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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 combatively genial host John Derbyshire, here to bring you commentary on the week's news from a National Conservative point of view.
Things military — things and people military, I should say — have been in the news this week. Let's begin with a close look at all that.
02 — Soldiers and civilians. A great deal of noise was made, but not much light was shed, by a story first reported in The Atlantic magazine that President Trump had made disparaging remarks about U.S. dead interred in French war cemeteries being "suckers" and "losers." That story generated a flurry of secondary accusations about Trump having made similar remarks concerning our troops in other wars.
My own first thought, reading these stories, was: "I wouldn't be surprised." Trump has a crass, boorish side to him, and sometimes a loose tongue. Is this news?
Trump is also a man proud of his success in life — justifiably proud, when you consider the difficulty of rising in this world.
Doctor Johnson told Boswell that, quote: "The insolence of wealth will creep out." End quote. Johnson was speaking of Mrs Thrale, a friend and benefactor of his, a person he liked and admired. Mrs Thrale was rich, though, and Johnson was poor; and she occasionally, thoughtlessly, dropped a disparaging remark about his poverty.
It's the same with any kind of success in life. Every winner, except perhaps a tiny number of the most saintly, every winner has moments — brief, occasional moments he later regrets — when he looks on the rest of us as worthless losers.
So, I thought these particular accusations might be true; although I never thought they were consequential. If true, they didn't add anything to our knowledge of the President.
As the days went on, though, and the sources for these remarks remained resolutely anonymous, and more and more testimonies came in of Trump behaving with utmost respect towards servicepeople and veterans, it looked increasingly probable that these stories were made up as pre-election red meat for Trump-haters.
I suppose some factual support for them might yet emerge; but at the time of going to tape here, the parsimonious explanation has to be that they are propaganda lies.
Stepping back from these particular stories, the larger zone we are in here is the way civilians and military people feel about each other.
That's a big territory that's been drawing commentary from both sides for many centuries. I am sure that many, many Ph.D. theses on it have been submitted by social psychologists. I bet every one of them includes, for example, the old saying from Imperial China that 好鐵不當釘、好兒不當兵: "You don't use good iron to make nails; a good son does not become a soldier."
Early 20th-century Brits were of the same mind as the Mandarins, according to George Orwell. In his childhood before WW1, Orwell tells us through a character in one of his novels, if a young man in a working-class neighborhood joined the services — "gone for a soldier," as the saying was — local people spoke of it in just the same tones they'd speak of a girl who'd become a prostitute.
The great World Wars and mass conscription changed that. The 1950s, in which John Derbyshire, Peter Brimelow, and Donald Trump all spent their childhoods, were militarized societies in both Britain and America. Conscription was in full force. Most adult men, including my Dad, were veterans. My brother was a career soldier. The older brother of my best friend, drafted into the army, was in a truck that ran over a mine in Malaya. He survived, but with injuries.
The military were everywhere. Radio and TV sitcoms about the military were widely popular. In my secondary school I did six years of part-time military training. Donald Trump's secondary school was an actual military academy.
I'd like to tell listeners of later generations that all that mother's-milk immersion in things military turned round the older attitudes and generated unqualified reverence for the services. It's a bit more complicated than that, though.
We grew up seeing soldiering as an ordinary, everyday thing, not something far apart from the routine business of life. Like the rest of life, although in different measure, it had episodes of heroism and glory; but it also, like the rest of life, had proportions of sleaze, folly, cruelty, stupidity, and lies.
Sure, we gave proper honor and respect to courage in battle, and on Remembrance Day we sang the hymn O Valiant Hearts with full feeling. We did not, though, we did not automatically assume that anyone in uniform was a hero, actual or potential. We knew, from close personal acquaintance, how many Ernie Bilkos and Milo Minderbinders fit into those uniforms.
Familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt, but it does encourage a measure of rational skepticism. No man is a hero to his valet.
That's some of the psychological background to Trump's dealings with the military. Let me just dig a bit deeper into the political aspect.
03 — Trump and his generals. To accompany those editorial slanders on the President, The Atlantic magazine ran anti-Trump articles by former Defense Secretary James Mattis and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen.
Headlines, respectively: Mattis, James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes him as a Threat to the Constitution. Mullen, I Cannot Remain Silent. The main thing he can't remain silent about, says Mullen, is his fear that Trump will co-opt the military for control of Antifa and BLM protestors.
Mattis is a retired Marines general; Mullen is a retired admiral; so there's plenty of gold braid here. What on earth is the matter with these guys? Are they really so woke? Why do they hate Trump so much?
I'd guess that one factor here is the psychological aspect I explored in the previous segment. Trump, a fifties kid like myself, comes at the senior military with some skepticism about their motives and abilities. They don't get the full measure of deference they expect from him. The situation is likely complicated, in ways I can't figure, by their awareness — and his — that Trump dodged the draft.
And yes, they are woke. Once you get up to the general and admiral level, you're in the political realm, looking for approval from congressreptiles and federal bureaucrats. The atmosphere up there is thick with political correctness, and you better conform. The nation got a good look at this eleven years ago when General George Casey, following the Fort Hood killings, told us that, quote:
As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse.
That was slightly prior to the Great Awokening of 2013-14, to be sure; but it was in the Obama administration's first year, and Casey knew what was expected of him. Eleven years further on — including seven years when Obama had the opportunity to purge generals with views to the right of Casey — they all know, and they have all internalized the proper slogans.
You have to consider, too, how all-encompassing our state ideology now is. Both the Academy and Big Business are firmly in its grip, we all know that by now. Neither sphere will accept you unless you are thoroughly woke.
How does that play here? Well, on retirement from the senior military you're probably not that old. You'll be looking for some well-remunerated position with not-too-demanding duties attached where you can run out the clock to your late seventies.
Where will you look? Why: the Academy and Big Business. Mike Mullen, aged 73, is a visiting professor at Princeton; Jim Mattis, aged 70, is on the board of big aerospace contractor General Dynamics.
President Eisenhower, in his farewell speech, famously warned that, quote:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
That was before the Social Justice crowd infiltrated and corrupted our universities. If he were making that speech today, Ike would likely have said "military-industrial-academic complex."
So: Put the pressure for ideological conformity together with that element of cold self-interest, and I think you have an explanation for most of what's been going on here between Trump and his generals.
04 — Defund the military! We're all wearily familiar now with the woke slogan: Defund the Police! I'd like to propose a corresponding slogan for the based side of the national argument: Defund the military!
I'm not being facetious here. Whether the police need defunding to any degree at all, I doubt; but I'll leave that to another time. In the case of the military, however, I think we should considerably defund it. Our military is way over-funded. Some major defunding is definitely called for. What's more, I have a way to do it.
Back in the 1970s as a mainframe-programming grunt, I coded up a General Ledger and Budgeting system for a national corporation. At that time there was a fad in business-management circles for Zero-Based Budgeting. I liked the idea so much, I still like it 45 years and several changes of business-management fashion later.
The usual way to do budgeting was, to tweak this year's budget. You look at the budget the company is currently working from, add a percent or two here, subtract a percent or two there, and bingo! you have next year's budget.
With Zero-Based Budgeting you throw this year's budget in the trash and start clean. What resources does this department need for this function, and this one, and this one? How much will each cost, based on our best guess about next year's business environment?
Once you got into that zero-based frame of mind, it was amazing how many functions — sometimes entire departments — turned out to be superfluous, requiring no budget at all.
I'd like to see Zero-Based Budgeting applied to the U.S. military. How much of what it's doing really needs doing?
Some of it does, for sure. There are crazy dictatorships with nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems. The only known way to prevent them annihilating our nation is to have lots of nukes and missiles ourselves. Given the depths of human folly, I doubt deterrence will be forever infallible, but's it's all we have, and it's worked all through my lifetime. So: lots of nukes, and delivery systems, and service personnel who can work those systems.
As a commercial republic, we need to be able to defend our trade routes, our sea lanes and airways, so some modest naval and air defenses are in order. No quarrel with that.
Our territory needs defending from invasion, too. This is much less of an issue for us than it is for most nations. To our east and west we have broad oceans; to our north, a friendly cultural cousin; to our south, a bunch of militarily insignificant narco-states. Still, it's not inconceivable that some rogue Asian power might try to seize Hawaii, or that Russia might try to recover Alaska. It needs to be clear that we'll defend our territory; and we need trained troops to do the defending.
Is there some conceivable Man in the High Castle scenario of invasion and occupation of the U.S.A. by foreign powers? I can't see it. The biggest, craziest foreign powers — Russia and China — are both swirling down the demographic toilet. They don't have the population to colonize on that scale — certainly not to colonize a nation with millions of armed citizens.
Invasion and occupation by disorganized hordes from poop-hole countries is of course a possibility — in fact it's an ongoing actuality — but that's an issue of law enforcement and immigration control, not really military. Wait, let me rephrase that: It's legitimate to use our military for the purpose, but unnecessary if we have sensible immigration laws robustly enforced.
So: good strong nuclear forces, sea and air defenses for our trade routes, territorial defense for some outlying regions, and … that's about it, far as I can see.
It's meager compared with our current colossal military establishment. Fifty-five thousand troops in Japan? Twelve thousand in Italy?
And those are non-combat areas. Afghanistan? I don't know precise numbers, but current policy is to reduce them below 5,000 by the end of November. Iraq? Currently 5,200, with a promise from the administration just this week to reduce them to 3,000. I don't know the date for that.
And as U.S. troop deployment numbers go, those figures for Afghanistan and Iraq are just the tip of the Middle East iceberg. Quote from the New York Times, September 9th:
At any given time, 45,000 to 65,000 American troops are in the region, spread out between Jordan and Oman, assigned to operate airfields, run key headquarters, sail warships and fly warplanes, and stage for deployments to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers change substantially depending on the presence of an aircraft carrier strike group or two in the region, and whether a large group of Marines is afloat in those waters.
Oh yeah, aircraft carriers: we have twenty of those, five times as many as the next nation.
For heaven's sake, what business is it of ours if Jordan wants to drop a bomb on Oman? How many Americans could even locate Oman on a map? Oh, man … I mean: C'mon, man. Defund the military!
05 — The bad, the mad, the sad. This headline from The Spectator, August 29th, naturally caught my eye. Headline: If anything, America has an under-incarceration problem. The byline is Pedro L. Gonzalez, a name not otherwise known to me; but if Pedro is ever out Long Island way, I'll be glad to buy him a drink.
He takes us through some recent cases you've probably read about. There was the 59-year-old white man beaten to death at Maryland State Fair last year by two young black brothers — I mean, they are actual brothers — aged 16 and 15. Motions to try them as adults were denied. The older brother got probation; the younger is in a juvenile detention facility until he's completed a behavioral modification program.
Then Pedro tells the horrible story of five-year-old white child Cannon Hinnant, shot dead while riding his bike in his front yard by 25-year-old Darius Sessoms, who is black. That was just last month so there's no result from the courts yet; but we have learned that Sessoms is a felon with a long rap sheet.
And then, Joel Francisco, who got early release from jail last year under Jared Kushner's First Step Act. Shortly after his release, he stabbed a man to death.
And so on. This kind of thing is all too common. If you pay attention to your local news, you don't have to pay attention for long before you read about someone on early release, or probation, or with outstanding warrants — someone who should really be locked up — who's committed some new felony.
Pedro Gonzalez crunches the numbers and makes a good case. Just one short quote from him, quote:
Most of what Americans have been told about mass incarceration is untrue, or takes half-truths and tortures them into whole lies.
A lot of that lying is in support of race denialism, our great National Lie. The stupendous differences in criminality between blacks and nonblacks must at all costs be kept hidden from the peasants, or else we'd be marching on the palace with pitchforks.
I once, in a scholarly discussion group with some quantitative social scientists, posed the question: Suppose we locked up black people at higher and higher rates until the level of black crime in society outside prisons and jails was equal to the nonblack rate? What proportion of incarcerated people would be black? I couldn't get an answer out of them, and wasn't invited back to the group.
There is also, though, a larger systemic failure. Society does not uniformly improve as time goes on. In some ways, it gets worse — less capable. That has happened across the past few decades in America with institutionalization. We used to institutionalize a lot, and were reasonably good at it. Now we don't want to do it that much; and when we do it, we do it badly.
This isn't true only for the institutionalization of criminals, but also for lunatics. A high proportion of homeless people — forty percent, according to my mnemonic — are crazy. They shouldn't be on the streets; they should be in institutions, but we don't do that any more, not on anything like the scale we should.
Some of this collapse of institutionalization was driven by popular culture. The 1975 movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a lethal blow to the institutionalization of crazy people, although I've been told it only accelerated a trend already under way; The Shawshank Redemption twenty years later did something similar to criminal incarceration.
I don't know the current state of affairs in our jails; but I suspect the fate of Jeffrey Epstein offers a clue.
A lot of people need institutionalizing, for the protection of the rest of us. The old catch-phrase for the inmates of a jail is apt here, although I think it can be interpreted to include mental patients, too: The sad, the bad, and the mad.
A modern society ought to be able to figure out who they are; and it ought to be able to provide humane, secure institutionalization without seriously infringing on general liberties. Is this really beyond our collective wits, with all our spiffy computers and Artificial Intelligence systems and university departments of psychology and neurology? It looks as though it is.
Did we used to do much better in this zone? My impression, based on reading prison memoirs and some brief observations of my town asylum in England sixty and then forty years ago, is that we did. Surely we could at least try harder.
06 — Dame Cressida goes to Parliament. I have mentioned one Dick in this podcast, indirectly. That was Philip K. Dick, author of the original 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle. Well, here's another Dick: Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police over there in London.
The title "Dame" there, I should explain, comes from the lady having been elevated to a senior rank in the Order of the British Empire. That's equivalent to being knighted; so if you are male you become Sir So-and-so, if female, Dame So-and-so. I don't know how it works with transsexuals; The College of Arms is still working on that. Dame Cressida is in any case not transsexual; although she is, according to her Wikipedia article, quote, "the highest-ranked lesbian officer in British police history," end quote.
So what's up with Dame Cressida Dick? Well, this July she gave testimony before the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee. That's equivalent to an American big-city police chief testifying to a congressional justice committee.
Eye-stopping quote, from James Thompson's excellent coverage of this story over at Unz.com, quote:
Dame Cressida Dick fielded questions about how the police were dealing with the lockdown, and with knife crime and crime generally, with a focus on racial differences, particularly on the numbers of people stopped and searched.
Yes: Incredibly, Dame Cressida was open and forthcoming about race differences in crime. She wasn't as open and forthcoming as we are here at VDARE.com, needless to say; but for a person in her position, in a nation as thoroughly race-cucked as Britain, she was remarkably frank. Sample quote from her testimony:
You are four times more likely to be a victim of homicide if you are black and eight times more likely to be a perpetrator.
If, in defiance of all the efforts of mainstream media to keep the facts hidden from you, if you know American crime statistics, that eight times figure for homicide will be familiar. It's more or less the same as the corresponding figure for us.
James Thompson says it better than I can. Another quote from him:
The figure is roughly the same as that for homicide for African Americans, despite their different histories. US Police and UK Police differ considerably, in that the latter are not usually armed. That does not appear to make a difference in the ratio of black to white offenders. Black British were originally from the West Indies, and after 70 years in the UK, whatever their experiences, they were not subjected to possibly 500 years of life in the US. It is either a coincidence that both homicide rates are equally raised, or it suggests that the US experiences are not a unique cause of Black homicide rates.
In at least one crime statistic the British black-white disparity is actually greater than ours. Quote from the far-left British newspaper The Guardian, September 7th 2017. Here they are reporting on a speech by a black socialist Member of Parliament, David Lammy, complaining about what he says is anti-black bias in the criminal justice system. Quote:
The MP highlighted the fact that there was "greater disproportionality" in the number of black people in prisons in England and Wales than in the US. Black people make up 3 percent of population in England and Wales and 12 percent of the prison population, compared with 13 percent and 35 percent respectively, in the US.
So on those numbers from three years ago, British blacks are imprisoned at four times the nonblack rate, while in America it's only 2.7 times.
Ah, these racial gaps: When shall we ever see the end of them? Fix the schools! Defund the police! No justice, no peace! …
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: There have been three stories in the news recently that, if you put them together, mutually annihilate each other in a flash of gamma rays, like matter meeting antimatter.
First story: The movie Academy, the one that awards the Oscars, has imposed race quotas on films to be eligible for the Best Picture award. Strictly speaking they are diversity quotas embracing LGBTs, women, the disabled, etc.; but race is of course the main driver here. As Steve Sailer wrote, commenting on this, quote: "Diversity means: black is best and white is worst." End quote.
Second story: The Disney company is in trouble for kowtowing to the ChiComs. The end credits of Disney's live-action Mulan remake thank the police department of a city that runs a concentration camp for Uyghur Muslims. This is routine. China's a big market for Hollywood movies, so the movie-makers strive to follow the party line, to keep the ChiComs happy.
Third story: Chinese audiences strongly prefer to see light-skinned actors in their movies. So, quote from the New York Post, September 8th, quote:
Hollywood is casting more light-skinned actors for major roles in movies to appeal to Chinese audiences following the Communist Party allowing more foreign films in the country.
Ftssss! Watch out for those gamma rays!
Item: A dear friend of mine who is much more of a Trump supporter than I am has taken it upon himself, in a spirit of missionary endeavor, to lift me up from the darkness of my Trump Disappointment Syndrome.
The other day, for example, he emailed me to tell me that the official border wall tally has passed 300 miles, with double wall in some places. He includes a link to supporting information from CBP, Customs and Border Patrol.
My friend does this quite often, and I wouldn't mention it but that this particular email included a signoff that made me laugh. Thus, quote from him:
And don't worry, the wall will never be torn down. When the next Democrat is elected president, the wall will be fortified to keep people from escaping.
Item: While I'm going through my emails, here's one on a slightly more macabre note. I'm going to tape here on Friday, September 11th, which is of course the 19th anniversary of the assault on our nation by crazy Muslims.
Here is a different friend, quote:
I don't know if you're doing anything 9/11-ish today, but, if you're comparing that spirit to the current one, Google confirms that the phrase "mostly peaceful aviation" is unclaimed.
Ah, my friends. God bless them all!
My touchstone here is the great and wonderfully prolific British sinologist Arthur Waley, who made famous, and often beautiful translations of Chinese poetry and classic Chinese and Japanese novels. David Honey, in his 2001 survey of famous sinologists, gives twenty fulsome pages to Waley and his translations; yet he notes, on the second of those pages, that, quote:
Waley never visited Asia or learned to speak modern Mandarin or Japanese.
Well, here's another data point for this strange little graph: New Zealander Nigel Richards, age 53. Nigel is a Scrabble player, in fact a Scrabble great-grandmaster. He was the Scrabble World Champion in 2007, and again in 2011, 2013, 2018, and 2019.
That's sufficiently impressive; but what really got my attention was the fact that he won the 2015 French-language Scrabble World Championships in spite of not being able to speak French. He basically just memorized a very large French dictionary.
French Scrabble, the NPR report tells us, French Scrabble has 386,000 words — almost twice as many as North American Scrabble. That's interesting in itself: I didn't know the French were that wordy. Zut alors!
I'd like to work my way back to sinology somehow, but I can't. There is a Chinese version of Scrabble, and I commend it to Nigel Richard's attention. It uses the pinyin transcription of Mandarin, though, which is kind of cheating. Real Chinese, written with Chinese characters, is not Scrabbleable.
Is that a word, "Scrabbleable"? "Scrabble-acious," perhaps? "Scrabblesome"? I bet Nigel Richards knows. Heck, he probably knows it in French.
08 — Signoff. That's all I have for you, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening; and thank you for your many informative and clever emails, like the two I've just quoted. Forgive me please if I didn't answer your email; I get way more than I can acknowledge. The rule remains, as always: Everything non-abusive gets read, pondered, and, where suitable, plagiarized.
OK; some music to see us out. This one needs a bit of explaining.
Keen readers of VDARE.com will know that on Sunday last I blogged about our family rifle, a Lee-Enfield .303 bolt-action antique that is the same age as myself. In that blog was a link to some reminiscing about my schooldays when, in the Combined Cadet Force, I trained on the Lee-Enfield.
In among that reminiscing is a mention of the 1968 movie If …, which includes some scenes of British schoolboys on a CCF field exercise, the kind of thing we used to do with our Lee-Enfields. I wouldn't actually recommend the movie. It's a period piece now, and aside from that is one of the very few cultural productions that I think can be unambiguously described as Nihilist. It does, though, include in its background music some of the Missa Luba.
What's that? It's a setting of the Roman Catholic Latin mass to traditional music from Africa, actually from the Congo. This was the brainchild of a Belgian cleric, who got it recorded in the 1950s by an ensemble called King Baudoin's Troubadours. Here is the Sanctus, which is the piece they played in that movie.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: King Baudoin's Troubadours, the Sanctus from Missa Luba.]