»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, May 1st, 2020

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1, organ version]

01 — Intro.     White rabbits! Yes, it's the first day of the month, and this is the first Radio Derb podcast of the month. Greetings, listeners, from your studiously genial host John Derbyshire.

Nothing on the bulletin board to be announced this week, so let's proceed directly to the hate-filled rants.

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02 — Trump v. A.N. Other.     This has to be one of the strangest Presidential election years ever. Our sitting first-term President is trying to surf a colossal economic crisis — national unemployment numbers passed thirty million this week. The candidate of the other party, meanwhile, is sequestered in his basement in Delaware making no public appearances except by Skype, and on the rare occasions he addresses us, he speaks in Klingon.

It's all very strange. The gravity and danger of the economic crisis, and indeed of the underlying healthcare crisis, has sucked all the fun out of our election season. We could have some fun mocking Joe Biden, except that we're feeling kind of sorry for him. Where is this all going?

I ventured my first prediction almost a year ago. After some cautionary remarks about the folly of calling a political event seventeen months in advance, I said I thought Trump would lose this November, and gave my reasons.

  1. The quality of the opposition, as then lined up, was way better than in 2016, when Trump just squeaked home. Mrs Clinton was an awful candidate.

  2. The media will have their act together, which they didn't in 2016. They didn't take Trump seriously until it was too late.

  3. Likewise the social media. Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Facebook are more sophisticated now than in 2016, and more openly ideological.

  4. Trump Disappointment Syndrome. Look at the comment threads. Trump's weakness on the key issues that won him victory four years ago — immigration and global policing — has lost him some part of his base. Yes, I know there are still Ever Trumpers: I hear from them. He's lost a lot, though; and with those thin margins of 2016, he can't afford to lose any.

I didn't mention demographics back last June, though I did in subsequent predictions. The USA of 2020 has fewer conservative geezers and more woke first-time voters than in 2016. That demographic drift could wipe out Trump's 2016 margin all by itself.

And on point number three there, about social media, I just a few minutes ago heard that Unz.com, to which my own VDARE.com articles get cross-posted, has lost its Facebook page. Ron Unz himself has things to say about this on the site.

So Trump is toast, right? Well, his poll numbers are going nowhere. The end-of-April polling has Joe Biden with a robust six percent lead nationwide — ten percent in one of the polls. Trump's lagging in those key midwestern states that took him to the White House.

Trump may be getting rattled. There was a little flurry of reports this week about him yelling down the phone at Brad Parscale, his campaign manager. All the reports I've seen were in mainstream-media outlets, though — The Mexican Oligarch Times, The Jeff Bezos Post, the CultMarx News Network — so this may just come under my earlier bullet point about the media.

And yet, even as I'm reading this negative stuff, I'm beginning to wonder if Trump may not pull off a win after all.

I mean: Joe Biden, really? For all the media shilling on his behalf, he's dragging a lot of baggage behind him: his son's shady-looking business dealings in China and Ukraine, the corruption of the FBI under Obama that Biden must have known about, the sexual harassment claims. A halfway-competent Trump campaign can publicize those to the millions of low-information voters who think of Joe as a kindly old geezer who loyally supported that nice unthreatening black guy who was President before Trump.

There are two separate questions here:

  1. Can Trump win against Biden? And

  2. Can Trump win against A.N. Other, someone the Democrats replace Biden with?

The case that Trump can win against Biden — the case that Biden is a no-hoper — is made eloquently by Conrad Black over at American Greatness. Quote:

There is an aura of otherworldly unreality about the Biden candidacy: a man who got 11 percent of the vote in New Hampshire is effectively the party's nominee a month later, and takes to his basement to avoid exposure to the media while he and his backers ignore several impending problems, any one of which could blow up his candidacy …

I believe that all of these supplementary problems will blow up during the spring and early summer. At that point, Biden could do the honorable thing and stand aside and ask his delegates to support a more presentable candidate than himself, well to the right of Sanders.

End quote.

The implied prediction there is one I can get behind. If Trump can stay on his surf-board and run a halfway decent campaign, he has a chance against Biden, whatever the polls are saying this week.

Against A.N. Other? That depends who it is. The Democrats could hardly do worse than Biden … but that's not to say they won't try. [Clip:  Hillary cackle.]

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03 — The youngest branch of the youngest science.     Concerning the progress of the coronavirus itself, I should make some kind of report. I do so with reluctance because I don't have much clue what's happening or whose numbers to believe.

And I refuse to feel bad about that because, as best I can judge, nobody else has much more of a clue than I have. As my old boss Rich Lowry says in a New York Post op-ed today, quote:

An extraordinary feature of the coronavirus is how poorly understood it is. We don't know how many people have it, what the death rate is, what the long-term health consequences of having a severe case are, or how best to treat it.

End quote.

That by no means exhausts the list of things we don't know. Here's another: If I've had COVID-19, suffered with it and survived it, am I then immune to further attacks? The vague sketch most of us have about surviving a virus attack is:

  • the virus attacks you,

  • you respond by producing antibodies,

  • the antibodies vanquish the virus, and

  • the antibodies stay in your system, immunizing you against further attacks.

That doesn't necessarily happen, though. We have credible reports both of people surviving the virus but then getting re-infected and of people with no antibodies who recovered anyway.

One thing we've learned this past three months, in fact — I mean, we, the general public — is how young the science of virology is, and how much we still don't know.

That's why expert opinion has such a poor track record. I'm thinking of one of the first expert opinions about this new virus I ever read. This was an interview in early February, when panic was already beginning to spread in Hong Kong, with John Nicholls, a professor of pathology at the University of Hong Kong and one of the world's leading experts on coronaviruses. Said he, quote:

Wash your hands … Basically this is a severe form of the cold.

End quote.

I'm not quoting that to be snarky about Prof. Nicholls, who I am sure wishes he had a deep, warm burrow he could hide in. I'm just making the point that in understanding viruses, we are about where Ptolemy was at understanding the motions of the stars and planets.

A favorite book of mine is Lewis Thomas's The Youngest Science, published in 1974. Thomas was an eminent medical man, Dean of Yale Medical School. Born in 1913 to a medical family, he'd trained as a doctor in the 1930s. Prior to that time, he tells us, there wasn't much a doctor could do for you other than set broken bones, stitch up a wound, or drain an abscess. There was quinine for malaria and digitalis for the heart, but the list of effective medications ran out just about there. That's within living memory.

My own mother, born 1912, was training as a nurse about the same time. The stories I heard from her confirm Lewis Thomas's account. Medicine really is the youngest science.

Within medicine, virology is younger than the young. The first antiviral drug to be approved in the USA was idoxuridine in 1963, when I was at college. Still today there is a great number of viral infections against which no drug is effective — most famously of course the common cold. Virology is the youngest branch of the youngest science.

Our lack of understanding fogs up the near future. How do we get out of this?

For example, I was just reading something about Australia and New Zealand. They have gotten off very lightly in the pandemic, mainly because they've banned almost all inward travel to their territories. As an immigration-restrictionist, naturally I cheer that.

But then I find myself thinking: Wait, aren't they just setting themselves up for mass infection when they re-open their borders, as sooner or later they must? Aren't they then going to be in the same position New World aborigines were in when Europeans showed up five hundred years ago, with no immunity to the viruses incomers would be bringing?

Are they? I don't know. Does anyone?

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04 — ChiComs show the steel fist.     Ah yes, Australia. Three weeks ago I warned the folk Down Under that they are in danger of becoming a Chinese colony. Their economy, I observed, is heavily dependent on digging minerals out of the ground and selling them to China. They sell a lot of agricultural produce to China, too. And then there is education: Australia gets seven and a half billion dollars a year from Chinese students paying full tuition at Australian universities.

(That was the number I got from a global statistics website. A news story at Breitbart.com this past Monday gives thirty billion. I don't know which figure is right; but plainly educating Chinese students is big business for Australia.)

I'm glad to say the Aussies have not yet sold their birthright for a mess of bean-curd. Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, has joined our own President Trump and other national leaders in calling for the ChiComs to publish a full account of how they've dealt with the pandemic from its origins. Quote from Prime Minister Morrison:

I don't think anybody's in any fantasy land about where it started. It started in China and what the world over needs to know — and there's a lot of support for this — is how did it start and what are the lessons that can be learned.

That needs to be done independently and why do we want to know that? Because it could happen again.

End quote.

That caused the ChiCom ambassador to Australia, a very lifelike automaton named Cheng Jingye, to give us a glimpse of the iron fist inside the ChiComs' velvet glove. The ambassador didn't say anything about commodity exports, but he did threaten the education, tourism, and agricultural sectors of Australia's economy, honking that, honk:

I think in the long term … if the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think "Why should we go to such a country that is not so friendly to China?" The tourists may have second thoughts … The parents of the students would also think whether this place which they found is not so friendly, even hostile, whether this is the best place to send our kids … Maybe also the ordinary people will say why should we drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef?

End honk.

I guess we should be grateful that the ambassador-bot at least didn't tell us that Australia had hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. I always wince when the ChiComs pull that one, which they do a lot.

The Aussies are so far standing firm on this ChiCom bullying, I'm glad to say. One member of parliament has called the ambassador's remarks, quote, "despicable and menacing." Former Foreign Secretary Alexander Downer, a respected senior figure in Australian politics, said the ambassador had behaved in, quote, "a reckless, undiplomatic way." And so on. There's quite a tiff going on down there.

Ambassador Cheng's remarks fit into a pattern of the ChiComs taking advantage of the present crisis to flex their muscles. They've been leaning hard on Hong Kong the past few days, getting dissidents arrested and tearing big holes in the Basic Law that is supposed to guarantee Hong Kongers' freedoms of speech and assembly until 2047.

If street demonstrations start up again as the lockdown loosens, I'm guessing there will be some serious repression in Hong Kong, perhaps a repeat of Tiananmen Square 1989 with tanks in the streets.

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05 — ChiComs go to the mattresses.     Australia isn't alone in standing up to ChiCom thuggery. Sweden, of all countries, has taken the lead here. In part this is because the ChiCom ambassador to Sweden is an exceptionally nasty piece of work.

When I was studying Chinese in London forty years ago I once asked our lecturer, a worldly Chinese fellow of whom I can only remember the surname Tang, if there were any movies I could watch to help me understand ChiCom politics. He replied with no hesitation at all: "The Godfather."

That is a very good insight. The Chinese Communist Party is a crime syndicate, a clique of amoral gangsters, ready to do anything at all — lie, steal, torture, murder — to preserve their own power and privilege.

Their ambassador to Sweden illustrates this with exceptional clarity. Interviewed on Swedish public radio last November, he said the following thing, quote:

We treat our friends with fine wine, but for our enemies we have shotguns.

End quote.

That's only a hop and a skip away from "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." These people, the ChiComs, are hoodlums. As China gets richer and more powerful, the nation's representatives can less and less be bothered to hide the fact.

The biggest irritant in Sweden's relations with the ChiComs has been the case of Gui Minhai, a naturalized Swedish citizen of Chinese birth who, living in Hong Kong, wrote gossipy books about the extravagant, corrupt lifestyles of the ChiCom elites, including capo di tutti capi Xi Jinping. Gui was kidnapped by ChiCom agents in Thailand in 2015. He reappeared in mainland China two years later, but was barred from leaving the country.

In January 2018, Gui — a Swedish citizen, remember — was arrested by plainclothes police while travelling on a train from Shanghai to a medical appointment in Peking, accompanied by two Swedish diplomats. February this year, after a perfunctory show trial, he was given a ten-year jail sentence for, quote, "providing intelligence" to foreign nations. The authorities told us he had renounced his Swedish citizenship … voluntarily. Right. Let's hope Mr Gui is not sleeping with the fishes.

The Swedes have been admirably firm about this. Several Swedish cities have ended their twinning arrangements with Chinese cities. The so-called Confucius Institutes, ChiCom propaganda outlets in Swedish universities, have all been shut down. Last November Sweden's parliament passed a law to compel a national-security review of Chinese telecom company Huawei as a supplier to Sweden's 5G network. When Pew Research polled 34 countries last year on public attitudes to China, Sweden came out as second most negative, after Japan.

So all strength to the Swedes for standing up to the Peking Cosa Nostra. There's a special bit of resonance here for those of us who have dabbled in Sinology: one of the greatest scholars in that field in modern times was Bernhard Karlgren, a Swede. Karlgren himself was before my time — his dates were 1889-1978 — but I did once meet his disciple and biographer Göran Malmqvist, another fine Swedish sinologist, who died just last year at age 95.

Karlgren and Malmqvist were scholars of language and literature, not of political science. Still, I'd like to think that they are smiling down with approval at their native country from whatever place it is that Swedish sinologists go when summoned to the Afterlife.

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

Imprimis:  On my occasional theme of educational nationalism, I'm pleased to see that Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has suggested banning Chinese students from studying STEM subjects in our universities. He told Fox News on Sunday that, quote:

If Chinese students want to come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, that's what they need to learn from America. They don't need to learn quantum computing and artificial intelligence from America.

End quote.

The Senator is right, but late. We've educated so many Chinese students the past thirty years that Chinese colleges are now well-staffed with US-educated professors. There's hardly any need for them to send students here any more.

I did smile to read, though, that one unnamed left-wing commentator had mocked Senator Cotton by pointing out that Shakespeare was not an American.

I'd really like to know who that commentator was so I can present him with my Non Sequitur of the Week Award.

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Item:  For my Coronavirus Laugh of the Week I direct you to the Twitter feed of my old pal Razib Khan.

As you probably know, Sweden, as well as standing up boldly to the leg-breakers of Peking, has adopted an exceptionally loose model of social monitoring and quarantining, with much-debated results. Here is Razib's tweet from last Tuesday. Tweet:

I googled "the Sweden model" for news, but clicked "images" by mistake. Totally different model …

End tweet.

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Item:  As sturdy as the Australians have been in standing up to ChiCom bullying, they have not been immune to the loathsome, nation-killing blight of political correctness.

The issue here is the commemoration this Thursday, April 29th, of Captain Cook's arrival in Australia 250 years ago. The commemoration has of course aroused much wailing and rending of garments from ethnomasochist white Australians and front men for the Aborigine lobbies.

Sample quote from one of the former, a spokesman for the National Museum of Australia, quote:

The perspectives of First Australians, and the Gamayngal people of this area, have been largely missing.

End quote.

Well, yes: Their perspectives have been missing because they were illiterate, and so unable to record their "perspectives."

To that spokesman, and anyone else whose job obliges him to utter similar banalities, I recommend the wise words of Dr Johnson to James Boswell, quote:

Don't cant in defence of savages.

End quote.

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Item:  Returning for a moment to the topic of how little we understand about this new coronavirus, here's yet another area where there are as many different explanations on offer as there are commentators.

I've been trying to add some worldwide perspective to my virus commentary. Last week I took a brief look at Africa. This week it's India's turn. How are they doing?

It depends who you ask. In a general sort of way the answer seems to be: not bad. The government has taken a stern line, closing the nation's borders and instituting strict lockdowns. Recorded numbers of infections and deaths from the virus are comparatively low.

All kinds of things may be contributing here. As with Africa, India's population is young: median age 28, ten years younger than America, nearly twenty years younger than Germany or Japan. Also as in Africa, or any other poor country — India's per capita GDP is less than eight thousand dollars, compared with sixty thousand for the USA — as in any poor country with an undeveloped healthcare system, not many people live into old age, when COVID-19 is most deadly.

Again like Africa, India's warm. It's still not clear — not to me, anyway — what effect climate has on COVID-19 mortality, but coronaviruses in general prefer lower temperatures.

There are some more speculative possibilities, too. Our own Lance Welton has been pressing the perfectly plausible case that there may be innate race differences in susceptibility. Racially India is interesting: not so much a race, according to David Reich, as a patchwork of closely-related racelets.

Even further out — this is entirely my own speculation — Indians seem not to mind being peasants as much as Africans do. Sure, there are masses of migrant workers from the countryside in India's cities — or there were before the virus panic started — but they don't live in the kind of desperately overcrowded conditions their African equivalents do.

American blacks, like African blacks, shun the countryside, and head for the cities first chance they get. Is it a black thing?

Whatever. The consensus about India seems to be: lower infection rates overall for the aforementioned reasons, plus what the news stories politely call "incomplete figures."

I'm going to leave it there as just another zone of ignorance.

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Item:  Still spanning the world, here's a story from Scotland. The government there, which has a fair degree of autonomy in the U.K., has announced an overhaul of "hate crime" legislation.

Scotland's Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf — there's a fine old Scottish name for you — says there will now be seven-year jail sentences for stirring up hate against the usual protected groups. That will include possession of, quote, "threatening or abusive material" that could lead to hatred being stirred up against one of the favored groups.

So there goes freedom of speech and publication in Scotland. Not that it wasn't mostly gone anyway; it is already a crime to stir up racial hatred, though I feel pretty sure there haven't been any prosecutions for hating on white people. They just want to extend that to all Designated Victim Groups.

In a nice little twist, illustrating yet again that political correctness is a religion for the godless, this new law will abolish the old crime of blasphemy, for which there have been no prosecutions since 1845. Now you can freely curse God and Jesus Christ in Scotland; but don't dare raise your voice against sacralized social groups: blacks, Muslims, women, or sexual eccentrics.

Wait … whose voice is that I'm hearing in my head? Why, it's Robbie Burns:

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do, or die!

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Item:  Back in 1922 Europe was struggling back to its feet after the catastrophe of World War One. The British government had put the issue of Irish independence on hold for the duration of the war and a settlement had been reached; but now in Northern Ireland here was the old sectarian conflict come back again. Winston Churchill expressed the mood very eloquently in the House of Commons, famous quote:

As the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.

End quote.

A lot of international quarrels are like that. They just never seem to go away. Here's another one: Transylvania.

For that small subset of Radio Derb listeners who do not commit to memory everything I write, let me say that I spent a few days in Transylvania during my youth and was deeply imprinted with the strangeness and — yes! — diversity of the place.

If you look in your atlas, Transylvania is the northwestern quadrant of the modern nation of Romania. It was granted to Romania by the Treaty of Trianon, also after World War One. Before that it had for the longest time been part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Hungarian patriots are still mad as hell about having lost Transylvania a hundred years ago this coming June 4th.

The population nowadays is mostly Romanian but with a big Hungarian minority, seasoned with Serbs, Ruthenians, Croats, Szeklers, Gypsies, Jews, Bosnians, Greeks, and Armenians. Also some German-speaking Saxons who moved there in the Middle Ages. The current President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, is a Transylvanian Saxon.

President Iohannis has been stirring up trouble, accusing the Hungarian minority in Transylvania of plotting with Hungary's Viktor Orbán to give the region back to Hungary.

I have no idea whether they have been, and don't much care. I'm just enjoying an odd quiet satisfaction from the fact that, in a world of flux, where "change and decay in all around I see," some things are eternal, for ever un-changing.

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07 — Signoff.     That's it for the first day of May, 2020, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and thanks too for your comments, criticisms, and contributions.

Scanning back through the archives, I see this is only the second time the date stamp on the podcast has been May 1st. The last time was in 2009. That's what you'd expect mathematically. The probability of any given calendar date falling on a Friday is one in seven. The podcast is coming up to sixteen years old; sixteen divided by seven is two point three; so two instances of a May 1st date stamp is not surprising.

As an old Bee Gees fan, though, I am a bit surprised that I didn't use them for signout music on this date back in 2009. Here's my chance to make up the omission.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.

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[Music clip: The Bee Gees, "First of May."]