»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, February 9th, 2024

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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, progressive metal version version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your self-effacingly genial host John Derbyshire.

The intro there was Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2 in a musical style called "progressive metal." Every time I use the clip I make a point of telling listeners that the word "progressive" there is purely a term of musical art, nothing to do with cat ladies and neckbeard guys screeching about racism and transphobia. Rest assured, Radio Derb remains a bastion of reactionary normality.

Following last week's podcast my email inbox received some murmurings, all of them polite and often amused, that baby Michael, our two-year-old grandson, could be heard squealing in the background as I spoke.

The infant was of course in no real distress. He was only objecting to being put to bed somewhat earlier than usual.

And for future reference I should explain that I am now recording the show in my downstairs study. The upstairs one is much quieter and more suitable for recording; but it's up two flights of stairs, which I've had trouble negotiating while on crutches.

So until my broken ankle is healed you may expect some household noises in the deep background. I'm not going to apologize for them as some listeners have told me they add a touch of domestic charm to the show.

However, if, while the mike is live, Mrs Derbyshire takes loud and angry exception to something I've done — or more likely failed to do — or Basil and Mimi get into a growling-and-hissing fight here in the study, I shall spare you those unpleasantnesses.

In the deep background this week you may hear food preparation noises — the clatter of pots and pans, perhaps. That's because this evening, February 9th, is Chinese New Year's Eve, so there is some serious food prep to be done. Our own banquet with family and friends will actually be tomorrow, but the preparation is already under way.

To mark the festival, let me do a segment on China.

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02 — China-watching notes.     China, yes. Listeners sometimes ask why I don't do more commentary on China. I'm an Old China Hand, aren't I?

Eh, only at an amateur level. In my career I've engaged with real Old China Hands: ex-diplomats, scholars, seasoned business people, and so on. They are the pros.

They're not always right, mind. Back in my book-reviewing days I reviewed Gordon Chang's deeply pessimistic book The Coming Collapse of China for the Washington Times. I noted in my review that, quote:

Gordon Chang is not an academic, but a practical man who has lived and worked in China for twenty years as an advisor to American firms. He was raised in a Chinese household; his father was born in China; he knows the country very well.

End quote.

A real Old China Hand, in other words — a genuine pro. But … the date on that review? August 12th, 2001.

I am not being facetious here, and I am certainly not trying to mock Gordon Chang. He has written or co-written at least four more books about China and is still doing China commentary, often on TV. When he shows up on my TV screen I listen to him attentively.

I just want to make the point that China-watching is not arithmetic. It's not even vector calculus. It's … something different.

And yes: if not a pro, I'm pretty well acquainted with China at that amateur level. I've been engaged with the country and its people for more than half a century, since landing at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport in July 1971, a few weeks ahead of Typhoon Rose.

I subsequently lived for extended periods in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China. (Singapore is on my bucket list.) Some of my later visits to Taiwan and the mainland have been written up here at VDARE.com.

I'm decently well-read in Chinese history, philosophy, and literature; I have a minor academic qualification in the language, and in a forty-year career of book reviewing for respectable publications I reviewed 37 books about China. I've written two novels about the country myself.

So: amateur? Sure, but ignoramus? No. I married a Chinese lady, so China is my country-in-law. How well do you know your own in-laws? There you go.

All right, Derb. Enough of the self-advertisement. What do you have to tell us about China?

What I have to tell you is, it's not easy to tell you anything. Some years ago I gave a lecture on the main problem here. Quote from that lecture:

China, as one of those Old China Hands once explained to me, is a very big country, and, quote, "the edges are a long way from the middle."

Jasper Becker, in his book about the Mao famines, tells of a reporter in China in the 1920s responding to a request from his editor for [inner quote] "the bottom facts." [End inner quote.] His reply: [inner quote] "There is no bottom in China, and no facts." [End inner quote.] Anyone who has engaged with this vast, ancient nation will return a hearty "Amen" to that.

End quote.

So have I just thrown my hands up in despair and given up trying to make sense of the place? Not at all. I frequently check in on the China news and commentary.

Where do I check? YouTube, mostly. That comes with a warning, though. China coverage on YouTube leans heavily negative.

The China Uncensored channel, although I think well-informed, is scathingly hostile to the ruling regime over there. Winston Sterzel, a South African native who vlogs as "Serpentza," and Matthew Tye, an American vlogging as "Laowhy86" have between them over a quarter-century of living in China and offer penetrating commentary on everyday topics there, most of it critical. Those are the three YouTube China channels I most often check on.

There are dozens of others, including of course some upbeat ones obviously promoted by the ChiComs; but the overall tone on YouTube is very negative even when it's not particularly polemical.

When I feel I want an antidote to all that China negativity I check in with David Goldman at Asia Times. Goldman is definitely not a shill for the ChiComs. He understands them very well and writes frankly about their corruption and lawlessness; but he is deeply scornful of our — of America's — foolish and feckless China policy.

In key areas like biotech, robotics, and anti-ship missiles, Goldman says China is leaving us in the dust. Strangely for a nation that still calls itself communist, they are not burdened, as we are, with crippling ideologies like multiculturalism or race and sex denialism or climate-change fanaticism, nor with our elites' world-saving missionary impulses.

Sample quote:

China is doing something that challenges the world standing of the United States in a far more dramatic way: It is transforming economic life in parts of the developing world from the grassroots up. America's failure to grasp this may be the single greatest blunder in the sordid history of American foreign policy.

End quote.

I supplement this public commentary with things I hear from my wife and others who are in touch with friends and relatives over there. That's a somwhat biased sample: educated middle-class types now mostly in their sixties.

Which means retired. China's retirement ages are 60 for men, 55 for female white-collar workers, and 50 for female blue-collar workers. Those are the world's lowest retirement ages.

Combined with the hangover from China's one-child policy and plunging East Asian fertility levels overall, that creates obvious and worsening workforce problems. There are regular reports about that in our own news outlets.

The ChiComs will have to raise those retirement ages sooner or later. Probably they hesitate to do so for fear of mass protests. Mao Tse-tung would of course just have done it and shot the protestors, but China has moved on some from Chairman Mao.

The cohort I'm best acquainted with by word of mouth is, as I said, mostly educated middle-class over-sixties. From what I hear they are pretty happy: retired, nice apartments owner-occupied or at low rents, generous pensions, vacations abroad (Thailand seems to be popular), … life is good.

Visiting China in summer four years ago, I saw public parks full of oldsters happily socializing, playing card games or board games, and dancing. Chinese geezers love to dance.

If you are not a retired, educated, middle-class city dweller, life may not be so much fun. Young professionals complain about the 9-9-6 work culture: from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. The education system is a gruelling assault course of highly competitive exams like the famous gaokao.

Blue-collar life? Rural life? I have no contacts. For aspects like that, check those YouTube channels.

Is there a criminal underclass? Yes there is, but you really don't want to be in it. According to an annual official compendium released in 2023, for the year 2022 the conviction rate in China's criminal courts was a bit north of 99.95 percent.

(I don't know how things go in civil trials. Foreign visitors back in the imperial period reported that judgment was normally decided by whether plaintiff or defendant offered the judge the bigger bribe. I wouldn't be terrifically surprised to learn that something similar is still the case.)

And I get the impression that for Chinese people of all ages and classes, although I suppose more for the old than for the young, healthcare is a major anxiety.

I've heard stories about doctors demanding large sums of money up front, in cash, for medical procedures. No doubt there are conscientious and public-spirited doctors too, and my apologies to them; but on the whole I don't think China is a good country in which to have a health issue.

Will the ChiComs make the move against Taiwan? Your guess is as good as mine, or my wife's, or Gordon Chang's, or David Goldman's.

What is my guess? My guess is they will, in five years or less, probably by blockade. If we make a counter-move in that region, we'll lose a carrier or two.

Just guessing …

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03 — Tucker meets Putin.     In that last segment I mentioned David Goldman's scorn for what I called "our foolish and feckless China policy."

That was with reference to an article by Goldman in the January 31st issue of Asia Times. The article was about testimony given to the House Select Committee on China the week before last by Mike Pompeo, who is a former Secretary of State and Director of the CIA.

I can't resist another quote from that article. Pompeo tells the committee that one of Xi Jinping's central theories is, Quote:

Show up in Africa with some stolen intellectual property from the United States that you built with cheap labor inside of China and then dump it on the world in an effort to aggregate political power.

End Pompeo quote.

Concerning that quote, Goldman writes, quote from him:

This should go into the Guinness Book for a record number of mistakes per word in a single sentence.

End Goldman quote.

Goldman then proceeds to toss and gore Pompeo's remarks in detail, supplying plenty of facts and figures in support of his arguments.

I read that Asia Times piece earlier this week, and was still chuckling over it when I settled down yesterday evening to watch Tucker Carlson interviewing Vladimir Putin on X.

I thought much of the interview was a snoozer. That lengthy exposition of Russian history that Putin started out with and continued for half an hour: what was supposed to be the point? That the Ukrainians are kind of Russian? So what?

If there is a country — let's call it Blobovia — in which a big, well-defined region — call it Minoria — has a population that wants, by an overwhelming majority, to govern itself rather than be ruled as a part of Blobovia, I think the Minorians should have their wish.

Ideally the Taiwanese should run Taiwan as they want to, the Tibetans Tibet, the Irish Ireland, and the Confederate States should have been welcomed into the family of nations as a neighbor sovereign country to the United States.

That's an ideal, of course. A Blobovian might say: "Sure, but what if an independent Minoria allies itself with other nations unfriendly to us? Instead of being a big country with unfriendlies on our borders, we shall then be a smaller country with one more unfriendly on our borders."

Which is pretty much what Putin did say, when he finally got round to talking about the 20th century.

That's when David Goldman's Asia Times article came to mind, and his scorn for our foolish and feckless China policy. Our post-Soviet Russia policy was equally foolish and equally feckless.

Putin's main beef is NATO's eastward expansion, with our apparent intention to continue it all the way across Ukraine to Russia's borders.

Given the facts of mid-20th-century history and the instability of Russia in the immediate post-Soviet years, you can't blame the Baltic and East European states wanting to be in a defensive alliance. Why did we have to be part of it, though — in fact the lead decision-maker in it, sometimes overriding the wishes of European nations, according to Putin?

A sensible U.S. foreign policy would have been to leave NATO the week after the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in February 1991. The Europeans, who far exceeded Russia in population and wealth, and included two — count 'em, two — nuclear powers could then have handled the Eastern Question as they saw fit.

We, meanwhile, could have developed friendly, helpful relations with Russia as they got back on their feet after the Soviet crash. They would be just another big, distant nation we could have commercial relations with, like India or Brazil.

Why didn't we take that path? Because the architects of our foreign policy are, as David Goldman tells us, terminally stupid.

And who, exactly, are those architects? Our Presidents?

Well, here is Putin speaking about the year 2000. It's at 30m52s in to the interview. Quote:

At a meeting here in the Kremlin with the outgoing President, Bill Clinton, right here in the next room, I said to him, I asked him, Bill, do you think if Russia asked to join NATO, do you think it would happen? Suddenly, he said, You know, it's interesting. I think so. But in the evening when we met for dinner, he said, I've talked to my team. No, no, it's not possible now.

End quote.

Somewhat later, at 36m20s in, Putin describes a visit to the U.S.A. in 2007, when he met with then-President George W. Bush and his Dad in Kennebunkport, Maine. He suggested to the President and his team that Russia, the United States, and Europe all work together on a missile-defense system. Quote:

They said it was very interesting. They asked me, Are you serious? I said, Absolutely … We need to think about it, I'm told. I said, Go ahead, please.

End quote.

That ended with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visiting Putin in Moscow and, further quote from Putin, quote: "In the end, they just told us to get lost." End quote.

These exchanges prompted Tucker Carlson to say, quote:

So twice you've described U.S. presidents making decisions and then being undercut by their agency heads. So It sounds like you're describing a system that's not run by the people who are elected.

End quote.

"That's right," says Putin; and of course it is. Presidents propose, but unelected apparatchiks dispose.

The U.S.A. is an administrative state. Bureaucrats make the key decisions. Why did we not quit NATO in February 1991 when the Warsaw Pact dissolved itself?

Why? Because there were too many "iron rice bowls" at stake, that's why — too many flunkeys with cozy, well-paid jobs exercising authority over lesser flunkeys.

Please don't think I was nodding along in agreement to every single word Putin said. For one thing, my Russian isn't good enough. For another, I assume that, as a trained KGB officer, Putin's devotion to the truth is less than total. There were definitely some eye-rollers in there.

For example, he tells Tucker Carlson at 57m3s that, quote:

The German troops, even the SS troops, made Hitler's collaborators do the dirtiest work of exterminating the Polish and Jewish population. Hence, this brutal massacre of the Polish and Jewish population.

End quote.

When Putin says "Hitler's collaborators" there, he is referring to Ukrainian Nazis, of which there were indeed some. Did any of them collaborate in the Katyn Forest Massacre of 1940, when more than twenty thousand Polish military officers and intellectuals were murdered by the Soviet secret police?

I suppose it's possible; but the Massacre was ordered by Stalin and his Politburo. So far as we know from postwar investigations and trials, the murderers and their superiors were rank-and-file Soviet NKVD personnel, not especially Ukrainian.

The NKVD was of course the direct ancestor of the KGB, of which organization Putin was a faithful employee for fifteen years.

And why were there Ukrainian Nazis willing to fight against Russia? I did a Ctrl-F on the entire transcript of Tucker's interview with Putin, first looking for the word "Holodomor," then just for the word "famine." No hits in either case.

The Holodomor was the great Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s — another one of the fruits of Stalin's policies. Several million Ukrainians starved to death. You couldn't blame the survivors for bearing a grudge against Russia less than ten years later.

So a mixed review of the interview Putin-wise. And on the other side, let's be thankful for small mercies: at least Tucker didn't ask about UFOs.

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04 — Miscellany.     I'm afraid I spread myself a little too generously in those two segments, listeners; so to keep the podcast down to reasonable length, let's proceed direct to … our closing miscellany of brief items.

Imprimis:  The Governor of the state of Maine, a Democrat named Janet Mills, has proposed a new bill to incorporate illegal aliens into Maine's workforce. The Governor, or Governess, hopes to attract 75,000 illegals over the next five years.

At a hearing in the state legislature one of the bill's co-sponsors was asked why Maine should thus favor illegal aliens rather than focusing the state's resources on helping military veterans. She replied, quote:

They have the advantage of speaking the language, most of our military folks. So these folks that we're really working on may not have that. So it's going to be really difficult for them to say [inner quote] "yes, I used to be an electrician in my country." [End inner quote.]

End quote.

You see, our veterans have an advantage over the wetbacks: they speak English. Unfair!

You may not be very surprised to learn that the lady speaking up for illegals there was State Representative Deqa Dhalac, also of course a Democrat, who before getting elected to the legislature basked in the glory of being the first mayor in the U.S.A. to have been born in Somalia.

How those Somalis have enriched our nation!

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Item:  Two years ago, shortly after the Russia-Ukraine war started, I described it here on Radio Derb as being fought between the world's two most corrupt white nations.

Further confirmation of that showed up in this January 28th report from Associated Press. It tells us that, quote:

Employees from a Ukrainian arms firm conspired with defense ministry officials to embezzle almost $40 million earmarked to buy 100,000 mortar shells for the war with Russia.

End quote.

Your tax dollars at work over there.

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Item:  Here's a nasty little story from a far corner of the culture wars.

You've probably heard about the Korean "Comfort Women" — young women aged 14 to 20, mostly from Korea and China, forcibly conscripted by the Japanese military in World War 2 to serve in brothels for Japanese soldiers. By some accounts, the Japanese massacred large numbers of them at the war's end to cover up what had been done.

It's all made up, says a book that came out last month from Encounter Press, title The Comfort Women Hoax: A Fake Memoir, North Korean Spies, and Hit Squads in the Academic Swamp. Most of the women were Japanese, not Chinese or Korean; most were not forcibly conscripted. They were paid quite well for what they did, and there was no massacre.

The co-authors of the book are both academics: J. Mark Ramseyer of Harvard Law School and Jason M. Morgan of Reitaku University in Japan. They have documented their case scrupulously.

That counts for nothing with the guardians of orthodoxy, of course. A February 3rd report in The American Conservative tells us that Ramseyer has been denounced by Harvard colleagues, attacked in the pages of the New Yorker, and even expelled from his church. Morgan's first Ph.D. advisor dropped him; her replacement tried to sabotage his career with negative letters of recommendation.

Apparently one factor driving the promotion of the false story was North Korea wanting to stir up anti-Japan feeling among South Koreans so that the South wouldn't join forces with Japan against them.

If that's right, then the woke enforcers are on the same side of this one as North Korea, the world's most horrible, brutal totalitarian despotism. Why am I not surprised?

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Item:  Another one concerning Somalia, which supplies the Western world with so many of our cultural enrichers.

This one is from across the pond. A white English lady named Mary Harper was employed as Africa Editor for the BBC World Service. She had lived for a while in Somalia and had some knowledge of the place.

Trading on that she offered herself as an expert witness — a paid expert witness — on behalf of Somali illegals fighting deportation in Britain's courts. She was instrumental in helping at least 15 Somalian criminals evade deportation.

That tally included four rapists, three drug dealers and a career criminal who spent a decade in British jails, I don't know what for. All were let off the hook and allowed to stay in Britain.

One criminal had a long rap sheet in Britain: 39 convictions for 80 crimes over 17 years. Ms Harper told the court that would result in him being shunned by his clan if he was deported back to Somalia.

The disadvantage of a podcast is, I can't show you a picture of Ms Harper — who, by the way, has recently left the BBC, whether voluntarily or not we don't know. There's a picture of her at the Daily Mail website, with a link to that in the Radio Derb transcript when we post it.

She looks just like what I expect a progressive world saver to look like: a creepy combination of smug and unhappy, like your least favorite schoolmarm. I was astounded to learn from the report that she is the mother of two children.

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Item:  Congratulations to Nayib Bukele, elected this week to his second term as President of El Salvador with 85 percent of the vote. His party also won fifty-eight of the sixty congressional seats in Sunday's election.

This is the guy who, since taking office five years ago, has transformed El Salvador from the most violent state in the world to the safest in all of the Americas.

How did he do it? By massively expanding prison capacity then incarcerating anyone cops tagged as a gang member. Quote from the New York Times, February 8th, quote:

Since March 2022, when Mr. Bukele declared a state of emergency that suspended basic civil liberties, security forces have locked up roughly 75,000 people. A staggering one in 45 adults is now in prison.

End quote.

The Times of course disapproves. Bukele's crackdown, they moan, has, quote, "exacted a tremendous price on Salvadorans' human rights, civil liberties and democracy," end quote.

Strange that he's so popular, then.

The lesson here is that if the authorities allow crime to get as bad as El Salvador's was, voters will happily trade in some of those "human rights, civil liberties and democracy" for the chance to live a normal life.

If you find that truth too appalling then you'd best not let things get so bad in the first place.

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Item:  I mentioned the climate-change cult back there somewhere as being one of the "crippling ideologies" afflicting the West today. Speaking out against it can land you in a world of hurt.

Latest to find this out is Canadian writer Mark Steyn. In a National Review article he had scoffed at climate scientist Michael Mann, including in his scoff a reference to another scoffer who had very obliquely compared Mann to a sexual abuser. Mark Steyn wrote that while he wouldn't go along with that other scoffer's metaphor, the guy had a point.

For that, a jury in Washington, D.C. hit Steyn with punitive damages of a million dollars.

Michael Mann is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. I don't know how he got the case heard in Washington, D.C., but it was a smart move on his part. D.C. is the beating heart of wokeness; a D.C. jury is going to include twelve climate-change fanatics.

Condolences to Mark, and good luck with the appeal.

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Item:  Here's something new to worry about: hacked electric toothbrushes.

This is from the Independent, a British daily newspaper. Headline: Millions of hacked toothbrushes could be used in cyber attack, researchers warn.

I'll just read you some of the text. Quote:

Internet-connected toothbrushes could be linked together in something known as a botnet, which would allow them to perform a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that overloads websites and servers with huge amounts of web traffic.

Major websites could be knocked offline as a result of the attack, according to Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung, who first reported the threat, resulting in millions of dollars of lost revenue.

End quote.

Artificial Intelligence taking over; chips implanted in our brains; rising sea levels; asteroid collisions, … add it to the list: hacked toothbrushes.

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Item:  Continuing the dental theme: One of the less flattering stereotypes of us native Brits is that we all have bad teeth.

To judge from this news story I've been reading, this isn't going to improve any time soon. The National Health Service, which most Brits depend on for dental treatment, is running out of dentists.

Hearing that a new National Health Service dental center was to open up in the city of Bristol, hundreds lined up in the hope of getting on their books as a patient. Quote from Wednesday's Daily Mail, quote:

Elderly and disabled people were among the crowd who gathered in the rain from as early as 5am.

End quote.

The Limeys can bypass the Health Service and seek out a private dentist, but it's pricier: up to $150 for a check-up, three thousand dollars or more for dentures and bridges.

Well, perhaps they'll pay more attention to good oral hygiene over there so as not to need dentists. They could start by buying electric toothbrushes. I understand there are some very good Swiss models available …

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05 — Signoff.     That's it, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your time and attention, and apologies for any kitchen noises.

So tomorrow, February 10th, is Chinese New Year's Day, first day of the Year of the Dragon. We should have some Chinese music to see us out.

Here's a snippet of Mandopop. That's pop music with the words sung in Mandarin; not to be confused with Cantopop, where they're sung in Cantonese.

The snippet I'm going to play is very early Mandopop, recorded in 1940. It had great staying power, though; I can remember hearing it on the radio in early-1950s England — the first Chinese I ever heard. Wikipedia reports that, quote:

The song was brought back to England by broadcaster Wilfrid Thomas in 1951 after doing commentary on the war in Malaya. When he played it on his BBC program he received a barrage of requests for a repeat and he played it again in several more programs.

End quote.

The singer is Yao Lee, who had a long career and a very long life. She spent her childhood in Shanghai during that city's naughty years, before the Japanese took over and spoiled the fun. She died just four and a half years ago in Hong Kong at age 96.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.

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[Music clip: Yao Lee, "玫 瑰 玫 瑰 我 愛 你."]