(1) “Kings and Generals” has a brief military history of the Maccabean revolt. It gets a few things about Jewish practice and tradition wrong, but the depiction of the battles is a good overview.
If you’re wondering who these “Seleucids” were: when Alexander the Great died, his Macedonian empire fell apart into competing kingdoms led by, and named after, the Diadochi (“successors”, really “competing would-be successors”), of which Ptolemy and Seleucus are the best known. Egypt was under the Ptolemaic dynasty (which would end with Cleopatra), the Land of Israel was effectively the border march of the Seleucids.
(2) Dr. John Campbell sounds an optimistic note about the “omicron variant” of COVID19. [I agree for once with the WHO for not naming it “Xi variant”, since all variants are Xi variants, a.k.a. Winnie the Flu ;)]
(3) In the video below (in Hebrew), orientalist and Arabic language professor Dr. Mordechai Kedar is asked whether Iran could potentially fall apart the way the USSR did — ethnic strife being one factor in this. Sounds crazy, you say? Maybe, but I’ve learned something about the ethnic heterogeneity of Iran. He specifically mentions five non-Persian minorities: Azeris (on the border with Azerbeijan), Kurds, Baluchis (on the border with Pakistan), Arabs (by the Persian Gulf), and Turkmen (near the border with Turkmenistan). [He also mentioned one Lor or Lur tribe, the Bakhtiari.]
Each minority group has grievances, and each knows they cannot stand up to the central government on their own. As he describes it, there is an increasing awareness among the minority group that if they can join hands (including, presumably, with dissident Persians) they may be able to bring matters to a head.
(A) In a classical vein, Beethovens 12 variations for cello and piano on a theme from Händel’s oratorio “Judas Maccabaeus”, WoO 45 [work without opus number 45] . Performed here by Adrian Brendel on cello accompanied by his father, the legendary classical pianist Alfred Brendel.
(B) In a less classical vein, somebody with too much time on his hands had some Chanukah-themed fun with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Tonight is the 1st night of Chanuka, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Jeff Dunetz at Yid With Lid has a lot of musings on the holiday and its meaning. Unlike most other Jewish holidays, which commemorate events that some consider mythological, the rabbinical holiday of Chanuka/Ḥanuka/חנוכה celebrates an event that is unambiguously historical, the overthrow of tyrant Antiochus IV “Epiphanes” (yes, the mamzer called himself “god made flesh”, and thought his subject should be worshiping him) by a group of insurgents who called themselves the Maccabim (Maccabees, מכבים).
The term “Maccabee” (מכבי) possibly started as a Hebrew acronym (מכב׳׳י) for the phrase mi kamocha ba-eilim Ad-nai , “who is like Thee among the g-ds, O L-RD”. Alternatively, it could refer to the leader of the Maccabee Uprising, Matityahu ha-Cohen ben-Yochanan (מתיתיהו הכהן בן יוחנן).
Below is a 3-part video series by Sam Aronow on the history of the events.
Happy chanuka, chag urim sameach!
BONUS: will the “omicron variant” of COVID19 be a party pooper? Dr. John Campbell does not sound overly concerned. The new variant [note that they skipped not only nu, which sounds too similar to “new”, but also xi/ksi: coincidence? UPDATE: no.] Appears to be more contagious and may be partially immune-escaping, but people who were vaccinated are recovered from an earlier variant are seeing very mild symptoms, reports Dr. Coetzee, the head of the South African doctor’s federation.
Israel took the drastic step of closing its airport to foreigners for two weeks, but that seems more like an “abundance of caution” measure than a dire necessity at this point. We just have a booster shot campaign behind us that has reduced our morbidity to 5% of what it was at the peak of the recent wave. Stay tuned to this channel for further updates.
The 1937 Hindenburg disaster is so much part of the public memory in the US, that the iconic “oh, the humanity!” live radio broadcast coverage received tribute-by-way-of-spoof in the memorable Thanksgiving “flying turkeys” episode of WKRP.
It was one of the greatest flying airship disasters in history, but not the greatest. In terms of fatalities, that extremely dubious honor goes to one virtually unknown outside aviation history buffs: the 1933 loss of the USS Akron, in which 73 of the 76 people on board lost their lives — including Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, head of the US Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics and the biggest advocate of the dirigible airship program. The USS Akron and her sister ship USS Macon still hold the record for largest helium-filled dirigibles ever built (the slightly larger Hindenburg was hydrogen-filled). Both helium dirigibles were lost in storms, though fortunately all except two of the Macon crew survived thanks to life vests and the fairly warm water off Monterey Bay, CA. The entire program was scrapped following this second accident.
The Air Ministry of the UK had its own dirigibles program, which was intended to establish air links between Great Britain and its far-flung colonies and Dominions. There were two prototype ships, R100 designed and built by the private sector under government aegis, and R101 designed and built outright by an Air Ministry-appointed team (those were the days of the Labour government of Ramsay McDonald).
The ship left for a journey to India with 54 people on board, including the Air Minister himself, Lord Thompson. Over France, the ship lost height in the bad weather, until it hit the ground, and shortly later the hydrogen caught fire. Only six people survived. The Imperial Airship Scheme was cancelled in the wake of the disaster, which had claimed its greatest advocate.
Heavy metal superstars Iron Maiden, whose lyrics often deal with historical events, devote an 18-minute epic to the story of R101.
Kudos to them for bringing to life this nearly forgotten story that deserves to be remembered.
Dans un sommeil que charmait ton image Je rêvais le bonheur, ardent mirage Tes yeux étaint plus doux, ta voix pure et sonore, Tu rayonnais comme un ciel éclairé par l’aurore;Tu m’appelais et je quittais la terre Pour m’enfuir avec toi vers la lumière, Les cieux pour nous entr’ouvraient leurs nues Splendeurs inconnues, lueurs divines entre vuesHélas! Hélas, triste réveil des songes Je t’appelle, ô nuit, rends moi tes mensonges, Reviens, reviens radieuse, Reviens, ô nuit mystérieuse!
(Off the cuff translation) In a sleep that flattered your image I dreamed of happiness, a fiery mirage Your eyes were softer, your voice pure and sonorous You were radiant like the sky lit up by the dawn You called me and I left Earth To flee with you toward the light The heavens opened themselves for us Unknown splendors, divine glows between vistas Alas! Sad awakening from dreams I call thee, o night, give me back your lies Come back, come back radiantly Come back, o mysterious night)
Came home from work exhausted, so this is a quick one.
(1) During my COVID blogging, I have noticed that Japan did unusually well even compared to other East Asian countries, and that none of the explanations proffered (mask wearing as a cultural norm, widespread consumption of green tea) seemed to have adequate explanatory power. Sure, obesity being quite rare in Japan (at least compared to the USA or even Israel) definitely improves the prospects of people who do get sick with COVID, and a diet rich in vitamin D may help — but clearly we’re missing something important we cannot put our finger on. Also, while Japan, after a slow start, now has a high vaccination rate, it’s not significantly different from nations like Canada that don’t do anywhere as well.
Dr. John Campbell lays out some possible genetic reasons, one having to do with the virus itself, another with the human immune system. (H/t: Mrs. Arbel)
(2) Meanwhile, Kyle Rittenhouse, who was been falsely accused of everything except bedding his mother, from the Marionette-In-Chief to the MSM, hints that he will go Nick Sandmann on the media.
Note his use of the legal phrase “actual malice”: under the standard set unanimously by the US Supreme Court in New York Times versus Sullivan for libel suits by public figures,
The constitutional guarantees require, we think, a Federal rule that prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with ‘actual malice’—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.
I hope he sues the lot of the actual malice media into bankruptcy. As a bonus, it might alleviate what I am told is a drastic shortage of baristas and waitstaff in the US.
(3) And meanwhile, Gad Saad details his latest trials and tribulations at the hands of antisocial media. Pathetic.
The Columbia linguist John McWhorter is the author of, among other works, “Our Magnificent Bastard Language” about the origins and history of English.
Recently, he became so exasperated at what he calls “the woke Pharisees” that he (who happens to be black) wrote a book called “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America” which for a while was a #1 bestseller on Amazon and is still at #3 in “Discrimination and Racism” and #5 in “Cultural Anthropology” as well as in “Political Conservatism and Liberalism”. I bought the book and started reading it.
Below is a wide-ranging 1-hour interview by Nick Gillespie of Reason Magazine, which does discuss the book at some length but touches on several other topics.
Note that McWhorter is not a conservative, but sees himself as a 1960s-era moderate liberal. As such, he joins the increasing number of old-school liberals who are completely fed up with wokebaggery (most recently, Bill Maher). He felt that precisely because of his own skin color, he had a special responsibility to speak out.
As he sees it, “wokeism” is a new religion that offers plenty of opportunities for virtue signaling (especially by white adherents) but that is not only not helping actual black people but hurting them.
He refers repeatedly to “Pharisees” as the New Testamental illustration of “performative religion” for “virtue signaling”. E.g., Matthew 23:27:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (KJV)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. (New KJV)
10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector [“publican” in the original KJV]. 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’13And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified ratherthan the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be [d]humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When asked what would be policies that would actually help black people, he mentions not dumbing down education (particularly the three “R”s), fostering the family, and ending the “war on drugs” — thus removing the foundation on which rests the black market for them, which is disproportionately ravaging the black community.
This interview is very much worth your while to view or at least listen to, especially if you can’t spare the time to read the book.
(1) The bizarre Rittenhouse Trial had me looking on in confusion. That he was ultimately acquitted didn’t surprise me, because even with my limited understanding of US law on self-defense and of the facts, I couldn’t see how another outcome was possible without massive rigging. On top of that, I was astonished at the level of incompetence of the prosecution: it had me half-wondering if he was deliberately trying to create a mistrial.
Razorfist has his usual restrained and polite response:
(2) So Kamala the Klueless’s approval rating is somewhere near that of a plague of locusts.
Even young black voters are turning on her
There are increasing rumors that Biden’s team/puppeteers are trying to sideline her.
And of course Kamala the Klueless blames “racism” and “sexism” for, well, making my late lamented dog look more qualified for the job. (Actually, when Biden went to do the traditional turkey pardon ahead of Thanksgiving, it occurred to be that replacing Biden and Harris with the two pardoned turkeys would probably be an improvement.)
Chad Pergram of Fox News claims an insider told him to bone up on the law and procedure concerning confirmation of a replacement VP. The most recent case where this actually happened was under Nixon, when Gerald Ford had to be confirmed after Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace: after Nixon nominated Ford, he needed a majority confirmation vote in both the House and the Senate, Ford passed both with overwhelming majorities (387-35 and 92-3, according to Wikipedia).
So who does [do] Biden[‘s puppeteers] have on the bench that could actually get confirmed? The lady from Sky News wonders aloud about (perish the thought) Hillary… Though I could just see them going for somebody like Michelle Ogabe…
It wasn’t like they could have sent them by Email or such, back in the day 😉 let alone by instant messaging or calling to a cell phone. (I’ve had young people ask me about coordinating complex WW II strategic moves, “why didn’t they just use secure text messaging”? And you wonder why a grown man can weep.)
But seriously, millions of paper letters, even written on onion-skin airmail paper, represented quite a high weight and bulk, better spent ferrying urgent supplies. But the military knew that letters from home were an excellent morale booster, so didn’t want to hold them back.
Mark Felton explains below how they solved the conundrum. Basically,
letters had to be written inside a camera-ready form
each letter was photographed
the rolls of film, rather than the letters themselves, were sent by plane
on the receiving end, prints were made of the letters
the prints were distributed
upon confirmation to the sending station that the prints had been distributed, the original letters were recycled
The system also worked in reverse, except that the mail censor went over each letter and blacked out anything that might reveal military secrets before photographing.
I can’t resist embedding this, even though I’d have made different song choices and let them run at least for long enough you’d get the gist of them. But if you want to discover a music genre that was bigger than most people realize — and included bands that most people don’t think about as prog-rock, like late Beatles or Pink Floyd — give this a go.
So much comedy in the Age of Woke has become dreary garbage. Today, Monty Python, Mel Brooks, and others would face “cancellation”, and I have a sneaking suspicion that a “sick comic” like Lenny Bruce [stage name of Leonard Alfred Schneider] would be censored not by the morality police as back then, but by the wokebags — or he would cross the aisle and find somewhat safe haven on our side of the aisle. (I am not saying there is not vocal disagreement between libertarians and social conservatives, but we clearly can “agree to disagree” when faced with wannabe totalitarians.)
This brings me to Greg Gutfeld, Fox News’s resident funnyman. This segment is mostly about vice-resident [sic] Kamala the Hapless, who apparently has the lowest approval rating of any VP in recorded history. In response to risible claims that this is due to racism and sexism, or something, he goes “turnabout is fair play” on the White House and accuses FICUS Joe Biden and his puppeteers of racism and sexism for sidelining Harris.
But he “invites” Harris to respond, and she does, disguised as a toaster. In fact, the toaster would be an improvement.
Watch the whole segment if you’re not easily offended by barnyard expletives. (The stronger expletives are bleeped out.[*])
But there is a serious message behind the jokes. Best summarized thus: Both the Trump and Biden WHs punch. But Trump punched up: at the media, Big Tech, at the Deep/Derp State and the like, while the Biden regime and its flacks punch down at the rest of us.
In US military slang, one who punches down and sucks up is known as a “tool”, but such officers and NCOs are hated in any military worth its salt around the world. I pity the nation currently ruled by a bunch of tools and toolmothers.
[*] Having grown up among the notoriously foul-mouthed (and un-PC) Dutch, the concept of mere words (rather than acts) being offensive mystified me until middle age. I can get bored quickly with gratuitous obscenities, though, as they detract from the message. (Or, worse, they can become a way to hide one has nothing to say. To use a musical metaphor: heavy fuzz on an electric guitar, or a Leslie speaker on a Hammond organ, can be great if used effectively, but often become places to hide, ways to cover-up mediocre technique and/or lack of musical inspiration.)
First he discusses Walter Duranty’s mendacious reporting from the USSR during the Holodomor (the man-made famine in the Ukraine).
What’s often missed when discussing Duranty, however, is the intentional nature of his malfeasance. When the Times came under pressure from the Ukrainian-American community in the early Noughties to return the “Duranty Pulitzer”, the paper’s publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., went against the recommendation of a historian hired by the Times to assess the matter. The historian recommended (unsurprisingly) that the Times should return the prize. Sulzberger refused, chalking Duranty’s cover-up to nothing more than “slovenly” reporting.
But Duranty, an Oxford-educated polyglot, was anything but slovenly. The truth of the matter could be far more disturbing, and can be found in a statement Duranty had made years earlier. In June 1931, while visiting the US embassy in Berlin to renew his passport, Duranty made a remark to a State Department official so significant that the official recorded it verbatim and entered it into the State Department record: “In agreement with the New York Times and the Soviet authorities,” Duranty told the American diplomat, “[Duranty’s] official dispatches always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet government and not his own.”
shows at great length that Duranty knew he was reporting falsehoods, and admitted to a British diplomat that the death toll of the famine he plastered over on the NYT pages may actually have claimed as many as ten million lives.
It has been claimed (including elsewhere by Conquest himself) that Duranty was made to toe the party line through Kompromat — that Russian espionage term refers to genuine or fabricated evidence of a person’s embarrassing s3xual proclivities. An older article in The Guardian, of all places, has more. (That once respectable newspaper has a special relationship with that story, as its own Malcolm Muggeridge, a former Communist turned fiercely anti-Communist by what he saw, was the first to report on the Holodomor in the West.)
Duranty was a correspondent in Moscow while the famine raged and he knew it was happening. He not only turned a blind eye, but vilified the few Western journalists who did report on it, branding their dispatches as anti-Soviet lies.
Born in Britain in 1884 into a well-to-do family, he studied languages at Cambridge. In the Twenties he lived in Paris, where he developed an opium habit and took part in drunken orgies with both men and women.
During his time in Paris he married and began writing reports for the New York Times. His clever and well-crafted articles won him a job as the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent. There is no evidence that Duranty particularly sympathised with communism, but he wrote glowing reports about the Soviet Union because he wanted to gain access to top officials.
He succeeded in doing that spectacularly by securing the first interview for an American newspaper with Stalin himself, who Duranty described as ‘the greatest living statesman’. He became the Soviet regime’s favourite correspondent, always presenting the Soviet Union in a positive light, and in 1932 he won the Pulitzer prize for a series of articles about the Soviet economy.
When stories about the famine began to surface in Moscow, Duranty dismissed them as ‘exaggerated or malignant propaganda’, and in one report employed the phrase ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’. However, British Foreign Office documents show that Duranty confided to a diplomat at the British Embassy in Moscow that he believed around 10 million people had perished.
Malcolm Muggeridge, then the Manchester Guardian ‘s Moscow correspondent, travelled secretly and at great risk to Ukraine. He was appalled at the scenes of mass starvation and heaps of dead bodies that he witnessed and described them in his reports. Duranty attacked Muggeridge and debunked his reports. Duranty was ‘the greatest liar of any journalist I have ever met’, retorted Muggeridge.
Historian Robert Conquest told The Observer that Duranty played an important role in covering up the famine and ‘he should be exposed again and again and again’. Conquest believes the Soviet secret police may have been blackmailing Duranty over his sexual behaviour.
But back to Unherd. Ashley Rindsberg then segues from Duranty into the “1619 Project”, a deeply mendacious venture of a different kind. Not direct “false news” reporting to cover up a crime against humanity then in progress, but an intellectually dishonest rewriting of history to pander to woke moral narcissism — a venture, I should note, that has come under fire also from the old Left, e.g.: “I helped fact-check the 1619 Project. The [NYT] ignored me.”
What unites the two canards, one a monumental cover-up, the other a blood libel? Unherd:
It is no coincidence that two largely successful attempts to alter history and edit reality have been carried out under the aegis of the New York Times. While Duranty and Hannah-Jones took centre stage, the platform essential to each was provided by America’s self-described paper of record.
As with any corporate-backed endeavour, a costly investment such as 1619 is undertaken only when there is a likely outcome of commensurately rich rewards. This is what we so often miss about major corporate news organisations such as the Times, which is far less significantly a newsroom built on a system of editorial practices than it is a reputation, a social construct, that produces trust — as well as a business mechanism that monetises that trust and processes it into power.
This model applies equally to the denial of the Ukraine Famine and the creation of the 1619 Project. The case of the former is explained by the drive to be positioned at the very centre of the swirl of power, influence and profit presented by the nascent, rapidly industrialising economic power of the Soviet Union that was quickly modernising the agrarian economy of tsarist Russia. The USSR was a massive market of 150 million people that for nearly two decades since the revolution had been restricted to US corporate interests.
With the 1619 Project, the New York Times’s business interests are just as decisive a factor. The Times’s management is well aware that it has to replace its audience of ageing liberals with young adherents of progressive ideologies impassioned enough to pay for the digital subscriptions that are at the heart of its business model. For the Times, this is a matter of existential significance. As a New York TimesCompany vice president has explained, one of the aims of 1619 is, according to NiemanLab, to “convince more of its 150 million monthly readers to pay for a subscription”.
This makes good sense considering that over a third of the Times‘s revenue now comes from digital subscriptions — and nearly two-thirds of the Times’s American audience is made up of millennial and Gen Z readers. Print subscriptions, meanwhile, are in “steady decline”; advertising is falling by close to (and sometimes more than) double digits each year.
Like all dynasties, the Sulzbergers, the billionaire family that controls the New York Times, are, in part, motivated by financial self-interest. But in the current cultural environment, where a movement of ideological upheaval is at work, it is power as much as money that lies behind what is the most significant journalistic endeavour of the past decade. The Times’s progressive turn (like that of so many American brands) is more top-down than bottom-up; it is a quest for influence rather than principle. The Times knows which way the wind is blowing and in a raging storm why not sail downwind?
The only problem with this approach — in business as much as in life — is that it doesn’t work. As Captain MacWhir in Joseph Conrad’s novella The Typhoon shouts through the raging storm to the story’s young protagonist: “They may say what they like, but the heaviest seas run with the wind.” In its cynical embrace of progressive politics, the Times runs the risk of capsizing in storm waters it mistakenly believes it can control.
ADDENDUM: not to mention that this process is a feedback loop. Perhaps the number of moderate subscribers that they lose is outweighed by their readership gains in the hipster doucheoisie. But that just makes them even more beholden to the latter segment, which means they bend over (backwards or forwards ;)) even further to placate it, driving away even more moderate subscribers, etc…
We are living in an age where up is down and down is up. The utterly bizarre spectacle of the Rittenhouse trial in the US is one depressing example; the absurdist nomination of a shoplifter to head a branch of the US Treasury Dept. is another. (Well, she has many good things to say about the USSR, so at least she’s consistent, some would say.)
But here in the Middle East, there is topsy-turvy of another, more hopeful kind.
If there is one thing the world should take away from the Glasgow COP26 summit, it’s that the most dangerous greenhouse-gas emissions come from the front ends of politicians, not the back ends of cows. Pandering is much more dangerous to human civilization than methane, strategic incompetence a graver threat than CO2; and dysfunctional establishment groupthink will likely kill more polar bears than all the hydrofluorocarbons in the world.
The 19th-century writer Thomas Carlyle wrote of an Age of Shams in prerevolutionary France, when the chattering classes and political leaders had so fundamentally lost contact with the underlying realities of the day that they could no longer understand the political challenges facing the French social order, much less respond to them. The elaborate rituals of court life in Versailles persisted, the ministers and bureaucrats went through the motions of governance, and intellectuals sparkled in the salons—while the French monarchy sailed, like the Titanic, toward its rendezvous with destiny.
COP26 was the kind of hollow ritual that characterized Carlyle’s Age of Shams. As one politician after another committed their countries to carefully crafted unenforceable pledges, none had the bad manners to observe that no country anywhere fully honored the climate pledges made with such fanfare in Paris six years ago.
Read the whole thing. And speaking of one of the biggest shams of all: the UNRWA, the agency most responsible for keeping the “Palestinian refugee problem” alive, wails it is on the brink of bankruptcy. Strange how a hereditary-in-perpetuity definition of “refugee” — AFAIK unique in the world — doesn’t solve a refugee problem 😉 but ensures the continued existence of the agency… Whodathunkit?
(1) The Daily Telegraph has a profile of a new University of Austin in Texas, not to be confused with UT Austin (a “Public Ivy”, the flagship of the U. of Texas system). This institution
“Dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth”, UATX is the first establishment in the world to have been founded explicitly to counteract the stifling hegemony of woke law on university campuses, and a direct response to the particularly dire state of free thinking on American ones.
Thus, instead of an enthusiasm for trigger warnings, microaggressions, safe spaces, no-platforming, diversity and inclusion ideology and critical race theory, “a full-throated commitment to open inquiry and civil discourse” – in the words of its founding president, Pano Kanelos – will be the central requirement for UATX staff and students. Its first course, in 2022, will be a summer school called Forbidden Courses, small seminars with two faculty members presenting opposing ideas on topics such as empire, with a freedom currently, well, forbidden on campus.
Launching a university is a big deal, but this one has burst into existence because of the gravitational pull of its founding mothers and fathers: the celebrity British historian Niall Ferguson; the anti-woke, Zionist media star Bari Weiss; evolutionary biologist Heather Heying; venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, founder of software company Palantir; and the musician, sociologist and writer Arthur Brooks. The first “fellows” include philosopher Kathleen Stock, who recently resigned from the University of Sussex after being hounded for arguing that biological sex is real; philosopher Peter Boghossian, who resigned from the University of Portland after years of bullying for refusing to toe the woke line, and geologist Dorian Abbot, disinvited from speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) because he is critical of aspects of affirmative action. Since its launch announcement, UATX has been inundated by thousands of inquiries from academics, says Kanelos, and five, six or seven times more from keen families terrified by the current state of American higher education.
(2) (H/t: masgramondou) this article by Batya Ungar-Sargon in the UK Spectator (archive copy here, in case you exhausted your free articles quota) is an absolute must-read on what went wrong at the NYT. A number of aspects are covered there that most of us on our side of the aisle are either unaware of or only conjectured, such as:
[…] ‘Innovation’ presaged a new direction for the paper of record: become digital-first or perish.
The Times invested in new subscription services like NYT Cooking and NYT Games, and introduced live events, conferences and foreign trips. The paper hired an ad agency to work in-house and began allowing brands to sponsor specific lines of reporting. Journalists were asked to accompany advertisers to conferences and were pushed to collaborate more closely with the business side, something many of the old-school editors were loath to do. The executive editor at the time, Jill Abramson, resisted strenuously. She was given the boot.
[…] Trump’s antics in the 2015-16 campaign were catnip for a flailing industry. Trump is estimated to have received free coverage worth around $2 billion, six times more than any of his rivals in the Republican primary received. This coverage planted the seeds of Trump’s 2016 victory — but he was not the only one to profit from it.
CBS’s executive chairman, Les Moonves, said that the Trump campaign ‘may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS’. In 2016, MSNBC was set to take a 30 per cent hit if Hillary Clinton was elected; that hit was avoided when Donald Trump won. Leaked tapes revealed that the president of CNN, a channel that made a big show of opposing Trump, encouraged Trump to run and even offered him tips on how to win a CNN-sponsored debate.
Hating Trump drove massive amounts of engagement to previously floundering publications, channels and shows. And individual journalists didn’t need to be told by their bosses to promote Trump’s name: they could see firsthand how their opposition generated likes, retweets and exploding pageviews. With the incentives thus aligned, there was no need to break down the remains of the wall between advertising and editorial. It happened on its own. […]
The much-hyped narratives — that Trump was hostage to Russian kompromat showing him cavorting with escorts; that a group called Cambridge Analytica was selling ‘psychological profiles’ of Americans to the highest bidder; and even, as promised by the Times, that Trump’s tax returns would show deep ties to Russia and conflicts with national security — would just keep coming. All turned out to be either false or deeply misleading.
This was journalistic malpractice, but it was manna from heaven for the bottom line, especially at the New York Times. During the last three months of 2016, the Times added 276,000 digital subscribers: nearly 100,000 up on 2015. In 2017, the paper gained $340 million in online subscriptions: 46 per cent up on 2016. Forty-six per cent growth is what Facebook boasts, and double Google’s growth rate. In 2019, the Times added more than one million net digital-only subscribers, reaching a total of 5.2 million. Thanks to Trump, the company met its $800-million digital revenue target for 2020 a year early.
Trump allowed the Times to lean in to the business model pioneered by Facebook. In May 2020, the paper announced it would no longer use third-party marketing data, because it just didn’t need third parties anymore. The Times now holds enough first-party data (on age, generation, educational and marital status, interests, business industry and level, income and assets) to sell it directly to advertisers.
But it gets better:
In 2018, high on the success of the Trump era, the Data Science Group at the Times launched a project to understand and predict the emotional impact of the paper’s articles. They asked 1,200 readers to rate their emotional responses to articles, with options including boredom, hate, interest, fear, hope, love and happiness. These readers were young and well-educated — the target audience of many advertisers.
What the group found was perhaps not surprising: emotions drive engagement. ‘Across the board, articles that were top in emotional categories, such as love, sadness and fear, performed significantly better than articles that were not,’ the team reported. To monetise the insight, the Data Science Group created an artificial intelligence machine-learning algorithm to predict which emotions articles would evoke. The Times now sells this insight to advertisers, who can choose from 18 emotions, seven motivations and 100 topics they want readers to feel or think about when they encounter an ad.
‘By identifying connections between content and emotion, we’ve successfully driven ad engagement 6X more effectively than IAB benchmarks,’ the Times’s Advertising website proudly declares. ‘Brands can target ads to specific articles we predict will evoke particular emotions in our readers,’ it pitches. ‘Brands have the opportunity to target ads to articles we predict will motivate our readers to take a particular action.’ As of April 2019, Project Feels had generated 50 ad campaigns, more than 30 million impressions, and strong revenue results.Russiagate was journalistic malpractice, but it was manna from heaven for the bottom line, especially at the New York Times
If you want to know what makes America’s educated liberal elites emotional, you only have to open the Times. Judging by the coverage of recent years, two things make them more emotional than anything else: Trump and racism.
[T]he hunt for insufficiently antiracist Americans has become its own genre. The Times has run articles declaring that wine and surfing are racist, and that it’s time to ‘decolonise botanical collections’ by ridding them of ‘structural racism’. It even ran an article about a 15-year-old girl who used the ‘N-word’ when she bragged about passing her driving test in a private video to a friend — which another student got his hands on and saved for three years until he could use it to get her kicked out of college.
Stories like this seem to attract an unlimited audience in the way stories of crime once did for Joseph Pulitzer’s papers. That’s because articles that offend the woke person are crime stories for the affluent: stories of people just like themselves who commit crimes of thought or speech, and lose everything when they fall on the wrong side of the reigning orthodoxy.
Read the whole thing, as they say. Be aware though she is coming from the sane left, not from our side of the aisle — so it’s pointless to take her to task for deviation from doctrines she’s never pretended to embrace.
[…] Take for example, the worn-out charge of “privilege,” as in the phrase “check your privilege.” This trope originates exclusively from the Left. Purportedly, it signifies a rigged system in which white males have gained, unfairly and undeservedly, “privilege” to exercise cultural, economic, political, and social control over the “other”—occasionally defined as women, more often “people of color,” and most frequently African Americans.
How odd, given that by any indicator the political Left is the party of wealth and privilege. The wealthiest ZIP codes are found in blue states such as California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. Twenty-six of the 27 wealthiest congressional districts, gauged by per capita incomes, are represented by liberal Democrats.
Registered Democrats on average have higher incomes than their Republican counterparts. Democratic presidential candidates have vastly outspent Republicans over the last 20 years. Note that the old liberal saw about “dark money” has steadily disappeared from the left-wing lexicon (nothing is darker than Mark Zuckerberg’s infusions of cash to warp particular voting precincts). Likewise, in the once trendy academic trifecta of “race, class, and gender,” class” has been dropped quietly.
The most elite and wealthy institutions in America are predominantly liberal bastions: Silicon Valley, entertainment, universities, professional sports, Wall Street, the mainstream media, and foundations. Most “people of color,” who are the loudest about focusing on the evils of privilege and lack of equity, are themselves multimillionaires or multibillionaires, such as the Obamas, Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Jay-Z, or Meghan Markle.
Accusing an entire group—white people, or conservatives, or Trump supporters—of being privileged deflects the apparent shame of elitism away from oneself on the cheap
After elaborating on many other examples, he perorates:
In sum, the Left got woke because it largely got rich.
Wokism is now an elite scramble for the best seats on the cruise ship’s top deck—who gets into Harvard, whether the new diversity, equity, and inclusion provost is higher or lower than the dean on the academic totem pole, which anchor grabs the prime-time slot, and whether the white hard-Left actress or a “diverse” rival wins the coveted superheroine role in the latest Hollywood schlock comic book film.
Yet when wokeness trickles down finally to the middle classes, it is often seen as nonsensical. As outsiders, those without privilege see that real wokeness is racist, segregationist, careerist, and narcissistic—the guilty accusing the innocent of their own perceived guilt. The woke blame the steerage class below them for their own perceived sins of privilege—slurs and smears levelled all the more toxically because their promulgators have always known them firsthand as their own.
This book by Danny S. Parker was a Kindle Deal on Amazon, so I grabbed it. I was not disappointed: apparently, the author spent decades researching the Ardennes Offensive (a.k.a. the “Battle of the Bulge”), which inevitably led him to the Malmédy Massacre and to Joachim Peiper.
There were two sides to this character. The one highlighted by “Wehraboos” [slang term for uncritical admirers of the Wehrmacht and/or the Waffen-SS] is the fearless warrior, the charismatic leader, the daredevil armor commander. If they acknowledge at all his responsibility for the Malmédy massacre of American POWs, they play it down as an executive responsibility for the acts of rogue subordinates, or as a single, uncharacteristic black mark on an otherwise splendid record.
Parker does not gainsay either Peiper’s raw courage or his leadership abilities, although it is hard to escape the impression that (as usual with the Waffen SS) Peiper’s battlefield successes were bought at the expense of profligacy with the lives of his men. But otherwise he shows at length that Peiper was not just a consummate military professional, but had a much darker side.
Peiper appears to have been not just a fanatical National Socialist, but had been the First Adjutant of none other than… Heinrich Himmler [y”sh] himself! He’d caught Himmler’s eye during officer training at the SS ‘Junkerschule’ (freely: Cadet School). Peiper was on nearly father-son terms with the Reichsführer-SS, and would later maintain an elaborate, very intimate, correspondence with Himmler’s secretary and mistress, Hedwig Potthast. (Himmler approved of bigamy if it was for “the good of the Aryan race”, and Potthast, who gave him two further children, was his co-wife in all but name.) Potthast’s close friend Sigurd Hinrichsen, another secretary of Himmler’s, married Peiper.
The author shows in detail how Peiper was privy to all dark secrets of the SS, including the “extraordinary pacification actions” against the Polish intelligentsia, the “euthanasia” of the mentally ill (Peiper indeed gave an eyewitness report of a mass gassing at a mental hospital), and later he got to see the daily progress reports of the Einsatzgruppen “Holocaust by bullets”.
Peiper was detached, at his own request, to the Leibstandarte (“The Führer’s Own Regiment”, later expanded into the 1st Waffen SS division) for the invasion of the Lowlands and France, then returned to Himmler’s staff. Sometime in late 1941, about 5-6 months after the invasion of the USSR, Peiper is transferred to the Eastern Front as a company commander in the Leibstandarte.
Peiper’s initial military training had been as a cavalry man: this was true of most Panzer commanders in the Wehrmacht as well. Within the Waffen SS, he at first commanded a company, later a battalion, of SKWs [Schutzkampfwagen = APCs, armored personnel carriers]. He quickly developed both fame and notoriety: the former for his daredevil surprise raids, the latter for atrocities against the Russian and Ukrainian civilian population. Indeed, his unit was nicknamed the Lötlampenabteilung, freely “Blowtorch Battalion”, for their penchant of setting villages on fire and shooting anyone trying to escape from the burning houses and churches. If anything, Peiper and his men relished their reputation, adopted a blowtorch for a unit logo, and Peiper himself proudly wrote home “Genghis Khan would gladly have hired us as his henchmen”.
Gushing propaganda dispatches, particularly in the SS magazine Das Schwarze Korps [The Black Corps], turned the photogenic officer into a warrior icon.
His exploits during the Third Battle of Kharkov [Germany last major victory on the Eastern Front] earned him the Knight’s Cross. He acquires further fame during Operation Citadel (Unternehmen Zitadelle), the attempt to cut off the Red Army salient near Kursk — which turned into what many consider the greatest tank battle in history, the Battle of Prokhorovka.
The battle was chaos, and Russian losses were stupendous. However, repeated delays by the vacillation at the Nazi top (e.g., so more Tiger tanks could be delivered), combined with British ULTRA decrypts being passed to the Red Army and them preparing a layered defense, ensured that the salient could not be cut off, and from that point onward the Red Army held the initiative and would largely maintain it until the end of the war. (Many historians consider Kursk, rather than Stalingrad, to be the true turning point on the Eastern Front for that reason.)
Then followed a two-month stint in Italy, where Mussolini had been deposed and Italy’s new government dropped out of the Axis and the war. Northern Italy was now occupied (with Mussolini the puppet ruler of a puppet Italian Social Republic): Peiper’s battalion did a “mini-blowtorch” on the town of Boves in Piedmont. “Only” 23 people were killed, compared to over 700 at just one village in Ukraine.
Then followed a second tour on the Eastern Front, near Zhitomir/Zhytomyr in the Ukraine, where Peiper replaced the dead commander of the tank regiment. His actions there got him the Oak Leaves with the Knight’s Cross, but the entire regiment had only twelve working tanks left after a month of fighting.
The tattered remnants of the Leibstandarte were transferred to Belgian Limburg in March 1944 for rest and refit: the small surviving core of hardened veterans were to be amalgamated with new recruits and recycled Luftwaffe ground personnel. (By that point, the Waffen SS had long ceased to be a pure volunteer force. )
Peiper and the other veterans were less than impressed with the quality of their new “greenies”, and when five of them stole chickens and bicycles from the Belgian population — by Eastern Front standards, a peccadillo — Peiper had them court-martialed and publicly executed by firing squad “to encourage the others”.
Another striking anecdote from that period: after drilling without tanks for quite a while, a couple dozen Panthers (a.k.a “Panzer 5”) arrived at the Hasselt railway station — and supposedly they had to siphon off gasoline from civilian cars just to get enough fuel to drive the tanks to base (!).
D-Day came, and after being held back because “the real invasion still is to come” [thanks to the deception Operation Fortitude], the Leibstandarte was finally sent to the front in Normandy. Sure, their tanks were superior to the Shermans — but between the Allies enjoying nearly complete air superiority, and chronic fuel shortages, the outcome was foreordained.
The Malmédy massacre is covered in the book, but not in as much detail, since the author already devoted the book Fatal Crossroads to it, aside from the eponymous monograph Battle of the Bulge.
The book ends with an epilogue describing Peiper’s postwar life. [I was familiar with this part of the story.] Briefly, he was sentenced to death, but following repeated appeals, the sentence was commuted to life in prison, from which he was released after 11 1/2 years. With help from former comrades in arms, he got jobs first at Porsche, then at Volkswagen, then worked as a freelance book translator. Eventually, he moved to Traves, France, in the Haute-Saône region. In 1976, he was killed and his house set on fire by parties who were never caught, presumed to be French anti-Nazis or former Resistance fighters. [The French wikipedia page on Peiper is extraordinarily detailed, BTW.]
In Hollywood movies and a certain type of fiction, evil people are often cowards, and courageous warriors morally upright, if not outright chivalrous. Real history isn’t that simplistic: consider the example of “Dr.” Josef Mengele, the infamous Auschwitz “Angel of Death”. It would have been comforting, perhaps, to know Mengele was a coward — but he had in fact been awarded the Iron Cross First Class (and a Wound Badge) for rescuing two soldiers from a burning tank, and had been wounded repeatedly on the Eastern Front (where he served as a military surgeon with the 5th Waffen-SS “Wiking” division) before being invalided out of frontline service. Afterwards, he was transferred to the position where his name became a synecdoche for Nazi medical experimentation and sadistic cruelty in medical disguise more generally.
All in all, the book was an eye-opener for me — particularly with respect to Peiper’s background and pre-Ardennes career. Highly recommended reading, if marred by typos in places (particularly, but not exclusively, in German terms and foreign place names).
I had seen an early demo of this when the iPad Pro M1 came out, but somehow I’d lost track of it being released.
Suppose you are trying to practice a song by singing or playing along with the original recording. There were some tricks depending on the instrument: bassists can just EQ the bass out of the recording, although that does mean they miss the kick drum (making it hard to practice playing as one half of a tight rhythm section). For “good enough for practice” karaoke, a good starting point was often mixing the left and right channels phase-inverted, as vocals tend to be placed center in the stereo mix. (EQing down the vocal range helps further.) But that’s about what I can think of.
Now the audio processing AI app Moises.ai offers much better alternatives right on your cell phone or iPad. You feed the app an audio file or URL of the track, and it can be separated into two stems (vocal and everything else), four stems (vocals, bass, drums, and everything else). You can then remix them (including suppressing one), export as separate files for import into Logic Pro or another DAW (digital audio workstation) app,…
The free version is limited to five minutes of a track and four stems. I sprang for the paid version, which removes these restrictions. Songs can be an audio file on your device or a URL for an online version — even a YouTube video.
In addition, you can add a “smart metronome” to practice by (the app detects the downbeats, even when the song has tempo changes), change the tempo and pitch independently from each other. There is also an automatic chord recognition feature, but that’s not meant for Steely Dan or Yes — it maybe could handle Pink Floyd in a pinch.
I was quite impressed by the app’s ability to suppress drums or isolate their part. Below is a drum cover of “Subdivisions” by Rush (the very first song by that legendary band I ever heard), where the drummer is trying to reproduce Neil Peart’s part along with audio of everything else.
For bass separation, I tried Iron Maiden’s “Two Minutes to Midnight” where the app did a good job of singling out Steve Harris’s part. (Incidentally, when you listen to the individual stems of a Maiden track, you realize that the band sounds way better as a whole than as the sum of the parts.)
I tried a 5-part separation on Genesis’s “Turn It On Again”, but the app was unable to separate the guitar from the keys. This is not quite surprising, as the main riff of the song is guitar, Yamaha CP-80 piano, and (at least in the studio mix) some sort of analog polyphonic synthesizer layered “wall of sound” style, creating a punchy, aggressive blend.
But, at first, I didn’t have much more luck separating Jon Lord’s organ from Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar in Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. I got what I wanted though, by panning one copy of the “Guitar” stem hard left and the other hard right — giving me “mostly guitar” and “almost pure Hammond”, respectively.
Several classical arias Mrs. was practicing worked reasonably well. Transposing was a breeze, but there already were solutions for that.
Would I use this as a professional remixing solution? Meh.
Would I use this as a practice tool (where a residue of the part you’re covering isn’t usually a problem), for song analysis videos, as raw material for parodies (“B*ggered In The USA” by Brandon Springqueen, anyone? “Count My Vote One More Time” by Kloten & Debiel?) —- or, especially, as a transcription aid? Heck yeah.
Wanna try out a new arrangement while preserving the original groove? Now you can overdub in Garageband or Logic on top of your separated stems and adjust the entire mix. Once you’ve got it where you want it, you can even go back and re-record the original stems one by one.
Verdict: very useful already, and am looking forward to future additions to this app.
Oldie but goodie: Tom Slater, editor of Spiked Online, in a January 21 essay on how the government is effectively outsourcing censorship on its behalf to Big Tech (and, as people like Sen. Ted Cruz point out, thus effectively making an end run around the First Amendment since it’s no longer the government doing the muzzling):
When John Perry Barlow wrote his [Internet Declaration of Independence] 25 years ago, his aim was fixed squarely on the state. ‘Governments of the Industrial World’, he thundered, ‘I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.’ But in Western democracies today, at least, the primary threat to online free speech comes not from national governments, but from a Silicon Valley oligarchy that was elected by precisely no one.
How to challenge Big Tech censorship is an issue we believers in free speech will be grappling with for years to come – alongside the state censorship that has only grown in Britain and elsewhere of late. But perhaps the democratic nation state, so often painted as the problem, will prove to be part of the solution.
Read the whole thing. Seriously. Too many people on our side of the aisle still have as their eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt not ever speak ill of any big business”, and are unable or unwilling to realize that a tech monopoly or oligopoly, in league with the Brahmandarin Caste, can exercise an even more pernicious and pervasive censorship and information manipulation than any government could (on its own). This is a classic example of failing to understand that the rules of the game have been changed fundamentally.
Yes, as Ted Cruz explains in the video below [hat tip: Mrs. Arbel], W. R. Hearst manipulated the news — but he couldn’t in his wildest dreams have imagined the power now at the fingertips of Mark Zuckerdouche or Jack “Rasputin” Dorsey.
Also relatedly, Newsweek associate opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon, herself on the left, nevertheless bemoans that today’s US MSM are in a “woke stranglehold”. Great Realignment part 2: sane left sees threat of out-of-control woke Jacobins and reluctantly find some common ground with our side of the aisle.
This is the 11th piece of Liszt’s twelve “Etudes d’execution transcendante” (etudes for transcendant/“next-level” performance), meant for the pianists trying to push their technique beyond what was considered feasible in his day. The published version is the 3rd version of a set he first wrote down at age 15, then thoroughly revised later.
My favorite among the lot, in fact the very first piece of music by Liszt I ever heard, is Nr. 11, possibly inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s eponymous poem “Harmonies du soir”. As befits the name, the harmony is extraordinarily full —- and forward-looking to the age of the Impressionists, but those looking for a tuneful melody will not be disappointed.
This is the great Claudio Arrau’s performance (audio only):
Here is a live performance by Daniil Trifonov:
And finally, here is an analysis of the piece with its composition history, followed by a performance with score and hand views.