03 — Derbyshire's Universal Law of Machines. The Derbyshire household owns a domestic water cooler. It arrived fifteen or so years ago when we signed a contract with Poland Spring to deliver drinking water to us. They used to deliver it in five-gallon plastic drums that you upended and set on top of the water cooler.Then my wife decided that Poland Spring was too expensive and terminated the contract. She makes all these petty, trivial decisions in the household, while I decide more important things, like what our position on Global Warming should be.Anyway, terminating the contract left us with this water cooler that we weren't getting any more five-gallon refills for. It sat there folornly in the dining-room for, oh, seven or eight years until we had some contractors in to give us new floors. They moved the water cooler to the garage, and we forgot all about it.Forward three more years to last month. I'm clearing out the garage, getting rid of unwanted items. Contemplating the water cooler, I suddenly remembered seeing five-gallon drums of water for sale at Home Depot, way cheaper than the Poland Spring product.I mentioned this to the Mrs. "We could have purified water again, without that pesky overpriced Poland Spring contract!" She agreed. I cleaned up the cooler, replaced in in the dining-room, and loaded a five-gallon drum on top.Down in the basement next day I heard a drip-drip-dripping. That water cooler was leaking, right through our newish floor. I opened it up to investigate, but it wasn't anything I knew how to fix. Our water cooler is now headed to the municipal dump.Talking to the Mrs about this I mentioned one of my Dad's pearls of Daddish wisdom. Machines, he used to say, like to be used. If you don't use them, they sink into despair and lose the will to live, or at any rate to perform their assigned functions. Park your car in the garage for six months, it won't start.I've gone through life believing this — Thanks, Dad! — and the water cooler episode confirmed it.What's that got to do with nuclear war? Well, nuclear war uses nuclear weapons. The U.S.A. stopped making nukes after the Cold War ended a quarter-century ago. The last time we tested a nuke — to make sure that, you know, it, like, worked — was in fact just 25 years ago this coming September.So, is our nuclear stockpile to the U.S.A. what that Poland Spring water cooler was to the Derbyshire household?If you ask a government person, he will laugh merrily and say of course not. Then he'll direct you to the National Nuclear Security Administration, the NNSA. That's an agency within the Department of Energy which runs a Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program to keep our 30- and 40-year-old nukes clean and shiny and in good working order, ready to go.Great. Given that it's a government program, though, run by one of the least glamorous government departments, and that the engineers and technicians who actually know how to make nukes all retired twenty years ago, and that we've just had eight years of a nuke-hostile administration, and bearing in mind John Robert Derbyshire's Universal Law of Machines as just cited, I can't help but wonder.All of this was inspired by a news story this week that on Tuesday we successfully tested an anti-missile missile, I suppose in response to North Korean blustering. "Hitting a bullet with a bullet" is the Pentagon's advertising slogan for this technology.The track record for these tests is not actually very good: so much so, there are reasons to think that the stuff about "hitting a bullet with a bullet" is deliberate misinformation.The best way to deal with an incoming ballistic missile is to intercept it with a powerful nuclear warhead while it's high above the Earth's atmosphere: not hitting a bullet with a bullet but vaporizing a bullet with a nearby nuclear blast. It's likely that is what we really want to do in a real-war scenario.Which brings us back to the question: Are our nukes fit for purpose?I have no idea, but I sure hope so. Steve Sailer's been running a discussion on this over at his blog, with the usual high quality of well-informed and informative comments. By all means pursue the matter there.I just want to make the point once again that this issue, and at least 47 others like it, are way more important to the U.S.A. than some bogus agreement on Global Warming.And as a footnote to all that, please allow me to recycle an apothegm from my old National Review colleague Jeff Hart, quote: "I don't think we should make any more nukes until we've used the ones we have." End quote. Duck and cover! And there are still asteroids; there are still volcanoes; the Sun can still misbehave; new diseases still come up; and the nukes are still there, in some condition.What this all got me thinking about was John Gribbins' book Alone in the Universe, which I read a few weeks ago.The book, which I recommend if you're interested in this sort of thing, argues the case that for life to arise on a planet, to develop to an intelligent species like ours, and thence to a technological civilization like ours, all depends on a highly improbable chain of circumstances, and so happens very, very, very rarely.I'm not going to engage with that argument here, only point out one of Gribbins' secondary points. Once a techological civilization's gotten started, he says, all kinds of unpleasant things can bring it down — things like the calamities I just mentioned.If one of those dreadful things happened, he argues, to a civilization at our level or a bit higher, the survivors would not be able to rebuild back to our level. Why not? Because we have extracted and used up all the natural resources — like metal ores and fossil fuels — that were easy to get to.We're still extracting all that good stuff, of course; but nowadays we need lots of technology, metals, and fossil fuels to do the job.My great-grandparents in mid-19th-century England, according to family lore, owned a "butty mine." That's a deposit of coal close enough to the surface that a man with a shovel could dig it out and sell it to his neighbors.There are no more butty mines in England. I doubt there are any elsewhere. To get coal now — or iron, or copper, or oil — you need lots of technology … and coal, and iron, copper, and oil. So the survivors of a major catastrophe wouldn't be able to get technological civilization going again. We might get back up to the level of Ancient Egypt, but then we'd be stuck at that level. For ever.If this argument is right — it sounds right to me — the human race is performing trapeze without a net. I passed some remarks about the upcoming British election. Voting is next Thursday, June 8th.I told you that the election was a foregone conclusion: that he Tory Party, who currently control the House of Commons, and the government under Prime Minister Theresa May, will win easily, while the other big party, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, will lose bigly.Well, I spoke too soon. It turned out that Mrs May is not only an ineffectual cuck, but is also politically inept.She proposed, for example, changes to public provision for helpless old people. If a person had to go into full-time nursing home care provided by the state, then when they died their house could be sold to pay off the costs of care. There was to be a base sum, a hundred thousand pounds — that's $130,000 — that would be left untouched for the family to inherit.That was of no great concern to poor people, who don't own houses, or rich people, who can afford their own nursing-home care, but it was a big blow against the home-owning middle class, a core Tory constituency. The other parties jumped all over it as a, quote, "dementia tax." That was hyperbolic, but it played well with the voters, and Mrs May had to back down.Then she failed to show up for one of the candidate debates. She sent her Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to stand in for her. Ms Rudd stepped up gamely, in spite of her father having passed away the day before. She didn't do very well in the debate, though; and the whole affair allowed the media to put forward their favorite theme, of The Tories as the heartless, nasty party and Labour as the loving, kind party. The British media are going all out to promote the more left-wing of the two big parties, which is Labour.The media over here do the same thing of course. At the slightest hint by a Republican candidate that social benefits might be tweaked, TV newscasters and talking heads are telling us that Granny will be pushed out into the snow to die of exposure, little kiddies will go to bed hungry, you'll be turned away at the hospital emergency room, and so on. You know the narrative well enough, I'm sure.In fact, in Britain just as here, the voting public loves its welfare state and serious politicians all know this. All but the most inept of them take care to stay out of the welfare-state minefield. Note how Donald Trump, on the campaign trail, promised to preserve Social Security and Medicare.Nobody thinks those programs can stay unchanged for ever; but nobody who wants to get elected to anything would be such a fool as to say that out loud.In fact Social Security and Medicare do get tweaked now and again — stealthily, when the government believes no-one much is is looking, and slightly, so as not to wake the dragon.Sure, these programs might fall off a cliff in 2030-something; but no politician thinks that far ahead, except for purposes of virtue signalling. Messing with the welfare state is not virtuous, except in a few libertarian think tanks no politician pays attention to.So Mrs May is falling over her feet and the media is throwing everything they've got at her. The beneficiary here is old lefty Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader.The latest poll from YouGov, one of the more reliable, shows 38 percent intending to vote for Corbyn, the Labour guy — incredible, for a candidate far to the left of Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders? Heck, Corbyn is to the left of Walter Ulbricht.He's still a long shot to be the next Prime Minister; but on the YouGov numbers, Mrs May might very well lose her majority in Parliament, meaning she'd have to go into coalition with some other party even cuckier than she is.Or possibly not. I've been reading a very interesting research paper out of the London School of Economics. The researchers looked at the motivation of voters in last year's Brexit referendum. To quote them: "immigration was key," end quote.They then further discovered that within that factor, it was non-European immigration that motivated people to vote out of the European Union.Public discussion of immigration is even more constrained and fearful over there than it is here, with everyone terrified to be thought racist. Such open discussion as there was about immigration in the Brexit campaign focused on low-skilled workers from Eastern Europe.Well, it turns out British people don't mind that. It's non-Europeans — blacks and Muslims — that bother them.It took academic research to uncover that. It was lurking away hidden, because voters were scared to talk about it. I'm sure that's one reason the Brexit vote came as a surprise.The Brits may deliver a similar surprise on Thursday. Mrs May is pretty useless on immigration, but Labour are worse than useless.A key figure here is Diane Abbott, Corbyn's Shadow Home Secretary — that is, she'll be in charge of immigration in a Corbyn government. Abbott is a big rude high-T black woman — a sort of British Maxine Waters, although with a triple-digit IQ — and she's known to favor open borders.Corbyn's less frank than that; but the two are, as the Chinese say, as close as lips and teeth. In fact Corbyn had an affair with Ms Abbott forty years ago, so presumably they were even closer than lips and teeth for a while there.If the Tories lean hard on the immigration issue, they may yet save their parliamentary majority. Mrs May's track record suggests she has neither the courage not the good political sense to do that; but the Brits may confound the polls by voting on their immigration preferences anyway, as they did in the Brexit referendum last year. We shall find out this coming week.
06 — History is an unholy mess. I caused some confusion among listeners by saying, in last week's podcast, the following thing in regard to mass Third World immigration, quote:
We, America, can still turn the tide. I wouldn't say that about England; nor about Britain as a whole, unless the Welsh and the Scots assert themselves forcefully as nations, which I see no sign of. I think England's too far gone.End quote. That, complained listeners, left their heads spinning. England, Britain, wha? Isn't it all the U.K. nowadays?OK, the basics. There's a bunch of islands off the northwest coast of Europe. Their name is "the British Isles." There's one great big island, one other that's forty percent as big, and hundreds of teeny ones.The Romans called the big island "Britannia" and the less-big one "Hibernia." The big one is nowadays called "Britain," the other one "Ireland." With me so far?For historical reasons that are way too complex to go into, Britain developed into three ethnostates called "England," "Wales," and "Scotland." These three ethnostates are joined with the northeastern one-sixth of Ireland in a sovereign nation called "the U.K." The other five-sixths of Ireland are a different sovereign nation, the Irish Republic.So: two major islands, five ethnostates, two sovereign nations. Got it? The history is really complex, and some of it still hotly emotional. As just one random marker of the complexity, note that Scotland is of course the land of the Scots; but "Scot" was the medieval word for an Irishman. Go look it up.One more: If you read early-medieval history, there was an on-and-off war through the later fifth and early sixth century between the British and the English. That was the war in which the British hero was King Arthur, except that he may not have existed, who fought and won a mighty battle against the English at Badon Hill, except that nobody knows where that is.A study of British history — I mean, dammit, the history of the British Isles — gives you a very good feel for what an unholy mess history is. If just a couple of foggy islands generated all this complexity, who knows what the hell is up with Indonesia or Africa?Well, our policy-makers and diplomats know, of course. They know everything. They even know how to fix the Middle East. Lots of luck there, guys.And yes, there's a related news story here.Over there in the U.K. there's a TV talent show called Britain's Got Talent, a sort of limey version of American Idol. Probably the show should be called The U.K.'s Got Talent, but it isn't and I can't do anything about it.One of the entries in this week's semifinal of the show was a women's choir from Wales, the Angelicus Celtis choir. They sang that fine old hymn "Jerusalem", which is a sort of unofficial English national anthem. The words to "Jerusalem" are those of a poem by the deeply weird Romantic poet William Blake, floruit around 1800. The first two lines go:
And did those feet in ancient timeWalk upon England's mountains green?End quote. The feet in question belong to Jesus of Nazareth. There are a couple of other references to England in the song. Blake was speculating that Jesus may have paid a visit to England (at that time the Roman province of Britannia).Yes, it's wildly improbable; but as I said, Blake was one weird dude, and his Christianity was the weirdest of his weirdnesses. Those "dark Satanic Mills" in the eighth line of the poem, for example, are, according to some respectable literary scholars, the altars of the Church of England.Well, this choir of Welsh females changed all those references to England. They sang "Britain" instead. A rough equivalent would be Kate Smith singing "God bless the North American landmass."Outrage ensued. You can gauge the heat of the outrage by noting that the YouYube clip of the event comes with the legend: "Comments are disabled for this video." When comments are disabled on a video or a news story, you know that the incoming comments were really, really angry. YouTube and other major outlets don't like us when we're angry.There was — of course! — a Twitterstorm. What would 21st-century outrage be without a Twitterstorm?The sense of the meeting was, that Welsh people had no business singing an English song; and that if they couldn't be stopped from singing it, they should at least sing the original English words.A pacifist minority attempted to lower the emotional temperature by suggesting that is would have been OK for the Welsh gals to sing about Britain if they had sung in the Welsh language, which is very much alive. That irenic minority was, however, soon chased out of town. Their houses were bulldozed and bonfires were made of their movable property.Warriors on both sides are suiting up to re-fight the Battle of Badon Hill. Arthur, the British hero, may have won the original battle, but the British were losers at last. The English took most of their territory after Arthur died, supposing he ever lived. The greater part of Britain became England, and the British were left to skulk in those foggy western hills, turning themselves into what we nowadays call the Welsh, from an Old English word for "foreigner."Yes, it's a Twitterstorm in a teacup. There are large general lessons to be drawn, though, as I've already indicated.A big topic in today's public debates is nationalism versus globalism. Progressives promise us that if we just drop those dusty, nasty, superficial, out-of-date attachments to tribe, ethnicity, and race, everything in the world will be tickety-boo. Black and white, Arab and Jew, settler and aborigine, we'll all dance round the maypole together in happy harmony.Stories like this one suggest that there may be some aspects of our human nature that the Progressives are not taking into account. Imprimis: It was fifty years ago today … actually this week. Yes: the Beatles "Sergeant Pepper" album came out June 1st 1967. I remember it well — I was in fact living in Liverpool at the time.Nice to recall that; but what would any news story about the culture be in 2017 without some Victim-American showing up to whine about it?So here she is: Feminist Amanda Marcotte, a writer for CultMarx website Salon.com. What is Ms Marcotte's problem with "Sergeant Pepper"?The gravamen of her charge is that prior to the "Sergeant Pepper" album the Beatles' music was aimed at teenage girls; but that from "Sergeant Pepper" on they turned their songs all masculine and nerdy.Ms Marcotte got twelve hundred words out of that; which, I'm bound to say, as a writer myself, I find pretty darn impressive. I'd rank Ms Marcotte up there with the late British opinion journalist Alan Brien, who boasted that he could get a thousand words of copy out of the fluff in his navel.That was before victimological whining became an established genre within opinion journalism, though. Here's Ms Marcotte's closing sentence. Get yer hankies out. Quote:
Part of me will always begrudge the record its reputation, because it helped lead to a world where certain kinds of pop music were treated as inferior, for decades, just because its fan base was mostly people who looked like me.Item: Barack Obama and his wife have bought their house on Washington, D.C. They had been renting it, now they've bought it. Nine bedrooms; eight and a half bathrooms; $8.1 million.Don't the Obamas already own a house in Chicago? Yes they do: seven bathrooms, unknown number of bedrooms, very tony neighborhood, last listed on Zillow as worth three million dollars. But hey, you can never have too many houses.These are the rewards of what our masters are pleased to call "public service." [Laughter.] Within my own lifetime politicians used to leave office broke, or at best poorer than when they came in. I hate this.We should at least stop paying the buggers a pension. Repeal the Former Presidents Act!Item: Here's another one of those news stories that's interesting mainly for the comment thread.May 19th a big game hunter in Zimbabwe, a 51-year-old white South African named Theunis Botha, was killed by an elephant. Mr Botha and some other hunters had come across the herd of elephants and they opened fire. The elephants charged and one of them picked up Mr Botha with its trunk. Another hunter shot the elephant, hoping it would let Mr Botha go. The elephant fell … on top of Mr Botha, crushing him to death.My main reaction to the story was: Well, at least he died doing what he liked to do — hunting big, dangerous game animals for sport. How many people get a death certificate that reads: "Crushed by a falling elephant"?The MailOnline comment thread, however, leaned heavily pro-elephant, anti-Botha. Sample: "Poetic justice, RIP poor elephant." Sample: "So glad he is dead, it's the elephant I'm mourning along with all of the other innocents he has murdered." Sample: "Good. I hope he died slowly with the Elephant's breath the last thing he heard." And so on.I'll just make again the point I made during the fuss over Cecil the Lion two years ago. These charismatic megafauna are only allowed to live because of the revenues that nations like Zimbabwe get by licensing the hunting of them. Without that, they'd swiftly be poached to extinction — especially elephants, whose ivory makes them exceptionally worth poaching.I no more favor cruelty to animals than those commenters do. The actual choice here, though, is between the killing of a few by licensed hunters, and the killing of all by poachers.If these commenters really care, above the level of posting callous, snarky comments on a news website, let them head out to Zimbabwe and take on the poachers. That I'd like to see. Jerusalem."]