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—————————[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]
And thank goodness there was something to glow about this week. The political news just gets more depressing. I've been trying to hold on to some shreds of faith in our President, but he's making it awfully difficult. This week's fiasco, or Trumpasco, was of course the emergency funding bill out of Congress. Oh dear; oh dear, oh dear.
02 — Lethargy in the Executive. That funding bill is worse than bad: it's a catastrophe.
It contains some meager funding for border fences in crucial places on our southern border; but the local authorities in those places are given a veto on the actual building of the fences! Since all the jurisdictions concerned are, at best, deep-blue Democrat, and at worst, bought-and-paid-for by the Mexican smuggling gangs, there will be no fences.
The more you look at the bill, the worse it gets. There is a flat-out amnesty provision in it for any illegal alien resident in the U.S.A. who says says they might sponsor a unaccompanied-minor border-jumper, or who lives in a household with one, or who lives in a household that includes a person who might sponsor one, or whose cousin has a dentist who plays golf with a guy whose wife thinks she might know one.
As Daniel Horowitz has tweeted, tweet:
This bill is … worse than amnesty. Amnesty is a reprieve for a transgression of the past. This bill prospectively invites 15 million illegals to engage in human smuggling in order to obtain de facto permanent status here.
Quote from Dan Stein at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, quote: "If this bill is enacted, expect the largest surge of unaccompanied minors this country has ever seen." End quote.
Enforcement is gutted by the bill, with a twenty percent reduction in detention beds and an expansion of catch-and-release.
It's not just illegal aliens who benefit. Legal immigration is stepped up, too. Numbers of H-2B visas — that's for non-agricultural, unskilled seasonal workers — are doubled. There's $3.4 billion for "refugee resettlement" so we can have more Somalis and Congolese to enrich us.
And so on. This bill is awful, unspeakably awful. It's an utter rebuff to everything Donald Trump campaigned on in 2016. Yet as we go to tape here at Radio Derb, we're getting confirmation that the President has signed the filthy thing.
Not to worry, says the President: I'll declare a national emergency and shuffle some funds over to pay for the fencing. He held a press conference Friday midday to tell us he was about to sign that declaration.
What's the point, Mr President? Friday midday you signed a declaration that will let you build a fence here and there. Friday afternoon you signed a bill that gives Sheriff Gonzalez in Wackapaloosa County a total veto on your using his land, while simultaneously ripping the guts out of immigration enforcement and showering the world with guest-worker visas.
Trump's national-emergency declaration will anyway be lawyered to death. Trump himself seems to foresee this, but he dismissed it breezily when announcing the national emergency declaration. Quote:
And we will have a national emergency, and then we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn't be there. And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we'll get another bad ruling. And then we'll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we'll get a fair shake.
End quote. Uh-huh. How long will all that take, Mr President? What if the Supreme Court declines to take the case? What if they take it but rule against you? Have you noticed the Strange New Respect Chief Justice Roberts has been getting from our elites lately? And Justice Ginsburg's back on her exercise bike.
And what about the amnesties, and the increases in catch-and-release, and the H-2B visas? Will your national emergency take care of those?
To compound his offenses, Trump has thrown Ann Coulter off the sled, though in the nicest possible way. Quote: "I like her, but she's off the reservation … But I haven't spoken to her. I don't follow her. I don't talk to her." End quote.
The rule I heard was, you go home with the feller that brung you. Flipping the sexes round here, if there was one person more than any other than brung Donald Trump to the White House, it was Ann. Now she's "off the reservation," along with Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions.
I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the Z-man got it right: Trump's just a bag of wind, a bullshitter who got lucky. He has no political skills and no firm core of belief on political issues. By the latter I mean that if he says something today, six months on he may be saying the opposite thing, with just as much apparent conviction — as indeed he has done on legal immigration.
I'm also getting the impression of a guy who is lazy and timid. By lazy I mean he hasn't made much effort to improve his understanding of key issues, or to get properly to grips with staffing chores. By timid I mean reluctant to challenge, to throw down gauntlets — like an executive order ending birthright citizenship. Sure, it might fail at last, but at least battle would have been joined.
Trump doesn't want battle, he doesn't want challenge. He wants to tweet, watch TV, and make gassy speeches full of empty promises that he'll renege on after his next meeting with Jared.
Alexander Hamilton told us that, quote: "Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government." End quote. What we have is lethargy in the executive. Congress, district court judges, and Deep State operators are calling the shots. Nero fiddled; Trump tweets.
Wait, though: There is hope! William Weld has announced he'll challenge Trump in the GOP primaries next year!
03 — The Data Gap. Chinese New Year last Tuesday we chatted with Mrs Derbyshire's nephew in China, a smart young man with a good job. He told us a story about getting on a bus in his town over there and not being able to pay.
It wasn't that he didn't have any cash. He never carries cash. He pays for things by swiping his smartphone. For some reason the swipe didn't work on this bus. He had to argue with the driver, who at last let him on without paying.
This young Chinese guy lives in a cashless society. He also, of course, lives in a society that records in a database somewhere every tiniest transaction he engages in.
Those bazillions of transactions are a huge natural resource for China. Data is the raw material for developing artificial intelligence. Suppose for example you want to develop facial-recognition software. It's a great boon to have millions and millions of faces you — or your software — can study and compare.
U.S. News and World Report ran a story February 14th about this. China, they said, already has more data than we have, and the gap is widening. Last year we had 21 percent of the world's data. By 2025 we'll be down to 17.5 percent; China will have nearly 28 percent.
Sixty years ago Americans were being prodded to worry about a Missile Gap. Well, the wheel turns. Here we are with a looming Data Gap.
The downside of the China model is the disappearance of privacy. If some database somewhere is recording every bus journey you make, there is no hiding place from the state. The ChiComs are of course fine with that, but I don't think we should be, if our founding ideals of liberty and personal autonomy are to go on meaning anything.
The city council of Philadelphia seems to agree. Thursday this week they voted a new law to require most local businesses to accept cash as payment. Too many local retailers are only accepting credit cards.
Debate on the law was all dressed up in fashionably woke language about making life more fair for people who are, quote, "minority and immigrant" — like Mrs Derbyshire, I guess. I'm going to be charitable, though, and assume the councillors had liberty in mind somewhere, too.
Political liberty is in play here, too. One of the most ominous developments in last year's news was the decision by crowdfunding platform Patreon to drop Robert Spencer, who writes learned polemics against Islam and runs the Jihad Watch website. That decision was not in fact Patreon's; it was forced on them by the credit card company Mastercard, who, said Patreon, quote, "reserve the right to not offer their services to accounts of their choosing," end quote.
So credit card companies are now the gatekeepers for what is and is not acceptable political speech; and being unfriendly to Islam is not acceptable.
Did I mention liberty back there? How old-fashioned of me!
04 — Shopping for embryos. I spotted a name I know when reading the other day about embryo profiling on Stat, which is a medical-research blog. The name was that of physicist Steve Hsu, who runs the Infoproc blog, one of the best sources for cutting-edge knowledge about genetics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and allied topics. You get some cool physics, too, now and then.
Embryo profiling means reading off information from the DNA of an embryo. We know enough now about human DNA to read off some highly particular things with certainty: Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis, hairy elbows, and more.
Much more interesting are things we can read off not with certainty, but with some nontrivial level of probability: your chance of getting diabetes or breast cancer, for example. That's where Steve's name came up. Steve's a co-founder of this new firm Genomic Prediction, which does embryo profiling.
And most recently, thanks to genome-wide association studies, our understanding has begun to penetrate into behavioral genetics. A behavioral trait that has gotten a lot of attention recently is educational attainment — how far a person goes in school. Is that really a thing you can read off from the genome?
Not with certainty, of course; but a rigorous study last year showed that by careful scrutiny of the genome we can predict, quote, "eleven to thirteen percent of the variance in educational attainment and seven to ten percent of the variance in cognitive performance," end quote.
"Cognitive performance" is a research scientist's way of saying "smarts." So, executive summary here: We are inching our way towards being able to read off IQ from the DNA. We're not very far along yet — seven to ten percent of the variance is all we can currently predict — and it's not likely we'll ever get to a hundred percent, but the science is improving fast.
The nature of these kinds of studies is, that your estimates get better and better the more test subjects you can get into your DNA database. There were 1.1 million subjects in the study I've been quoting. You'd have way better estimates with a hundred million. How about a billion? Which brings us back to China.
Steve's company will already screen an embryo for, quote, "Intellectual Disability," which I assume means severe retardation. There is every reason to suppose that ten or fifteen years from now they'll be able to identify embryos that have a high probability of turning out merely dumb.
That's the world we're heading into, listeners — quite fast, as best I can judge. The social issues really need thinking about. Just for example:
05 — Knotty issues (1): Euthanasia. In my reading the past few days I've been reminded that some issues are seriously knotty. I mean, we tend to take clear positions pro or con; but when you dig down into the details, it's all messy ambiguity and moral dilemmas.
Here are a couple of segments on two of those knotty issues. Issue number one: Euthanasia.
I was reading about this in the January 18th edition of The Guardian, Britain's leftist broadsheet. Like the New York Times, they sometimes carry pieces that are interesting and informative, without much CultMarx spin. This was one of those. Headline: Death on demand: has euthanasia gone too far?.
On a straightforward pro or con basis, count me pro-euthanasia. For one thing, I grew up overhearing medical gossip, so I know that doctors were finding ways to put terminal patients out of their misery long before it was legal to do so anywhere. For another thing I've had a couple of encounters with suicide, a very horrible and distressing business. If that's your choice, I feel about the actual execution of it the same way I feel about appendectomies: For Heaven's sake don't try to do it yourself, let a trained medical person do it.
The author of the Guardian piece, name of Christopher de Bellaigue, tours the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002. He describes some happy euthanasias. Here was a man dying of lung cancer, surrounded by family and friends, quote from the attending doctor, "drinking and guffawing and crying." Then, further quote:
The man knew exactly what to do. Suddenly he said, "OK, guys!" and everyone understood. Everyone fell silent. The very small children were taken out of the room and I gave him his injection.
End quote. Hard to find anything objectionable there. That's an easy case, though. What if the patient signed an advance directive that he be euthanized if he became hopelessly incapable; but then, when he was hopelessly incapable, and deep into dementia, put up a struggle?
A case like that is currently being litigated in the Netherlands as "euthanasia malpractice." The doctor's arguing that she was just fulfilling the patient's documented request. As de Bellaigue writes, quote: "Whatever the legal merits of her argument, it hardly changes what must have been a scene of unutterable grimness." End quote.
There's the spectrum: a supportive farewell party at one end, "a scene of unutterable grimness" at the other. Under a regime of legalized euthanasia, there's no knowing which one you'll get.
As I said, it's not straightforward. It's knotty: so much so that, according to this Guardian article, annual numbers for euthanasia in the Netherlands seem now to be declining.
06 — Knotty issues (2): Israel. Here's another knotty issue: geopolitical, this one, not sociocultural.
The topic here is Israel, and a short piece about that country in the February 2nd issue of The Economist.
Yeah, yeah: The Economist. I know: mouthpiece of the globalist elites. Why would I quote a rag like that? Not only do I know, I've been the author of several mocking posts at VDARE.com under the collective heading "Economist Watch." I read the thing so you don't have to. And reading it, I sometimes come across something interesting, as in this case.
And also: Yeah, yeah, Israel. A small, distant country that has more prominence than it ought to have among our policy elites because so many of them are Jewish, and wealthy Jewish donors contribute disproportionally many dollars to our political campaigns.
All right. All that granted, I have a partiality to Israel that I've explained at length elsewhere. Sample quote:
Israel is … an outpost of my civilization, organized on principles I agree with, inhabited by people I could live at ease with. They defend themselves, their borders, their interests, with the kind of vigor and thick-skinned determination I'd like to see my nation display. (If only!) I admire them and wish them well.
It's the borders of Israel that this piece in The Economist is about. It's actually at the back of the magazine, where they have a one-page feature called "Graphic detail," giving a thumbnail sketch of some issue pictorially, using graphs, charts, and maps.
The issue here is Israel's border with the West Bank. Prior to the 1967 war this was a firm national border: Israel on one side, Jordan on the other. Now the West Bank is a patchwork mess of Israeli-controlled, Palestinian-controlled, and joint-controlled areas, all speckled with Israeli settlements.
Those settlements — even excluding East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed — now contain over 400,000 Israelis, and they're still growing fast. That's nothing like as many as there are Arabs in the West Bank — over two million — but it's way too many for Israel to repatriate back into Israel proper, which anyway Israel has no inclination to do. Repatriating 8,000 Jews from Gaza in 2005 was a logistical nightmare; repatriating the West Bank settlers would be fifty times that nightmarish.
On the other hand, those two million Arabs are way more than anyone can imagine Israel expelling from the West Bank; and Israel shows no inclination to do that, either.
On the other other hand, the demographic situation is not static. Israel's birth rate is remarkably high for a developed country, well above replacement rate; but the Arabs are breeding too, and slightly faster. The Economist reckons that by 2021 there'll be 7.2 million Arabs between the Jordan River and the sea — that's Israel plus the West Bank — but only 7 million Jews.
This, says the magazine, puts Israel in a trilemma. For a one-state solution, Israel plus the West Bank, either (a) Israeli Jews have to yield to being outnumbered, or (b) they have to drop democracy and go apartheid. For a two-state solution they have to (c) repatriate all those settlers and their land.
It's a mess. It's been a mess for decades now, though, and my guess is it'll go on being a mess for a few decades more.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I really miss Jeff Sessions.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has a book coming out. In it, according to the Wall Street Journal, McCabe records Jeff as saying the following thing about the FBI, quote:
Back in the old days you all only hired Irishmen. They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos.
End quote. Spot on, Jeff. If it is indeed the case that FBI agents now sport nose rings and visible tattoos, that's a sad decline from the days of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Now there was a great Irishman.
Item: As noted two weeks ago on Radio Derb, the story told by black homosexual Jussie Smollett about being assaulted by MAGA-hat-wearing white racist homophobes bearing nooses was always highly improbable. I covered myself by putting the estimated probability in the range two to five percent, but I thought at the time that was generous.
It was, and Smollett's story has been undergoing slow narrative collapse. We now have pictures of two suspects arrested in the case. They are black Nigerians with the kind of looks that would be highly interesting to a wealthy young homosexual guy. One of them apparently worked on the set of Smollett's TV show; both have worked out at Smollett's gym, apparently with him.
So the trajectory of narrative collapse so far is from homophobic attack by Trump-voting white racists to either (a) some sort of dust-up between black homosexuals who didn't get what they wanted, or (b) a totally staged affair for publicity purposes.
The noose business is even more improbable now. They don't use nooses in Nigeria. They just shoot you and dump you in a ditch.
Item: The plan by Amazon to locate a huge new facility in New York City has fallen through.
The comment I like best on this came from Kimberley Strassel, who writes for the Wall Street Journal. Tweet from her, tweet:
Wouldn't it be refreshing for a big company to deliberately place their operation in a low-tax, low-regulation, right-to-work state — and then used to explain importance of a great business climate? Meaning: Wouldn't it be nice if big biz embraced/promoted capitalism?
End tweet. It sure would. New York City is a swamp of its own: a swamp of seat-warming municipal bureaucrats, megalomaniac union bosses, favor-trading state legislators, shyster attorneys, posturing hypocrite lefties in million-dollar townhouses, and other creatures of the night.
The city has capitalism, all right, but it's Third World-style crony capitalism. That Amazon facility would have fortified it. The union bosses, the crooked pols, and the legal parasites who run the city would have had Amazon money spilling out of their pockets. Now they'll have to just go on screwing small businesses and the lower-middle-class until there's a revolt and we bring out the guillotines.
Item: Muslim Congressgal Ilhan Omar stepped on the third rail of U.S. politics the other day by mentioning that Jewish Americans are better off than average and give a lot of money to politicians.
That's one of those true things you're not supposed to notice, like the black crime rate. Steve had a good long take on this over at Taki's Magazine February 13th, and I won't attempt to improve on that.
I was, though, curious about how someone as cluelessly naive as Ms Omar got to be the congressperson for Minnesota's 5th District. Seeking an answer, I went to the website for Minnesota Public Radio.
Keith Ellison, a black American from Detroit, and a Muslim, was the previous congressman from the 5th. He was elected first in 2006. Before that it was Martin Sabo, son of Norwegian immigrants. So the district went from Norwegian-American guy to black American guy to Somali-American gal in twelve years.
The voting population's young: Millennials — ages 22 to 36 — are an unusually high proportion of voting-age residents. Only five congressional districts in the country have a higher proportion of millennials.
And this got my eye, quote:
The 5th is also one of the most educated districts in the state … The district also has some of the wealthiest pockets in the state, but also some of the poorest.
So, the classic social sandwich: Lots of over-educated lefty yuppies, lots of 75-IQ Somalis, not much in the middle. In short a really, really safe Democratic seat.
08 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and I hope you get Monday off for Washington's Birthday.
My own mental map of the holiday season goes: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, daughter's birthday, Lunar New Year, St Valentine's Day, Washington's Birthday. Lunar New Year occasionally drifts forward past the last two — it can be as late as February 20th, depending on, duh, the moon.
So after Monday it's a pretty clear run through to Memorial Day and my own birthday. Perhaps I'll get some work done …
I don't have a song for Washington's Birthday, and I'm not sure the Father of the Country would approve if I did; he could be a bit stiff about that sort of thing. I do have one for St Valentine's Day, though.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week. Here's Chet Baker.
[Music clip: Chet Baker, "My Funny Valentine."]