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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, electronic piano version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your properly genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you your weekly infusion of fun, fact, and fatalism.
I have a couple of commemorations to note. First, this is Radio Derb's 800th podcast. [Applause.] The way the arithmetic works, there being just over fifty weeks in a year, our centenaries fall around the middle of every odd-numbered year, with a slight drift forward through the months. You can listen to all 799 previous editions, or read the transcripts, at johnderbyshire.com.
[Added when archiving: A listener writes: "Shouldn't that be 'a slight drift backward through the months,' given that fifty weeks make less than a year?" Yes, arithmetically it should be. The actual drift has been forward, though, because of missed weeks. The month/day dates for the centenaries, 100 through to 800, have been: 5/25, 5/29, 5/20, 6/22, 7/11, 8/11, 8/2, 7/9.]
And then, a more personal commemoration, of no large importance other than to remind us of the passage of time and the nearness of what, when not thinking very hard, we put in the remote past. Today, July 9th 2021, is my paternal grandfather's 150th birthday.
Grandad is, of course, long since departed, and my memories of him in person are few and vague. Still, 1871: the third year of Ulysses S. Grant's presidency. Queen Victoria on the British throne, Germany just unified by Bismarck, France's Second Empire in ruins, Alexander II in Russia, the TóngZhì Emperor in China (but the Dowager Empress already the real power). So long ago … yet I can remember Grandad.
(My sister, two years older than me, is not one to mince words. Quote: "Horrid old man: ate with his mouth open!")
OK, to the larger affairs of the world. First, an assassination.
02 — Law and order in Haiti. Jovenel Moïse, the President of Haiti, was assassinated on Wednesday by an armed group who attacked his private residence. The group's political affiliation, and even their nationality, are still unclear.
The assassination, we are told, quote:
has raised the specter of further instability in the Caribbean country, already beset by a constitutional crisis and surging gang violence.
Wow. A constitutional crisis and gang violence … in Haiti. Who would have thought?
That short quote I just gave you was from The Washington Post on Wednesday. Here is a much longer quote from much further back. Long quote:
Horrible as were the atrocities of which the monsters of the French Revolution were guilty, they paled before the fiendish outrages committed by their black imitators in Hayti. Indeed, for some six years the island presented a saturnalia of massacre, attended with indescribable tortures. It may be admitted that the retaliation inflicted by the maddened whites after the first massacre was as full of horrors as were the outrages perpetrated by the blacks, and both were rivalled by the mulattoes when they joined in the general madness for blood. The result was ruin to all concerned. France lost one of her fairest possessions, and a wealthy race of cultivators, many belonging to the best blood of France, were annihilated or driven into poverty among strangers. The mulattoes, many of whom were also wealthy, soon found that the passions they had done so much to foment were too powerful for them; their position under the blacks was far worse and more precarious, than it had been under the whites. The negroes gained a nominal liberty. Nowhere were the slaves so well treated as by the French colonists, and they soon discovered that, so far from profiting by the massacre of their masters and families, they were infinitely worse off than before. They were still obliged to work to some extent to save themselves from starvation; they had none to look to for aid in the time of sickness and old age; hardships and fevers had swept them away wholesale; the trade of the island dwindled almost to nothing; and at last the condition of the negroes in Hayti has fallen to the level of that of the savage African tribes. Unless some strong white power should occupy the island and enforce law and order, sternly repress crime, and demand a certain amount of labour from all able-bodied men, there seems no hope that any amelioration can take place in the present situation.
End long quote.
That was the entire preface to a novel written in 1899; the actual U.K. publication date was July 11th 1899, 122 years ago this Sunday (and, as it happens, the day before my father was born). Title of the novel: A Roving Commission; subtitle "Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti."
The author was G.A. Henty, a sensationally prolific writer of fiction in late-Victorian England. Henty is remembered, to the degree he is remembered at all, for adventure stories to be read by young boys, although his scope was actually much wider.
Those adventure stories were still current in my childhood. I made a feeble effort to carry them forward to the Millennial generation: When my own son was small he went through a phase of interest in ancient Rome, so I got him Henty's novel The Young Carthaginian to read. It must still be in the house somewhere.
Well, that preface from Henty's novel about Haiti is of course unprintable today. "Savage African tribes"? Oh, dear. "Some strong white power"? Good grief! Just the fact of Henty's writing the word "blacks" with a lower-case "b" would have readers heading for the fainting couch nowadays.
I understand all that; but here's a question, to which I'd like to hear an honest answer.
Question: Surveying the 122 years of Haitian history that have passed since Henty penned that preface, was he right about Haiti, or wrong?
03 — Queen of the cackle. [Clip of Hillary Clinton cackling.] … No, wait, sorry; wrong cackle. I've gotten my sound clips mixed up here. [Clips of Kamala Harris cackling.] That's the one I wanted. Sorry about that.
Yes, that second clip was the U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris, working on her cackle. The first clip was from a different senior figure in the Democratic Party, Mrs Clinton.
I must say, I think Mrs Clinton has a much better-developed cackle. The Vice President is doing her best, though, I'm sure, and will get up to Mrs Clinton's standard after a couple of years' practice.
Can Kamala Harris, even with a fully-perfected cackle, get more people to like her? Her poll numbers are lackluster: hovering below fifty percent favorable in a YouGov poll last week.
That interview she did with Lester Holt last month sure didn't help. Let's just savor it.
So, really lousy presentational skills. That could be fixed, though, with some training and concentration. I wouldn't write Kamala Harris off.
I didn't write her off in August last year when, here on Radio Derb, I declared some grudging respect for her — not as someone I myself would ever vote for, but as a plausible transactional politician, trimming her sails to the cultural winds; steeped in Left Coast goodthink, but not an intransigent ideologue.
There's been some buzz recently about how terrible she is to work for. The Daily Mail ran a long piece about that last weekend. Sample quote:
[Politico] cited 22 officials, former officials, aides and associates of President Biden and Harris who described low morale, a tense atmosphere, porous lines of communication and diminished trust. Much of the blame was directed at Flournoy.
That's Tina Flournoy, the Vice President's Chief of Staff. In fact, as I read through that long article, I started to notice how many of the names were female. There's that Tina Flournoy, and then Karly Satkowiak and Gabrielle DeFranceschi, two Harris staffers who've left, apparently over disagreements, Symone Sanders, Harris's chief spokesperson and defender, Jennifer Palmieri, an Obama staffer who offers an opinion, Leah Daughtry and Anita Dunn, both defending Flournoy, …
For thirty years I worked in the corporate world, mostly as a software developer. I did a lot of contract work: six months here, a year there. I saw, and worked in, a lot of white-collar organizations, public and private. Some of them worked better than others. One or two were running disasters. They all had some women in them, often in senior positions. Some had only a few women; some had a lot.
Let me put this as delicately as I can without calling down the Furies on my head. I have no problem at all with a female president. I was a great fan of Margaret Thatcher. However, a White House and administration that was full of women, or dominated by women, or even just majority female, or even, I'd say, more than 20-25 percent female, would be a catastrophe.
Men with men can work. It doesn't always work well, of course, but it can. Men with some women can work, with the same qualification. Women with women? Katy, bar the door … if Katy can take a break from shrieking, scheming, and sobbing.
That aside, I wouldn't write off Kamala Harris. People say: "Oh, but look how she crashed and burned in 2019." Yes she did; but the consensus among political analysts is that she crashed and burned because her primary opponents made hay with the law-enforcement severity she'd shown as California Attorney General and DA. Law-enforcement severity was a no-no, a vote-loser, in the 2019 Democratic Party.
Will it still be a no-no in 2024? Possibly; but after three more years of anarchy, it's much more likely to be a vote-winner. What sank Harris in the 2019 primary season might put her in the White House in 2024.
04 — Irish centenaries. Sunday July 11th is a significant date for Irish people. It marks a hundred years since the truce that ended Ireland's War of Independence, which had started up two and a half years before.
The truce led to peace talks with the British government; those talks led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December of that same year, 1921; the treaty provided for Irish self-government within one year; that duly took effect in December the following year, 1922. The Irish Free State was born. Later it became, and still is today, the Republic of Ireland.
There was an obstacle to Irish independence, though. British politicians — well, most of them — had resigned themselves to Irish independence for years before it happened. The obstacle was the heavily Protestant six counties of Northern Ireland, who felt very strongly that they did not want to be ruled by Roman Catholics, who were a majority in Ireland as a whole.
In 1920, while the War of Independence was going on, the British parliament had passed a Government of Ireland Act giving some autonomy to Ireland. Not independence, only some autonomy. Actually, autonomies: The six majority-Protestant counties of the north were to have a mini-government of their own; likewise the twenty-six counties of the south; but both territories were to remain parts of the U.K.
That was all supposed to come into effect in May of 1921. The northern Irish were fine with it, and happily got their mini-government going, but the southerners scoffed at autonomy and fought on for full independence until that truce on July 11th.
So we've entered a whole clutch of centenaries here: Northern Ireland created as a separate part of the U.K., May 3rd. The truce that ended the War of Independence, July 11th. The Anglo-Irish Treaty establishing the Irish Free State, signed off on December 6th, came into effect a year later.
Here's the big wrinkle. The Anglo-Irish Treaty had a clause saying that if the six northern counties didn't want to be part of the Free State, they could stay part of the U.K. They took that option, and have remained part of the U.K. ever since. It's the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
To further confuse the issue of commemorations …
What's that? You didn't think they could be more confusing? Hey, listen: If simplicity is what you cherish, stay away from Irish history. It's complicated, involuted, tangled, embrangled, snarled, knotted, raveled, and mazy. Thanks, Mr Roget.
So to further confuse the issue of commemorations, this coming Monday, July 12th, is The Twelfth, a great day for the Protestants of Northern Ireland. It celebrates victory in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, when Britain's Catholic king James Stuart was defeated by his Protestant son-in-law William of Orange — King Billy. James fled from the British Isles and never returned — Britain's last Catholic monarch.
For Protestants of the north, the Twelfth is a very big deal, their July 4th. And then some: In the lead up to it there are bonfires, parades, parties, picnics, … The Twelfth is just the climax. Catholics mainly stay home.
That's enough history. What's happening in the present? Next segment.
05 — Brexit and the border. You know about Brexit, of course. That was Britain's voluntary departure from the European Union, which Brits voted for in a referendum five years ago. Brexit actually happened at last a year and a half ago, January 31st 2020.
That created a problem in Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the U.K., so they left the EU along with England, Scotland, and Wales. However Southern Ireland, the Irish Republic, which of course is an independent nation, has stayed in the EU.
So now the island of Ireland is divided in two parts: one in the EU, one not, with a land border between them.
You wouldn't think that to be an insuperable problem. Lots of EU countries have land borders with non-EU countries, and vice versa: Greece with Albania, Finland with Russia, Serbia with Croatia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, … Hey.
One part of the problem in Ireland is that there hasn't been much of a consequential border for 48 years, while both the U.K. and the Irish Republic were EU members. In fact, to my personal recollection, there wasn't a very formidable border even before that, in the 1960s; although when the Troubles got seriously under way there was some militarization and beefing up of police presence around trouble spots.
To the degree people in Ireland remember real border posts, northern Protestants remember them as targets for IRA terrorists while Catholics remember them as manned by glowering British soldiers with guns at the ready.
That all came to an end with the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998. You can read the Agreement for yourself if you feel inclined, but I'd advise against it. Thirty-five pages of diplo-speranto is too much for me, and I'm actually interested in Irish affairs.
I did do a Ctrl-F on "EU," though. It got me fifteen hits. There's your problem right there. The Good Friday Agreement was drafted when Ireland and the U.K. were both EU members, and it assumes that will go on being true … for ever.
Good Friday really needs re-negotiating for the new situation. No-one wants to do that, though, for fear that any tinkering with it may upset the fragile peace it's established.
And then there's trade. The EU, of which Ireland is a member, has strict rules about member countries importing goods from non-members, especially food. Chilled meat products, for example, may not be imported. That means British sausages can't be imported into the Irish Republic.
So what's the problem? You just have border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The problem is, nobody on either side of the border wants them.
Here are the names of some border posts between north and south: Belleek, Belcoo, Swanlinbar, Magheraveely, Aughnacloy, Middletown, Derrynoose, … You get the idea. My point is, have you ever heard of any of these places? Not likely. The border goes mainly through remote low-density districts where farming dominates the local economy. Irish farmers don't want their eggs, milk, and meat held up crossing the border while trained customs inspectors check that produce follows EU and British rules, now different.
What to do? The diplomatic geniuses came up with something called the Northern Ireland Protocol — just "the Protocol" to its friends, who are few.
The Protocol basically puts the border between the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland in the Irish Sea for purposes of trade and customs, between the British mainland and Northern Ireland. Customs checking of goods to or from the Irish Republic is carried out in Northern Ireland ports.
That's ticked off the Northern Irish, who are now grumbling that they're second-class citizens in the U.K. You can see their point, but no-one's been able to think of any better solution.
06 — The deepest currents of modernity. This may seem all petty and provincial. Border posts in Ireland? Belcoo and Derrynoose? Who cares?
Nobody's in charge at the White House — well, nobody we elected — anarchist mobs are burning our cities, harmless protestors are jailed and beaten while arsonists go free, our justice system's been bought and paid for by a Hungarian billionaire, our kids are being taught that white people are evil, the Third World is pouring in across our southern border, our middle class is being replaced by cheap foreign labor on guest-worker visas, our savings are being wiped out by inflation, we're helicoptering people off the roof of our Afghanistan embassy, … Meanwhile Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are watching it all from their barcaloungers, laughing and munching on popcorn. Ireland? Who cares?
Yes, the topic itself is provincial. The underlying issues, though, are ones we should all be thinking about and discussing: nationalism, globalism, and related matters.
Here is a thing I wrote almost twenty years ago — March 2002. Quote from self:
Consider some of the great issues that form the substance of serious conversation among thoughtful Americans nowadays. Terrorism vs. civil society; "diversity" vs. monoculturalism; race and identity; the place of religion in a hedonistic popular culture; the future of nationhood in a globalizing world economy. You want to talk about these things? Go to Ireland, where they are all in active play. At this point in history, Almighty God, following his own unfathomable intentions, has chosen a small windswept patch of boggy turf in the North Atlantic as a test site for the next few decades of human development. Whether this attention is something the Irish people should feel flattered by, or cursed by, is for them to tell you.
To pick up the thread from the previous segment: Isn't there a better solution to current problems than this absurd Protocol, which treats Northern Ireland both as a part of the U.K. and as a separate jurisdiction?
You've probably thought: Well, yes. A united Ireland would work a whole lot better, either in or out of the EU. Most likely it would be in: In that 2016 referendum, Northern Ireland voted against Brexit, 56 percent to 44, but being under the Crown, they had to follow the rest of the U.K. out.
And that Protestant majority in the north, that forced Britain's hand a hundred years ago, no longer exists. That doesn't mean there's a Catholic majority, though. Neither religion has a majority. Protestants were just slightly ahead in a plurality at the last census ten years ago, 42 percent to 41 percent.
And I should add the customary caution here that "Protestant" and "Catholic" map only approximately on to "U.K. loyalist" and "Irish republican." A lot of northern Catholics prefer being subjects of the Crown. The health service, for one thing, is better than the Republic's.
So: ten years ago, 42 percent Protestant to 41 percent Catholic. Now, ten years on, the Catholics may have inched ahead; but still only as a plurality, not a majority. The interesting number is the seventeen percent not declaring any religion. That's one person in six; and that percentage is also likely higher now.
Is there a trend? There sure is. Looking at the census figures for my own age cohort, aged 75 to 79, northerners are 58 percent Protestant, 32 percent Catholic, ten percent none. That's the remnant of the old Protestant two-to-one majority.
Now look at my son's age cohort, ages 25 to 29: 33 percent Protestant, 45 percent Catholic, 21 percent none.
So not only have Catholics caught up with and likely overtaken Protestants, unbelievers have doubled in that younger age cohort.
That looks like a sure foundation for a united Ireland at last. The funny thing is that the wisest heads in Ireland say it ain't gonna happen.
The wisest head I know of in Ireland is historian Ruth Dudley Edwards, who has been right about everything to do with the Emerald Isle for as long as I've been reading her, which is about thirty years.
Here she was on July 6th, sample quote. The "Unionists" she refers to are the Northern Irelanders who want to keep their union with Britain. They do not want a united Ireland. It's confusing, I know. So, quote from Ruth Dudley Edwards:
Ireland has a hard-won stability, and it doesn't want it undermined. Unionists should stop worrying. Trustworthy polls show a united Ireland isn't wanted and even if a border poll happened, southern voters would vote no while claiming to have voted yes.
Fundamentally what's happened is that the strongest, most militant style of identitarianism in Ireland today is found not in the Republic, not at all, but among the Protestant working-class and underclass of the north.
The fierce Irish Republicanism that was driving those events a hundred years ago — the events that led to Irish independence — and that kept the Troubles burning until twenty years ago, has been melted away by globalism and its allies: multiculturalism, feminism, atheism, hedonism, and the rest. Sure, you can still hear old-style passionate republicans barking away in odd corners, but nobody pays attention.
The Republic of Ireland today is, as I noted in my May Diary last year, the Heart of Wokeness. Nationalism? Religious identitarianism? That stuff is so old.
So, just as I wrote twenty years ago, if you want to see the deepest currents of modernity in their slow, quiet movements, there they are plain to see in Ireland.
Oh, that damn stupid Protocol? Looks like they're stuck with it.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Here is my all-time favorite introductory paragraph to an academic paper at a respectable academic outlet.
The subject is algebraic geometry. The authors are Matei Toma, a professor in the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Lorraine in France, and Julius Ross of the Department of Statistics, University of Illinois at Chicago. Title of the paper: "On Hodge-Riemann Cohomology Classes." It was submitted for peer review at Cornell University's arXiv.org — that's "arXiv" with a capital "X" — on June 21st this year.
I'll just read you the opening paragraph. Quote:
Since the dawn of time, human beings have asked some fundamental questions: who are we? why are we here? is there life after death? Unable to answer any of these, in this paper we will consider cohomology classes on a compact projective manifold that have a property analogous to the Hard-Lefschetz Theorem and Hodge-Riemann bilinear relations.
Item: Some COVID news. I don't write half as much about COVID as other opinionators because, as I've been telling you for more than a year, I don't find it the least bit interesting. It's an infection. If you're old, get vaccinated. Old or young, get on with your life!
I know most people are more interested than I am, though; so when a COVID story tickles my fancy, I'll post it.
This one definitely tickled my fancy. It's from India. Headline, from the Daily Mail, July 7th: Two men are arrested in India for saying cow urine and dung do not cure Covid-19.
What happened was, a Member of Parliament from India's ruling party, the BJP, has claimed that smearing cow excrement all over your body and drinking cow urine can cure the COVID infection. The Daily Mail story, just to warn you, comes with pictures of people who have done the smearing.
These two men who've been arrested had put up Facebook posts criticizing this advice. Some loyal members of the BJP took exception to that, saying that the two had, quote, "deliberately and wilfully insulted and outraged religious feelings and sentiments" of BJP workers.
The BJP, you see, is strongly Hindu-nationalist; and as we all know, cows are revered in Hinduism — along with, apparently, their waste products.
So the two guys who posted — I'm not even going to attempt their names — were arrested. At the time of the Daily Mail report they had been held in jail for 45 days. Under Indian law you can be arrested and held for a year without any formal charge or trial.
That BJP sounds like a pretty powerful ruling party. Seems they can do what they like to dissidents from state dogma, even when that dogma concerns covering yourself with cow poop. Thank goodness our ruling party here in the U.S.A. doesn't have arbitrary power like that!
Item: The old joke about homosexuality was the one about the senior citizen saying, quote: "When I was a kid we used to hang queers. When I got to middle age we just put them in jail. Now it's all legal. I just hope I die before it's made compulsory." End quote.
Europe is well along the road to compulsory. Hungary, which is an EU member state, has a law that prohibits the sharing of any content that portrays homosexuality or sex reassignment to children under the age of 18 in school sex education programs, films and advertisements.
To the bureaucrats who run the EU that is outrageous. Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU executive branch, honked that, quote: "Europe will never allow parts of our society to be stigmatized, be it because of whom they love, because of their age, their ethnicity, their political opinions, or their religious beliefs." End honk. Nothing there about children or sex education in schools, just woke-bureaucratic boilerplate.
I guessed that Ursula von der Leyen is a lesbian. There is a high proportion of sexual eccentrics in the Euro ruling class — the last Prime Minister of Ireland, for example, and the current Prime Minister of Luxembourg. My guess about Ursula von der Leyen was wrong, though: she's married to a guy.
[Added when archiving: A listener in Germany tells me she's way more heterosexual than that. He tells me: "Ursula von der Leyen is no lesbian. She is famously — in Germany at least — the mother of seven(!) children, which she somehow managed while pursuing a heavyweight political career. That's some amazing genetics, because she's also kept herself svelte and attractive. It helped that her father was a multi-term Premier of Lower Saxony (who was finally defeated by none other than Gerhard Schröder, German Chancellor from 1998 to 2005), but she made it all the way to the Cabinet and now de facto rules Europe."]
The EU-bots are making all manner of threats against Hungary, but the Magyars are standing firm. Poland is standing with them.
In light of my last segment about Ireland back there, the interesting thing to see over the next decade or so will be whether these conservative white Christian countries hold on to their conservatism, whiteness, and Christianity in the face of the modernizing, globalizing trends that Ireland has succumbed to.
There are some scattered indications that Poland might be following Ireland's path down into the globalist swamp. I haven't seen anything similar for Hungary, but I'll keep a lookout.
08 — Signoff. That's all I have, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and I hope your July 4th was as much fun as ours. We partied the whole evening with neighbors and friends and didn't get to bed until the Fifth.
Some signout music. With all those Irish commemorations I've noted, obviously something Irish is called for. Since Monday is The Twelfth, a big day in Northern Ireland, it should be something with a Northern color. On the other hand, with the centenary of the truce on Sunday and hopes that the vicious, bloody sectarianism of the Troubles are well and truly in the past, it should be something irenic and non-political.
So here's the great John McCormack with "The Star of the County Down," that county being one of the six in Northern Ireland. And before anyone makes the accusation, let me say that the fact of the lady in the song being named Rosie had no influence at all on my choice of music, absolutely none whatsoever.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: John McCormack, "Star of the County Down."]