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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, traditional instruments version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your blissfully genial host John Derbyshire, bringing you VDARE.com's weekly glance at the news from a cranky National Conservative point of view.
Many listeners have taken a kind interest in my having mentioned, this past few weeks, that I have been about to become a grandfather for the first time. Well, it's happened. Little Michael Joseph was born last Friday afternoon, January 21st while I was preparing last week's podcast. He's a fine plump pink little fellow: there are pictures at the Family Album link on my personal website, johnderbyshire.com.
Mother and child are both well, I'm glad to report. Thanks to all who helped this wonderful event to happen, and thanks to listeners and readers who sent in their best wishes for us.
On the grand scale of things one particular family is just an atom — or I guess more like a molecule — in the great mass of humanity, and our happiness is a small and inconsequential matter; but at times like this, it doesn't feel like that.
To redirect one's attention from the particular to the general, from the molecule to the mass, is harder than usual at such times, but I shall do my best.
First to wars and rumours of wars.
02 — Ukraine on the edge. If it were possible to choose our ethnic affiliation before being born, I think it would be wise to avoid being born into a small nation located right up against a big, proud empire: Tibet or Turkestan, Armenia in Ottoman days or Serbia when Austria was great. Nationalities like that are liable to have histories much unhappier than the average.
That's the context in which I think of Ukraine. Note please: "Ukraine," not "The Ukraine." At Radio Derb we drop the "the."
I can't claim to be any kind of expert on Ukraine and its problems. I did, though, for many years have friends among the white Russians here in and around New York; white, I mean, as opposed to red.
These were descendants of Russians who'd fled from the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. There's a big settlement of them in Sea Cliff, ten miles from us here on Long Island's North Shore. We used to attend the Petroushka Ball, a big annual event for white Russians in New York City. You would have been able to attend this year's Petroushka on February 11th, but they're in process of re-scheduling it due to covid.
Among these children and grandchildren of Tsarist Russia there was a vein of sentiment — by no means universal, but common enough to notice — that Ukraine was really just part of the Motherland, of Russia.
People of this kidney laughed at the idea of Ukraine as an independent nation. Sure, these people would say, there are separatists in the West of Ukraine, and it was certainly terrible what Stalin did to Ukraine in the 1930s; but they're Russian just like us. "We used to call the place 'Little Russia'," they'd tell me, which is true. The Ukrainian language? Eh, just a dialect of Russian. Whether that's true … ask a linguist.
It occurs to me, in fact, that there is a rough parallel between Ukraine's relation to Russia and Ireland's to Britain. Ukraine is a sort of Ireland.
Religion is something of a factor, too, although I don't know enough to say how much of one. In Ireland it was Catholics versus Protestants. There are Catholics in west Ukraine too; but I'm told the main tension is between Ukrainian Orthodox and Russian Orthodox. They don't see eye to eye; or, these being Orthodox clergy, beard to beard.
As someone said: History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes.
All right, the parallel is a rough one, and I've probably ticked off Ukrainian listeners. I'm only passing on what I heard across dinner tables at the Petroushka Ball. My friendships with white Russians have lapsed, and I don't have a dog in this fight.
Neither does my country, for all I can see. Ukraine's status is a European issue. The European Union has three times the population of Russia and ten times the nominal GDP. They even have nukes; at any rate the French do. If the Europeans can't organize a common defense against Russian aggression, that sure is a shame, but I don't see why we have to ride to the rescue.
There is no reason for us to be in NATO. Donald Trump said so when he was campaigning in 2016, and he was right. He didn't follow through of course, he just let himself be buffaloed by the generals and the bureaucrats in the departments of State and Defense; but he was right none the less.
If American voters have the great good sense to elect a capable, effective National Conservative president in 2024, getting us the hell out of NATO should be near the top of his to-do list.
That's assuming NATO still exists in 2024. Given the current clearing of throats and shuffling of feet among European governments about what, if anything, should be done about Ukraine, the continued existence of NATO with or without us is by no means certain.
03 — Ukraine go Bragh? Here's another Ukraine-Ireland parallel. After they got independence a hundred years ago this coming December, the Irish didn't do much with it. I mean they didn't put forth any great efforts to make themselves a prosperous modern nation.
Through most of the twentieth century, up to the rise of the Celtic Tiger around 1990, independent Ireland vegetated in poverty, introversion, and backwardness. The lifestyle ideal, according to one historian of the country, was, quote, "to sit around a peat fire discussing the Council of Trent in Gaelic."
A lot of Irish people found that unsatisfactory, so that Ireland's principal export was … people.
Ukraine the same, though with qualifications. Since independence in 1991 Ukraine has not, either politically or economically, been a model any country would want to emulate.
To be fair, it's true that much of the trouble has been Russia stirring the pot, plus the usual cack-handed attempts by our own State Department missionaries to manipulate things the other way. Ireland was stagnant and corrupt from the twenties to the eighties, but nobody's claimed it was Britain's fault … well, nobody outside Ireland.
Still the results in Ukraine have been dire. Exporting people? Oh yeah. Quote:
Ukrainians vote with their feet. Nine million have work abroad, according to the National Security and Defense Council of the [sic] Ukraine, and 3.2 million have full-time jobs in other countries. There are only 21 million Ukrainians between the ages of 20 and 55, which suggests that more than two-fifths of prime working-age Ukrainians earn their living elsewhere.
I took that from an article by David Goldman at Asia Times, January 26th, title: Ukraine is the Hollow Man of Europe. Subtitle: "Why fight over a country whose birthrate is 1.23 children per female and with one of the world's highest out-migration rates?"
Goldman's article is a great heaping dish of negativity, all supported by published statistics. Yes, fertility really has collapsed. By the end of this century Ukraine's population will have fallen by half, according to the U.N. Population Program. Say what you like about the twentieth-century Irish, but they kept reproducing.
And the Ukrainians most likely to emigrate are the best-educated. Remittances from overseas workers already comprise eleven percent of Ukraine's GDP.
The Ukraine National Academy of Science's Institute for Demography reckons that the true population is only 35 million, not the 48 million given in the official census. The Institute also predicts that three out of 10 Ukrainian men now aged 20 will die before the age of 60 due to alcoholism and auto accidents.
Please don't think I'm grinning and chuckling here at the misfortunes of Ukrainians. I'm an ethnonationalist. In my ideal world every distinct people with a fair historical claim to some one territory would be ruling itself in that territory as a nation, trading freely and fairly with other nations. Ukraine, Ireland, Tibet, Biafra, … hey.
We are a long way from that ideal, though, and there are some knotty unresolved problems. What happens when two distinct people claim the same territory? Are the inhabitants of Taiwan a "distinct people"? The Catalans? Palestinian Arabs? Turkish Cypriots?
There's a lot of history yet to be worked through before the reign of universal peace and justice arrives. Until then we have to manage our own affairs as best we can, and meddle in other people's only when we are quite sure we know what we are doing, and why.
Which is to say, on the evidence of the past thirty years of U.S. foreign policy, hardly ever.
04 — Energy in the executive. Here's a thing that happened on the last day of 2021: Germany shut down three of her remaining six nuclear power plants. The final three will be shut down at the end of this year.
And here's a story from the Wall Street Journal, January 23rd, headline: Germany's Reliance on Russian Gas Limits Europe's Options in Ukraine Crisis. Sample text, quote:
A two-decade-old decision to phase out nuclear power and more recent moves to cut reliance on coal in an effort to bring down CO2 emissions mean Germany is now more reliant on Russian gas than most of its neighbors, not just for heating but also for power generation.
First, the Russian side of things. Russia doesn't have much of an economy. Here I issue my traditional challenge to listeners: Go round your house and try to find an article that says "Made in Russia." The Derbs actually have a few Made in Russia tchotchkes from a visit there a few years ago, but nothing above the tchotchke level.
Russia's economy stands in between that of Germany, which has half Russia's population, and Indonesia, which has twice Russia's population. So economically, mighty Russia is perched there between the First World and the Third. Things would be a lot worse than that if not for the oil and gas they pump out of the ground and sell, providing 36 percent of government revenues.
Germany's obviously doing way better in a general way; but they have energy issues. The Green Party is a force in the land, well represented in the country's parliament. They hate hate hate nuclear power. That's why Germany's decommissioning the nuclear facilities.
It's understandable to a degree: Germany got fallout from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. I was hanging out with some young Germans in the late 1970s, though, and anti-nuclear hysteria was already on the rise. As best I can figure, all this save-the-world German Greenery is part of the guilt complex over WW2. Guilty white liberals gotta guilt.
On the same grounds, Germany's Greens aren't much more favorable towards fossil fuels. That's a shame, as renewables — solar panels, windmills, geothermal — make nothing like enough electricity for the country's needs. So the German government has to stiff the Greens, buy oil and natural gas on international markets, and risk the human race going extinct from Global Warming.
That's where Russia comes in. For ten years now Germany has been getting natural gas from Russia via the Nord Stream pipeline, which runs entirely under the sea — the Baltic Sea, that is — from near St Petersburg to the northeast coast of Germany.
Slight digression here: The Nord Stream pipeline is an engineering marvel. Check it out, if you like that kind of thing. I can't resist a quote, quote:
Pipeline monitoring is carried out using special inspection tools, which are pushed throughout the pipeline from Russia to Germany. These so-called smart pigs come with a computing system. The pipeline is designed so as to ensure an unobstructed passage for pigs. To this end, the inside diameter of the pipeline is kept constant at 1,153 millimeters along the whole route with an error of only one millimeter.
End quote. Sorry for the digression. Science geeks will understand.
Anyway, Nord Stream's been such a success that a second pipeline, Nord Stream 2, has been laid down parallel to the 2012 pipeline, doubling Germany's reliance on Russian gas. Nord Stream 2 was ready to start pumping last fall, but German and European regulators have been holding it up.
It's important to note that the route taken by these Nord Stream pipelines, entirely underwater along the Baltic Sea, is highly convenient to Russia. An overland pipeline would have been cheaper to build and less of a technological challenge; but it would have had to cross the sovereign territory of other nations: Belarus, Poland, and, uh-oh, Ukraine.
That would have meant, number one, paying land-use and transit fees to those nations, and, number two, making the pipeline hostage to any severe frictions between Russia and one or more of those nations. The Nord Stream pipelines avoid all that.
The hostage now is Germany — which means, to a first approximation, the EU. Will they be getting all that scrumptious natural gas through Nord Stream 2, which EU investors have paid several billion dollars to construct? Will they — oh, Lord! — continue to get the gas they've been getting through Nord Stream 1? Not if Russia switches off the pumps.
Counter to that, will Russia give up all that scrumptious foreign exchange they earn from gas exports just to spite NATO?
So this is the game that we've seen being played this week. Latest news, from Wednesday, is that Germany's Foreign Minister has said out loud that if Russia invades Ukraine, the whole Nord Stream 2 project is a dead letter.
That would be a big loss of revenue for Russia, but a big loss of energy for Germany, which I guess they figure they can make up from elsewhere. From the U.S.A., perhaps, since President Trump made us a net energy exporter. Oh, wait …
05 — Court supremacy. Supreme Court news. First item: The Supremes have agreed to hear appeals by an activist group named Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
Those two universities, says the group, discriminate in their admissions policies against students from Asian backgrounds. The hearings will be later this year, with rulings issued in spring or summer next year.
The fun here will be seeing how ingenious the court is in fudging the issue. They will fudge it, of course. Leaving aside the bogus college courses created for dumb students accepted as legacies, athletes, and diversities — Art History, Communications, and any course with "Studies" in the name — strictly meritocratic selection in serious subjects like Physics or History is unthinkable.
Real subjects demanding high IQ would, if students were admitted meritocratically, give you a student body in those subjects around one percent black, ten percent Hispanic, forty percent white, and forty-nine percent Asian; and half of the whites would be Jewish. That would be a huge national scandal, with weeping and rending of garments from coast to coast.
Nobody wants that to happen, although there's a conflict in the public mind between not wanting it to happen and believing there's a fair, non-discriminatory way to avoid it happening.
So the New York Times tells us that, quote:
A Pew Research Center survey in 2019 found that 73 percent of Americans said colleges and universities should not consider race or ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions.
End quote. That's right after having told us, in the same paragraph, that, quote:
Most Americans believe that it is important to promote racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace and that there is still racism in American society.
So the great American public wants to have their Affirmative Action cake and eat it too.
If the Supreme Court tells them to eat it and the student body at our prestige colleges turns forty-nine percent Asian and one percent black, all hell will break loose. That would ignite a roar of outrage by comparison with which today's wailing about "systemic racism" and "white supremacy" would be mere mouse squeaks.
And the outrage would be directed at the Supremes. They'd be in real, serious danger of being lynched.
So they're not going to let it happen. They'll work up a fudge, just as their predecessors did: in the University of Texas case six years ago, in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger in 2003, and the Bakke case in 1978.
For one thing the Supremes are lawyers, expert manipulators of language — fudge-meisters. It comes naturally to them. For another, they are not numerate enough to face the reality of race differences, so working up a fudge won't bother their consciences.
The fudge will, like those previous fudges, be fudgy enough that the colleges can go on doing what they've been doing, just calling it by some different name. So the wheel turns.
Second item of news on the Supreme Court: One of the justices, Stephen Breyer, has announced he is stepping down at the end of the current session, which in practice probably means this July. The next Supreme Court term, which begins October 3rd, will have a replacement justice.
Who will it be? The smartest jurisprudential brain in the land? Nah. That's not how it works. I explained that all two weeks ago. These are political appointments.
In any case, there is no way to test and score jurisprudential brain power; and if there were a way, it would deliver the same lopsided results by race as every other cognitive test known to man, and the nation would be erupting with outrage again.
The President has told us he will nominate a black woman. The Daily Mail has told us that this was a deal Biden made with Congresscritter and big power broker Jim Clyburn of South Carolina in the 2020 campaign. Biden wasn't polling well in that state and needed Clyburn's support; this promise was the price.
I don't see anything to get agitated about there. The nomination is, as I said, political; and our politics is today thoroughly racialized. I don't like it, but that's how things are.
Here's a thing I did like: David Cole's response to the lists of black female jurists being offered as candidates for the nomination in our news outlets. Tweeted David, tweet:
With the White House confirming that Biden will only consider a black female for SCOTUS, my suggestion is put all the contenders in a McDonalds, tell them they fries not be ready yet, and let them brawl it out. Last weave standing gets the job.
What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they're for.
So what are they for? Over to Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the U.S. Senate. As it happens, McConnell had held a presser himself that same day, prior to the president's. That may have been what inspired Biden's question.
Speaking at his own press conference, McConnell had been asked what Republicans would seek to do if they take back control of Congress in the November midterms. His reply, quote:
That is a very good question, and I'll let you know when we take it back.
Business Insider, from whence I took that quote, goes on to tell us that, quote:
McConnell's comments mirror reporting done by Axios last year, which revealed that the Kentucky Republican had told donors that he did not plan to release a broader agenda ahead of next year's midterm elections.
Now, from a strategic point of view it can make sense to not have a clear agenda; or to have one but keep mum about it. Joe Biden didn't put forward any agenda for the 2020 election. His answer to the question, "Why should I vote for you?" was simply, "Because I'm not Donald Trump." With the help of some discreet ballot manipulation and a massive assist from the regime media, it worked fine. Biden got elected.
Contrariwise, it can make sense to have a clear agenda. The star example here was Newt Gingrich's Contract with America offered to the electorate prior to the 1994 midterms. How clear an agenda was that? Just read the thing. Random quotes:
On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government: First: … Second: … Third: … Fourth: … Fifth: … Sixth: … Seventh: … Eighth: … Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny. 1. The Fiscal Responsibility Act … 2. The Taking Back Our Streets Act … 3. The Personal Responsibility Act …
And so on. There were altogether ten of those bills, each described clearly in executive summary. Now that's an agenda.
Did it work? It sure did. The GOP gained eight seats in the Senate and 54 in the House, giving them total control of Congress for the first time in 42 years. They also gained ten governorships. All that against a president who was generally well-liked, or at any rate not much hated.
So not having an agenda, or having one but not advertising it, works. So does having an agenda and advertising it. So what's a political party to do? How to choose strategy?
Voters — I mean swing voters, the ones that matter, not voters who invariably vote for the same party — voters have two clusters of things at the front of their minds: particular issues they care about, and the personalities and backgrounds of the candidates.
Personalities loom much larger in presidential elections. In the 2020 election, for example, we had on the one hand a loud, abrasive guy whom the elites had spent four years working hard to convince us was a Russian agent; and on the other, a quietly familiar figure who'd been around for ever and never done any obvious harm, and who could affect an avuncular manner when he chose to.
Issues? Eh … Trump had talked issues; but he'd talked issues in 2016 and failed to deliver on most of them even during the two years his party controlled Congress. So to his other personal characteristics you could add: Bag of wind.
All that is the kind of thing that can happen in a presidential election. In midterms, personalities don't count so much. I doubt that more than twenty percent of the voting public have any strong feelings about Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer. So here's your chance to hit the public with issues.
Mitch McConnell isn't taking that chance. He figures that Biden and his congress are so widely unpopular the GOP can win big just by not being them.
Maybe he's right, but it seems to me a limp, lazy way to do politics. I'd feel better about it if I thought the GOP had an agenda and were just keeping mum about it, like the Democrats in 2020, but … I don't think that.
I don't believe the RNC and their congressional leadership have a single constructive idea in their collective head. Some of the younger Republican congressfolk have ideas and issues they're keen to promote, but they'll get no help from their superiors.
So yes, maybe Mitch will win his bet and we'll have a Republican Congress next year. What will they give us? Another negligible tax cut? Another futile attempt to trim Obamacare? Another two years of keeping the seats warm and partying with donors?
If the Republican Party bosses have their way, yes, that's what they'll give us.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Well, the Poles are doing something about it. They've begun construction of a 115-mile wall along their border with Belarus, to be completed in June, two construction companies working round the clock to get it done.
This is some wall. It's eighteen feet high, made of metal, topped with barbed wire, and guarded with thermal imaging cameras, CCTV, motion detectors and alarm systems. Armed border agents will of course be patrolling it and monitoring the equipment.
Now that's a nation that cares about its territorial integrity. I'm not sure what Poland's position is on Russian violation of Ukraine's borders, but they are not going to tolerate any more violations of their own.
There was, for example a Battle of Northampton in 1460 during the Wars of the Roses. For some reason Shakespeare left it out of his Henry VI plays, a thing that still rankles with the locals, although Northampton castle gets a couple of mentions in King John.
Sleepy? You could say. So it's always a pleasure when Northampton gets itself in the news, however small the item.
Here's the item. Students at the University of Northampton have been given a trigger warning over … wait for it … George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The warning is for students taking a course titled "Identity Under Construction." They are warned that the novel, quote, "addresses challenging issues related to violence, gender, sexuality, class, race, abuses, sexual abuse, political ideas and offensive language." End quote.
It's a pity Northampton castle no longer exists. The dungeons could be put to good use.
You can see a problem right away. Snow White? In an era when white people have been declared the essence of all evil? How are they going to square that circle?
Well, they have cast actress Rachel Zegler in the title role. Ms Zegler is a New Jersey gal, but she has a Colombian grandmother and is just the teensiest bit nonwhite, so I guess Disney figure they'll get a pass on that. The woke revolution has not yet advanced to the point where they could cast Whoopi Goldberg as Snow White, but … stick around.
Just as … what's the word? Oh, yes: problematic … Just as problematic are the Seven Dwarves. An actor previously unknown to me, name of Peter Dinklage, himself a person of dwarfism, has protested to Disney very vituperatively — so vituperatively I hesitate to quote him on a family podcast.
Disney are receptive to Mr Dinklage's protests. They have, they tell us, "been consulting with members of the dwarfism community" but have not yet come to any decisions about how to cast Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, and Sneezy.
Perhaps they could defuse the situation by casting Mr Dinklage as Grumpy? Just a suggestion.
This is in honor of Women's History Month in March, don't ask me how. Don't, come to think of it, ask me why we still have a Women's History Month, given that the word "woman" is a relic of hatefully gendered social norms.
I'm sure there are answers but I don't know them, and I don't want to know them.
08 — Signoff. That's all for this week, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention; and to any listeners who pay attention to the Chinese calendar, a very Happy New Year! in advance. New Year's Day on the Chinese calendar is Tuesday. This will be … let me see … the Year of the Tiger. Year of the Tiger? Oh, dear …
This week's signoff music is not related to anything in the podcast, nor to anything in the news. I just happened to hear the song the other day and it's been stuck in both my ears ever since. I'm hoping that playing it here will expunge it.
It's a pop classic from 1925, although this recording was made thirty-odd years later, by the Andrews Sisters. I was a bit surprised, looking them up, to see that Patty, the youngest of the three sisters, died just nine years ago this Sunday, aged not quite 95. God bless you, Patty, and your sisters, for all you did for the troops in WW2.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week. Over to Patty, LaVerne, and Maxene.
[Music clip: The Andrews Sisters, "Don't Bring Lulu."]