»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, January 12th, 2024


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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1, organ version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your amicably genial host John Derbyshire. That was Franz Joseph Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1 to play us in, and I shall have another Haydn snippet to play us out.

This week's podcast is somewhat … academic and technical. I make no apology for that. I try my best to keep up with politics but sometimes I just get politics fatigue and want to talk about other things — cultural and social issues only indirectly connected to politics.

For example …


02 — A heroine for our time.     I'm not sure what the etiquette is for a podcaster borrowing clips from another podcaster, but here's where I shall find out.

The other podcaster I'm going to plagiarize here is Richard Hanania, whose book The Origins of Woke came out last year to much swooning and pearl-clutching from Establishment reviewers. Hanania posted a handful of pieces here at VDARE.com fourteen years ago under the pseudonym "Richard Hoste."

Hanania's December 28th podcast was given over to an interview he did with Professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prof. Wax had reviewed Hanania's book for the American Conservative, not unkindly, and that's what prompted the interview.

Followers of VDARE.com will be familiar with Prof. Wax. She has never posted at VDARE, but we have posted plenty of commentary on her: "about 146 results" said Google when I did a site search on her name. Some of those VDARE posts about her were written by your genial host here, the longest I think a 2,000-worder I posted following some comments Prof. Wax made about immigration at the 2019 National Conservatism conference in Washington, D.C.

My acquaintance with Prof. Wax goes back further than that: nine years further back. In April 2010 we were both panelists in a discussion held at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the subject of the discussion being a book she had just published. You can read all about that at my own website under "Opinions / Human Sciences."

So I've known Amy Wax for some years. The first thing to be said about her is that she is a very smart person indeed, IQ I would guess up around four standard deviations from the mean, perhaps 160.

She started her academic career with a master's degree in philosophy from Oxford University at age 23. From there she switched to biology, getting a Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard at age 28 — cum laude. The final year of that degree she had also been studying at Harvard Law School, graduating J.D. at age 34, working as a consultant neurologist while completing her legal studies. In her late thirties she was arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Smart? Oh yeah. And that, of course, is what you'd want in an Ivy League academic.

While it may be what you or I would want, though, it's not what Ivy League administrators want in the 2020s. What they want today is someone who'll sing along with the Diversity chorus, even if the singer's IQ is only room temperature. They want Claudine Gay.

So Prof. Wax has been in trouble with the University of Pennsylvania administrators for speaking honestly and openly about race, culture, immigration, and related topics. They've been struggling mightily to get her fired. That's not easy in the case of a tenured professor, but they're determined.

They've been subjecting her to the same kind of expensive, time-consuming lawfare we here at VDARE have undergone at the hands of New York State Attorney General Letitia James, and for the same reasons. Prof. Wax holds heterodox opinions, opinions at odds with ruling class ideology, and voices them publicly, fearlessly. That cannot be permitted.

And yes, here's another striking thing about Prof. Wax: not only is she supernaturally smart, she's also fearless.

Back in 2021 she invited our friend and occasional contributor Jared Taylor to be the featured guest speaker to her Law School class on "Conservative and Political Legal Thought." She also took him as a guest to lunch with her students at the law school cafeteria. The university authorities reacted by ramping up their lawfare against her and making it ever more plain that they were determined to fire her, tenure or no tenure.

In defiance of that, Prof. Wax last November invited Jared Taylor again to address her class. Here's a quote from Jared's account of the event. Quote:

The class itself — a one-hour-and-45-minute seminar — went smoothly. I explained race realism and white advocacy to an intelligent and sometimes critical group of students who, so far as I could tell, showed no signs of feeling "debased" or "unsafe."

By the time the class was over, 70 or 80 people had gathered in the hall. They jeered and hooted as each student left the room. This was disgusting. Demonstrators were welcome to bellow at me or at Prof. Wax, but it is contemptible for students to try to humiliate fellow students for going to class.

Prof. Wax and I were the last to leave and were rewarded with a spirited chorus of banality: "One, two, three, four, Amy Wax, there's the door. Fix, six, seven, eight, Penn Law tolerates hate."

Most people would have scurried down the corridor away from the crowd. Not Amy Wax. I wish I had a video of what happened next. She took out her cellphone camera, and walked right up to screaming protestor after screaming protester, taking pictures of their faces and the signs they were holding. She walked from one end of the group to the other and back again, no more than a foot or two away from people howling for her head. I smiled and waved at the crowd until Prof. Wax returned to my side and we walked back to her office.

End quote.

So: not only brilliant, but brave — fearless!

You may have gathered by this point that I regard Amy Wax with an attitude not far removed from hero worship. In fact I would say not removed at all: I regard Prof. Wax as a hero for our time … although I guess that should be "heroine." She is a true dissident, valiant for truth, in the mold of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Liu Xiaobo.

That's what got me listening to her interview at Richard Hanania's podcast, the podcast I started off this segment by mentioning.

The whole podcast is an hour and twenty minutes, so if you're not as devout an Amy Wax groupie as I am you won't want to listen all the way through. Here's just a two-minute snippet I particularly liked. It starts at one hour, five minutes, fifty-eight seconds in.

[Clip.]  The one thing I will say though, is that in dealing with the Penn administration for the last couple of years with these charges against me, I cannot tell you what a clown car — and here I'm borrowing your expression — what a clown car Penn is, all right? It is run by a bunch of midwit gynocrats. These people are as intellectually mediocre and undistinguished as you could possibly imagine. All right? I mean, the notion that they care about consistency or coherence or, you know, objectivity, principles, that's a joke. They don't care. It's all about spin. It's all about PR.

Let me tell you a short anecdote that just sums it up. Okay?

When my lawyer, David, was dealing with the general counsel's office trying to get a settlement in my case, which wasn't going to happen because I wasn't going to accept any penalty of any kind, David said: "You know, we will take you to court and we will challenge any penalty and then we'll have the subpoena power and we'll be able to show that the dean lied about this and that you've been inconsistent about that and all that dirty laundry will come out."

And the general counsel, the guy in the office said: "You don't understand, we don't care about any of that stuff. We don't. We could be shown to be hypocrites, liars, you know, fools. We will get past it. All we care about is the students apply and the money rolls in."

And when they say the money rolls in, they mean federal money. That's where they get most of their money. He said, and as long as those two things happen, we're good. And that is the attitude of the Ivies. And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

"Midwit gynocrats" — I love that! And of course, a great deal of what's wrong with higher education in our country, and with the Ivies in particular — some of it illustrated by the Claudine Gay fiasco at Harvard — a great deal of it is encapsulated in that two-minute clip of Amy Wax speaking. "Midwit gynocrats": that's who's in charge.

Can these institutions be saved? I doubt it. If I were to attain total power in these United States, I would issue a notice to all personnel at Ivy League universities to evacuate their premises within 48 hours. That done, I would send in the U.S. Air Force to bomb those premises to rubble. That done, I would call in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plough the rubble under and sow the ground with salt.

A completely fresh start, that's what's needed …


03 — Academic rigor, academic envy.     Having mentioned Harvard ex-President Claudine Gay, there, I should note a new report, posted January 4th in City Journal, that, even setting the plagiarism issue aside, Claudine Gay's published research is seriously shoddy.

The report here is in the form of an interview by Christopher Rufo, whose name you probably know. The interviewee, whose name you almost certainly don't know — I didn't — is Jonatan Pallesen, a Danish data scientist who has a Ph.D. in statistical genomics from Aarhus University, who has served as a visiting researcher at University of California, Berkeley, and who is now a lead data scientist for Dansk Industri, the Danish trade association.

Dr Pallesen gets technical pretty quickly — correlation versus causation, ecological inference, dichotomized variables, … and so on. Executive summary: Claudine Gay's reasoning is dubious and she has, in key cases, not made her data public for proper peer review. Dr Pallesen also notes, as I did last week, that, quote from him: "her scientific output for tenure was thin." End quote.

How does she get away with it? We know, of course, but Dr Pallesen spells it out for us anyway. Quote:

There is a high level of bias within the scientific community, with a vast majority of researchers having left-leaning political views. Research that aligns with woke claims tends to find easier acceptance. It is quite extreme when you think about the edge cases. Claudine Gay does research that is simultaneously plagiarized, p-hacked, and based on an obviously flawed approach, and gets promoted to president of Harvard. Meanwhile, non-woke white male researchers, such as Bo Winegard, do meticulous research and are fired.

End quote.

This kind of squishiness touches on a long-standing tension within the academy between hard and soft sciences. Hard sciences are those like physics, chemistry, biology, engineering — sciences that are supported by rigorous mathematics.

Soft sciences on the other hand — the social and human sciences — don't make much use of tensor calculus or Fourier transforms. Their math is mainly statistical, with much more room for manipulation and error; and even that math is being applied by persons of a not-very-mathy temperament.

My favorite science vlogger, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, was chewing over this the other day on X. Sample quote:

You may have heard of "physics envy." It's when people in "softer" disciplines like maybe psychology or sociology try and use methods of physics that are inadequate to small datasets beset with large uncertainties. A common consequence is that correlations are read into data that's really just noise.

End quote.

Yep, "physics envy": the envy that psychologists, sociologists, and the rest of the "soft science" researchers feel because they can't duplicate the rigor and certainty of the "hard" sciences like physics.

Dr Hossenfelder points out that envy works the other way, too. Physicists like herself think that researchers in the "soft" sciences work less hard than they do for the same academic rewards, and get away with more sloppiness. She refers to these suspicions in the heads of physicists, biologists, and other "hard" scientists as "soft science envy."

See? Academic envy works in both directions.

Hmm. There's a lot to be said there — about climate science, for example. Is it "hard" or "soft"? This and other issues are worked over in a long comment thread to Dr Hossenfelder's tweet, which I'll leave interested listeners to check for yourselves.

I'll just note that as wokeness seeps into every nook and cranny of the academy, the hard sciences are getting softer. There was a very striking example of this reported at the Daily Caller, January 10th.

Rice University, a prestigious institution in Texas — the one where our own Steve Sailer (pre-order his book!) did his undergraduate studies — is offering a course on "Afrochemistry," starting this semester.

The course, which runs from January 8th to April 19th, quote: "seeks to address 'inequities in chemistry and chemical education.'" End quote. Here's another snippet from the course prospectus, quote:

Students will apply chemical tools and analysis to understand Black life in the U.S. and students will implement African American sensibilities to analyze chemistry.

End quote.

There is no final exam, so I'm not sure how students will be graded — by the darkness of their skin, perhaps.


04 — Mirage tech.     Having gotten some way into the weeds there on "soft" versus "hard" sciences, I should note that the "hard" sciences have some murky borderlands of their own. There is, for instance, the matter of Mirage Tech.

That's how I've been thinking of it for decades, Mirage Tech. I really should have copyrighted the term, though; Google tells me there is a firm with that name making athletic footwear, and another firm, now extinct, that developed video games back in the nineties under the banner "Mirage Technologies."

Lesson learned. If you come up with a nifty phrase that someone might use as a company name, get it copyrighted. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Anyway, here's what I mean by "mirage tech."

Way back in my high school years, early 1960s, I was a science geek: a keen reader of Scientific American — way before it descended into wokeness, of course — and its British equivalent New Scientist, the pop-science books and essays of Isaac Asimov, and anything else science-y that I could get my hands on in a small pre-internet provincial English town.

Very much in the air at that time was the topic of fusion power — generating electric power in quantity by nuclear fusion, the way the Sun keeps itself hot and bright. Everyone was working on it: the Brits, the Yanks, the Russians, … it would solve all the power-generation problems of the human race for ever!

If you had told me — or for that matter any of those British, American, and Russian researchers — if you had told us that 60-plus years in the future, fusion power would be as far from realization as ever, you'd have been laughed out of the room.

That is the case, though. So far as I can figure, fusion power research is stuck pretty much at where it was in the Kennedy administration.

That's what I mean by my phrase "mirage tech": a technological miracle with huge transformative implications for humanity, that lingers flickering on the horizon like a mirage, but that just recedes when you try to approach it, staying forever away there on the horizon.

The mirage tech of our own time may be quantum computing — and yes, of course I know I am not the first person to draw the analogy with fusion power.

Twenty years ago I was doing a promotional tour for a math book I had written. My hosts at one midwestern university were a math professor and a physics professor. The physics guy, it turned out, was working on quantum computing, which I had already heard being talked about in the science press for several years. I asked him how his work was going.

"Pretty good," he replied. "We just recently got it to multiply seven by three."

Had it got the right answer? I asked. He assured me that it had.

It wouldn't be correct to say that quantum computing has come nowhere in the twenty years since that encounter. That's been twenty years of very intensive research, with the promise that quantum computers may be able to do things that 20th-century computers just can't do — crack advanced encryption codes, for example.

You can actually buy a quantum computer today: several vendors will be glad to sell you one, including old grandaddy IBM. How much do they cost? According to the QuantumZeitgeist website, posting last August, quote:

The average R&D cost for a small-scale quantum computer can range from $10 to $15 million.

End quote.

And that sucker won't be limited to multiplying seven by three: I bet it can multiply four-digit numbers by now.

So yes: quantum computing may be another mirage tech, for ever flickering away there on the technological horizon.

Here are a couple of relevant data points from the news.

First: Reuters reported on January 3rd that Baidu, which is China's giant e-commerce and data services provider, is getting out of quantum computing development. Baidu is actually donating its big quantum computing lab and all its equipment to the Beijing Academy of Quantum Information Sciences.

This follows a similar move last November by Alibaba, another Chinese data-services behemoth. Alibaba donated its lab and equipment to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. Note please that both the recipients here, Beijing Academy and Zhejiang University, are tightly controlled by the ChiCom government.

That's led to much speculation. Were the two commercial enterprises here, Baidu and Alibaba, were they leaned on by the government to hand over their quantum-computing expertise because there's the possibility of a breakthrough in the research and the ChiComs want firm government control of it? Or was the research going nowhere much, so that Baidu and Alibaba were glad to dump it on dumb academic bureaucrats? Or something of both?

I don't know. If any Radio Derb listeners have insights on this, I'd be glad to hear them.

I can't resist here returning to the fascinating Sabine Hossenfelder, who had relevant things to say in her YouTube vlog this week. This video's only six and a half minutes long, so you may want to watch the whole thing.

Main point: It may be that anything a quantum computer can do, sufficiently advanced AI — Artificial Intelligence — can do better. Continued research on quantum computing is therefore pointless.

That's not Sabine's idle opinion, either. She quotes Yann LeCun, who is the chief AI scientist at Meta, no less. He says that the practical relevance of quantum computing is unclear, that quantum computing has, quote, "got such a long time horizon that it's irrelevant," end quote, to what he's doing at Meta, and that, quote:

The number of problems you can solve with quantum computing, you can solve way more efficiently with classical computers.

End quote.

So, quantum computing or AI: place your bets … bearing in mind, please, that what researchers call AGI, Artificial General Intelligence — which is to say machine intelligence at the human level — may be just another Mirage Tech.


05 — Bye-bye, Boomer Tech.     And then there's Boomer Tech, if you need something else to worry about: tech developed by Boomers decades ago that's showing its age.

Consider for example our nation's nuclear deterrent triad. If you never heard of the triad, you have company: at a GOP candidates' debate in December 2015 it was all too clear that candidate Donald Trump had never heard about it either.

The triad, which is the foundation of our deterrence against nuclear attack, is our ability to deliver our own nukes either by firing them from ground-based silos, or by firing them from submarines, or by delivering them with planes. Those are the three so-called "legs" of the triad.

The whole triad was set up in the middle and later twentieth century by, yes, Boomers. Most of those Boomers have now retired, and their replacements have been educated and trained in a different technological environment.

So … might the three legs of the triad, like the legs of many Boomers, have developed aches and pains? Will the triad still work as advertised? Most to the point: Will it work against nations with newer, shinier nukes and delivery systems?

Here's something on the land-based leg. This is actually from a report at Military.com dated three years ago, January 2021. My guess is it's still pertinent — quite probably, given what we know about the Biden administration's approach to defense issues, more pertinent. Longish quote:

The aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles that have formed the land-based leg of the nation's nuclear deterrent triad for half a century can no longer be upgraded and require costly replacements, Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said Tuesday.

[Inner quote.]  "Let me be very clear: You cannot life-extend the Minuteman III [any longer]," [end inner quote] he said of the 400 ICBMs that sit in underground silos across five states in the upper Midwest.

[Inner quote.]  "We can't do it at all … That thing is so old that, in some cases, the drawings don't exist anymore [to guide upgrades]," [end inner quote] Richard said in a Zoom conference sponsored by the Defense Writers Group.

Where the drawings do exist, "they're like six generations behind the industry standard," he said, adding that there are also no technicians who fully understand them. [Inner quote.]  "They're not alive anymore." [End inner quote.]

End quote.

That's just the land leg, mind. The third leg, nukes delivered by plane, comprises twenty B-2 stealth bombers, first in service thirty years ago, and forty-six B-52 bombers, first in service, uh, sixty-nine years ago.

No doubt many improvements and enhancements have been made. The fact is plain, though, that our nuclear deterrence rests on a solid base of Boomer tech. And the Boomers are fading away.

I wonder, in fact, if there isn't an issue of supply and demand. Those Boomer techies now heading to the retirement home were, in the first place, plentiful. That's why they're called Boomers; from the Baby Boom of the mid-20th century. U.S. fertility has been declining since 1960.

They may have been more technically adept, too. In Britain and the U.S.A. fifty — even forty — years ago, a very common sight on a Saturday morning in the suburbs was young men in their driveways tinkering with cars, often two or three of them together working on one car. Walking my dog Saturday mornings in the 21st century, I have rarely seen that.

There's a selection issue, too. Quote from my last November Diary, quote: "Like 'em or not, Aspergery low-empathy geeks form a disproportionately large subset of those who make big and important things happen." End quote.

I'm pretty sure that with modern methods of education and job selection, we've been running out of Aspergery low-empathy geeks even faster than we've been running out of out of newborn human beings in general.

So yeah, something else to worry about there with aging Boomer tech.

There is a slight upside for Boomers and Silents like myself. Here's a report in PC Magazine, last December 1st. Headline: The World Depends on 60-Year-Old Code No One Knows Anymore. Sample text, quote:

Every day, 3 trillion dollars worth of transactions are handled by a 64-year-old programming language that hardly anybody knows anymore.

It's called COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), and despite the fact that most schools and universities stopped teaching it decades ago, it remains one of the top mainframe programming languages used today, especially in industries like banking, automotive, insurance, government, healthcare, and finance. According to the International Journal of Advanced Research in Science, Communication and Technology (IJARSCT), 43 percent of all banking systems are still using COBOL, which handles those $3 trillion daily transactions, including 95 percent of all ATM activity in the US, and 80 percent of all in-person credit card transactions.

End quote.

That warms the cockles of my heart. I spent thirty years as a mainframe programmer, COBOL one of my main coding languages. So apparently I am still employable. Good to know …


06 — Miscellany.     And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.

Imprimis:  January 21st, nine days from now, marks the centenary of Lenin's death on January 21st 1924. I shall be interested to see if this is much acknowledged in, for example, communist China. I was actually living in China in March 1983 when the centenary of Karl Marx's death came round; the ChiComs made a big deal of it.

Lenin was the founder of modern totalitarianism, for which I think he can be fairly reckoned the most evil figure of the twentieth century. I wrote about him at considerable length in my April 2021 Diary.

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell actually met Lenin in 1920 and had a one-hour chat with him. (Lenin spoke good English.) Russell recorded the meeting in his autobiography, quote:

Lenin, with whom I had an hour's conversation, rather disappointed me. I do not think that I should have guessed him to be a great man, but in the course of our conversation I was chiefly conscious of his intellectual limitations, and his rather narrow Marxian orthodoxy, as well as a distinct vein of impish cruelty.

End quote.


Item:  It's as plain as it can be that our ruling class regards illegal aliens with more tender concern than they regard us citizens. I noted last week the State of California granting free healthcare to illegals. I don't have free healhcare. Do you?

Here's a couple of other examples. The town of Brunswick in the State of Maine has this week started moving illegals into a new apartment block built for just that purpose.

These are nice apartments, too: sixty one- or two-bedrooms each in an attractive block at the edge of town that Brunswick spent three and a half million dollars building. I guess the State of Maine has no homeless citizens.

And then, when New York City was threatened with a storm on Tuesday, the Mayor worried that a tent shelter set up to house illegals in Brooklyn might blow away in the storm. He therefore bused the several hundred illegals from the shelter to a public school five miles away. The illegals were packed into the school gym for several hours.

What about the kids attending the school? Oh, they were sent home. This is America: illegal aliens come first, citizens last.


Item:  In last week's podcast I threw some cold water on the idea of mass deportation of illegal aliens. A mass deportation program would, I said, quote: "be a feast for immigration and human-rights lawyers, with endless ways to block or thwart removals," end quote.

By way of illustrating that theme, here's a story from across the Pond.

Thirty-year-old Clirim Kukaj is ethnically Albanian, but he was born and brought up in Serbia. He entered Britain illegally at age thirteen, seventeen years ago. He's been living there ever since with Albanian relatives.

In 2020 he was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months in jail for illegal cannabis farming. He was told he'd be deported to his native country at the end of his sentence. Mr Kukaj got himself some human-rights lawyers, and the appeals began.

One of those appeals has now succeeded; Mr Kukaj has been granted permission to stay in the U.K.

On what grounds? The guy's native country is Serbia. He claims, however, that he has forgotten how to speak Serbian after all these years speaking English and Albanian. To deport him to a country whose language he doesn't speak, would violate his human rights.

An immigration tribunal agreed. Mr Kukaj will not be deported.

That's the kind of thing I was warning about last week: bizarre "human rights" provisions and soft-headed judges combining to thwart deportations.

You may say: "Sure, but that's Britain. They've long since lost their senses. No American court would ever grant such a stupid appeal."

If you do say that, I can only envy your optimism.


Item:  Let me just preface this item, with absolutely no offensive intention at all, by telling American listeners that what in this country used to be called a Polish joke, in England was known as an Irish joke.

Sample, in the English version: A asks B — Do you think 180 is a high IQ?  B replies — 180? Sure. A — What, for the whole of Ireland? [Drum roll.]

In today's exaggerated snowflake sensibilities that whole genre of humor, based on the notion that some countries are full of dumb people, is out of court, in some jurisdictions quite possibly illegal; but I was still being told Polish jokes as late as ten years ago, and I bet English people were still telling Irish jokes in the same spirit, with no ill intentions in either case.

OK, here's a story from 2009. It's a genuine news story. You may have heard it, but I hadn't, and I can't resist telling it.

Police in the Republic of Ireland were hunting for the country's worst driver. He'd been booked all over Ireland for speeding tickets and parking fines; but he'd evaded justice every time by giving the officer a different address.

The name on his license was Prawo Jazdy, and a nationwide hunt for him commenced …

… until someone pointed out that Prawo Jazdy is not a name at all; it's the Polish for "driver's license." Polish people are Ireland's second-biggest immigrant group.


07 — Signoff.     That's all I have this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your time and attention, for your emails and donations, and most especially for the many expressions of concern I've had over my recent hospitalization. I'm on the mend and am told I shall be fully mobile in a few weeks.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.


[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]