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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! That was a snippet of Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1 and this is your numinously genial host John Derbyshire with some selections from the week's news.
I'm leading off this week with news from the world of law enforcement. Not our law enforcement, although I'll have things to say about that later, but Central American law enforcement. Here we go.
02 — El Salvador takes on anarchy. El Salvador got some attention this week. That's unusual; it's a small and inconsequential country, the size of New Jersey, population a bit less than Indiana.
It's not an immediate neighbor of ours, either. If you want to walk to El Salvador, you'll first have to trek through the length of Mexico and then Guatemala — around 1,200 miles from our border.
El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. Their population pyramid looks like a Hershey's Kiss — masses of kids, not many geezers — but they seem to have started getting fertility under control.
That's all according to the CIA World Factbook. I always rely on the CIA for data. They never get anything wrong, do they?
So why is this totally inconsequential place, this Nowheresville, why is it in the news?
Well, the place was in a state of anarchy for many years. Those densely populated streets were ruled by criminal gangs who took what they wanted and killed anyone who opposed them. It got to a point when last March the nation's legislature declared a state of emergency. That quickly became a war of the gangs versus the police and army.
The country's president, name of Nayib Bukele, has been taking a strong line against the gangs. From the beginning of the state of emergency down to last week — eleven months — an estimated 65,000 gang members were arrested. That's one percent of the entire population.
Last July President Bukele announced the construction of a huge new prison to house the gangbangers. That prison was formally opened at the end of January. This week the government's been moving convicts in. That's why El Salvador's in the news.
We've been seeing some astonishing video clips in which hundreds of men, wearing only boxer shorts and with their heads shaved, hands cuffed behind their backs, have been hustled in ranks and files through containment areas onto buses and off to the new mega-jail.
Those video clips have generated much approving commentary from conservative commentators here in the U.S.A. On Wednesday there was a striking opinion column by Gavin Wax and Nathan Berger in Newsweek, of all places.
I hardly ever read Newsweek or its website. I've vaguely supposed it was regime media, taking the side of criminals against normal people. Perhaps that is their editorial line; in which case, all the more credit to them for allowing this column.
Closing lines from Wax and Berger, quote:
American justice must be fierce; it must scare the would-be thief into the pursuit of an honest life, and it must assure American citizens that their lives will not be upended.
What does Radio Derb think about this? As a law'n'order guy I'm right there on board with Wax and Berger. Still, I have to register some doubts.
Is that video footage for real? I'm skeptical of any footage out of a small, corrupt country. There are only two ways to get hardened criminals to behave in the disciplined way we see in the clips: either put the fear of God into them, or pay them.
I wouldn't rule out Option Two, that the whole thing has been staged for some purpose that's comprehensible only if you have a full understanding of Salvadoran politics, which of course I don't.
I'll allow that Option One is more probable. It has all sorts of dangers for El Salvador's rulers, though. To put the fear of God into the 40,000 inmates this new jail accommodates, you need a major force of very tough law-enforcement officers indeed. Is Bukele quite sure his country's politics is robust enough to control that force?
And is the force even adequate? A French report from last month tells us about the new jail that, quote:
Six hundred soldiers and 250 police officers will provide around-the-clock security, and electronic jamming equipment will prevent any communication by prisoners with the outside world.
Pistols and assault rifles? If I were one of those eight-hundred-odd turnkeys watching over 40,000 desperate, feral inmates, I'd want tactical nukes.
And of course there's not much justice going on here. Sure, some of those guys in boxer shorts are evil masterminds with a lot of innocent blood on their hands, but many more are lower-level "buttons" with perhaps nothing more on their consciences that some beatings and robberies. A few are innocent of anything more criminal than thinking a whole-body tattoo would be cool.
For all that, the news reports all tell us that ordinary citizens of El Salvador approve of Bukele's policy by large majorities.
No surprise there. Speaking last December about a different part of the world I said, quote:
For ordinary people trying to live a normal life — modest prosperity, useful work, and the chance to raise a family — anarchy is worse than despotism.
Over a lot of the world, and still today, the practical choice facing normal citizens is not between constitutional democracy and despotism, or between constitutional democracy and anarchy; it's between despotism and anarchy. They'll choose despotism every time.
And while I've watched those clips with interest, and enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing bad guys get their comeuppance (if that's truly what I was seeing), I don't care one way or the other about El Salvador. It's not my country.
This is my country. To the degree that we, the U.S.A., have any interest in El Salvador, it's in preventing Salvadorans from bringing their gang culture here.
Our governments have failed dismally at that. One of the Salvadoran gangs, MS-13, is thriving here. Where I live, in Long Island, they are a significant criminal nuisance.
I don't wish Salvadorans any ill. I hope they can find a path to constitutional democracy. Until they have, though, I want my government to keep them the hell out of my country.
03 — Northern approaches. It's not just our southern border that's wide open. We've been reading more and more recently about the other one, the one that separates us from Canada.
That border, just to remind you, is five and a half thousand miles long, although only a bit over three thousand if you discount the Great Lakes. That's still way longer than the southern border, which is less than two thousand miles long.
Andrew Arthur gives the numbers over at the CIS website. They go by Fiscal Year, which is October 1st to September 30th.
Fiscal Year 2022, which ended last September, encounters with inadmissible or illegal aliens were more than 109,000, four times the number for Fiscal 2021. The first four months of this Fiscal Year they were over 56,000, heading for another record-breaker.
Who are they? Well, a lot of them are Canadians. Yes, the Friendly Giant to the North is sending us its huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Of the 67,000 in Fiscal 2022 who weren't Canadian, ten percent were from China, three percent from Colombia, two percent each from the Philippines and Ukraine, the rest from other countries. Strangely, 882 were from Mexico. Weren't they taking a roundabout route there? And the Mexican number is higher this year: already more than twelve hundred.
A Canadian commenter at American Renaissance explains, quote:
Mexican citizens need a visa to go to the U.S. legally, but they do not need a visa to go to Canada legally. They need their passports only.
As Andrew Arthur explains, the dynamics here are interesting. Customs and Border Patrol staffing is a big factor. DHS has re-deployed a lot of agents from the northern border to the southern. Word's got around among illegals, and now DHS is trying to get the car into reverse. Quote from Arthur:
That suggests that DHS has concluded that third-country aliens seeking to enter the United States illegally are now exploiting the depleted agent staffing at the northern border (assuming that they can get to Canada), and that the department believes that the number of aliens who are detected entering illegally but who evade apprehension (known colloquially as "got-aways") is surging at the northern line.
Given the length of the northern border, a lot of those "got-aways" must be getting away; so the number of illegals entering our country is likely higher than the numbers we've been given.
Yes: America's borders, north and south, leak like the proverbial sieves, and the leakage is all inwards.
04 — Dismantling the meritocracy (cont.). I wrote at some length in my November Diary about what I called "dismantling the meritocracy." Standards are being lowered — or abandoned completely — all over, even for admission to medical schools and law schools, all in the effort to advance "equity" — equal outcomes by race and sex.
Here is more news on that front. Columbia University told us on Wednesday that it will no longer require applicants to send SAT or ACT scores for undergraduate admissions.
This is not actually a new thing for Columbia. With the COVID panic making a lot of traditional test sites unavailable in 2020, Columbia, along with a lot of other schools, suspended the SAT/ACT requirement. They continued the suspension through to this year. Now, with the panic well and truly over, they could have ended the suspension; instead, they've made it permanent.
Why? Equity, of course.
Columbia dressed it all up in administrative word salad, of course. Here is their actual March 1st explanation, quote:
The holistic and contextual application review process for Columbia College … is rooted in the belief that students are dynamic, multi-faceted individuals who cannot be defined by any single factor. Our review is purposeful and nuanced — respecting varied backgrounds, voices and experiences — in order to best determine an applicant's suitability for admission and ability to thrive in our curriculum and our community, and to advance access to our educational opportunities. We have designed our application to afford the greatest possible opportunity and flexibility for students to represent themselves fully and showcase their academic talents, interests and goals. Standardized testing is not a required component of our application.
A key word in these baloney specials is "holistic." I knew it would show up although I didn't think it would actually feature as the second word in Columbia's announcement.
Eleven years ago I reviewed Andrew Ferguson's book Crazy U, about the trials and troubles he went through getting his kids into college. Here's a quote from my review. quote:
The whole thing is done with zest, wit, and a pleasingly reductionist approach to the Edsperanto jargon with which colleges obfuscate their aims and methods. Ferguson closes a long paragraph on "holistic" admissions with the observation: [inner quote] "A more practical and accurate term for holistic admissions is 'completely subjective.'" [End inner quote.] Which I think we all kind of knew.
Oh, here's another one. This is from Fox News, March 2nd, headline: Delaware lowers passing score on bar exam in push for racial diversity. Quotes from the story:
The 200-question multiple-choice exam will be offered twice instead of once a year beginning in 2024 — and its passing score will be lowered from 145 to 143 …
It's happening all over, and not just in the academy. This week we learned that the New York City Police Department, the NYPD, has lowered the fitness requirement for police recruits. Up to now recruits have had to complete a one-and-a-half-mile run in 14 minutes, 21 seconds. That requirement has now been altogether dropped.
That seems to have concluded a nasty little spat between two black ladies: Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Chief of Training for the NYPD Juanita Holmes. Commissioner Sewell wanted to keep the test; Chief Holmes wanted to drop it.
She told the New York Post that the one-and-a-half-mile run requirement was holding back otherwise qualified candidates — especially women, who now make up about a fifth of the force. Apparently she won the fight, though we haven't been told how much of Commissioner Sewell's hair she had to pull out for her triumph.
(What, you thought the New York Police Department was run by beefy rubicund guys named Kelly and O'Shaughnessy? Yeah, once upon a time it was <sigh>.)
And there's a bit more to it than just a clash of female wills. Like other big cities, New York has become more and more reluctant to punish criminals, meaning that police work has become more and more frustrating. Cops have been leaving the force in droves, leaving the city desperate for recruits.
Scoffing at critics who deplored the drop in standards, Chief Juanita Holmes said, quote:
No cop on patrol runs a mile and a half. No one's chasing anyone a mile and a half.
Perhaps not, but New York City cops have been running as fast as they can to the Pension Office at Police HQ, or out to more rewarding law-enforcement work in other jurisdictions.
05 — Equality: the pons asinorum. On the matter of higher education, I'd like to put in a word for the National Association of Scholars, the NAS, of which I'm a member and to whose journal, Academic Questions, I have contributed.
Higher education is, as we all know, addled with wokery. Not only are undergraduate admission standards collapsing, the admissions process is becoming quite brazenly anti-white.
Last week we got some numbers out of Stanford University — freshman numbers, for students who will form the class of 2026. Only 22 percent of those freshmen are white. Victor Davis Hanson seems to have been the first to pick up on this, then the guy with Twitter handle FischerKing tweeted about it.
White people of course constitute more than fifty percent of the college-age population, so 22 percent is a pretty serious under-representation; the more so, as FischerKing pointed out, because some white freshmen would be legacy admissions. Quote from him: "The rural math genius like John Nash has no chance." End quote.
The atmosphere in our universities and colleges is one of rigid ideological control. Dissidents like Amy Wax are relentlessly persecuted.
Seven and a half years ago, when the rottenness of the system was already too obvious to ignore, a group of more open-minded academics led by NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt started an advocacy group called Heterodox Academy to encourage freedom of opinion in our colleges. They held conferences, conducted surveys, published rankings of colleges based on ideological orthodoxy, and gave media interviews.
Today, seven and a half years later, the colleges are more woke than ever; so plainly the efforts of Heterodox Academy failed. Why did they fail? That is the subject of a very good piece by philosopher Nathan Cofnas at the National Association of Scholars website. Title of the piece: "Four Reasons Why Heterodox Academy Failed."
The piece is rather long — more than three thousand words — but well worth the trouble of reading, and with some good links in the footnotes. I won't attempt a full summary, only a couple of quotes. First quote (this is from under the heading "Reason 1: It Became Another Club for Leftists"), edited quote:
The leaders of Heterodox Academy make a point of identifying themselves as liberals, and in practice they seem to advocate for a return to a more moderate version of wokeism (essentially pre-2012 liberalism) …
Second quote. This is from the fourth of Cofnas' four reasons why Heterodox Academy failed. The heading here is "Reason 4: Heterodox Academy Won't Support Heterodoxy on the Most Important Topic." Quote:
Wokeism is built upon an ideological certitude about the origins of inequality: all groups have the same distribution of innate potential, and all differences favoring whites or men are due to past or present white racism or sexism. The whole ideology stands or falls on this empirical claim. Therefore, the greatest taboo in our society is to consider alternative explanations for inequality, particularly those that implicate natural differences in the distribution of traits among racial groups.
That is exactly right. All credit to the National Association of Scholars for letting Nathan Cofnas say it.
Realism about race and sex is what in mathematics is called a pons asinorum, a bridge of asses.
Heterodox Academy didn't make it over the bridge. It's a shame. I know some of those people personally — Jonathan Haidt, for example — and owe a favor or two; but — sorry, guys — if you can't get over that bridge, nothing you say about social inequality is worth the trouble of listening to.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: On the issue of anarchy versus despotism, I've started watching the TraumaZone series of seven one-hour video presentations covering the fall of the U.S.S.R. and the years that followed — years of, yes, anarchy.
The presentation isn't done with any real drama or even much structure. Each episode is just a series of clips from the BBC files. It manages to be quite gripping none the less.
I learned about TraumaZone from an article about it at the Quillette website. The author of the article is Christopher Snowdon from the Institute of Economic Affairs. He really got my attention at the very end of his article, with these words, quote:
It is better to take TraumaZone at face value as a series of snapshots of an enormous, strange, beautiful, and brutal country filmed from many angles. A nation accustomed to misery, whose short-lived experiment with freedom felt like a further betrayal. Few people have suffered for so long under so many different forms of despotism as the Russians. Briefly welcomed into the family of nations, Russia is now a pariah once more. This proud, paranoid, and angry country may yet destroy the world.
Item: As I said, I'm a law'n'order guy. I strongly favor capital punishment for the worst criminals.
There are two thing about capital punishment as currently practiced that vex me, though. One of them is of course the twenty-year gap that elapses between conviction and execution. I don't know what we can do about this, but surely there must be something.
The other is lethal injection — the absurd pretense that the people's retribution for the most evil offenses is some kind of medical procedure. As the old joke goes: "Do they swab his arm with alcohol before they put the needle in?"
It therefore cheered me to see that Bryan Kohberger, who has been arrested and charged with stabbing four University of Idaho students to death last November, could face a firing squad if convicted.
Idaho has the death penalty on its books, but uses lethal injection. Now a state legislator has introduced a bill that would bring back the firing squad as a legal form of execution.
The execution of a criminal should not be a matter of fussing with medical equipment and masks. It should be a plain, clear demonstration of state-authorized violence against the worst violators of our laws.
Death by firing squad is also more authentically American than death at the hands of some physician. It can be carried out by citizen volunteers, acting for their fellow citizens. I am sure there is no jurisdiction in the U.S.A. that would have difficulty finding volunteers.
Bryan Kohberger is of course entitled to due process of law. If, at the end of it, he is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury of his peers, let's shoot the son of a bitch. Heck, let's televise it.
Item: Two listeners to last week's podcast chided me on the same point. Speaking of Scott Adams and that Rasmussen poll I said:
I didn't think Adams' remarks were very coherent. He read the poll as saying that, quote from him, "nearly half of all blacks are not OK with white people." That's not what the poll says. What it says is, that nearly half of all blacks are not OK with white people asserting their whiteness. Perhaps they just don't like identitarianism of any variety.
No, said the objectors. The respondents, on the terms of the poll, didn't think it was OK to be white. It couldn't be plainer.
Sorry, but I beg to differ. It could be plainer.
"It's OK to be white" is, like "Black lives matter,", a statement of fact, to be agreed with or not. Is it or isn't it? Do they or don't they?
Only a bloodless logician would process them like that, though; and very few of us are bloodless logicians. Most of us, hearing "It's OK to be white," would take it as having some assertive color; perhaps even, depending on circumstances, aggressive color. It's OK to be white. You got a problem with that? Likewise with "Black lives matter."
We don't operate in a realm of cold logic, certainly not where race is concerned. When I hear "It's OK to be white" my assumption is that the speaker is a white person making a point, an assertive point. That assumption will be correct 99 percent of the time. Rasmussen's respondents, I believe, reacted the same way.
Item: Last month the bishops of the Church of England took a break from draping their churches with Gay Pride flags and holding welcome dinners for illegal aliens to issue a pronouncement about pronouns — God's pronouns. A pronouncement about pronouns … Hey, you think podcasting is easy?
The idea is to remove "gendered language" from scripture, liturgy, prayers, and hymns. "Our parent, which art in Heaven, …" something like that, I guess.
Fair enough, if the Church of England bishops can persuade all seventeen of their active congregants to go along with the change.
If they can, they might then try to get Muslims and Jews to do the same. That would be fun to watch.
Oh, and Russian Orthodox, too. In his State of the Union address February 20th, Vladmir Putin mocked the Anglican bishops quite mercilessly. Quote from Vlad:
The Anglican Church is considering a gender-neutral God. May God forgive them for they know not what they do.
It's hard to disagree; and looking back over the 20th century, in the matter of spiritual catastrophes the Russians have some expertise.
Item: The Twitter handle Birth Gauge, which tracks demographic trends, told us on Wednesday that the African nation of Niger no longer has the world's highest Total Fertility Rate. Niger's fertility, on the 2021 numbers, had dropped to 6.2 children per woman — only 4.3 in the capital city.
The new champion is Somalia, with 6.9 children per woman. I dunno; it seems to me that with fertility at that level, Somalia could get seriously overcrowded. But hey, I guess there's plenty of room in Minnesota.
07 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening, and for all your encouraging emails and donations.
Last week's podcast had a segment on the rise of political commissars in our society: People steeped in, and thoroughly committed to, the regime ideology, stationed in every unit of every organization — high school and college faculties, the military, governmental bureaucracies, the HR departments of business corporations — stationed everywhere to keep a watchful eye, ensuring that no-one employed in those organizations says or does anything contrary to the party line.
That segment brought me an email from a reader astonished that I didn't sign off the podcast with Falco's 1981 hit Der Kommissar. Why not?
Because I never heard of him or it, that's why not. Even when I was au courant with popular culture, I didn't pay much attention to Austrian rap music.
Looking it up just now, I see that a British group called After the Fire did a cover version of Der Kommissar in 1982 with most of the German lyrics translated into English.
So for signout music this week, here's a brief clip of that British version, just to give you the idea. If you listen carefully you'll hear a wee bit of the original German at twenty seconds in: the words Alles klar, Herr Kommissar? That translates as: "Is everything OK, Mr Commissar?" Which is what you say when the HR Director calls you in for a talk … except that the odds are better than two to one that your HR Director is a female.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: After the Fire, "Der Kommissar."]