Sabbath musical delight: J. S. Bach, Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C major BWV 564. An Italian Concerto for organ

This is one of my favorite organ pieces ever, especially in this performance by the late, lamented French organist Michel Chapuis.

A “toccata” was meant to be a combination warmup and virtuoso showcase piece. The name comes from the Italian verb “toccare” which means both “to touch” and “to play [an instrument]”.

This piece was probably composed during Bach’s Weimar period, when he was employed as chapel organist [later also as Konzertmeister] at the ducal palace at Weimar. This was also the period when, in the palace’s well-stocked music library, he first encountered the music of the Italian baroque masters: Corelli, Legrenzi, Albinoni,… and Vivaldi.

The toccata begins with a playful, whimsical keyboard motive with large leaps, followed by brisk passagework and then a “look, mom, no hands!” extended pedal solo that probably only Bach himself could play in his day (and even today, almost nobody can do it cleanly at the brisk tempo Chapuis takes.

Then, after this long, virtuosic and humorous introduction, starts what sounds like Bach’s version of a 3-movement Vivaldi concerto for strings. The first movement is in 4/4, brisk and full of life. Then follows a pensive adagio in A minor with the left hand and the pedals accompanying a highly melodic voice in the right hand, that I can imagine as both a solo violin or a solo oboe. After the adagio ends follows an even slower grave section using startlingly complex harmonies a century ahead of their time, eventually modulating back to C major. The fugue strikes up a brisk, infectious dance rhythm in 6/8 without sacrificing polyphony.

Have a good weekend, shabbat shalom, and enjoy!

Björn Lomborg: “I believe in global warming, but… on balance it’s actually SAVING lives.” [my paraphrase]. What gives?

Andrew Bolt is interviewing “skeptical environmentalist” Björn Lomborg about this rather provocative statement.

Let me quote Dr. Lomborg’s post on his public facebook wall (hat tip: Sarah C.):

Global warming 𝘀𝗮𝘃𝗲𝘀 166,000 lives each year

Temperature increases from 2000-19 mean more heat death (116K), but also fewer cold deaths (283K)

Global warming is still a problem we need to fix smartly, 

but we’re badly informed when media only reports on heat deaths

(1) Zhao, Q.; Guo, Y.; Ye, T.; Gasparrini, A.; Tong, S.; Overcenco, A.; Urban, A.; Schneider, A.; Entezari, A.; Vicedo-Cabrera, A. M.; Zanobetti, A.; Analitis, A.; Zeka, A.; Tobias, A.; Nunes, B.; Alahmad, B.; Armstrong, B.; Forsberg, B.; Pan, S.-C.; Íñiguez, C.; Ameling, C.; De la Cruz Valencia, C.; Åström, C.; Houthuijs, D.; Dung, D. Van; Royé, D.; Indermitte, E.; Lavigne, E.; Mayvaneh, F.; Acquaotta, F.; de’Donato, F.; Di Ruscio, F.; Sera, F.; Carrasco-Escobar, G.; Kan, H.; Orru, H.; Kim, H.; Holobaca, I.-H.; Kyselý, J.; Madureira, J.; Schwartz, J.; Jaakkola, J. J. K.; Katsouyanni, K.; Hurtado Diaz, M.; Ragettli, M. S.; Hashizume, M.; Pascal, M.; de Sousa Zanotti Stagliorio Coélho, M.; Valdés Ortega, N.; Ryti, N.; Scovronick, N.; Michelozzi, P.; Matus Correa, P.; Goodman, P.; Nascimento Saldiva, P. H.; Abrutzky, R.; Osorio, S.; Rao, S.; Fratianni, S.; Dang, T. N.; Colistro, V.; Huber, V.; Lee, W.; Seposo, X.; Honda, Y.; Guo, Y. L.; Bell, M. L.; Li, S. Global, Regional, and National Burden of Mortality Associated with Non-Optimal Ambient Temperatures from 2000 to 2019: A Three-Stage Modelling Study. Lancet. Planet. Heal. 2021, 5, e415–e425.

Table 2 from that paper:

But let’s continue the quote:

This research has only just been published, but it essentially backs up earlier studies I used in my commentary last month, published across the world, including New York Post (USA), Financial Post (Canada), Berlingske (Denmark), Milenio (Mexico), El Universo (Ecuador), Los Tiempos (Bolivia), Portfolio (Hungary) and China Daily (China). 

You can read it here: […]

Heat deaths are beguilingly click-worthy, and studies show that heat kills about 2,500 people every year in the United States and Canada. However, rising temperatures also reduce cold waves and cold deaths. Cold restricts blood flow to keep our core warm, increasing blood pressure and killing through strokes, heart attacks and respiratory diseases.

Those deaths are rarely reported, because they don’t fit the current climate narrative. Of course, if they were just a curiosity, the indifference might be justified, but they are anything but. Each year, more than 100,000 people die from cold in the United States, and 13,000 in Canada — more than 40 cold deaths for every heat death. […] Globally, 1.7 million people die of cold each year, dwarfing heat deaths (300,000).


The share of hot days has increased since 1960 and affected a steadily larger population. Yet the numbers of heat deaths have halved over the same period — thanks to technology. The rest of the world needs access to the same simple technologies to drastically reduce heat deaths.

Tackling cold deaths turns out to be much harder, because it requires well-heated homes over weeks and months. Moreover, heavy-handed climate policies will increase heating costs and make cold deaths even more prevalent.

Here again, the US case is instructive. The hydraulic-fracturing revolution has dramatically slashed the cost of natural gas, in turn making gas-heated homes warmer and safer and allowing poorer households to afford better heating. Indeed, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, lower energy prices saved some 11,000 Americans from dying in winter annually between 2005 to 2010. In other words, fracking saved four times the lives lost from all North American heat deaths each year.

Conversely, climate policies that drives gas prices up will mean fewer people can afford to properly heat their homes; the cold-death rate will shoot back up.

Read the whole thing. Note that Dr. Lomborg (a statistician) is an environmentalist and believes in strong AGW [while yours truly is what AGW skeptics call a “lukewarmer”].

But he states something very obvious: the effects of global warming (be it natural or anthropogenic in origin) will not be the same in all climate zones and geographical areas.

If I were an internet troll, I might even say that the focus on heat deaths is Eurocentric 😉 You see, Europe does not believe much in air conditioning — one town where I grew up had a grand total of one (1) business (a florist) with air conditioning, and zero private residences. [And yes, even then the mercury might hit body temperature even in the Lowlands, once in a blue moon.] Even now, it’s fairly rare outside hotels and some businesses. So when you do have an unusually hot summer, older people [especially those living in what Sarah Hoyt calls “stack-a-prole” apartments rather than older residences with tall ceilings] greatly suffer. Oregon and Washington state, which have a fairly similar climate, it’s a similar story.

Meanwhile, in the American South, and here in Israel’s coastal plain, the summer is only tolerable without A/C if you are used to working in sweltering heat — so A/C is nearly universal. [Is this one of the reasons climate Tartuffes hate it?]

One of the biggest surprises to me was just how deadly cold [!] could be in sub-Saharan Africa. Housing with poor waterproofing and nonexistent insulation is a factor we don’t readily consider.

I still remember when the French were going all Tartuffe over the “cages” in which the Americans held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. Then a heat wave came that killed over 10,000 elderly people in France — most of them living in low-ceilinged, poorly ventilated, and of course un-air-conditioned apartments. Death toll from heatstroke at Gitmo? Nil. Death toll for a similar heatwave in coastal Israel? Hardly worth mentioning, as long as the electrical grid can tolerate the strain of A/C. [*]

Three further remarks:

  • consider the effect of global warming vs. cooling on global food production. Seriously, you do not want to live in John Ringo’s The Last Centurion or Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle’s Fallen Angels. In that particular respect, global cooling makes global warming look positively benign;
  • as so often, policies promoted by the transoc [transnational oligarchic collectivist] elite not only have ruinous costs but harm more than they help;
  • I cannot help being reminded of Frédéric Bastiat’s That which is seen and that which is not seen [original French text here]. Too many people only look at what is in front of their noses, not at what is happening behind or around it.

The answer is not “all power to the Brahmandarins” [as they are trying to convince you] but to apply existing technological solutions where they actually can do any good, and to continue to strive for better technologies in the way of energy storage, low-cost construction [in developing countries], and more.

[*] There are areas further inland — Jerusalem on the edge uf the Judean Desert, Beer-Sheva in the Northern Negev — that get even hotter during the day, but cool off dramatically during the night: Americans, think New Mexico or Arizona.

UPDATE: some deep background here about just how much a global Ice Age would suck. (Hat tip: Jeff Duntemann.)

Geddy Lee Day post: Rush, “Second Nature”

Gary Lee Weinrib, born in suburban Toronto to Auschwitz survivors[*] from Poland, is known to prog-rock lovers (and geeks) as Geddy Lee, the frontman of Rush. Switching from guitar to bass when his teenage school band found itself without a bassist, he developed into an accomplished virtuoso on the instrument — and one of just a handful of people who can play complex bass parts while singing lead . Live, he juggles voice and bass with keyboards — modest as he is about his skill on the instrument, one song I used to this day to test a synthesizer is “Subdivisions” by Rush — a good instrument will sound powerful and warm at the same time.

Today is Geddy’s birthday, July 29. Here is one of the best interviews he ever gave, at his home in Toronto

From the comments, I was saddened to learn that his mother z”l had recently passed away — albeit at a ripe old age (Geddy himself is 68). Here is a Rush song that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Yes, I know Neil Peart (RIP) wrote the lyrics, but this is perhaps one of Geddy’s warmest vocal performances.

A memo to a higher office
Open letter to the powers that be
To a god, a king, a head of state
A captain of industry
To the movers and the shakers
Can’t everybody see?

It ought to be a second nature
I mean the places where we live
Let’s talk about this sensibly
We’re not insensitive
I know [“]progress[“] has no patience
But something’s got to give…


I know you’re different
You know I’m the same
We’re both too busy
To be taking the blame

I’d like some changes
But you don’t have the time
We can’t go on thinking
It’s a victimless crime.

No one is blameless
But we’re all without shame
We fight the fire
While we’re feeding the flames….


[*] The surname Weinrib, Weinreb (standard German: Weinreib) means “Vine” [Hebrew: Geffen]. According to Wikipedia, Geddy’s mother Mary (Malka) Rubinstein z”l passed away just short of the age of 96. His parents had met in the ghetto of a small town in southeastern Poland, survived Auschwitz: eventually, Malka was liberated from Bergen-Belsen and Morris (Moshe) Weinrib z”l (d. 1965) a few weeks later from Dachau. He located her at a DP camp outside Bergen-Belsen, and they married and immigrated to Canada where a sister was living.

Bach’s final fugue

Today is July 28, the anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death. The last music he dictated on his deathbed was a reworking of an earlier chorale prelude, “When we are in direst need” to “Before Thy throne I come herewith”.

His second son, C. P. E. Bach, tried to boost the sales of the (posthumously published) Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080 — a work J. S. Bach without any doubt saw as his musical testament — by telling the story that his father died over the last notes of the unfinished fugue. We know now that this is almost certainly not true — and there is even discussion whether the fugue is really unfinished, or whether he left its completion as a musical puzzle.

Below is a TV capture of Glenn Gould playing the final fugue — but instead of tapering off on the final notes, he breaks off in midair on the climactic point just before. The performance is idiosyncratically Gould, but truly mesmerizing.

Bach the man died. Bach’s music lives. Long may it endure.

Haj Amin al-Husseini’s poisonous legacy

Sean Durns in Mosaic Magazine looks back 100 years after the appointment of one Haj Amin al-Husseini [y”sh] as the senior Islamic cleric in the British mandate.

The very long article is behind a paywall, so let me share a few excerpts. I never quite understood why the British, even if they wanted to appease the Arabs, would have appointed somebody so obviously unqualified. Mr. Durns answers that question:

To underscore its commitment to the Balfour Declaration, the cabinet selected Herbert Samuel, a prominent British Jewish politician and a Zionist, to serve as the first high commissioner for Palestine. But opposition to Zionism, among both the Arabs and British in the Mandate alike, remained; it would resurface when anti-Jewish violence erupted in both February and May of 1921. Complicating an already tense situation, on March 21 of the same year Kamil al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, died.

Kamil had held the position of mufti, or chief cleric, of Jerusalem under Ottoman rule, but the British authorities created the new position of grand mufti out of a desire to have someone to turn to as the religious representative of Muslims in Palestine, who could also preside over the various Muslim holy sites in the city.  Around the same time and for similar reasons, they created the position of chief rabbi of [the British Mandate], likewise elevating the Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis of Jerusalem to greater prominence. As a result, Israel today has two chief rabbis, and Jerusalem still has a grand mufti.

During his short tenure in office, Kamil al-Husseini had sought to work with the British and accommodate them in every way possible. Perhaps he was grateful to the new rulers for expanding his authority, or perhaps he simply saw good relations with them as the most prudent path. His death not only cost the Mandate a supportive local leader, but also put it in the midst of tensions between two clans.

The Husseinis and their rivals, the Nashashibis, were Jerusalem’s two principal Arab families. Claiming descent from Mohammad, the Husseinis had held various positions of authority as far back as the early 17th century. While both clans were hostile to Zionism, the Nashashibis tended to favor compromise, while the Husseinis, with the exception of Kamil, did not. In April of 1920, the British appointed Ragheb Bey Nashashibi as mayor of Jerusalem, replacing Musa Kasem al-Husseini.

With Kamil’s death a year later, the Husseinis suddenly feared that they would lose a second key position in Jerusalem. The British decided to follow the Ottoman system of selecting a replacement: elections would be held, and the government would then choose its preferred candidate among the three who obtained the most votes. The Husseinis hoped that Kamil’s twenty-six-year-old half-brother Amin would succeed him, but he came in fourth. The results seemed to shock the British as much as the Husseinis, who subsequently contested the election.

And here is where the British—specifically Herbert Samuel—made one of the most fateful decisions in Middle Eastern history: they pressured Sheikh Husam al-Din Jarallah, the Nashashibi-backed frontrunner, to remove himself from consideration. As a result, Amin al-Husseini, who had previously come in fourth, became an eligible candidate. The Nashashibi clan was outraged. To reduce tensions, the high commissioner did not send Husseini an official letter offering him the position, nor make any formal announcement.

Samuel’s support for Husseini has long perplexed historians. Husseini was young and, while he had briefly studied at Cairo’s prestigious al-Azhar University, he lacked the scholarly bona fides expected for such an office. As the British colonial official Edward Keith-Roach admitted, his “sole qualifications for the post were the pretensions of his family plus shrewd opportunism.” Indeed, there were aspects of his background that were far more worrisome.


Husseini had demonstrated his skill as a political operator even before the arrival of the British. In a four-year period alone, Husseini served three different, and rival, empires—shifting allegiances to whichever power he felt could best serve his twin aims: permanently ousting Europeans from the Middle East and opposing Zionism. [NA: the article goes on to explain how al-Husseini was an officer in the Ottoman Turkish army, then became a double agent for the British, and ultimately a triple agent, throwing in the French for good measure.]


[Richard] Meinertzhagen, upon hearing of the appointment, wrote in his diary that Husseini was now “in a position where he can do untold harm to Zionism and to the British; he hates both Jews and British. His appointment is sheer madness; . . . sooner or later” it “will be bitterly regretted by us.”

Husseini’s appointment came to (poisonous) fruition quite quickly:

In 1929, Husseini spread false rumors that Jews intended to desecrate the al-Aqsa Mosque—leading to pogroms that lasted for days and left more than 60 Jews dead. He also established clandestine contacts with Britain’s enemies, Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany, eventually taking funds and support from both.

Armed and equipped by fascist powers, Husseini launched the 1936 Arab Revolt, which could properly be characterized as the first intifada. Armed bands under the mufti’s sway murdered Jewish civilians and British officials alike, and assassinated rivals like the Nashashibis, who had established rival parties and institutions. These had advocated cooperation with Mandate authorities and were rumored to have made secret contact with Zionists.

Rather than reach out to the accommodationists or try to bolster them in the 1920s, when they were most popular and had the greatest chance for success, the Mandatory authorities continued to court Husseini. Even after he fled to Syria amid the Arab Revolt in 1937, they sought to appease him by curtailing Jewish immigration and proposing solutions that would eventually have ended the possibility of a Jewish state.

These efforts were in vain. From Syria, Husseini went to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany where he rewarded nearly two decades of British support by serving as a propagandist for the Axis and helping to recruit soldiers for an all-Muslim SS division. [That would have been the 13th Waffen SS “Handschar” —NA.] After the war ended, unchastened and still at large, Husseini orchestrated both the 1951 assassination of King Abdullah of Jordan, Britain’s closest ally in the region, as well as the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Riad as-Sulh. Their crime? Openness to negotiations with Zionists.

In short, the British thought they could use Husseini to their own ends, but instead he used them. By giving him the position of grand mufti, they invested him with both power and authority, allowing him to position himself as de-facto leader of the Palestinian people. He used the position to undermine their interests and fight Zionism. And he betrayed Britain twice: once to France and once to Germany. No one can know what might have happened if Samuel had cultivated a pro-British Palestinian leader who might have sought accommodation with the Jews. But there is no doubt that Husseini proved to be a poor investment.

And that, dear reader, is what one calls a British understatement.

Haj Amin al-Husseini meeting with Adolf Hitler [y”sh], November 28, 1941. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Bundesarchiv/German Federal Archives, 146-1987-004-09A
al-Husseini inspects the 13th Waffen SS “Handschar” Division, January 13, 1944. CC-BY-SA 3.0 from the German Federal Archives

al-Husseini survived the war, and later would become a mentor of sorts to a distant cousin named Mohammed al-Rauf al-Husseini, better known to the world by his nom de guerre Yasser Arafat [y”sh]…

RIP Jackie Mason z”l

Jacob Hacohen Maza, descendant of a long line of Orthodox rabbis, was born in the unlikely town of Sheboygan, WI. He himself got rabbinical ordination.

There was only one problem: whenever he gave a sermon, people had trouble keeping a straight face. Eventually, he figured he had missed his calling and became a professional comedian under the stage name Jackie Mason. The rest is history.

With his recent passing, the last living representative of the “Borscht Belt” generation left us. Politically incorrect to the core, he was an equal opportunity offender, his sharp and irreverent tongue definitely not sparing his fellow Jews. Would he have been ‘canceled’ if he had to operate in the Age of Wokeness? Likely, he would have gone total honey badger — and kept smiling all along.

Below is a rare appearance by Mason at the National Press Club in 1993. Mrs. Arbel and I have had many a great laugh from this man. May his memory be for a blessing — Yehi Zikhro Barukh.

[*] The surname Maza or Maze is a Hebrew rashei teivot (acronym) for mi-zera Aharon = from the seed of/a descendant of Aaron, i.e., a Cohen

COVID19 mini-update, July 25, 2021: waning protection against infection — but largely conserved against severe disease

Dr. John Campbell reports that in Israel, protection by the Pfizer vaccine against asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection is now down to just 40% (down from 90%), although protection against severe illness and hospitalization are still at 88% and 91.4%, respectively. Meanwhile, in the UK, they see still 88% protection against symptomatic infection and 96% against hospitalization. The discrepancy for the hospitalization is within overlapping uncertainties, but that for mild infections cannot be easily explained away. So what gives? And why is protection waning for mild infection but not (significantly) for severe disease? Summarizing what he’s presenting in the video in table form:

month of 2021 vaccinatedInfectionSymptomatic DiseaseHospitalizationSevere disease
March 67%69%89%94%

There are two major differences between the UK and Israel, of course. For one, the UK started out later with Pfizer so on average there was less time to wane. But in addition, the UK uses a much longer waiting period (2 months or more) between the first and second jabs than the 3 weeks applied by Israel and the USA. There is clear evidence that the longer the waiting period between jabs, the better the protection.

That still leaves the question of why the protection against severe disease is so much better conserved. I talked to an immunologist at [name of research hospital redacted]. She told me the following (trying to summarize from memory):

  • we should understand that COVID is a disease with multiple stages. The upper respiratory stage is a nuisance but not in itself dangerous; if it “travels down” to the lower lung, however, you are in deep trouble. These “travels” however on average will take 3 days or more — enough for a ‘primed’ immune system to mount an effective immune response.
  • antibody levels do drop pretty quickly, although with considerable variation between vaccinated (or recovered) persons: some have plenty of antibodies after 6 months, others lose them all, yet others are borderline.
  • antibody titers are however only half the immune story: what matters for long-term immunity are “memory cells”
  • unfortunately for research purposes, while antibody levels can be quickly and easily assessed by an ELISA test, not too many people are keen on having biopsies taken from bone marrow and the spleen, so you are reduced to trying to catch a few such cells as they travel around in the bloodstream. “This is so expensive and tricky, regardless of whether it’s COVID or something else, that doing this on even 50 people is only worth it for a paper in a high-profile journal”.
  • the upper respiratory tract isn’t the easiest place to generate lots of antibodies at the best of times. Maybe if a reliable intranasal droplet vaccine could be developed?
  • That said, as long as memory cells can mount a good immune response in less than 3 days, your COVID infection doesn’t proceed to the more dangerous stage and yihye be-seder (it will be OK).

To use a military metaphor: the antibodies are like guardians on the ramparts, while the “memory cells” allow quickly mounting and sending out a rapid response force.

In another video, Dr. Campbell presents recent research that seems to indicate much higher viral loads (about 3 orders of magnitude) higher than for the “wild type” (a.k.a. Classic Covid).

Interesting developing story — stay tuned.

UPDATE: more here:

FINALLY, a separate Oxford University study that was published over the weekend found that an eight-week gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine is a “sweet spot” when it comes to generating neutralizing antibodies.When England launched its vaccination campaign, it did not have enough doses to vaccinate the population according to Pfizer’s recommended regime of two doses three weeks apart. As such, it spread doses out to between four and 12 weeks to allow more people to get at least one jab.Specifically, the new research showed that neutralizing antibody levels, the level of those antibodies responsible for defending cells from pathogens, were higher after the extended dosing interval (six to 14 weeks) compared to the conventional three-to-four-week regime.


[Another difference] is age.Both Israel and the UK were careful to first vaccinate healthcare workers and the elderly. In England, however, the older population was largely administered the AstraZeneca vaccine, whereas people under 40 were offered Pfizer or Moderna as an alternative, due to evidence linking AstraZeneca to rare blood clots. The same study showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine was only 67% effective against symptomatic disease after two doses.In Israel, everyone received Pfizer. Breakthrough infections were most prominent among people aged 60 and older, a cohort that already has a greater tendency to be immunocompromised

Sabbath musical delight, Tu be-Av edition: Joe Satriani, “Love Thing”

Today is Tu be-Av, the 15th of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar. Traditionally, this minor holiday plays a role in Jewish culture a bit akin to Valentine’s Day in Christian and secular culture.

In honor of the day, I am embedding here one of guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani’s most romantic compositions: the instrumental ballad “Love Thing”

There are a number of fan covers on YouTube: this one comes closest to the nuances in the original.

Have a nice weekend and shabbat shalom!

Frederick Forsyth and Lee Child hosted by the Daily Telegraph

One of the perks I got for subscribing to the Daily Telegraph/Torygraph was last night, when Mrs. Arbel and I spent an enjoyable hour in the online company of thriller writers Lee Child (of Jack Reacher series fame) and none other than Frederick Forsyth.

Left: Frederick Forsyth; right: Lee Child

The event was in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Day Of The Jackal: I’ve blogged here previously about its genesis. I would be hard-pressed to pick my one favorite fiction book — I’m not nearly as widely read in fiction as some of my online friends — but when it comes to thrillers, TDOTJ would be my #1 choice. I read it first as a teenager: it took very little suspension of disbelief to convince myself I was reading a ‘documentary’ about a failed attempt on the life of Charles de Gaulle, rather than a novel crafted with extraordinary and then-unprecedented verisimilitude.

The latter aspect was the most transformative of the genre: like you can date pop music “pre-Beatles” and “post-Beatles”, you can speak of pre-Jackal and post-Jackal thrillers. Lee Child would agree: he said the genre was ‘stale’ until Forsyth came along.

What did we learn from the hour-long, very amiable chat? (The moderator was doing a great job, BTW.) I already knew Forsyth was a veteran journalist who lost his job with the BBC over refusal to toe the Labour ‘party line’ on the Biafra War: high-flying literary prose was not as prized in that profession as careful research, and reliably being able to turn in clear, competent prose by the daily deadline.

Child, in contrast, came from a background in TV writing, which has its own exigencies.

Child described himself as a total ‘pantser’ (i.e., “flies by the seat of his pants”, just writes the book and evolves the story as he goes). Forsyth, in contrast, is a total plotter: as he puts it, he’d written the whole book in his head before he first sat down at the typewriter. So while the actual writing might go very fast (TDOTJ was written in 33 days), the books go through a very long ‘incubation period’.

The interviewer asked Forsyth if he ever used whiteboards etc. To keep track of characters and (sub)plot lines: Forsyth says he never bothers with these. While it’s evident to anyone who’s ever heard the man that he has a prodigious memory, an answer he left unspoken is: “if I can’t keep it all in my head, neither will the reader”.

A surprise to me was how much attention both writers lavish on their opening sentence. Specifically, to plant several questions in the readers’ heads and ‘hook’ them for the book.

It is cold at 6:40 in the morning of a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.

So we’re in Paris, and the novel begins with an execution, in a manner normally reserved for crimes against the state or the military rather than common crimes. What crime? Against whom?

Forsyth said that if a book hasn’t grabbed him in 50 pages, he gives up reading it, and he assumes so will other readers; Child ruefully commented that this ‘reader patience’ has gotten shorter and shorter with time, until with today’s readership you have 1-2 pages at most, so best to have a good ‘opening hook’.

Child does most of his research remotely; Forsyth believes in visiting locations he is writing about. At age 75, he visited Mogadishu (accompanied by a minder/bodyguard with special forces experience): the one thing about the place that hit him hardest was the smell, which he would never have gotten from books or the internet.

At age 80, his wife wouldn’t allow him to visit perilous places anymore, and he’s done all he can with the thriller genre, so now he’s settling down into a retirement of ‘playing with the Jack Russells and writing a weekly op-ed for the Telegraph’.

Child, on the other hand, is younger and definitely wants to continue writing novels — he just wants to retire Jack Reacher.

A great time was had by all. The only complaint of many online attendees was the poor audio from Forsyth — this is something the Telegraph staff could have prevented by sending over a staffer with a decent podcast microphone and, if necessary, a cellular modem.

And now I will have to check out Lee Child’s Jack Reacher…

Eye-opening thread on why Trump voters distrust media and believe the 2020 election was rigged

Somebody forwarded me a video of Tucker Carlson reading out a twitter thread from one Darryl Cooper on Fox News. I found the original video and transcript here: the thread is eye-opening enough that I feel I should reproduce it verbatim (emphases mine). The thread on Twitter begins here.

(NB: DuckDuckGo found it on the first try. By way of experiment, I tried Google, where it proved…. elusive 😉 Coincidence? A funny one, that ;))

I think I’ve had discussions w/enough Boomer-tier Trump supporters who believe the 2020 election was fraudulent to extract a general theory about their perspective. It is also the perspective of most of the people at the Capitol on 1/6, and probably even Trump himself. 1/x 

Most believe some or all of the theories involving midnight ballots, voting machines, etc, but what you find when you talk to them is that, while they’ll defend those positions w/info they got from Hannity or Breitbart or whatever, they’re not particularly attached to them. 2/x 

Here are the facts – actual, confirmed facts – that shape their perspective: 1) The FBI/etc spied on the 2016 Trump campaign using evidence manufactured by the Clinton campaign. We now know that all involved knew it was fake from Day 1 (see: Brennan’s July 2016 memo, etc). 3/x 

These are Tea Party people. The types who give their kids a pocket Constitution for their birthday and have Founding Fathers memes in their bios. The intel community spying on a presidential campaign using fake evidence (incl forged documents) is a big deal to them. 4/x 

Everyone involved lied about their involvement as long as they could. We only learned the DNC paid for the manufactured evidence because of a court order. Comey denied on TV knowing the DNC paid for it, when we have emails from a year earlier proving that he knew. 5/x 

This was true with everyone, from CIA Dir Brennan & Adam Schiff – who were on TV saying they’d seen clear evidence of collusion w/Russia, while admitting under oath behind closed doors that they hadn’t – all the way down the line. In the end we learned that it was ALL fake. 6/x 

At first, many Trump ppl were worried there must be some collusion, because every media & intel agency wouldn’t make it up out of nothing. When it was clear that they had made it up, people expected a reckoning, and shed many illusions about their gov’t when it didn’t happen. 7/x 

We know as fact: a) The Steele dossier was the sole evidence used to justify spying on the Trump campaign, b) The FBI knew the Steele dossier was a DNC op, c) Steele’s source told the FBI the info was unserious, d) they did not inform the court of any of this and kept spying. 8/x 

Trump supporters know the collusion case front and back. They went from worrying the collusion must be real, to suspecting it might be fake, to realizing it was a scam, then watched as every institution – agencies, the press, Congress, academia – gaslit them for another year. 9/x 

Worse, collusion was used to scare people away from working in the administration. They knew their entire lives would be investigated. Many quit because they were being bankrupted by legal fees. The DoJ, press, & gov’t destroyed lives and actively subverted an elected admin. 10/x 

This is where people whose political identity was largely defined by a naive belief in what they learned in Civics class began to see the outline of a Regime that crossed all institutional boundaries. Because it had stepped out of the shadows to unite against an interloper. 11/x 

GOP propaganda still has many of them thinking in terms of partisan binaries, but A LOT of Trump supporters see that the Regime is not partisan. They all know that the same institutions would have taken opposite sides if it was a Tulsi Gabbard vs Jeb Bush election. 12/x 

It’s hard to describe to people on the left (who are used to thinking of gov’t as a conspiracy… Watergate, COINTELPRO, WMD, etc) how shocking & disillusioning this was for people who encourage their sons to enlist in the Army, and hate ppl who don’t stand for the Anthem. 13/x 

They could have managed the shock if it only involved the government. But the behavior of the corporate press is really what radicalized them. They hate journalists more than they hate any politician or gov’t official, because they feel most betrayed by them. 14/x 

The idea that the press is driven by ratings/sensationalism became untenable. If that were true, they’d be all over the Epstein story. The corporate press is the propaganda arm of the Regime they now see in outline. Nothing anyone says will ever make them unsee that, period. 15/x 

This is profoundly disorienting. Many of them don’t know for certain whether ballots were faked in November 2020, but they know for absolute certain that the press, the FBI, etc would lie to them if there was. They have every reason to believe that, and it’s probably true. 16/x 

They watched the press behave like animals for four years. Tens of millions of people will always see Kavanaugh as a gang rapist, based on nothing, because of CNN. And CNN seems proud of that. They led a lynch mob against a high school kid. They cheered on a summer of riots. 17/x 

They always claimed the media had liberal bias, fine, whatever. They still thought the press would admit truth if they were cornered. Now they don’t. It’s a different thing to watch them invent stories whole cloth in order to destroy regular lives and spark mass violence. 18/x 

Time Mag told us that during the 2020 riots, there were weekly conference calls involving, among others, leaders of the protests, the local officials who refused to stop them, and media people who framed them for political effect. In Ukraine we call that a color revolution. 19/x 

Throughout the summer, Democrat governors took advantage of COVID to change voting procedures. It wasn’t just the mail-ins (they lowered signature matching standards, etc). After the collusion scam, the fake impeachment, Trump ppl expected shenanigans by now. 20/x 

Re: “fake impeachment”, we now know that Trump’s request for Ukraine to cooperate w/the DOJ regarding Biden’s $ activities in Ukraine was in support of an active investigation being pursued by the FBI and Ukraine AG at the time, and so a completely legitimate request. 21/x 

Then you get the Hunter laptop scandal. Big Tech ran a full-on censorship campaign against a major newspaper to protect a political candidate. Period. Everyone knows it, all of the Tech companies now admit it was a “mistake” – but, ya know, the election’s over, so who cares? 22/x 

Goes w/o saying, but: If the NY Times had Don Jr’s laptop, full of pics of him smoking crack and engaging in group sex, lots of lurid family drama, emails describing direct corruption and backed up by the CEO of the company they were using, the NYT wouldn’t have been banned. 23/x 

Think back: Stories about Trump being pissed on by Russian prostitutes and blackmailed by Putin were promoted as fact, and the only evidence was a document paid for by his opposition and disavowed by its source. The NY Post was banned for reporting on true information. 24/x 

The reaction of Trump ppl to all this was not, “no fair!” That’s how they felt about Romney’s “binders of women” in 2012. This is different. Now they see, correctly, that every institution is captured by ppl who will use any means to exclude them from the political process. 25/x 

And yet they showed up in record numbers to vote. He got 13m more votes than in 2016, 10m more than Clinton got! As election night dragged on, they allowed themselves some hope. But when the four critical swing states (and only those states) went dark at midnight, they knew. 26/x 

Over the ensuing weeks, they got shuffled around by grifters and media scam artists selling them conspiracy theories. They latched onto one, then another increasingly absurd theory as they tried to put a concrete name on something very real. 27/x 

Media & Tech did everything to make things worse. Everything about the election was strange – the changes to procedure, unprecedented mail-in voting, the delays, etc – but rather than admit that and make everything transparent, they banned discussion of it (even in DMs!). 28/x 

Everyone knows that, just as Don Jr’s laptop would’ve been the story of the century, if everything about the election dispute was the same, except the parties were reversed, suspicions about the outcome would’ve been Taken Very Seriously. See 2016 for proof. 29/x 

Even the courts’ refusal of the case gets nowhere w/them, because of how the opposition embraced mass political violence. They’ll say, w/good reason: What judge will stick his neck out for Trump knowing he’ll be destroyed in the media as a violent mob burns down his house? 30/x 

It’s a fact, according to Time Magazine, that mass riots were planned in cities across the country if Trump won. Sure, they were “protests”, but they were planned by the same people as during the summer, and everyone knows what it would have meant. Judges have families, too. 31/x 

Forget the ballot conspiracies. It’s a fact that governors used COVID to unconstitutionally alter election procedures (the Constitution states that only legislatures can do so) to help Biden to make up for a massive enthusiasm gap by gaming the mail-in ballot system. 32/x 

They knew it was unconstitutional, it’s right there in plain English. But they knew the cases wouldn’t see court until after the election. And what judge will toss millions of ballots because a governor broke the rules? The threat of mass riots wasn’t implied, it was direct. 33/x 

a) The entrenched bureaucracy & security state subverted Trump from Day 1, b) The press is part of the operation, c) Election rules were changed, d) Big Tech censors opposition, e) Political violence is legitimized & encouraged, f) Trump is banned from social media. 34/x 

They were led down some rabbit holes, but they are absolutely right that their gov’t is monopolized by a Regime that believes they are beneath representation, and will observe no limits to keep them getting it. Trump fans should be happy he lost; it might’ve kept him alive. /end 

Love or hate Trump: what happened in the USA should scare anyone witless. And I am afraid that at the end of the day, the backlash may put somebody in power there who will make lefties and conservatives look back at Trump with nostalgia….

Marco Rubio schools Senate about Cuba protests; the 3rd player in the Ben & Jerry‘s fracas

(1) must-see video: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), himself born to Cuban refugees, schools the Senate on what things are really like in Cuba, and of all the stronzeria being peddled by the regime to ‘justify’ themselves.

(2) Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Ben & Jerry’s, who’ve never encountered a regressive “progressive” cause they wouldn’t go a-wh*ring after, now decided they will not market their product in the “Palestinian” “Occupied” Territories anymore.

Minister Orna Barbivai posted a video of her taking the B&J out of her freeezer and throwing it in the trash. However, there are three players other than Israel in this game:

* the wokebags of the “independent” B&J board of directors, whose leadership wanted to boycott the entire country;

* the CEO of B&J’s owners, food multinational Unilever’, who as a ‘compromise’ came up with the new policy;

* the CEO of the Israeli franchisee, who manufactures the stuff locally at a plant in Yavne. Avi Zinger, the CEO, refuses point-blank to stop selling in the disputed territories, and calls on the Israeli public to continue to patronize what is effectively a local business. [He has meanwhile been told by the wokebags that his franchise will not be renewed when it comes up for renewal at the end of 2022, and that they will sell “alternative distribution” options. ]

Israellycool has more. We had a somewhat similar story years ago with Partner Communications, the local concessionary for the Orange cellular provider. After the latter’ s CEO got into hot water publicly disparaging our country, Partner basically told Orange, “if you don’t want us anymore, release us from our franchise contract.” This happened, and Orange Israel rebranded as Partner Israel, none the worse for wear.

Likewise, Ben & Jerry’s Israel probably should simply rebrand, source ingredients independently, and use their own recipes. They have the know-how and the distribution network, and Israel’s customers are likely to reward them for their backbone.

Meanwhile, outside Israel, backlash is starting. YNet interviews the CEO of New York’s largest supermarket chain, who’s relegated the brand to the dog house: the questions are in Hebrew but he answers in English.

But the Free Beacon has the scoop (ahem) on B&J’s new and improved flavors.

Update: heh (via Jacki B.; Aaron S.)

Valkyrie Day post: excerpt from “Operation Flash, Ep. 4: Hungarian Rhapsody” [draft]

Today, 77 years ago to the day, Col. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg famously placed his bomb in the Führer’s conference room, then flew to Berlin to lead a coup by military and civilian opponents of the National Socialist regime. The coup failed, and many of them paid with their lives in ways reminescent of medieval times.

Stauffenberg’s was only the latest in a series of assassination attempts. My alternate history series, “Operation Flash”, explores a timeline in which one of them, the Arsenal Plot of March 21, 1943 had succeeded. Then the plotters, now the Emergency Reich Government, quickly learn killing the dictator had been the easy part.

Below is the first draft of a chapter from volume 4 in the series, “Hungarian Rhapsody”. Protagonist Felix Winter began the series as a junior Abwehr officer and is by now Chancellor Carl Goerdeler military aide.


New Reich Chancellary
August 1943

Felix Winter

After we’d smoked out police chief Arthur Nebe and his plot against the Emergency Reich Government, Chancellor Goerdeler and Reichsverweser Beck had persuaded Internal Security Minister Tresckow that we needed to have a long, good look at some of the more dubious recruits to the anti-Hitler conspiracy that had become the ERG.

Because of my role in unmasking Nebe, they’d agreed on me to oversee this activity. The more senior characters I got to interview myself.


The phone rang.

“Colonel Winter, General Thomas from the Wehrwirtschaftamt [Defense Economic Office] to see you,” my aide announced.

“Very well, send him in.”

I’d gone through his file. This one isn’t going to be pleasant.

A general strode in, but he looked to me more like a business executive dressed up in an army uniform than a soldier.

I saluted, he perfunctorily saluted back, then he took the seat I pointed out to him. I led off with a few innocent questions.

“General Thomas, how did you come to go into the economic side of warfare?”

“My father was a factory owner. I realize very early on that any modern war would be a total war unlike any the world has ever known.”

“In what way?”

“In that industry would be an integral part.”

“And agriculture too?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Including starving occupied populations?”

He did not even look surprised.

“What do you know about Generalplan Ost?

“Too much, unfortunately.”

“Are you going to deny you were involved in it?”

“Allow me to speak, please.”

“I am all ears,” I answered, as I braced myself for self-serving drivel.

Thomas took a deep breath. “I knew this war was going to be bad news, and tried to talk Hitler out of it.”


“By explaining in great detail the economic power of the Allies. I did my homework: whatever else you can say about the late Führer, he was excellent at catching mistakes in briefings. Of course, he still said I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

“And then?”

“When the planning for Barbarossa started, I convinced General Halder that we weren’t ready, that we had fuel reserves for at most two months, and that we should at least delay until we’d built up enough of a reserve. Better still, never invade at all.”

“What happened”

“Keitel and Göring stepped in, saying it would not matter, as we could just live off the occupied lands.”

“And you’d have no problem with that?”

Thomas did not even pretend he did. I continued.

“General Thomas, I have here a report saying that if all the grain to feed the Wehrmacht is taken from occupied Russia, I quote, ‘umpteen million civilians will die of starvation’. Your signature is on the report.”

“Yes, I wrote that. Not that Göring and Keitel cared.”

Both of those scoundrels were dead now, of course, cremated and their ashes scattered in the Spree. “And did you care?”

Thomas answered with an eloquent shrug. “In war, you do what you have to do.”

“So what did you have a problem with then?”

“Winter, there is another report you should see. I have a copy with me.”

He opened his attaché case — I didn’t suspect a weapon, as he’d have been searched already —pulled out a folder, and opened it to a page he’d earmarked.

“This here is a calculation of the economic value of what we extracted from the occupied territories in the East. Now if you go to this page here”, he pulled out a loose leaf, “you will see that we actually got slightly more out of just Belgium, which Falkenhausen ran in a fairly peaceful way.”

Compared to occupied Russia, which wasn’t saying a whole lot.

“And if you look at this report,” he pulled out another binder, “you will see the economic value of what we got from the Soviet Union during the period of the nonaggression pact”.

I was stunned by what I saw. We’d actually gotten more from the Soviets during peacetime than what we’d been able to extract, in the most brutal way possible, from occupied Soviet territory.

“So what you are saying?”

“That we killed millions of people for what we could have gotten more efficiently without killing one person.”

“And that is when—”

“I’d been doubting National Socialism since the Fritsch affair in 1938. So I sought contact with Beck and with Chancellor Goerdeler, who was then just a businessman.”

“But you didn’t immediately break with the regime?”

Thomas sighed. “Winter, let’s talk like adults. If you opposed them, at best they would fire you and replace you with somebody more willing — no shortage of them. At worst they’d destroy your life, like they did with Fritsch — or have you executed for Wehrkraftzersetzung [subversion of defensive strength].”

“So you went along.”

“I kept trying to convince them this was going to be horrible. I might as well have talked to the wind.”

“What made you finally break with them?”

“When I understood we were killing people for no reason at all — killing just for the sake of killing so-called Untermenschen. That’s when I’d had enough.”


Thomas had left. One day we would settle accounts with him — now was not the time.

Not for the first time, I felt despair. The regime we had toppled had tainted nearly everything it touched. I’d never completely bought the “clean Wehrmacht” story — I’d heard too many stories from former classmates who were on leave from the Eastern front. There was no such thing as ‘clean war’ there. But I’d somehow wanted to believe that the Wehrmacht had not been this deeply involved with abominations like Generalplan Ost or the so-called “final solution of the Jewish problem”.

Colonel Hossbach had told me of a top-secret conference in late 1937 where he’d been tasked with writing down minutes. I forgot what the official reason for the meeting even was — but aside from Foreign Minister von Neurath, the Reich’s top defense leadership was there: Defense Minister Blomberg; Commander-in-Chief Generaloberst von Fritsch; and Chief of the General Staff Beck.

There, the Führer for the first time laid out the plans for his upcoming invasions. If Hossbach was to be believed, all of the others protested. And what happened to them? It was suddenly ‘discovered’ that Blomberg had remarried to a former prostitute — which was true — and that Fritsch paid Strichjunge [rent boys] — which was slander. Beck was old enough that he could be forced into retirement, and was. Hitler replaced the lot with a new OKW, headed by his loathsome lackey Keitel. Neurath, for his part, was replaced by von Ribbentrop —a former champagne salesman and fanatical Nazi who’d bought his title of nobility.

So Thomas was part right — whoever didn’t do Hitler’s bidding was replaced by someone who would. Those who stayed on ‘for damage control’? Bit by bit, they sold their souls to the devil, until they could no longer back out even if they wanted to.

A handful, all too few, snapped and became active resisters. Like Tresckow, like Stauffenberg, like Fabian. And indeed, like that enigmatic colonel whose hand I’d shaken just minutes before he’d blown himself up with Hitler and his chief henchmen.

We owed it to the nation, but especially to them, to ensure their sacrifice had not been for naught.

Tisha be-Av: the story of Kamtza and bar-Kamtza

Today, on the Jewish calendar, is the 9th of Av, associated with a long litany of calamities in the history of the Jewish people. The first two were the destructions of the First Temple (in 586 BCE) and the Second Temple (in 70 CE).

There is a story in the Talmud (Gittin 55b) and in the Midrash Rabba (at Lamentations 4:3) about a man named Kamtza and his near-namesake Bar-Kamtza. (The names relate to the Hebrew word kometz, ‘fistful’.) A rich man organizes a feast and invites his friend Kamtza, but through a mix-up, his secretary invites his enemy Bar-Kamtza instead. When the latter shows up at the feast, the host makes a scene, and throws Bar-Kamtza out even when the latter offers to pay for the whole feast, to save face.

Hurt, Bar-Kamtza travels to Rome and has an audience with the Emperor, claiming the Jews were revolting against the Romans and that he would prove it. [Provincia Judea, as the Romans referred to ancient Israel, nominally had a King Agrippa II from the Herodian dynasty, but the real power lay with the Roman Procurator or governor.]

Bar-Kamtza brings three sacrificial animals to the Temple, offering to sacrifice them on behalf of the Emperor. He makes a tiny nick in their lip, a blemish that would not disqualify them for Roman sacrifices but would for the Temple.

The rabbis of the Great Sanhedrin [*] engage in debate. Some offer sacrificing the animals anyway [perhaps with a slight change in the ritual so as to indicate that the sacrifice is made under duress?]. Rabbi Zecharia vetoes the plan, citing fears people will now all bring blemished sacrifices. A plan to execute Bar-Kamtza as a scapegoat is also nixed by Rabbi Zecharia, as this is not the mandated punishment for knowingly bringing a disqualified offering.

Because of the insult to the Roman Emperor, the latter is then convinced there is a rebellion, Roman legions lay siege to Jerusalem, and eventually the Second Temple is destroyed.

Below is a short commentary by R’ Paul Lewin of the North Shore synagogue in Sydney, Australia. As he puts it, the story is an object lesson on thinking through not just the direct result of one’s actions, but also its long-term consequences, both the knowable and the potential unknowable. “Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza” can be translated as “one fist against the other” — unthinkingly, only seeing the current object of their hatred.

In Hebrew this is called sin’at chinam — literally, ‘hate gratuitous’, idiomatically: causeless hatred, pointless hatred. Not a reasoned, firm disagreement based on principles and substance, but what I would call “the original ‘cancel culture'”.

ADDENDUM: there is a story about Napoleon passing a synagogue, hearing loud lamentations inside, and entering out of curiosity.
When he asked what disaster had struck the community, he was told it was Tisha be-Av, and that they were lamenting the destructions of the First and Second Temples [Hebrew: churban beit ha-rishon and churban beit ha-sheini], and the subsequent exile of the Jewish People.

Napoleon is supposed to have answered that a people that would still mourn its loss from eighteen centuries earlier would be sure to return to its homeland one day and see its Temple rebuilt.


Bizarre coincidence, or as Sarah A. Hoyt would say, “G-d needs an editor”?

World War One officially began on 28 July 1914, with Austro-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. Germany entered that war on August 1, 1914, by declaring war on Russia. August 1, 1914 CE was also… Tisha be-Av 5674

Catastrophic as World War One was, it also sowed the seeds for even more destructive regimes, an even bloodier war, and the greatest catastrophe [literal meaning of Shoah] to befall our people.

The difference between a work of fiction (and editor) and history, is that a work of fiction has to be plausible…

[*] the Aramaic term is a corruption of Greek Συνέδριον, synhedrion, “sitting together”, i.e., “assembly”. This had also been the title of Alexander the Great’s supreme council.

Sabbath musical delight, Cuba Libre edition

Cubans have utterly had it with the situation there, and its incompetent totalitarian government, as there are the demonstrations the MSM (marxist sucker media) are downplaying, and we are seeing the embarrassing spectacle of a certain (bowel) movement loudly proclaiming its support for the Castrist totalitarian thugs. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), himself the son of Cuban expats, is having a field day smoking out Castrism’s allies on Tw*tter.

Here is a protest song recorded by Cuban artists: “Patria y vida”, Spanish for “Fatherland and Life”.

Cuba Libre and Shabbat shalom!

The Merkava: Israel’s main battle tank

“Tallik” was a nickname spoken with a mixture of awe and affection. General-Major Israel Tal, z”l (1924-2010) is not just the father of Israeli armor doctrine, but the Merkava (“chariot”), Israel’s main battle tank, is substantially his brainchild.

The Merkava may not be the very best tank in the world, but it is the one best suited to Israel’s needs, being custom-designed for them.

On an amusing note: late in life, Talik got an award from a clean-government advocacy group, as he must be the only defense developer who not only developed a weapon system 1/3 under budget, but returned the excess money.

Military History Visualized interviews an expert at the German Armor Museum (Panzermuseum) about the Merkava Mark I/II (Mark I upgraded to II), focusing mostly on the genesis of the design and the early versions.

More here. Gotta love the name of this narrator, “Gaijin Media” 🙂

And finally, here is a video from Weapons Detective, which focuses mostly on the current iteration, the Merkava Mark IVm.

May your memory be for a blessing, Tallik, and your handiwork for a shield.

COVID19 update, July 15, 2021: Israel, UK not panicking about delta variant

At present, both the UK and Israel have surging infection rates that (from genome sequencing of samples from confirmed patients) appear to be almost exclusively driven by the delta (formerly “Indian”) variant.

There is no doubt that delta is more contagious than the wild type (“classic COVID”, if you like) or even than the alpha (formerly “British” or “Kent”) variant. Thank G-d, it does not appear to be deadlier.

In fact, in the UK hospitalizations have dropped from over 6% of confirmed cases to less than 2%, and in Israel from 2-4% (depending on the season) to less than 1%. This is likely in large measure an artifact of age distribution: in Israel, over 90% of the population age 50 and over is doubly vaccinated, and over 80% of the 20-49 age bracket. The UK (which uses both the Pfizer mRNA vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca viral vector vaccine) actually leads Israel in percentage of people who got at least one shot, while Israel leads in doubly vaccinated. In both countries, this means that people testing positive now are overwhelmingly very young and unvaccinated, and on account of their age unlikely to develop any complications that require hospitalization. (There is always the rare ‘man bites dog’ exception of a kid without underlying conditions developing severe COVID, but those are news precisely because they are rare and unexpected. Beware of the ‘misleading vividness fallacy’.)

There was considerable fear in the beginning that delta would be an “escape mutation”. As discussed by Stacey Lennox in PJ Media, [Hat tip: Jeff Duntemann.] Israeli data indicate that Pfizer, at least, remains highly effective (over 90%) against severe disease.

According to the Ministry of Health dashboard, we have 5,600 active cases now, but just 54 people hospitalized in severe condition (compared to 1,200 at the peak of the “alpha” wave), and from July 7 to July 14 have seen just 11 (eleven) dead total, out of a cumulative total since the beginning of 6,443.

Some of the dead are unvaccinated people in their forties, but several were elderly patients who had been doubly vaccinated. Now that is less shocking than it may seem: for people in their seventies and up, the vaccination rate is 95% or so, which means that even with a 95% effective vaccine, the absolute number of dead among the vaccinated would be comparable to that among the twenty times smaller unvaccinated group.

In fact, as the head of infectious diseases at [redacted] hospital told me, we saw this also in small numbers during the “alpha” wave: an analysis was just published (peer reviewed, accepted manuscript ahead of publication): Brosh-Nissimov, T.; Orenbuch-Harroch, E.; Chowers, M.; Elbaz, M.; Nesher, L.; Stein, M.; Maor, Y.; Cohen, R.; Hussein, K.; Weinberger, M.; Zimhony, O.; Chazan, B.; Najjar, R.; Zayyad, H.; Rahav, G.; Wiener-Well, Y. BNT162b2 “Vaccine Breakthrough: Clinical Characteristics of 152 Fully-Vaccinated Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients in Israel” Clin. Microbiol. Infect. 2021, EarlyView.

In a nutshell: the article investigates 152 Israeli patients in 17 Israeli hospitals who were hospitalized with COVID despite double vaccination in the period up to 20 April 2021 — about half the total such cases, and to be compared with a cumulative total of over 22,000 unvaccinated severe cases.

Poor outcome was noted in 38 patients and mortality rate reached 22% (34/152). Notable, the cohort was characterized by a high rate of comorbidities predisposing to severe COVID-19, including hypertension (108, 71%), diabetes (73, 48%), C[ongestive] H[eart] F[ailure] (41, 27%), chronic kidney and lung diseases (37, 24% each), dementia (29, 19%), and cancer (36, 24%), and only 6 (4%) had no comorbiditiesSixty (40%) of the patients were immunocompromised.

[emphasis and annotations mine]

Mean age at death was 75±10. Incidentally, all six of the patients without comorbidities survived. Digging deeper into Table 1 of the paper, about a quarter of the immunocompromised were organ transplant recipients, and about half on chemotherapy.

An internal document I have seen rates the probability of another massive hospitalization wave as “low”, and argues that at present there is no need for re-introducing severe restrictions.

Judging from the recent videos by Dr. John Campbell, thinking in the UK healthcare sector is fairly similar, and it appears the July 17 reopening is still on track. Israel too is cautiously taking it easy:

[D]espite the outbreak, ministers decided Tuesday to ease up on restrictions, shortening quarantine to seven days from the current 10-14 days while declining to back a Health Ministry proposal that would have reimposed some limits on gatherings.

Despite that, PM Bennett is telling people that perhaps this isn’t the right time to go on vacation abroad, as “the whole map will turn red anyway”. Predictably, this got him the ire of our travel agencies, which had been on life support all this time and now understandably were hoping they could start recovering some business.

But if I may cautiously state one overall lesson from the UK and Israel grappling with the delta variant, it would be: “the soup isn’t eaten as hot as it is served” (priceless Dutch idiom).

Update: Dr. John Campbell comments on the study

Bastille Day

Today, 232 years ago to the day, a Parisian mob stormed the medieval fortress known as the Bastille. When Louis XVI asked whether the people were in rebellion, de la Rochefoucauld told him “no, Your Majestty, this is not a rebellion but a revolution”. And to this day, July 14 is marked as the beginning of the French Revolution, and since 1880 “quatorze Juliet” has officially been the French national holiday.

The French Revolution was a sufficiently pivotal event that, back in the Lowland, we divided history according to it. Antiquity was everything prior to 476 (fall of the West Roman Empire); the Middle Ages ended in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople and hence the East Roman, a.k.a. Byzantine, Empire); the New Era ended with the French Revolution; and everything after was referred to as the Newest Era. English-speaking sources would agree on the first two, but typically place the border between Early Modern History and Late Modern History somewhat earlier, e.g., at the American Revolution. (The somewhat oxymoronic term “Contemporary History” is a loan translation of the German term Zeitgeschichte, which typically refers to the post-WW I era.

Contrary to popular belief, this wasn’t a mass liberation of “prisoners of conscience”. At the time, the Bastille held just seven prisoners — four forgers, a would-be regicide, an Irish madman believing himself to be Jesus and Caesar at the same time, and an incestuous nobleman incarcerated at the request of his own family. The eighth prisoner, the infamous Marquis de Sade, had been transferred away shortly before.

But there was more at the Bastille than a handful of prisoners — the police archives, part of the royal archives, and — most importantly — a large store of gunpowder. The revolutionaries had ‘liberated’ about 28,000 muskets from the Hôtel des Invalides [idiomatically: Veterans Hall], but little ammunition — that was why they really went after the Bastille, symbolic value aside.

Of course, the revolution quickly started eating its own, and auspicious beginnings turned into a reign of terror, followed by a Directoire (a “Directorate” of five oligarchs ruling France after the fall of Robespierre) and eventually by the rise of Napoleon — who left his permanent stamp on Europe, not just France. (That is a subject for another blog post — suffice to say I cannot recommend Andrew Roberts’s brilliant biography of Napoleon enough.)

Across the English Channel, the way the revolution quickly degenerated into a bloodbath led a Whig parliamentarian by the name of Edmund Burke to compose his Reflections on the Revolution in France — widely seen as the foundational document of modern conservatism.

All in all, Europe was never the same after July 14, 1789.

As a parting bonus, here is a recent cover of the Rush song “Bastille Day” about the events.

Impromptu: Is the sudden collapse of Champlain Towers South an omen for the US economy?

I don’t believe in omens (except as a literary device :)) but some parallels are ominous [sic].

First of all, the Surfside condominium tower was not some ramshackle structure thrown up in a slapdash fashion in a favela, but an upmarket complex in a desirable neighborhood, built to ostensibly high standards. Its companion building Champlain Towers North (and the later addition Champlain Towers East) appear to have gotten clean bills of health during inspections.

A well-built concrete tower:

  • has “a lot of ruin in it” (i.e., it can absorb a lot of abuse);
  • if it has problems, to the trained eye it will give lots of warning signs over an extended period of time if you look at it
  • when it does fail, it will fail suddenly and catastrophically
  • if one is alert at the time of failure, one can save oneself even if with nothing but the clothes on one’s back. (I viewed a number of survivor testimonies: they were awake at the time, were alerted by the rumble, and fled for the stair/elevator cores, which kept standing (albeit crooked) attached to the uncollapsed portion (which underwent controlled demolition on July 4)

Any similarity between this and the present state of the US economy is left as an exercise to the reader…

[To say the Biden regime is spending like a drunken sailor in a brothel would be demeaning to the sailor. After all, the sailor cannot simply print money he doesn’t have…]

Why didn’t the Luftwaffe bomb the British radar stations during the Battle of Britain?

Battling a deadline at work, so here is a military aviation history video that answers the title question:

TL;DR summary: (a) yes, the Luftwaffe knew what radar was and already had its own (except they call it Funkmessgerät); (b) the top Luftwaffe brass didn’t quite “get” it, unlike Air Marshal Hugh Downing, who developed a coherent doctrine for using RDF (radio direction finding, as the British called radar) at least in a defensive context; (c) the Luftwaffe did repeatedly try to knock out RDF stations, but wreaking lasting damage was easier said than done.

Very much worth viewing if you’re a WW II or aviation history buff.

The oligarchy’s worst nightmare: an alliance of left-populists and right-populists

(1) Former Australian deputy PM John Anderson interviews Matt Taibbi, late of Rolling Stone, about the polarization of US media.

Taibbi is a liberal whom I probably would disagree with better than 70% of the time, but he still believes journalism should be about reporting the facts rather than a narrative, which put him at loggerheads with the Brahmandarin propagandists with bylinesadvocacy journalists. Hence, he’s on Substack these days rather than with a big-name byline.

Taibbi cut his teeth reporting from the former USSR, which may have been good preparation for what is going on now.

His comparison of the “Russia! Russia! Russia!” narrative about Trump with the search for WMDs in Iraq certainly didn’t endear him with the apparatchiks, or his fellow liberals more generally. Not to mention his calling out their kowtowing to the ChiComs. Which brings me to the second item:

(2) “The founding elite vs. the current elite.” The author identifies as the worst nightmare of the “elitists” — the group I call the Brahmandarins, Thomas Sowell calls the Anointed, and Joel Kotkin calls the neo-feudalists and the clerisy:

left-populists and right-populists setting aside their differences to unite against the Brahmandarins.

They can defeat either group in detail but not the coalition of both, and hence have to prevent them, at all cost, from uniting.

So how best to divide the opposition? Become strange bedfellows with the only party willing and able to go all the way to crony socialism: the Democrats and their DIE cult. [Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Equity, a.k.a., Discrimination-in-reverse, Iniquity, and Exclusion]

As noted previously, the Democratic Party’s powerbrokers aren’t democratic. Despite their professed concern for the downtrodden, today’s Democratic Party leaders hold that such “concern” can only be exercised by a top-down administrative monolith governed by a ruling elite who arbitrarily and capriciously dole out patronage and privileges and redistribute wealth to expand and perpetuate their power. The current elite—the vast majority of whom already identify with them and participate in the scheme—could find no better partner than the Democrats’ powerbrokers onto which to graft themselves in the pursuit of transforming our republic into “our oligarchy.”

Further, offering public paeans and sacrifices to the DIE cult by trashing “systemically racist” America, notably the founding elite, the current elite can pretend they are better than their predecessors—a narrative the corrupt media is more than happy to propagate. And, having denigrated and canceled the past, the current elite will have no bar to measure their promises of creating a more “diverse, inclusive, and equitable”—though not more free, equal, and just—nation and world. 

For instance, how “equitable”—let alone free—can the current elites’ desired nation be when they engage diplomatically and do business with genocidal Communist China? The current elite is cynical, not stupid. Thus, they self-righteously condemn America’s past slavery to distract from the fact they will not condemn the Beijing regime’s state policies of genocide, slave labor, and totalitarianism. 

It is just common sense, however cruel: the current elite must prevent Left- and Right- populists from combining and devising and implementing the means to bring elites to heel[…] In defiance of both parties’ populist movements, one witnesses the incestuous marriage of America’s current elite and the Democratic Party’s power brokers in the temple of the DIE cult. You weren’t invited. But they expect you to visit the registry and send a gift—or else.