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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, traditional instruments version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your typographically genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you news and views on great matters under Heaven.
I'm going to save the greatest matter for last. By way of warming up to that, here is some comment on lesser issues that have been occupying space in our newspapers the past few days.
02 — Slipping backwards on immigration. It's been a depressing few days on the immigration front. Not least depressing has been the collapse of the lawsuits against Disney World.
Just to remind you: Disney was in the news three years ago for laying off American IT workers and replacing them with cheaper workers from India on H-1B visas. The American workers even had to train their replacements, at peril of losing their severance pay.
Well, the laid-off American workers got lawsuits going against Disney, suing on both the state — that's the state of Florida — and the federal levels.
The last of those lawsuits collapsed this week. It turns out that Disney had gamed the system to get their cheaper workers.
Here's how it worked.
Things move fast in the IT world. In any big corporation at pretty much any time there are what we call legacy systems, written a few years previously and running on older-generation hardware; and then there are spiffy new systems being developed and installed on shiny new hardware.
What Disney did in 2014, the year before the layoffs, was contract out the legacy support work to third-party vendors while shifting their younger, more adaptable employees to develop the newer stuff. The third-party vendors were under no legal obligation to employ older Disney workers who knew the legacy systems … so they didn't. Since Disney had no use for these employees whose jobs had been contracted out, they let them go.
It stinks, but it's legal, and the H-1B guest worker program makes it profitable.
Solution, for anyone who thinks that American politicians should put American workers first: Dump the guest-worker programs.
Where is our President on this?
[Clip: We're gonna let them in because you need them … Guestworkers, don't we agree? We have to have them.]
So I guess the Trump administration's approach to those laid-off Disney employees is, they can go pound sand.
Quote from WFTV Orlando, May 9th:
On the campaign trail, Trump pledged multiple times to stop American companies from replacing qualified American workers with high-skilled foreign workers. [Sara] Blackwell [lead attorney for the Disney workers] says she … and many others lent their voices and support to his campaign on the basis that he would help them …
More bad news. Headline from the Washington Times, May 3rd: Illegal immigration surges 230 percent in April on southwest border. That's 230 percent over April last year. There was a big lull in border-jumpers after Trump's inauguration. Illegal aliens assumed that the new U.S. administration would clamp down firmly on illegal crossings.
Nobody assumes that now. The southern border is as wide-open as ever. The Border Patrol says it nabbed 38,234 border jumpers in April. The Times says 75 percent of them were given "catch and release," which means they're here, in your town and mine. Seventy-five percent of 38,234 is 28,675.
That annualizes to 344,000 — more than a million every three years, and that's just counting the ones caught and released by the Border Patrol. Welcome to America!
The immigration news isn't all bad. Texas and six other states are suing to get Obama's DACA program declared unconstitutional. The case has to crawl up through the judicial hierarchy, probably all the way to the Supreme Court, but at least they're trying.
Even more encouraging, the President seems to be having occasional episodes of clear thinking on immigration. The New York Times reported that at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday this week, Trump lost it with Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, telling her she wasn't doing enough to secure the border.
Talking with reporters before that meeting, the President said, according to the Times, that, quote:
We've very much toughened up the border, but the laws are horrible. The laws in this country for immigration and illegal immigration are absolutely horrible.
No argument from me on that; but hey, guy, you're the President. Have your people draft up some laws, then pitch them to Congress. That's our system, that's what you're supposed to do. The laws won't change by themselves, and the congresscritters won't do anything unless you bully them.
Not only is Trump not trying to push Congress in the right direction on immigration, he sometimes seems to want to push it in the wrong direction.
There's this business of Temporary Protected Status, for example, where aliens are given permission to stay here for the duration of some crisis in their home country. Sixty thousand Hondurans have been here on that basis because of a hurricane in their country … in 1998!
The DHS is giving these Hondurans eighteen months to get themselves back home. That's good; but, quote from the McClatchy news service:
President Donald Trump has said repeatedly that it's up to Congress to protect TPS holders.
Excuse me? Protect them from what? From our laws? Nobody needs protecting from the law. The law exists to protect us, law-abiding citizens, from lawlessness — the kind of lawlessness that characterizes too much of our immigration policy.
You got elected largely on this, Mr President. We're a year and a half in, and nothing's happened. Get on it, Mr President.
03 — Feminist hero slaps women around. The defenestration of Eric Schneiderman has been fun to watch.
If you didn't follow it, Schneiderman was the Attorney General of New York State, my state's chief law enforcement official, until this week. He's a liberal Democrat, and has been a big backer of feminist causes.
Monday this week New Yorker magazine ran a story in which four women say that Schneiderman hit and threatened them. There was such a fuss about this, Schneiderman has been forced to resign.
Only two of the women are named in the New Yorker piece. Both are, says the article, quote: "articulate, progressive Democratic feminists in their forties who live in Manhattan," who were "romantically involved" with Schneiderman (who is divorced). One was with him almost two years, the other for a year and a half.
The third lady was also a sex partner of Schneiderman's, but we know nothing else about her. The fourth rebuffed his advances, for which, she says, she got a nasty slap.
There's been much glee over on our side of the aisle, from people like Tucker Carlson, about the hypocrisy on display here. I share that glee.
Nobody should shed any tears for Schneiderman. Politically he's no worse than the average run of New York office holders, but that's a very low bar. The name Eliot Spitzer mean anything?
The dismally low quality of these people is our fault, the voters' fault. This is what you get when not many people bother to vote. When Schneiderman was elected to state A-G in 2014 he got a tad over two million votes — that's less than eighteen percent of the state's electorate. Total turnout was 31 percent.
Personally, while I'm not shedding tears for Eric Schneiderman, I'm also not shedding any for the women involved. No, I don't approve of slapping women around, but in the Schneiderman case there's too much discounting to be done.
First discounting: Schneiderman is a heavy drinker. The incidents of violence in the New Yorker story all seem to have happened when he was drunk. No, I don't approve of drunk guys slapping women around either; but drunk guys have been doing so since alcoholic drinks were first brewed, fermented, or distilled. Adult women should know that and stay away from drunks.
Second discounting: We're going through a spell in which for a woman to have been a victim of toxic masculinity brings her much attention and sympathy. Women are lining up to claim their Victim Awards.
That doesn't necessarily mean these four women in the Schneiderman story are lying. I have no idea whether they are or not. It does, though, give them a strong incentive to dramatize and exaggerate.
Third discounting: [Ker-ching!] Yes, there's money at stake here. Schneiderman has eight and a half million dollars in his campaign account, and there is some unseemly scrapping going on by people trying to get a piece of it.
The Republican Women's caucus of the New York State Senate has published a demand that all eight and a half million be given to charities for domestic violence victims. Fox News reports that the National Organization for Women is also laying claim to the money, though I have no further details about that.
Just as the reductionist approach to immigration controversies is that there's always a cheap labor scam in the background, similarly the reductionist approach to these victimology stories is that back of each story somewhere there's a firm of trial lawyers pulling the strings. [Ker-ching!]
In short, I'm not nursing any indignation about this story, either for Schneiderman or the ladies. To be perfectly frank, far as I'm concerned, New York's creepy liberal hypocrite male politicians and New York's "articulate, progressive Democratic" feminists deserve each other. I wish them joy of their future encounters.
04 — Time to get out of Northeast Asia. We now have a date and a place for our President's meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: June 12th in Singapore.
I of course wish for the best from this meeting, but I have to say I don't expect it. That's not just my own chronic pessimism; a lot of the bigfoot analysts agree that expectations should be low.
Some of them in fact think that the negotiations are already over before they've formally begun, because Kim Jong Un has got the main thing he wanted.
Veteran diplomat and foreign policy analyst Joe DeThomas makes this case over at 38North. The main thing Kim wanted, says Prof. DeThomas, was relief from all that pressure.
The pressure has been mainly economic. For the past year North Korea has been under real, severe economic sanctions, with even China in full compliance for the first time ever. South Korea's been complying, too, whereas the South has previously been open to occasional concessions on grounds of humanitarian relief to brother Koreans in the North.
And then there's been military pressure from our President. Different opinions are possible about how realistic Trump's threats were; but it's how realistic the Norks thought they were that matters. For sure they were an attention-getting contrast with the more laid back style of the Obama administration, the only one that Kim Jong Un had previously engaged with.
Now, by a few deft moves and a lot of smiling, Kim has found relief from that pressure.
But hold on here: If the Singapore talks go badly, won't the pressure come right back on?
No, it won't. As any physicist will tell you, not all processes are reversible. You can't re-heat a soufflé; the toothpaste won't go back in the tube; etc., etc.
[I forgot to include my favorite in this line: Chinese 木已成舟 (mu yi cheng zhou), "the wood has been made into a boat."]
Given the sense of euphoria in [South Korea] over the [April 27th] Panmunjom Summit [between North and South leaders], any attempt to get tougher with North Korea will produce a violently negative reaction from the South Korean public and political class as long as Kim continues his skillful reengineering of his image with South Korea and does not turn on [South Korean President] Moon [Jae-in]. China, too, is probably quite satisfied with the turn of events since January 1. It has reinserted itself into the diplomatic process and has had two successful high-level meetings with Kim.
That sounds right to me. If the Singapore meeting's a flop, Kim will blame Trump, probably arguing that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula should include withdrawal of all U.S. security guarantees to the South. If Trump agreed to that over the negotiating table, John Bolton would stab him to death in his bathtub.
Then the Chinese will go along with blaming Trump and resume cheating on sanctions as per normal — even more vigorously than normal, if they find themselves in a trade war with the U.S.A. Pressed by China and public opinion, the South leadership will cut some kind of deal with Kim, not a deal that involves him giving up his nukes.
From the National Conservative point of view, that outcome might not be altogether bad. Translation of "not altogether bad": It might get us closer to a true America First policy, a policy of complete military disengagement.
Kim Jong Un is not an American problem; or he wouldn't be if we didn't have thirty thousand troops in the peninsula. Kim Jong Un is a Northeast Asian problem, to be solved by the nations of that region: China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea.
If the Singapore talks fail, and claims that the failure is our fault are sufficiently plausible, and Kim keeps on smiling, the South might even be sufficiently ticked off with us to ask us to leave, taking our security guarantees with us.
This year would be an opportune time for them to do that, if they're anyway inclined to do it: The funding agreement, under which South Korea pays half the cost of our troop deployment there, expires this year. We'll be needing a new agreement; and the Trump administration wants the South to pay more.
Complete disengagement from South Korea would be a huge benefit to the U.S.A., with the secondary benefit that neocons would be hurling themselves from high windows all over Washington, D.C.
Sure, South Korea and Japan might nuke up if that happened. That gets us into the issue of nuclear proliferation, though, which I'll address briefly later. Here I'll only note that Candidate Trump, on the campaign trail in 2016, suggested that the South and Japan should indeed nuke up. I agreed with the suggestion; and sixty-three million American voters seem not to have minded it.
We got out of Southeast Asia forty years ago and are none the worse for it. Time now to get out of North-east Asia.
05 — Firing up the Revolutionary Guard. Also on the foreign policy front: Our President has withdrawn us from the three-year-old Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
That's what it's officially known as in English: JCPOA. In Farsi, the main language of Iran, they refer to the deal as BARJAM, which is much more podcast-friendly. I shall follow this usage, saying BARJAM — after, of course, apologizing for the cultural appropriation here.
Nobody has any business being surprised about the withdrawal. In the 2016 Presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump several times promised to pull out of BARJAM. So, he's keeping a campaign promise. As, again, a National Conservative, though, I have to say, I wish he had left the thing alone.
Was BARJAM a good deal for the U.S.A.? I have no idea. It's not hard to believe — not at all hard — that Barack Obama and John Kerry gave away the farm in return for nothing much from a gang of cold-eyed bazaar carpet salesmen.
On the other hand, stopped clocks are right twice a day, so perhaps our two geopolitical geniuses back in 2015 got something right for once. And as Pat Buchanan points out, when you look at who is happy about Trump's decision — most notably John Bolton and the neocons — you have to wonder.
BARJAM created a status quo, though; and recent history suggests that overturning a status quo in the Middle East is never a good idea and rarely delivers the desired results.
In other words I wish Trump had left things alone because any kind of forceful U.S. action in that region just gets us more engaged. I can't see why we should be engaged there. As with Northeast Asia, we're there because we're there because we're there. I'd prefer us not to be there. Being there costs us blood and money; and whenever in the last twenty years we've tried to do anything decisive, the results were the opposite of what we wanted.
If you go back a bit further, to Bush 41's First Gulf War: Yeah, that achieved its stated aim to get Iraq out of Kuwait. It didn't solve any structural problems, though, and likely planted the seeds of neocon arrogance that came to fruit in Afghanistan and Iraq the following decade.
It's all been a catalog of folly. We should cut the Gordian knot, trade with whoever wants to trade with us and leave the locals to make their own history. If Sunnis and Shias want to kill, cook, and eat each other, personally I'm fine with it. The Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia are not worth the bones of a single Pennsylvanian grenadier.
Wouldn't that leave Israel in the lurch, bothering a lot of Americans, including me? I doubt it. Israel can take care of herself pretty well. If, as some current chatter suggests, open war breaks out between Israel and Iran, I'd be betting on Israel.
David Goldman, one of the most percipient analysts of the region, and incidentally a Trump supporter, agrees. Quote from him, writing at Asia Times, May 8th:
Israeli aircraft would control the skies over Iran during any conflict, and it is likely that Saudi Arabia would allow Israel to use its airspace to refuel its planes … If Israel can limit the damage inflicted by Iranian missiles and deter Hezbollah, it will be in a position to ensure that Iran is unable to fight another war for at least a generation. Iran is the fastest-aging country in the world, and might not recover from the annihilation of its infrastructure.
Correlation of forces aside, David's demographic point is worth noting. Iran's total fertility rate is 1.97, below replacement level. For Jews in Israel the rate is 3.16, the highest in the civilized world. Israel's a nest of demographic vitality; Iran is sinking into European-style demographic stagnation.
You have to figure, also, that revolutionary ardor rarely lasts an entire generation, especially when, as with Iran, great numbers of the most ardent revolutionaries got killed in a horrific war. I'm talking about the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, north of a quarter-million Iranian dead — the war of which Henry Kissinger famously said, it was a pity both sides couldn't lose.
We're forty years on from Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution. If Iran were France, we'd be coming up to 1830, when the bourgeoisie kicked out the restored Bourbons. If Iran were Russia, this would be early Khrushchov, flirting with a consumer society and swatting dissidents. If Iran were China, next year would see disgruntled students, fed up with discipline and corruption, marching on Tiananmen Square.
U.S. action against Iran at this point probably just fires up what's left of the Revolutionary Guard and postpones the natural death of crusading Islamic ardor.
Leave the damn place alone, Mr President. Buy a few nice carpets for the White House. I can put you in touch with a sales rep.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Lurking back of the North Korea and Iran situations is the issue of nuclear proliferation, which I promised to address.
Following our withdrawal from BARJAM, for example, the Saudis are saying that if Iran nukes up, so will they. And as I've already pointed out, the situation in Northeast Asia could end with South Korea and Japan nuking up.
This is bad, right? I mean, where will it end? When my kids are middle-aged, will they be living in a world where Equatorial Guinea, and Yemen, and Laos, and Guatemala all have nukes?
I wouldn't rule it out. Nukes are 1940s technology. Any nation that really wants nukes can probably already get them. Heck, North Korea did. So did Pakistan, which is likely more dangerous than North Korea: unstable and Islamic.
I can't see any solution to this other than to keep our own stockpile big and functional. Deterrence has seen us through the last seventy years: I don't know of any better policy.
It's a dangerous world, and human ingenuity is making it more dangerous all the time. Nukes, plagues, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, … The next few decades are not going to be easy. Nukes won't be the worst of our problems.
Item: We all know about the horrors of discrimination and the pain it can cause to the discriminatee. Here now is an interesting question from the Old Country: Is it possible to discriminate against the dead?
Britain's High Court has ruled that it is. The case here concerns Mary Hassell, a coroner in North London, responsible for scheduling inquests, and so indirectly responsible for when a body can be released for burial.
Ms Hassell's district, you see, contains many religious Muslims and Jews. Those religions insist that a body must be buried on the day of death or as soon as possible afterwards. Ms Hassell, however, follows a policy of first died, first served, so that some Muslim and Jewish corpses linger in the morgue for a week or more.
That, said plaintiffs, violated the human rights of dead people. The High Court agreed, and told Ms Hassell to mend her discriminatory ways.
So now there'll be a fast check-out lane from the morgue for Muslims and Jews. This sounds to me like some kind of privilege … but who can keep up with this stuff nowadays?
Item: The chattering classes this week have all been chattering about a May 8th op-ed in the New York Times, title: Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web, subtitle: "An alliance of heretics is making an end run around the mainstream conversation. Should we be listening?"
Wow! Are they talking about me? Ctrl-F "Derb" … nope. Ctrl-F "Sailer" … nope. Ctrl-F "Jared" … strike three. Ctrl-F "Brimelow" … nah-uh. Ctrl-F "Heartiste" … I give up.
So who are these contrarian heretics the New York Times has brought forward to make their readers' flesh creep? Quote:
Jordan Peterson, the psychologist and best-selling author; the conservative commentators Ben Shapiro and Douglas Murray; Maajid Nawaz, the former Islamist turned anti-extremist activist; and the feminists Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christina Hoff Sommers.
Uh-huh. What kind of controversial opinions are they promoting, these fearless freethinkers? Quote:
There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart.
I guess I can see that if you are a habitual New York Times reader, opinions like that do indeed seem to come from the dark side. However, to an open-minded and observant person who's acquainted with current understandings in the human sciences, this "alliance of heretics" looks like a group of unthreatening tame centrists planted in the op-ed pages of the Times like a fence to mark the limits of acceptable dissent.
I say that with no offense to any of them. I read Douglas Murray's book The Strange Death of Europe with pleasure and approval. I've watched several of Jordan Peterson's videos with keen attention. He's a good teacher, who knows his way around the science of intelligence and personality. I've shared a stage with Christina Hoff Sommers: a very bright, pleasant lady.
It's just that you have to be deeply unimaginative to regard these people as heretics. Burning Douglas Murray or Jordan Peterson at the stake would be a waste of good firewood.
I've no doubt there are people over in the CultMarx fever swamps who'd like to do it anyway; but if those people's standards are your standards — if, for example, you fall back on the fainting couch when someone says there are fundamental biological differences between men and women — well, you really need to get out more.
Item: Transgender bathrooms, race and IQ, gay marriage, open borders, … You think these are topics of angry controversy on the internet? Feugh! Let me show you something people are really mad about.
The point at issue here is: Do you type one space after a period, or two?
If, like your genial host, you learned to type on a mechanical typewriter, one of those that dings a little bell to prompt you for a carriage return [sound clip], one of the rules you were taught was to double-space after a period or a colon.
(I should say, for the sake of complete coverage, that there is a school of thought that says you should double-space after a comma or a semicolon, too. This is wrong! Do not listen to these people! The paths of error are many; all lead to perdition! Strait is the gate, narrow is the way!)
Since computers with word processors came up, and I think particularly since proportional fonts became widely available, these fine old civilized standards have been slipping into desuetude. We of the older generation have striven to keep the flame of typographical correctness burning, but our efforts have been looking more and more like a rearguard action …
… until April 24th this year — blessed day! — when the website of the scholarly journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics published a paper titled "Are two spaces better than one? The effect of spacing following periods and commas during reading."
I am sorry to see the reference to commas in that title, but the paper itself validates what we former typewriter users have always known: Leaving two spaces after a period makes your text easier to read. They ran tests with students at Skidmore College in upstate New York, and found that reading went three percent faster with two spaces.
Defenders of tradition and sanity — Yale sociologist Nicholas Christakis, for example — hailed the study as confirming what right-thinking people have always known.
The forces of anarchy and chaos, however, are not easily repelled. Some creature named Farhad Manjoo over at Slate.com launched a 1,300-word piece with the declaration that, quote: "Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong."
John McDermott at the lifestyle website MelMagazine.com was even more shameless, descending into actual blasphemy. Title of his piece: "For the Love of God, Stop Putting Two Spaces After a Period." That ranted on for eight hundred words.
Meanwhile Jennifer Gonzalez at CultOfPedagogy.com folds the controversy into the larger war against Boomers. Her title: "Nothing Says Over 40 Like Two Spaces after a Period!"
Reading these furious polemics, it seems plain to me that the war between One-Spacers and Two-Spacers will come to blood at last, like the conflict in Gulliver's Travels over whether you should crack a boiled egg at the big end or the little end.
That one ended with victory for the Little-Enders, if memory serves. I am confident that victory in the typing wars will ultimately come to us, the Two-Spacers.
Then we shall have a free hand at long last to deal with the comma and semicolon saboteurs!
07 — Signoff. That's it for this week, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention, and may the force be with you this lovely spring weekend.
I haven't offered you much in the way of baroque music in my signoffs, so it's high time. Here's a snippet from one of the most soothing pieces I know: Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: From Pachelbel's "Canon in D."]