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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your blithely genial host John Derbyshire with a roundup from the week's news.
Latest news first: latest, and saddest.
02 — Prince Philip RIP. Just as I was sitting down to prepare this podcast I saw the news that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died early this morning.
The news was not astonishing. Philip was two months short of his hundredth birthday, and just recently spent a month in hospital with a heart condition. He'd had a pretty good innings, and so far as we can gather he passed away peacefully.
As an American, I'm happy to be living in a republic. I grew up in that monarchy over there, though, and I get the point of it, which a lot of my American friends just don't. I grew up with Philip and Elizabeth, in fact; I was just two years old when they married. So far as it makes any sense to have feelings towards public figures, I liked Philip, and I still like Elizabeth.
Constitutional monarchy has its downsides, as the people of Thailand have been learning recently. The main downside is, that the legitimacy of the monarchy, and so indirectly of the whole constitutional system, depends on the personality and intelligence of the monarch.
In that regard, Britain got lucky with Elizabeth and Philip. They have both had a perfect understanding of what they are supposed to do, and they have done it without complaint for more than seventy years.
The deal implicit in constitutional monarchy is this. You get several large houses to live in, with servants to do the housework. You get a generous expense allowance from the public fisc. In return you put in a full working day doing ceremonial stuff — launching battleships, opening hospitals, greeting important foreign visitors, signing proclamations, and such. You are expected to behave well, to adhere to a plain bourgeois lifestyle. And you keep your political opinions very strictly to yourself.
That's the deal. Philip stuck to it punctiliously across all those decades, supporting his wife as she did the same.
We hear that they didn't actually see much of each other this past few years, were living separate lives. Anyone can understand that. After seventy years of marriage, you just don't have much left to say to each other; and with all those lovely houses to live in, it's natural for him to prefer this one while she prefers that one.
We've also heard that there were some rough patches in their early married years. Hey: I could swear I have read somewhere that the sky is generally blue and grass is generally green.
The marriage was clearly a love match. The common observation among the working-class Brits I grew up among was that: first the tabloids would have rumors about trouble at the palace, then either he or she would go off solo on a state visit to New Zealand or somewhere, then, a few weeks after his or her return to London, we'd get news that she was pregnant again.
It was all very normal and relatable. For hot scandal and salacity, we could read about movie people and pop singers: for high-level affirmation of the bourgeois virtues, there were the Queen and the Duke.
Philip also had a strong appeal to a certain side of the British national character, at any rate as it was before the horrible filthy blight of political correctness drifted over from America. Philip was amusing.
Here I have to recycle once again my cherished quote from Professor Jonathan Steinberg at the University of Pennsylvania. Over to you, Prof.
[Clip: Prof. Steinberg: Here I speak from personal experience. I was an American who lived for nearly forty years in England.
That's what endeared Philip to the Brits. He carried out his duties without complaint, but he didn't take them, or himself, too seriously. In that way he was amusing.
Among the obituary tributes I've been reading this morning is one from the Sun newspaper — that's a London tabloid — headed Prince Philip's 17 funniest gaffes that made us cry with laughter and sometimes wince.
A favorite of mine was this one, number sixteen in that list. It was 1986, when China was still opening up after the Mao Tse-tung period. Elizabeth and Philip went there on a state visit. Among their engagements was a visit to a batch of young Brits studying at a Chinese university. Philip cautioned them that, quote: "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed."
The PC pandemic had not at that point infected very much of the British population. There was still a common belief that political correctness was a slightly weird American import, like basketball or peanut butter or calling a full stop a "period" and putting it inside the closing quotation mark. There was an embryonic snowflake faction — or "community," I suppose they would say — who of course were fainting and screeching for days over Philip's remark, but most Brits just thought it funny. I myself thought it funny, notwithstanding I'd married a Chinese lady a few weeks previously.
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was not tiresome or a bore. He was amusing. May he rest in peace.
As a footnote to all that, having brought Mrs Derbyshire into the segment, I may as well record the following.
That, you may recall, was about two infants — little girls aged five and three — who had been taken up to the top of our southern border wall and then dropped fourteen feet into the U.S.A.
Well, my commentary was obliquely about that. The dropping of the infants was what we ink-stained wretches in the journalism business refer to as a "hook": in this case, a hook on which to hang some opinions about where the proper focus of our concern should be directed in the matter of illegal immigration.
The proper focus of our concern, I said, should be on the integrity of our laws and the welfare of our citizens, not on the misfortunes of people breaking our laws, nor even on the misfortunes of helpless infants being used by those people as accessories to their crime. Law-breaking is dangerous, duh.
Well, here's the follow-up. We now have full details about the two little girls. The three-year-old's name is Yareli and the five-year-old is Yasmina, family name Aguilar. They are from Ecuador, a village named Jaboncillo, a place so inconsequential it is not listed among the two hundred thousand in the index to my 1975 Times Atlas of the World. I did find a place with that name on Google Maps, but the satellite view at highest magnification shows very few signs of human settlement.
All that information is from the Ecuadorian Consulate in Houston, Texas. The little girls themselves are in the custody of Customs and Border Protection and apparently none the worse for that fourteen-foot drop. They'll be flown back to Ecuador as soon as their family there can be located …
Just kidding, of course. The girls' parents, Mr and Mrs Aguilar, live in New York City. CBP tell us that the tots will be reunited with Mom and Dad as soon as it's been confirmed that the Aguilars are indeed the parents and, quote, "are in good condition to receive the girls," end quote.
The Aguilars are illegal aliens, although the news people are too polite to say so. At any rate, the girls' paternal grandfather, back in Ecuador, told news outlet Telemundo that the parents had paid a coyote to bring the girls to the border. If the parents are present in the U.S.A. lawfully, why would they pay a coyote to bring their kids here?
So soon — a couple of weeks, is CBP's estimate, six weeks max — soon the Aguilar family, parents and children, will all be united in New York City. That should be just about as Mr and Mrs Aguilar receive their checks for $15,000 each from a special covid relief fund for illegals voted through the New York State legislature on Tuesday this week.
Wait, though. Now that these little girls' parents have been identified and are known to be present here illegally, why don't we first unite the children with their parents, then put the whole united family on a plane back to Ecuador? That would of course be a cost to us taxpayers, but way less than their $30,000 relief checks from New York State, to say nothing of the future costs of health care and schooling for those kids. Heck: We could fly the whole family back first class for a lot less than $30,000.
So why don't we do that? You know why. Because the people in power in our country have neither the will to enforce our laws nor the legislative functionality to change them. So … they just ignore them.
Not all of them, of course. Some laws they enforce very punctiliously, with great severity. You could ask the January 6th protestors about that, or the Proud Boys, or James Fields. No; they just ignore the laws that are inconvenient to the corporate and union donors who fund their political campaigns.
Well: now the Aguilars are in clover. Given that the younger of the two little girls is only three, I assume Mrs Aguilar is still of child-bearing age. If she produces another child, that child will have birthright citizenship.
Here you are peering into the dark abyss of our current immigration insanity:
Truly it was said: "Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad."
04 — China, Taiwan … Let a hundred flowers bloom! I have been sounding the alarm over China's determination to bring Taiwan back into the warm embrace of the Motherland, regardless of what the Taiwanese, or anyone else, thinks about it. Writing last Fall in Chronicles magazine I boldly predicted that, quote:
There is a high probability — I would put it north of 90 percent — that China will attack Taiwan at some point in the next four years.
More recently, just two weeks ago, I podcast a segment I titled, in the transcript, "The American fox and the Chinese hedgehog," riffing off the ancient maxim that, quote: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." End quote.
The fox there is the U.S.A., which has a great many things on its mind worldwide, the fate of Taiwan number 23 on the list. The hedgehog is China, which for 72 years has cherished a steely obsession with taking back Taiwan, all other issues of international relations coming distant second.
That prompted a dissent from my pal the Z-man. Blogging on April 5th, Z argued that, in the first place, a military confrontation with the U.S.A. would be economically disastrous for the ChiComs; and in the second place, there is anyway no need for a confrontation, since the American Empire is obviously in an advanced state of societal decay under a government that couldn't find its rear end with both hands and a mirror.
The smart move for the ChiComs, says Z, is just to wait patiently for the inevitable collapse of the U.S.A.
It's a reasonable case, but it leaves out at least one factor: demography.
China is in East Asia, right next to Japan. The two nations watch each other intently, with strong feelings on both sides. So the ChiComs remember a thing we have mostly forgotten: that fifty years ago there was a widespread general opinion in the West that Japan was a rising great power. Japan was, went the thinking, going to clean our clock: first economically, then presumably in other spheres — culturally and perhaps militarily.
Of course that didn't happen. Why not? One reason — a big one — was demographic. Fifty years ago Japan's total fertility rate was 2.16 per woman — comfortably above replacement level. It began to decline right about there, though. Ten years later it was 1.74, way below replacement. Twenty years further on it was 1.33. It rallied slightly in the last decade, but seems now to be stuck below 1.4.
The median age in Japan today is almost 49, and the total population number is actually declining. In the U.S.A. the median age is 38½; in China almost exactly the same; but China's Total Fertility Rate is lower than ours. How much lower is disputed. The current figure is publicized as 1.6, just below America's 1.7; but the nation's own National Bureau of Statistics gave it as 1.47 in 2019, and some demographers think it may be back down at the 1.2-1.3 level it fell to in the 1990s.
The ChiComs are acutely aware of this, and of the analogy with Japan. They have a dwindling pool of working-age — and military-age — citizens, and a correspondingly swelling pool of geezers to be provided for.
We don't know what the ChiCom leaders think about this; but one thing they might plausibly think is that in the matter of Great Power challenging, it's now or never.
We are of course in the realm of geopolitical poker here. What do I know about him? How much does he know about what I know? How confident can I be about what I think he knows about what I know about what he knows? … and so on. It's really not an arena for amateurs. Although, given the corruption and incompetence of our National Security agencies, I'm not sure the professionals can do any better.
There are surprises, too. I got one a few months ago, talking to a bright and politically savvy friend from mainland China. I mentioned a possible ChiCom move on Taiwan and asked him what he thought.
He laughed, quite genuinely. "The PLA is not capable," he said, referring to the ChiCom armed forces. "Officers don't rise by ability. They rise by family connections, favoritism, and bribery. They've never fought a war, and if they tried it would be a fiasco."
That's just one opinion, but it's from someone I respect, who has moved in many levels of ChiCom society, and who has previously expressed opinions I thought dubious, but that turned out to be correct.
So … Who knows? 百花齐放、百家争鸣 — Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend!
05 — Britain's race report. Last week saw the publication in Britain of a report from something called the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. This commission was set up last year by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, exactly for the purpose of producing a report. So, they have now produced it: a report on race and ethnic disparities in Britain. What does it say?
If you really want to know, you can read the whole thing, all 258 pages of it, on the internet. Just put "Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities" into the internet search box of your choice, and up it comes.
I'll admit I haven't read the thing myself. I don't live in Britain any more, and I feel sad and angry when I'm reminded of how a country I remember with some natural affection has been destroyed by mass immigration.
I've been reading news stories about the report, though, and they piqued my curiosity some. Progressive wokesters, anti-white activists and the like have been hyperventilating that the report fails to blame all "race and ethnic disparities" on systemic racism. References to the Commissioners in terms of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis have shown up on Twitter. This, in defiance of the fact that of the eleven Commissioners who produced the report, only one is white!
Toby Young over at The Spectator reports that where the report covers education, his own area of expertise, it is quite sensible. Sample quote from Toby:
According to the anti-racism cult, our education system is riddled with racial prejudice and needs to be overhauled if students of colour are ever to compete with whites. Virtually the entire educational establishment has accepted this damning verdict and is desperately trying to cleanse itself of this sin …
Thus encouraged, I thought I'd take a look at the report. I still wasn't ready to commit to 258 pages of social-science jargon, but I figured I could handle a detailed review of the report from an observer I trust.
That led me to academic psychologist and race realist James Thompson at the Unz Review. Wednesday this week Dr Thompson posted a 3,500-word report on the report, and I recommend it to your attention.
Dr Thompson has a dry British style of wit that appeals to me. A couple of samples. Sample One, quote:
The Report makes 24 recommendations. Moses got by with 10.
Sample Two, longer, quote:
The Commissioners on Race and Ethnic Disparities are themselves almost entirely persons of Race and Ethnicity. This is such a commonplace that no one seeks to question it. The underlying argument seems to be [inner quote] "You can't talk about it unless you've been through it yourself." [End inner quote.] At one selection committee for aspiring clinical psychologists we decided to set that statement as a question for candidates to debate in their group discussions. The Consultant for Mental Handicap moaned [inner quote]: "Well, that cuts out my speciality." [End inner quote.]
Oh, just one more quote from Dr Thompson. The Commission report seems to be unusually frank about black crime. They note that blacks are eight times more likely to be perpetrators of homicide than whites. Over to Dr Thompson, quote:
They say … that these figures [inner quote] "contribute to negative stereotypes of young black men." [End inner quote.] Well, that is one way of putting it. The other way would be: [inner quote] "this accounts for people being understandably afraid of young black men because they are eight times more dangerous." [End inner quote.]
Good common sense there, then, from Dr Thompson. I'm still sad and angry, though.
These United States were diverse from the start. We've always had to deal with racial diversity as best we can, although I think we've been stupid to make the problem worse than it was by mass immigration. How much more stupid have the Brits been, importing diverse peoples by the millions into an old, proud, and un-diverse nation, when there was no need to do so?
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Blog post of the week is one by James Howard Kunstler. After surveying all the madness and cruelty of the wokeness cult, Kunstler wonders whether perhaps it has peaked.
In particular he speculates that mass rioting following a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial may not be tolerated this year as it was last year. Quote:
The Woke hysteria and the hustles that grow out of it have shot their wad. Something else has awakened in this land: a recognition that we are in serious trouble, that our adversaries are having their way with us as we act stupidly, that we have become our own worst enemies, that being insane is not a virtue.
Is he right? Have we passed Peak Woke? I'm skeptical, I'll admit. With a jury verdict in the Chauvin trial now only days away, we shall soon know.
Still, I didn't think that the next time I saw the four-day week mentioned in a headline it would be in reference to Japan. There it was, though: Daily Mail, April 8th, headline: Japan considers bringing in FOUR-DAY week.
Say what? Japan? The workaholic nation? Where salarimen stay at their desks long after quitting time for fear of losing face by being the first to leave? That Japan?
Apparently so. The motives here seem to be, first, to goose the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the covid pandemic. How would a four-day week help? Well, with a longer weekend, Japanese people would take more trips. Hm … OK, I guess.
Another issue is suicide, a big issue in Japan. The Daily Mail says that Japan's suicide rate is one of the highest in the world, and is commonly blamed on overwork.
Is Japan's suicide rate really that bad, though? Wikipedia ranks Japan only number thirty worldwide, with a rate of 14.3 suicides per hundred thousand of population. The U.S.A. is just a tad lower, 13.7. Guyana, at 30.2, is more than twice Japan's rate; Russia, 26.5, not far behind. At the other end, six of the seven least suicidal nations are in the Caribbean.
Well, who knows? Perhaps a four-day week will get Japan's suicide rate down to the level of Barbados, 0.4 per hundred thousand.
There is that ageing demographic, too. All those old people need caring for; if workers have an extra day to spare, Mom and Dad may get more attention. Again I'm not totally convinced, but the intention is good.
It's still a bit flabbergasting that the nation out ahead of the rest of the world promoting a major reduction of working hours is Japan. What next? Shall we see a rash of other nations defying their stereotypes? A craze for ramen noodles sweeping France? Indian athletes leading the tables for Olympic gold medals? Saudi Arabia mandating miniskirts for women? Watch the headlines.
Item: Another follow-up to last week's podcast. I reminded listeners of the Latin phrase damnatio memoriae, condemnation of memory — making someone an unperson, so that there is strong social disapproval of even mentioning his name. That was of course in reference to Donald Trump. Quote from me:
I await in full expectation the first news story about an American being fired from his or her job for having mentioned the 45th President by name.
Well, I didn't know the half of it. The Washington Post reported April 7th that people who served as cabinet officials in the Trump administration are having trouble finding jobs.
Usually at this point after a President has left office, major corporations have snapped up ex-cabinet officers to put on their boards of directors. This time round, though, anti-Trump sentiment is so strong among customers, employees, and shareholders of big-name corporations, executives don't want to risk hiring in people like Bill Barr, Trump's Attorney General, or Elaine Chao, his Transportation Secretary. Even Bill Barr's old law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, doesn't want to hire him back.
Funny: I used to like capitalism, can't remember why.
Item: All is not hopeless, though. Amidst all the darkness and woe, there are patches of happy news out there for us Deplorables.
Here's one of them. It concerns Marjorie Taylor Greene, known to her adoring fans — among whom you can include me — as MTG. MTG is the thoroughly deplorable new congressgal for Georgia's 14th district. We learned this week that she has pulled in a sensational $3.2 million of donations during her first quarter in the House. That's almost entirely small individual donations — a hundred thousand of them, for an average $32 per donation.
Sweetest of all, that's nearly four and a half times as much as her polar opposite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised in her first quarter.
Chant along with me, please. You can clap along in time if you like. Ready? MTG! MTG! MTG! MTG! …
07 — Signoff. That's all I have for you this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and apologies as usual for being so disgracefully behind with email. As always, everything non-abusive gets read and pondered.
You may recall that two weeks ago I grumbled about Joe Biden's press conference having scuppered my plans for a day at the range. Last week a different concatenation of circumstances again kept me away from the range.
I should explain that Mondays and Tuesdays it's closed, Saturdays and Sundays it's crowded, with long waits for a spot, and Fridays I put this podcast together. That leaves Wednesday and Thursday as my shooting days.
Last week it rained on Wednesday; then on Thursday a private engagement came up; so I accumulated another week of frustration. This week, however, I was free on Wednesday and the weather was beautiful. I loaded up and headed for the range with my dear old Lee Enfield.
No shortage of ammo. Following some comments I posted about the gun last Fall and the trouble I had finding ammo at a decent price, a kind reader shipped me a fine old wooden chest full of .303 rounds that, she told me, had been lurking in her basement for thirty years. Bless you, Ma'am! I had fears that the ammo might have deteriorated after such long neglect. In the event, though, there was not a single dud in the several dozen rounds I fired.
I didn't do much harm to the targets, but I enjoyed myself. Weekdays at the range it's mostly geezers: polite, humorous, thoughtful types, many veterans. My own domestic comforts aside, there aren't many places I'd rather be on a fresh April morning that at the range.
An odd thing about those rounds in the wooden chest is that they were mostly packed in bandoliers. Somehow I have gotten through life until now without ever owning a bandolier. Now I have several.
For an old Kipling groupie the word "bandolier" triggers a line from his poem "Boots." Here with the musical version is Peter Dawson — who, like my Lee Enfield, was Australian. See how everything hangs together?
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Peter Dawson, "Boots."]