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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, harpsichord & kazoo version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, ladies and gents, from your emphatically genial host John Derbyshire, here to direct your attention to some points of interest from the week's news this Labor Day weekend.
I don't have any bulletin points this week, so let's proceed straight to the commentary. First: the soiled, ragged shreds of our justice system.
02 — January 6th sentencings. Sentences were handed down on Thursday this week against two January 6th demonstrators, members of the Proud Boys group that came up seven years ago to defend conservative events and speakers from assaults by Antifa.
Joseph Biggs was sentenced to 17 years in jail; Zachary Rehl got 15 years. The charges were "seditious conspiracy," and the sentences were less than the government prosecutors asked for. The prosecutors wanted 33 years for Biggs, just 30 years for Rehl.
What did these guys do to merit such ferocious sentences? Well, Biggs removed a metal fence that police had put up for crowd control. Rehl was convicted for assaulting cops with some chemical spray, although he denies having done so.
As I record this on Friday I'm waiting for the sentence on Dominic Pezzola, another Proud Boy. He broke a window in the Capitol building. Prosecutors are asking for a mere 20-year sentence. I should have thought that breaking a window is more serious than moving a fence, but I guess these prosecutors know their job best.
[Added when archiving: Pezzola, who is 45 or 46, depending on your news source, got ten years plus three years of post-release supervision. At the same sentencing "Ethan Nordean, 32, who led the group's march on Congress on 6 January 2021, was sentenced to 18 years for a more serious seditious conspiracy charge."]
Plainly these Proud Boys are very dangerous men. Well may you tremble in horror, hearing of their dastardly deeds.
I'm being sarcastic, of course. I don't have much left in my armory but sarcasm where this January 6th farce is concerned. My outrage is all burned out.
This is January 6th 2021 we're talking about, remember. These men have been held awaiting conviction for two years and eight months in brazen defiance of the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a speedy trial. These proceedings are a jeering, cold-blooded assault on law and justice.
Oh, you want some whataboutism? I got some. Last week the city of Denver agreed to pay five million dollars to seven Black Lives Matter rioters. The rioters claimed they had been wrongly arrested for violating a curfew imposed during the violent riots of Summer 2020. Along with the cash settlement, Denver promised that it would never again enforce curfews against rioters and protesters.
So: Proud Boys, milling around in the Capitol grounds: 15- and 17-year sentences. Black Lives Matter, trashing and burning stores and throwing rocks at police: five million cash. American justice today.
As I said, my outrage at the January 6th show trials is all burned out. Mark Steyn feels the same way. I can't improve on the piece he posted August 21st at SteynOnline, when he'd been asked to comment on the recent Trump indictments.
I can't improve on Steyn — nobody can — so I'll just quote him from that August 21st piece, edited quote:
By the following morning — January 7th — I was even more steamed. Whatever the appropriate term for a legislature that passes thousand-page bills unread by any legislators, it certainly isn't a "citadel of democracy." So, in a cranky mood, I called it a "citadel of crap" …
End quote; and right, Mark.
With flagrant outrages like the January 6th prosecutions, the opening of our borders, the indictments of Donald Trump, and the establishment cover-ups of corruption by Joe Biden and his family, this is not a normal situation.
Watching that televised debate for the GOP candidates last week, for a moment I had the thought that I was watching something irrelevant; the acting-out of some formal ritual that no longer has any actual significance, from which nothing of any consequence will follow.
It was a fleeting thought that I felt ashamed of and pushed from my mind. As an American, with a strong attachment to our Constitution and our political traditions, I'm still a bit ashamed of it; but reading Mark Steyn's August 21st piece, at least I know I'm not the only one who's thought it.
03 — Worldwide stupidity on housing illegals. Another thing that happened in January 2021 was the beginning of Joe Biden's presidency, to celebrate which he threw open our nation's borders. Now, these two years and eight months later, we have around 8.6 million more illegal aliens living among us than we had before.
New York City is hosting about sixty thousand of those border-jumpers, causing great strain on the city's budget. As the numbers rise, though, the rhetoric of our politicians just gets stupider.
Both Mayor Eric Adams and state Governor Kathy Hochul are begging the federal government to grant work permits to the illegals. In fact the news sources often say "to expedite" work permits, as apparently illegal aliens have a right to work here. Who knew? We just need to be quicker at handing out those permits.
What do the mayor and the governor think will be the effect — the effect on numbers — when it becomes known out there in Venezuela, Haiti, Senegal, China, and the rest of the world that not only can you walk into the U.S.A. without penalty, you can get a job here, too? What do you think, Eric and Kathy? Will that slow down the inward flow, or speed it up? Hm?
What do they think? They don't think. They're not capable of it. I doubt the Mayor and the Governor have 150 IQ points between them.
Meanwhile the people who actually live in New York City — I mean the dwindling proportion who are citizens or legal residents of the U.S.A. — are getting restless. Staten Island, the most legacy-American of New York City's five boroughs, is actually talking secession.
No, that's not full secession from the U.S.A., nor even from New York State. They just want out of New York City, I guess in the hope that they will then have one fewer functionally retarded politicians to deal with.
United States Representative Nicole Malliotakis, whose constituency includes Staten Island (and who is one of only two Republicans representing any part of New York City in Congress), actually told a local radio station that, quote, "I think Staten Island would like to have an opportunity to self-govern." End quote.
City Councilman and native Staten Islander Joe Borelli, also a Republican, has even come up with a nifty Latin motto for the independent borough: Non sicut tu quoque. Approximate translation: "We don't like you either." That's the translation given by the New York Post, anyway. Personally I think it would be more authentic with "youse" in place of "you," but hey …
All this is in response to Mayor Adams' decision to use St John Villa Academy, a defunct parochial school in a residential neighborhood, as a shelter for 300 illegals. There have been protests all week about illegals being moved there.
It's not just New York City, of course. Citizens of Chicago were demonstrating Wednesday night over plans to house illegal aliens at the Chicago Lake Shore Hotel. ABC7 Chicago quotes one demonstrator, a black female, shouting, quote, "I don't want them there! Take them someplace else or send them back to Venezuela! I don't care where they go!" end quote.
As in New York, the Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois are pressing the feds to give work permits to the foreign scofflaws. Yeah, that'll solve the problem.
The stupidity is nationwide.
A couple of follow-ups to all that.
Number one: If you look at social media posts about these stories, the comment threads are pretty uniformly unsympathetic. "New York City, Chicago, … aren't these sanctuary cities? Didn't they vote overwhelmingly for Biden in 2020, and for congressmen and senators who favor open borders? The fools are just getting what they voted for." That's the general tone.
No disagreement from me. I do sympathize with the legacy Americans still living in those cities, though, who did not vote for Biden, or Hochul, or Pritzker, or Eric Adams, or Brandon Johnson. None of it's their fault; they are just the losers in woke America.
Number two: The stupidity isn't just nationwide, it's international.
Across the pond in the nation that was once Britain, there is a town named Huddersfield, which boasts a university. That university had an agreement to house students in a big, modern, eight- or nine-storey residential block, with over four hundred well-furnished rooms plus its own gym and cinema.
This week, just as students with tenancy contracts for the building were packing to go there for the beginning of the university's fall term, they were told their contracts had been canceled. Now they're in a panic to find alternative accommodation.
What had happened? What had happened was, Britain's Home Office had agreed with the building's owners to move illegal aliens in there instead. Sorry, students, but illegals come first, you know.
04 — The specter of 0.76 percent. That segues nicely into some news about higher education. What's going on in those ivory towers?
What's going on is, our universities and professional schools are running away from meritocracy by every means they can devise other than affirmative action, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against back in June.
Take medical schools, for example. Warren Alpert Medical School, which is the medical school of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, has withdrawn from U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings. Why? Let the dean of the school tell us. Quote:
Such quantitative rankings do not adequately capture the quality of education nor the level of support provided to students at any medical school. The rankings also do not reflect the unique foci and missions of all medical schools, instead ranking them on factors that are not equally valued by all schools. At their worst, they perpetuate a culture of rewarding the most elite and historically privileged groups.
Ah, those "elite and historically privileged groups." He talkin' 'bout you, white boy.
The dean took particular exception to the way U.S. News & World Report emphasises students' GPA and MCAT scores when calculating the rankings. (GPA is Grade Point Average; MCAT is the Medical College Admission Test.) Those scores, he tells us, quote: "do not necessarily measure holistically the qualities that will make an outstanding Brown-trained physician." End quote.
Warren Alpert isn't alone in boycotting the U.S. News & World Report. At least 13 other medical schools are doing likewise, including some big names: Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School.
So if you were concerned that the guy taking out your gall bladder in the year 2033 might belong to one of those "elite and historically privileged groups," set your mind at rest.
Law schools likewise. Back in July the American Association of Law Schools actually hosted a conference on how the schools could achieve diversity without using race quotas.
One way not to do it, they were told, was to use socioeconomic preferences in admissions; that is, giving preference to applicants from poor families. Apparently that will result in too many white and Asian students being admitted. The bell curves for poor kids look just like the ones for rich kids. Who'd have thought it?
The specter haunting all these discussions, all these twistings and squirmings to find a way round the Supreme Court ruling, is the specter of 0.76 percent. That was the proportion of blacks in the top one-tenth of Harvard applicants ranked by academic record, as found by Professor Arcidiacono when he crunched the numbers for SCOTUS.
Since that top one-tenth of applicants is about all that Harvard accepts, on a rigidly meritocratic basis 0.76 percent would be the proportion of blacks in a Harvard freshman class — about one in 132. Some similar proportion would be the case for any serious academic institution. The colleges are not going to let that happen.
Most disturbing of all in this clutch of stories, at any rate on a first reading, was one about Caltech, California Institute of Technology.
If you follow this topic at all you will likely have seen the graph Ron Unz produced for his classic 2012 article The Myth of American Meritocracy.
The bottom axis of the graph is just years, from 1990 to 2011. The vertical axis shows percentage of Asian students enrolled, and there are different-colored lines across the graph for Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Penn, and CalTech. There's also a separate line, a dotted line, for the percentage of Asians in the college-age population at large.
That dotted line, percentage of Asians in the college-age population, of course rises, from a bit over 20 percent in 1990 to well over 40 percent in 2011. The line for Asian students at Caltech rises with it, so Caltech was just accepting more Asian students as more became available.
[Added when archiving: I should have stopped and thought before I spoke there. A listener sets me straight:
The lines for the other colleges, though, flattened out in the range 15 to 18 percent, and stayed clustered there. By 2011, with Asians over 40 percent of college-age people in the U.S.A. they were stuck at 15, 16, 17 percent of entrants to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.
So Harvard and the rest had all agreed on a quota for Asians; only Caltech was sticking with meritocracy.
But yesterday, August 31st, CalTech announced that it will drop admission requirements for calculus, physics and chemistry courses for students who don't have access to them and offer alternative paths to prove mastery of the material.
I'm just quoting there from a Los Angeles Times headline. It looks from the headline as though CalTech is taking a step back from meritocracy, but things may not be that bad. Here's a quote from the text of L.A. Times piece, quote:
Federal data for 2017-18 showed that only 65 percent of public high schools offered calculus that school year. Access to calculus was more limited in large cities and rural areas, where just over half of public schools offered the course. By contrast, 83 percent of high schools in large suburban areas offered calculus.
Wow. I didn't realise calculus is that … suburban.
But yes; if you're born in the wrong place you won't get high school calculus and won't be eligible to apply to CalTech. That's unfair to smart kids born in the wrong place. CalTech is apparently working with Khan Academy and other tutoring services to develop certification exams; so I guess admission will still be fundamentally meritocratic.
I hope so, anyway. With Ron Unz's graph in mind, for CalTech to stop being the meritocratic standout would be heartbreaking.
05 — India casts down its bucket. I've always had a soft spot for Booker T. Washington; partly because he was a sensible and useful citizen, partly because he kept a summer house in the Long Island town I live in, but mostly because he was the guy who said: "Cast down your bucket where you are."
It's a very apt riposte when someone tells you, as immigration boosters tell us all the time, that we just don't have enough people to do all the work that needs to be done; we need to bring in more workers! … As opposed, of course, to just offering better wages to the workers we have.
That wasn't precisely the sense in which Washington used the sentence back in 1895, although he touches on, quote, "the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits," end quote. It's good instruction none the less, and I'm always glad to see actual illustrations of it.
And here one came. Wednesday this week India landed a robotic spacecraft on the moon — at the Moon's South Pole, where no nation ever landed a spaceraft before. The spacecraft consists of a lander named Vikram and a rover named Pragyan. The rover has already been deployed and has sent back pictures of the lander.
So well done there, India, now the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon. What does this have to do with Booker T. Washington, though?
Well, as space projects go, this one was remarkably cheap. It cost only $74 million, less than the cost of the movie Barbie. The scientists and engineers who made it happen are all Indian, and they are not terrifically well paid.
The Washington Post compares the project's lead scientist, Sreedhara Somanath, with Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft. Nadella, born in Hyderabad, emigrated to the U.S.A. in his early twenties; Somanath stayed home in India. Quote from the Post, August 31st, quote:
It's the low-key Somanath, under whose leadership India achieved its historic moon landing, who should be a role model for Indians. He represents a generation of gifted scientists who chose not to emigrate — and achieved just as much, if not more, in challenging circumstances.
The Indians cast down their bucket where they are, and now they've landed a spacecraft on the Moon. Once again, India: Well done!
Further down the Washington Post story we read about the IIT, the Indian Institutes of Technology — collectively India's equivalent of CalTech. Quote:
One-third of all IIT graduates leave the country to live and work abroad — most of them in the United States. Indians today are cheering on those who choose to stay and achieve miracles at home.
I'm cheering along with them. I'd cheer a lot louder if my own country, the U.S.A., would follow India's example and cast down our bucket where we are, rather than strip-mining talent from poorer nations.
06 — East of Suez. On a different front, India is vexed.
This is the diplomatic front. Last week in Johannesburg, South Africa was held the annual summit of the BRICS nations. That's B-R-I-C-S, standing for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. These style themselves the "major emerging economies" and their leaders meet every year to discuss matters of common interest, whatever they may be.
This was the fifteenth BRICS summit. One of the decisions out of it was membership for six new member nations as of January next year. The six new members will be Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates; so B-R-I-C-S will become B-R-I-C-S-A-E-E-I-S-U. If you can get something pronouncable out of that, you're a better man than I am.
That's by-the-by. Here's what vexed India. As you probably know, there are some areas up in the high Himalayas whose sovereignty is disputed between China and India. Every once in a while there's a skirmish up there, with a few dead on both sides. There was one of these skirmishes just last December.
At last week's BRICS meeting it was reported that India and China were working on resolving this issue once and for all. That certainly seems to be the impression that Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, came away with.
Then, this week, China published a new set of official maps. They showed the disputed Himalayan regions as Chinese. And the Indians are vexed.
Whether this was a deliberate insult or just crossed wires in the ChiCom bureaucracy, we cannot know. It is a long-known fact, though, that the Chinese are clumsy at diplomacy. I had some fun with that in my novel Fire from the Sun, Chapter 43.
And speaking of China, Stephen Mosher had a good piece in the New York Post last weekend, headline "China's third 'opium war' against the West."
Without shipments of the chemical precursors to fentanyl the production of the opiate in cartel-run labs would grind to a halt. And without the ability to launder billions of dollars, the cartels would be drowning in hard-to-hide cash, their money neither portable nor investable.
End quote. So … why?
Mosher works through a number of reasons, one of them being, quote:
The current rulers of China are engaged in a Third Opium War, a long-overdue revenge for the First and Second Opium Wars (1839 and 1860), in which British warships attacked Chinese ports and demanded at gunpoint that the tottering Qing dynasty allow the sale of opium.
Yeah, yeah. There's much more to be said about the Opium Wars than that. I said some of it in my 2007 review of Harry Gelber's book The Dragon and the Foreign Devils Quote from me:
The Opium War of 1840-43 was the first of the great humiliations inflicted on China by foreign powers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Chinese are still in denial about that war today, insisting that the sole cause of it was British determination to force opium on an unwilling China. Certainly the British were glad to meet China's great demand for opium. Why not? The drug was legal in Britain itself, and could be purchased over the counter from apothecaries until the 1868 Pharmacy Act. The true cause of the war was again, as John Quincy Adams noted at the time, the refusal of the imperial court to deal with foreign nations on rational terms.
Chinese diplomatic skills haven't improved any in the last 180 years, as this spat with India illustrates. If the Indians are hoping for something conciliatory, my advice would be: don't hold your breath.
So far as Chinese diplomats are concerned, the first rule now, as back then, is that every bad thing that happens is the fault of the foreign devils.
07 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I'm glad to give Donald Trump credit where credit's due: that mugshot of him scowling into the camera at Fulton County jail was a brilliant move.
Politico reported last Saturday that shirts, posters, bumper stickers and beverage coolers bearing images of the mugshot have been selling briskly at prices from twelve to thirty-four dollars.
These merchandise sales have contributed mightily to a surge in contributions to Trump's political campaign. Just last Friday he raised over four million dollars, making it the single-highest 24-hour period of his campaign to date.
The victimization of Trump by communist prosecutors has been a bonanza altogether for his campaign finances. Following his first indictment back in March by Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg the campaign pulled in five million dollars in the first 48 hours.
Trump's poll numbers are up, his campaign finances are up. Multiple indictments looks like a really good campaign strategy. There's a sentence that's never been uttered before.
The brain freeze, the Senate minority leader's second in the past two months, occurred when he was being asked how he felt about running for re-election in 2026.
Given the guy's condition, I think a more pertinent issue is: How do the voters of Kentucky feel about him representing them for another three-and-a-third years?
Item: Over in London, last Sunday and Monday were the days of the Notting Hill Carnival, a festival of Caribbean culture held in the Notting Hill area of London.
"Notting Hill Chimp-out" would be a better name for the thing. Local homeowners and storekeepers board up their properties and go away for the weekend; cops get overtime pay; and, to quote the New York Post, quote:
violent riots and vicious attacks plagued the festivities, leaving eight people stabbed as a 29-year-old man remains in critical condition.
There were 275 arrests altogether, for possession of weapons, assaults on police officers, drug possession, and sexual offenses. That's an average butcher's bill for the festival.
Ah, Caribbean culture! How dull, damp, boring old Britain has been enriched by it!
Item: Say what you like about Africa, but it's a great place for personal names I find hard to forget. I'm still mourning the loss of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, first Prime Minister of independent Nigeria, last seen lying face down in a ditch outside Lagos following a political disagreement, and the Reverend Canaan Banana, first president of independent Zimbabwe.
Well, here's another one: Ali Bongo, President of Gabon until this week, when he was overthrown in a coup. Mr Bongo's family have ruled Gabon for 56 years.
Now he's under house arrest in the Gabonese capital Libreville. I imagine he has a lot of time on his hands. If he doesn't mind unsolicited advice from a well-wisher, I suggest Ali Bongo fends off boredom by practicing his drum technique.
Item: We immigration commentators are always interested to learn how other nations control their borders.
Saudi Arabia, for example: a wealthy, stable nation just a short journey from a lot of extremely poor, highly un-stable nations. How do the Saudis deal with unauthorized border-crossers?
They shoot them, sometimes torturing them first. So at any rate says Human Rights Watch, which issued a report on Monday under the title "They Fired On Us Like Rain."
That title comes from the way one informant, a 20-year-old woman from Ethiopia, described the Saudis' way of dealing with a group of migrants they had just released from custody.
The Saudis are denying everything, but the report comes with some gruesome photographic evidence. And of course they wouldn't be the only nation in that region shooting border-jumpers … I'm sorry: I mean of course "asylum seekers."
The Israelis do it too, with good reason; and I wouldn't inquire too closely about the border-control tactics of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, …
It's a rough neighborhood, the Middle East.
Item: My apologies to Mr Ramaswamy; I've been pronouncing his given name all wrong. It's not VEE-vek, it's Vi-VAYK.
And yes, Sir, I am available should you become president and find yourself in need of speechwriters. I can be reached via the offices of VDARE.com.
On a different point of pronunciation, I've been getting some email mockery for the way I pronounced "y'all" in last week's podcast.
It's not "yawl," the emailers are telling me, it's more like "yuh-all." I think that's what they're telling me. Who knew that pronouns could be so much trouble?
08 — Signoff. That's it, yuh-all. Thank you for your time and attention, and I wish everyone a peaceful and relaxed Labor Day with family and friends.
For signout music, something way off the beaten track: a consort song. This was a musical genre popular in Elizabethan England in the later 16th century. It featured a human voice accompanied by an instrumental ensemble, usually of stringed instruments.
Here's a consort song by Nathaniel Patrick, who was the organist at Worcester Cathedral in the 1590s. The voice here belongs to English mezzo Catherine King; the strings are those of the Rose Consort. The lyrics — which may have some political relevance; I shall leave you to ponder that for yourselves — go as follows (with many repetitions):
Climb not too high for fear thou catch a fall.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Catherine King & the Rose Consort, "Climb not too high."]