a lot of people think they don't.

I strongly disagree. Demography is destiny. The question of who gets to live in America is a big issue, a colossally huge issue, that will determine the shape of American society as our children and grandchildren will know it. Instead of squabbling over urinals, we should be talking about this nonstop, 24/7.

Yet in fact it is very nearly a taboo topic. People who do try to talk about it — people like us here at VDARE.com — are sneered at, jeered at, and excluded from the public square. It would hardly have gotten a mention in this year's election campaign if Donald Trump hadn't brought it up.

Bathroom rights be damned. There are major issues, issues critical to the future of our country, that we should be talking about. It's only that Cultural Marxists like Greg Easterbrook and those prestigious elite outlets like the New York Times that employ them, don't want us to talk about those issues.


05 — Demography, destiny.     Let's take a look at the actual Third World, at the kinds of nations we're taking mass immigration from.

Let's take Kenya, for example — a not untypical black African nation — indeed, one of the better ones on social and economic indices.

One of the hazards of living in Kenya is that the building you're living in might fall down on your head. It happens a lot.

It happened rather dramatically on the night of Friday, April 29th, in the Nairobi suburb of Huruma — where, by the way, Barack Obama's youngest half-brother, George Hussein Onyango Obama, was living when Vanity Fair magazine tracked him down in 2008.

Well, on April 29th in Huruma a six-story building collapsed after heavy rainfall. The last number I have for the death toll is 51.

As I said, this happens a lot in Kenya. Quote:

More than 30 buildings have collapsed in the last 10 years in different parts of Kenya, killing and injuring people.

An audit of the safety of buildings in Nairobi, conducted last year by the National Construction Authority, showed that only 42 percent of the buildings were found to be safe to live in.

End quote.

I took that from an article on the BBC website by African journalist Joseph Warungu. Further quote from him, quote:

The collapse of the building [i.e. the one in Huruma] is a reflection of a society that is collapsing bit by bit, day by day.

End quote. Warungu goes on to describe a culture of unbridled corruption throughout Kenya's government, police, military, and schools.

That's a snapshot of life in the Third World. Here's another, this one from Venezuela.

Just to remind you about Venezuela: biggish country at the top of South America, thirty million people, majority mestizo, i.e. mixed white and indigenous.

The leader of Venezuela through most of this century was socialist Hugo Chávez, a sort of mestizo Bernie Sanders. Chávez died three years ago from cancer — none too soon, as the country was already a mess and has gotten worse since.

Venezuela has the usual South American problems and another one besides: Resource Curse. Resource Curse is when you have some valuable resource you can pull out of the ground and sell to foreigners, without the government having to develop any other sources of revenue.

In Venezuela's case the resource is oil. The Venezuelan economy has no other significant sectors; if you're not working in the oil fields or a government job, you're probably unemployed.

With the oil price collapse of recent years, things in Venezuela have gotten really dire. Sample quotes from PanAmericaPost, a news aggregator, May 4th, quotes:

Ramón Muchacho, Mayor of Chacao in Caracas, said the streets of the capital of Venezuela are filled with people killing animals for food … Muchacho reported that in Venezuela, it is a "painful reality" that people "hunt cats, dogs and pigeons" to ease their hunger … The crisis in Venezuela is worsening every day … This to go along with the world's highest level of inflation.

The population's desperation has begun to show, with looting and robberies for food increasing all the time. This Sunday, May 1, six Venezuelan military officials were arrested for stealing goats to ease their hunger, as there was no food at the Fort Manaure military base.

End quote.

Inflation in Venezuela is heading for 720 percent this year, according to the IMF. The per capita homicide rate is 2nd in the world, right behind Honduras. On May 6th the leader of the main opposition party was shot in the head.

That's life in the Third World for you. Barack Obama and Greg Easterbrook have a solution to offer: Let these unfortunate people come here, to the First World. Our borders are open to them! Their lives will be so much better!

Is it really just hate-filled pessimism to think that this is a path to national suicide? To think that Venezuela is the way it is, and Kenya is the way it is, because of Venezuelans and Kenyans? And what about our lives?

Resource Curse? Norway has oil too — accounting for 39 percent of its exports. The inflation rate in Norway is two percent, and living standards are among the highest in the world.

Contrast Venezuela with Norway. Then tell me, if you can, that demography is not destiny, that the contrast has nothing to do with the different overall characteristics of Venezuelans and Norwegians; that settling a million Venezuelans in the U.S.A. would have consequences no different from settling a million Norwegians. Really? Really?


06 — When all men are paid for existing.     Here's a different First World country: Switzerland.

The Swiss have a national referendum coming up June 5th. The subject of the referendum is a guaranteed basic income. The proposition to be decided on is, that every adult citizen and legal resident will be guaranteed $2,600 a month tax-free, with another $650 for every child.

The referendum doesn't actually seem likely to pass. The latest poll numbers I can find show about 40 percent support overall: 43 percent among French-speaking Swiss, 30 percent among German speakers, 26 percent among Italians.

It's a straw in the wind, though. Guaranteed basic income is the ultimate welfare-state measure. A hundred years ago, when Britain's welfare state was settling in, Rudyard Kipling warned about the day, quote, "When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins."

I'm temperamentally with Kipling on this. A secure and comfortable life, with all necessities provided for, should be the result of hard work and thrift, not the gift of a benign paternal state to its grateful children.

There's another side to consider, though. Headline from the Washington Times, May 12th: As minimum-wage hikes become mandatory, Wendy's looks to expand self-service kiosks.

This is Wendy's the fast-food chain, of course. Wendy's is reacting to the $15 minimum-wage laws passed in California and New York City.

I vexed several listeners a few weeks ago when I declared myself to have, quote, "a pessimistic inclination towards a higher minimum wage," end quote. I explained the grounds for my pessimism thus, quote from me:

The pessimism comes from conversations with friends in the Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning fields, which are advancing faster than most people realize. The bottom quartile of the IQ distribution is pretty much shafted. Machines can already do most of what they do. Higher minimum wages will accelerate their shafting via automation, but it's happening anyway. I'm sympathetic. Pay 'em a bit more money, in the few more years there are still any jobs for them.

End quote.

I stand by that. The step forward in automation that Wendy's is taking is perhaps happening sooner than it would without these minimum-wage hikes, but it would happen anyway. In a free economy, human beings stand no chance against machines. The machines don't need rest breaks, health insurance, or diversity-awareness training. When a gadget can do what a human can do, businesses will go for the gadget every time.

So what do I think we'll do when automation has swallowed up another thirty or forty million jobs? I think we'll do guaranteed basic income, the idea the Swiss will be voting up or down on June 5th. I'm not happy about it, but it's what we'll do.

Here's a guy that agrees: Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, commenting on the Swiss referendum, quote:

Before it could be taken seriously, the middle class would need to experience far more job and wage loss than it has already. Unfortunately, those losses are inevitable. We'll have a serious discussion about a minimum basic income about a decade from now.

End quote.

Yes we shall. The current debate about minimum wage is just a staging post on the way to that final destination. I repeat, I'm not happy about it. Guaranteed basic income strikes me as an insult to human dignity. But there you are: I'm a pessimist.

I'll add as a footnote that the guaranteed basic income is a First World luxury. I doubt the people of Kenya or Venezuela will be having referendums on it in my lifetime. Part of the reason for that, of course, is that the corrupt elites in those countries have stolen their nations' wealth from the people and stashed it away safely in safe banking havens like, oh, … Switzerland.


07 — If you want nice things.     My colleague JayMan over at the Unz Review has argued that there are just two prior conditions you need for a country in the present age to be successful — that is, politically stable, with a high degree of liberty and decent, widespread prosperity.

JayMan, who's worked the numbers, says this hypothesis stands up to empirical verification.

I thought I'd give it a trial run using the Money Project website. Money Project specializes in working up visual illustrations for socioeconomic data.

On May 10th they ran a page headed Visualizing the Most Miserable Countries in the World. They're working here from the Cato Institute's Misery Index, which calculates how miserable a nation is based on four measures: unemployment, inflation, interest rates, and real GDP change.

Those are purely economic indicators, though, so let's not get our hopes too high. I just want to see if there's any kind of match here.

Money Project's ten most miserable countries, listed from bottom to top — least to most miserable — are: Serbia, Jamaica, Palestine (which seems to mean just the Gaza Strip), Iran, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, Venezuela. Yep, Venezuela's as miserable as it gets.

Let's look at mean national IQ. I'm working here from Lynn and Meisenberg's 2010 figures. Here are the ten mean national IQs, in the same order, Serbia to Venezuela: 89, X, 86, 84, 97, 72, 93, 87, 95, 84. I included an "X" there for Jamaica because it doesn't show in the 2010 paper, Lynn having declared it a lot of trouble to get good numbers for Jamaica. Jason Malloy, using better data three years ago, came up with 80 for Jamaica. I'll use that.

So you have a spread there from 72 to 97, the 97 being Russia, with Ukraine at 95 more or less tied. I'd say that's a fair confirmation of the first half of JayMan's thesis, although with question marks over Russia and Ukraine.

How about the other half? How do you measure social trust?

Well, bearing in mind the researches of Professor Putnam, as described in Chapter Two of my book We Are Doomed, a good proxy for social trust would be ethnic homogeneity.

Putnam, you may remember, after a massive multi-year survey of social capital in the U.S.A., found that not only is "out-group trust" lower in places with lots of diversity — that's how much you trust people who are different from yourself — but so, rather surprisingly, is "in-group trust," how much you trust people like yourself.

Quote from We Are Doomed, page 19, quote:

Diversity seems to affect every kind of social connection. In places with more ethnic diversity, people have fewer friends, watch more TV, are less inclined to vote, trust local government less, and rate their personal happiness lower.

So what can we say about ethnic diversity in Serbia, Jamaica, Palestine, Iran, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, and Venezuela? Looking them up on CIA World Factbook and a couple of other sites, and working just from the size of the majority ethnic group, I only got Iran, Brazil, and Venezuela as really diverse. Iran's 61 percent Persian, Brazil's 48 percent white, Venezuela's 52 percent mestizo. The others aren't particularly diverse. In fact, with a mean national IQ of 93 and being 97 percent white, Argentina ought to be doing better than it is.

I guess a lot of things can destroy social trust, though, not just diversity. Seventy-five years of communism will do it, I'm sure, as illustrated by Russia and Ukraine.

I can't say that this little exercise dispositively proves JayMan's hypothesis, but it sure doesn't dis-prove it either. All ten of those most-miserable countries have mean national IQ in two digits; and as I said, the list itself is purely based on four economic indicators.

This kind of thing gives food for thought, though; and in a world in thrall to various kinds of political fantasy, there can never be enough quantitative social science, even at the amateur back-of-the-envelope level I just carried out.


08 — The EB-5 ATM.     The best book written in recent years about our nation's immigration system has been Michelle Malkin and John Miano's very well-researched 2015 publication Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires & Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels Are Screwing America's Best & Brightest Workers. If you've read that book — and even if, like me, you are still unsure what species and genus the crapweasel belongs to — you will know that our immigration system is FUBAR from top to bottom.

Somewhere near the bottom is the EB-5 visa program, described by Malkin and Miano in Chapter Seven of their book. The "EB" stands for "Employment-Based." The idea of the program is to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to create jobs for Americans by investing in new or troubled businesses here. In return, the entrepreneur — along of course with his spouse and children — gets to settle in the U.S.A.

It all sounds reasonable; but, as Malkin and Miano amply document, the EB-5, like every other visa category, is addled with fraud, abuse, and good intentions gone wrong.

Over to the New York Times, May 10th, headline: Fraud Charges Mar a Plan to Aid a Struggling Vermont Region.

The struggling region is in the far north of Vermont, up against the Canadian border. The fraud charges, filed in two complaints by the State of Vermont and the Securities and Exchange Commission, are against a pair of American businessmen who recruited foreign entrepreneurs — hundreds of them — using the EB-5 visa as bait.

"Come in with us," said these two guys, whose names are Quiros and Stenger, "Come in with us on our project to build a ski resort, hotels, and a biotech research firm. Come in with us and you'll not only be making a great investment, you'll get residence in the U.S.A. too!"

Quiros and Stenger made sure to line up political support. They got Peter Shumlin, the Governor of Vermont, on board, and also the state's two Senators, Patrick Leahy and, yes, Bernie Sanders. They raked in a lot of money: the Times says $350 million dollars. In the little town of Newport up there, a whole block of stores and apartments was demolished for one of these projected developments. Nothing's been built, though; not one brick laid on another.

Where did the $350 million go? The Times report doesn't say clearly, although they do say, quote:

Mr Quiros was accused of siphoning off $50 million for his personal use, which included buying a luxury condominium in Trump Place New York.

End quote.

How'd you like that? — a Sanders angle and a Trump angle! — not of course that Trump is in any way to blame for this fiasco, though Bernie does seem culpable to some degree.

Isn't the EB-5 visa program carefully supervised by the Customs and Immigration Service? [Laugh.]

This is your nation's immigration system at work, listeners: an ATM for crooks and con artists, a badge of political respectability for grandstanding congressreptiles gushing about our "nation of immigrants" before heading off to another lobster dinner with the likes of Quiros and Stenger, a disaster for us, the American people.

Shut it down, shut the whole thing down. We have all the people we need, there's no reason for any further settlement. Spouses and dependent children of U.S. citizens; a few individuals of exceptional ability or accomplishment; a few foreigners who've put their lives on the line to help the U.S.A.; that's it, that's all we should take, a few thousand immigrants a year.

We have no shortage of entrepreneurs, or tech workers, or young people willing to work summer jobs, or any of the other legal-immigration categories. Shut it all down!


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

Imprimis:  A listener has chid me for calling Bernie Sanders, quote, "an accomplice to mass murder." While he declares himself no Sanders supporter, my listener argues that the Senator is merely a democratic socialist in the Scandinavian style, not a supporter of communist despotism.

I disagree. Sanders actively and vocally supported the Sandinistas of Nicaragua, who were Marxist-Leninists, not European social democrats.

A key phrase here is one from the French Revolution: pas d'ennemis à gauche, which translates as: "no enemies to the left."

The sentiment here is one voiced by moderate leftists: like the National Assembly in the early days of the French Revolution, or Alexander Kerensky in Russia between the fall of the Tsar and the rise of Lenin. They always clung to the illusion that the factions further to their left could be appeased, or ignored, or perhaps co-opted in the moderate cause.

Kerensky fled to the U.S.A. and lived here until he died in 1970. British historian Paul Johnson actually met him in later years. Johnson asked Kerensky why he hadn't ordered Lenin and his Bolsheviks to be rounded up and shot when he had the power to do so. Replied Kerensky, quote: "I didn't think they were important."

That's the spirit of the moderate left. Listen, I'm an old Cold War baby. I lived through the whole thing, interacting with hundreds of European and American socialists, democratic and otherwise, all through those decades. Let me tell you: You could never get any of them to say, unprompted, anything negative about the U.S.S.R.

Democratic socialists like Orwell, who identified as left but spoke frankly about what a horror show communism had turned out to be, were exceedingly rare. Pas d'ennemis à gauche.

Come to think of it, pas d'ennemis à gauche could also be a working slogan of the respectable right in the U.S.A. today, what Peter Brimelow calls "Conservatism, Inc." Luminaries of this faction, people like Bill Kristol, David Brooks, or John Podhoretz, will cheerfully quote or retweet leftist pundits like Jonathan Chait but would never, ever let it be known that they read VDARE.com or Steve Sailer. Pas d'ennemis à gauche. No enemies to their left, no friends to their right.


Item:  Bonnie Kristian over at the Daily Caller had me thumping the desk and shouting "Yes! Yes!" at my computer screen the other say with an article titled: Americans Prefer To Mind Our Own Business, But Washington Wants To Intervene — Everywhere.

Bonnie starts from a Pew poll dated May 5th showing that 57 percent of respondents want the U.S., quote from Pew, "to deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with their own problems as best they can." End quote.

She goes on to note that we currently have more than 150,000 troops stationed outside our borders, on some 800 bases in seventy countries. And that's just the troops we know about. There are undoubtedly secret ops going on in places like Yemen. And, as Bonnie notes, quote: "our government is mulling an expansion of military presence in the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Africa, and Eastern Europe — literally almost every continent on earth besides our own," end quote.

That's right. I don't think Uncle Sam so far has any significant military presence in Antarctica; but as soon as they can cook up an excuse for one, we'll be there.

It's madness, and asking for trouble. It's also, I am sure, another reason for the political success of Donald Trump. Did any of the other Republican candidates bring this up before he broached the subject?


Item:  We math geeks got a chuckle out of the story about Guido Menzio, an associate professor of economics at U. Penn., who was questioned by airline security officials because the woman in the seat next to him on his plane saw him writing strange symbols on a pad of paper.

It didn't help that Dr Menzio, although of Italian heritage, has a swarthy Mediterranean appearance. His seat companion thought he might be a Muslim terrorist, so she alerted the plane crew. The plane was already on the runway, but it returned to the gate and Dr Menzio was questioned. It turned out he was just working on some differential equations.

There is a long tradition of mathematicians' notes being regarded with suspicion by the laity. The French algebraist André Weil was arrested in Finland in 1939 on suspicion of being a spy on just those grounds. The Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie was likewise arrested in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, his math notes assumed to be top secret coded messages. I have no doubt there are other examples going all the way back to the Peloponnesian War.

Here's my question, though. Were those ordinary differential equations or partial differential equations that Dr Menzio was working on? None of the news sources wanted to tell us. My guess is that they were ODEs. An economist wouldn't be smart enough to handle PDEs.


10 — Signoff.     That's it for this week, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening; and please note once again that next week's podcast will be in some nonstandard form, yet to be precisely determined, from the American Renaissance conference in Tennessee.

This edition of Radio Derb seems not to have had any explicit theme, but there's been an im-plicit one none the less, surfacing here and there as I surveyed current events. As a person who cherishes private life and is suspicious of government power, it's a theme dear to my heart. Here it is, expressed in song by one of the Republic's finest poets.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.


[Music clip: Hank Williams "Mind your own business."]