Auld Lang Syne in Yiddish

Robert Burns’s original
[in broad Scots]

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo, 
for auld lang syne, 
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, 
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp! 
and surely I’ll be mine! 
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, 
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, 
and pu’d the gowans fine; 
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, 
sin auld lang syne

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn, 
frae morning sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roar’d 
sin auld lang syne.refrein

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! 
and gie’s a hand o’ thine! 
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught, 
for auld lang syne
Literal translation in modern English
[the one from the video is rather freer]

Should old acquaintance be forgot, 
and never brought to mind? 
Should old acquaintance be forgot, 
and days of times long past”?

For times long past, my dear
for times long past, 
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, 
for times long past.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup
and surely I’ll buy mine! 
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, 
for times long past.

We two have run about the slopes
and picked the daisies fine; 
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot
since times long past

We two have paddled in the stream
from morning sun till dine 
But seas between us broad have roared
since times long past

And there’s a hand my trusty friend
And give me a hand o’ thine! 
And we’ll take a right good-will draught
for times long past.

Gone be the old year and its curses

Cometh the new year and its blessings

Dr. John Campbell: “Omicron will finish this pandemic off, or at least change it into an endemic”

Lots of good stuff in that video, focusing on several US states, on the UK, and on South Africa

In South Africa, the omicron wave has actually peaked

In the UK, omicron has basically displaced delta by now: 93.8% of tests show the characteristic S-gene dropout

The massive wave of omicron infections is accompanied by a disproportionately mild rise in hospital admissions, and no real rise in deaths. [See ]In fact, Dr. Campbell reports, the number of deaths attributable to omicron only rises to several dozen cumulatively.

There could be a brief crunch as a much smaller percentage than before, but of a much more massive wave, hit hospitals all at once. As a precautionary measure, the UK has de-mothballed some “Nightingale Hospitals” — not staffed with medical personnel yet, but custodial and utilities in place, to be ready for activation. There is currently a staff shortage, with too many medical staff in isolation after exposure, hence the government is mulling reducing the mandatory isolation period from 10 to 5 days like in the USA. (Omicron generally runs its course within a few days.) See however below what’s happening in South Africa, where omicron started —- it has apparently now peaked.


In the USA, omicron is in the process of displacing delta, but the process is not as far along yet.

At least in the UK, omicron patients in hospital are predominantly “incidental”, i.e., they are admitted for something else and just happen to test positive. The same was earlier seen in South Africa.

We could just about use some good news, however qualified, as we exit 2021 and enter 2022.

Out with the old year and its curses

In with the new year and its blessings

Best wishes for the new year to all!


FDA approves additional anti-COVID drug Evusheld (by AstraZeneca; injections of two types of antibodies)

AFP: South Africa omicron wave receding with no major increase in deaths

“Communism: interesting idea, wrong species.” (E. O. Wilson, 1929-2021). Gad Saad eulogizes the father of sociobiology

Edmund O. Wilson made academic enemies during his lifetime, particularly colleagues beholden to neo-Marxist dogma, such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin at his own university. As such he was subject to attempts to “cancel” him more than 40 years before the current epidemic of same. (He did not take any of this lying down, and it was a time when old-school liberals still broadly believed in freedom of speech, and an era before academia’s hostile takeover by the administrator class.)

I obviously do not agree with Wilson on everything — notably his notorious statement that religion would have to disappear to save humanity [his views on the subject appear to have vacillated] — but he blazed a new trail in science, beholden to the truth rather than to comforting lies, or lies in the service of G-dless religions in all but name.

Requiescat in pace, and may his memory be a blessing.

COVID19 micro-update: omicron so far

I’m hesitant to write “so far, so good” — as I don’t want to tempt fate — but things keep looking up

(1) The Daily Telegraph reports from the UK [paywalled; cached copy] that

[…] Just one fifth of the weekly rise in Covid inpatients was caused by people admitted to hospital because of the virus, figures suggest.

The most up-to-date NHS data show that on December 21, there were 6,245 beds occupied by coronavirus patients in English hospitals – an increase of 259 from the previous week.

But within that increase, just 45 patients were admitted because of the virus, with the remaining 214 in hospital for other conditions but having also tested positive – so called “incidental Covid” admissions.


[…] Experts said it was important to treat the current hospital data with caution, while Sir John Bell, Regius Professor[*] of Medicine at Oxford University, said: “This is not the same disease we were seeing a year ago.

The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago – intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely – that is now history in my view and I think…that’s likely to continue.”[…]

It does look like we have crossed a watershed. I would not completely discount the possibility that a nontrivial number of severe omicron cases are being admitted — but that this is outbalanced by a drop in severe delta cases as omicron is displacing delta. [Addendum: it’s likely much the same in the US now.]

Dr. Campbell’s prediction that the whole UK will be exposed in a matter of weeks and develop herd immunity from asymptomatic infection or mild disease is looking increasingly plausible.

(2) Here in Israel [link to Ministry of Health COVID19 dashboard, in Hebrew], R=1.6 now, and we’re back up to 3,000+ cases a day. However, total severe cases in hospitals are holding steady below 100 nationwide, and deaths are still down to one every other day or so.

Anecdotally, I hear a lot more about asymptomatic people testing positive than in previous waves.

(3) Jen Rubin keeps setting new benchmarks for bathos:

I really have to record a Jen Rubin-themed parody of Foreigner’s “That Was Yesterday“…

Insty helpfully comments:

Maybe we should make it “Let’s Go Brandon, Today, Quit!” so people will be confused when they see LGBTQ posters and think the groundswell for a Biden resignation has exploded.

(3) and Insty has this bombshell:

LETTER FROM “PUBLIC HEALTH” EXPERTS URGING PFIZER TO HOLD THE VACCINE UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION:  “I didn’t even remember this but wow. I doubt the same letter would have been sent had 2020 not been an election year or had a Democrat been in office.” That’s Nate Silver I just quoted.

I do remember some of our D friends in the USA going on about how they would not trust a vaccine developed on Trump’s watch — then after FICUS Brandon got “elected”, suddenly pretend the vaccination campaign was a Biden achievement and insisting that every last person gets vaccinated, by coercion if needed. Y’all will get sick and tired of me playing “That Was Yesterday” yet…

But seriously, I thank G-d Almighty I am living in a country where dealing with the COVID crisis — no matter how imperfect and stumbling in the dark at times — has been remarkably nonpartisan, and where aspects that are taboo in the USA have been openly discussed from the very beginning.

ADDENDUM: harsh but fair. The same “Brandon” who called upon Trump to resign because of the number of COVID deaths on his watch now actually has a (much) higher tally to his name.

ADDENDUM2: Dr. Roger Seheult of MedCram explains all about the recently authorized oral anti-COVID drug Paxlovid

[*] As a (rarified) peculiarity of the UK academic system, Regius Professors [medieval Latin: “the king’s professors”] are holders of professorial chairs under royal patronage. The Regius Professorship of Medicine at Oxford was established by Henry VIII in 1546.

Was the “Hendrix chord” invented by Jimi Hendrix? Going down a rabbit hole

First of all, what is it? Think the song “Purple Haze” and the gnarly, not-quite-major-not-quite-minor chord that opens the verse. In guitar tablature, 07678x

This is one particular voicing of E7#9, i.e., an E dominant seventh chord (E7) with an added augmented ninth. Or, from another perspective, E7 with an added minor tenth, which makes it a… dominant seventh major-minor chord, containing both major and minor thirds/tenths relative to the root note.

Jimi Hendrix was so fond of this family of chords that they became known as “Hendrix chords” among rock guitarists. But did he invent it?

Rick Beato correctly points out it’s being used by Gershwin. As he says in the video, the first time Rick heard it was in Miles Davis’s “All Blues” from the legendary jazz album “Kind of Blue”. Note, however, it’s not used there as thematic material but as part of a jazz “turnaround” (a chord sequence leading you from one section to another).

Without detracting anything from Jimi Hendrix’s genius (or, for that matter, from Rick Beato’s educator skills), Hendrix of course didn’t invent it. “Purple Haze” wasn’t even the first rock or pop song to feature it in a prominent way: that might have been the Beatles’s “Taxman” (of the album “Revolver”), written by George Harrison. Wikipedia (caveat lector, as always) quotes Paul McCartney as referring to it as “a great ham-fisted jazz chord” taught to them by a fellow named Jim Gretty who worked at a local music store: in a much softer context, the ballad “Michelle”, McCartney used it more conventionally, as a passing chord.

This article points me to a 1958 instrumental rock tune called “Hold It” by Bill Doggett as an early example of using C7#9 prominently (i.e., not in passing). Indeed, the article claims musicians used to refer to it as the “Hold It chord” before it became identified with Jimi H.

As already mentioned by Rick, it had been used in jazz music for some time as a passing chord in “turnarounds”. The heavily jazzy pop songs of Steely Dan often employ it in the same manner. (In contrast, they were so fond of the add9 chord — a triad with an added ninth, or a major ninth chord with the seventh left out — that it’s often referred to as the “Steely Dan chord”.) In blues music, the soloist playing a minor third over a major (or dominant seventh) chord naturally creates the same sonority.

Of the Pink Floyd members during their halcyon years, guitarist David Gilmour had a blues background, while keyboardist Richard Wright was a jazz aficionado who often brought complex harmonic ideas to the band. Two prominent examples of the “Hendrix chord” in their music are: (1) in the chorus of “Breathe” (the opener of Dark Side Of The Moon): Cmaj7-Bm7-Fmaj7-D7#9-D7b9-[segue to verse]-Em7; (2) in the turnaround of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” before the vocals come in. [The latter was probably the first time I heard it myself — “Wish You Were Here” was the first Pink Floyd album I ever heard.]

Among classical composers, George Gershwin used it to create a bluesy sound in Rhapsody in Blue. Richard Strauss’s “Elektra chord“, used as a Leitmotiv in his 1909 opera Elektra, is enharmonically equivalent to Db7#9/E. A couple of years later, Claude Debussy published Préludes, Book 2 for piano: the 2nd prelude, Feuilles Mortes (dead leaves, dead foliage) uses the 7aug9 chord prominently.

Contrapuntal music, of course, can create all sorts of weird and wonderful harmonies in passing due to the interaction of the independent voices. And in this way it gets very old: the so-called “English cadence” as used, e.g., by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), but the Wikipedia article on the English cadence claims it can be found in even earlier vocal works by Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377).

And I’m sure this little dig down the rabbit hole doesn’t exhaust the subject…

Looking around: France doubles down on nuclear energy; omicron in NYC and London; is Biden already a lame duck?

(1) France’s Emmanuel Macron takes “carbon neutral” so seriously that he follows the advice of Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore. France already has the highest percentage of nuclear power generation in the world; but pushing back against denuclearization, he pushes instead for overhauling existing power plants that have reached the end of their service life and building more plants.

In contrast, Germany is trying to get … gas classified as a “carbon neutral” energy source, doubtlessly to the great mirth of Russia in general, and Vladimir Putin in particular.

We have reached some strange hell-world where “Macron le con” is a voice of reason.

(2) Dr. John Campbell has more on omicron in London and in New York City. Trends continue: very highly transmissable, but causing (much) milder disease on average; omicron is displacing the much nastier delta. [ADDENDUM: half of COVID19 cases in Israel are now Omicron.]

(3) Is Biden this out of touch, or is he trying to be good-humored about “Let’s Go Brandon”?

A poli sci professor from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia speculates on Sky News about Biden being already a lame duck president, and about whether the D party has plans to replace him.

A person more conspiratorially minded than myself would assume the D apparatchiks are jonesing for some new COVID variant — not because they want it to be deadly, but because they want it to be scary enough to justify another rerun of the utterly corrupt 2020 (s)election. Then again, even then they only barely won the house — with the traditional midterm trend reinforced by Brandon’s approval rating being somewhere between Jimmy Carter and Kamala Harris (herself polling barely better than salmonella), it is reasonable to expect a shellacking that makes the 2010 midterms look like a walk in the park in comparison.

ADDENDUM: Insty in the NY Post:

Abandonging Standardized Tests Part of Harvard’s War on Asians. “In short, they’re getting rid of objective tests so as to give more power to admissions bureaucrats.” Was that a Freudian typo, “abandonging”?

As blogger Freddie deBoer writes, “Now it’s in their best interest to have even more leeway to select the bumbling doofus children of the affluent, and you’re applauding them for it in the name of ‘equity.’ Brilliant.” (“Equity” is a term woke academics have chosen because it sounds kind of like “equality,” which Americans like, but actually means active racial discrimination, which Americans don’t.)

In fact, a cynic might think — and, in fact, I do think — that much of this is just to make Harvard’s already extensive discrimination against Asians easier and harder to prove.

Asian students do very well on objective tests, on average. If Harvard admitted students based solely on SAT scores, its population would be very heavily Asian. Harvard doesn’t want that. So it aims to use softer variables instead.

This isn’t new. The Ivy League did the same thing in the first half of the last century, when it was afraid it would be overrun by Jews. It started emphasizing “well-roundedness,” “leadership,” athletics and things that Jewish immigrants would find harder to satisfy. Now it’s doing it again.

[…] You may have noticed that New York is canceling next month’s Regents exams. Same thing: less recognition for merit at the bottom, more power for the connected at the top. That’s the woke plan for America, one unaccountable bureaucracy at a time.

The East German Stasi (“Ministry for State Security”): some new things I learned

One of my favorite German-language movies is Das Leben der Anderen (“The Lives of Others”), about the way the East German “Stasi” (German-style acronickname for Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS, Ministry for State Security) spied on the German “Democratic” Republic’s subjects. [Here is a good little video on its genesis and early history.]

They could, of course, only dream of the technological means of surveillance that CCP China has at its disposal, so the process was extraordinarily labor-intensive. At its peak, one in every twenty-two East Germans was engaged in spying upon the others — either as an informant for the Stasi or as a direct employee.

This story is reasonably well-known outside Germany, though not as well as it should. Aside from stuff I already knew (e.g., about the Stasi’s use of so-called “Romeo” agents to seduce secretaries of West German ministers and senior officials, or on how Chancellor Willy Brandt’s personal secretary was actually a Stasi agent) I learned a few new things from this video though:

(a) I had always been a little puzzled by the death of German student protestor Benno Ohnesorg at the hands of the West German police — which inspired the West German “1968”er student movement, out of which would spring not just free love culture and freewheeling, experimental music — but also the sinister domestic terrorist group that called itself the Red Army Faction and is known to others as the Baader-Meinhof Gang.

Turns out that the cop who shot Ohnesorg for no good reason, Karl-Heinz Kurras (detailed German Wikipedia page) was actually… a longtime Stasi mole in the West German police, under the code name Otto Bohl . Was he a rogue cop who also happened to be on the take, or… was he acting as an agent provocateur? Bohl’s Stasi file contains no reference to a direct order, but clearly was incomplete. Who knows?

That the Baader-Meinhof gang itself got support from the Stasi and other Eastern Bloc intelligence services has meanwhile been established.

(b) When the Berlin Wall came down and the East German regime was collapsing, Stasi personnel were given orders to start destroying files. The shredders could not cope, however, so they were told to fill buckets and bathtubs with water and immerse the documents in them. When even that capacity ran out, they tore up pages into pieces by hand… but, being methodical and creatures of habit, the pieces were put in the same bag… and today, equally methodical German researchers from the MfS memorial site are puzzling together and reassembling these millions of documents. (Yes, people can go visit the former Stasi archives and request to see their files there.) Here is a video from the Fraunhofer Institute (Germany’s applied science research organization) about the process and technological means mustered for it

Let me give the last word to commenter “Richard Garrison” on the last video:

I got my Stasi file, all 300 pages of it, and it is a whole new world. It tells more about the Stasi and the whole East German mindset than it does about me. They were convinced that I was up to something, and anything that was a bit strange prompted more investigation. Absence of anything substantive seems to have prompted more investigation. A delayed suitcase on a flight out of London was examined. They also checked my automobile and found and translated some letters from my parents. Now I know how my father would have sounded if he spoke German, which he did not. After a week or so I realized that there were gaps in their reporting, things that would reasonably have been of interest. How did they miss that? For example that I took the Trans Siberian Railroad and got an East German [visa?] just a couple of years earlier. Also many day trips to East Berlin, and one declined visa application to accompany a school group on a tour. They correctly noted a good relationship with one supervisor, and a strained relationship with another. My German language ability was rated both “gut” and “sehr gut.” Language teachers in both the US and Germany would have disputed those rankings, but who are we to argue with the Stasi? Those guys are the professionals so we must take their word, right? My file came with a bill for Euro 10.00 for photocopying charges, and I paid it in person in Berlin. The receptionist asked me if I wanted to talk with my “Facharbeiter”, the person who pulled the file together. I said yes, and the man came down. He remembered the file because it was weird. He was the most understanding, polite, and sensitive German official, East or West, I have ever met. Admittedly, those are not normal qualities for any German official, but he was like a social worker or counselor. He also suggested that I check back every year or so, since they continue to find boxes of stuff in attics and basement rooms. The last update had some new legalese in it saying that just because it is in the Stasi files does not mean that it is true. So, my contribution to Cold War Victory was to tie up a bunch of folks following me around, digging into my car, suitcases, and mail, and then writing reports. We sometimes hear that East Germany had full employment, nobody out of work. I also contributed to achievement of that party objective.

Sabbath musical delight, Christmas 1968 Apollo 8 edition: Mike Oldfield, “The Songs of Distant Earth”

On December 25, 1968, Apollo 8 was orbiting the Moon, the first human-crewed vehicle to orbit a celestial object other than Earth.

The crew orbited the Moon ten times over the course of twenty hours, during which they made a Christmas Eve television broadcast in which they read the first ten verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever.

Mike Oldfield incorporated the audio into the opening track of his album The Songs Of Distant Earth, “In The Beginning”, which segues into its best known track, “Let There Be Light”. Below is Mike Oldfield performing both live, followed by a medley of other tracks from the album, at a show in A Coruña, Spain. [BTW, yes, the album is named after Arthur C. Clarke’s eponymous science fiction novel.]

The video below it is the whole studio album in supposed HD audio.

Shabbat shalom to my fellow Jews, Merry Christmas to Christians who observe it on the Gregorian and Revised Julian calendars, and above all…

Let There Be Light / יהי אור [yehi or]

Cats and dogs lying together create flying pig moments: Islamist politician says “Israel is a Jewish state and will remain so”; UAE astronaut brings Israeli flag into space

(1) No kidding: Mansour Abbas, MK and party leader of RA”M [“united Arab list”] — the moderate Islamist party that is part of Naftali Bennett’s motley coalition — said at a public event that “Israel is a Jewish state and will remain so”.

Is this just for public consumption? Or does it express acceptance of a reality that is obvious to anybody here who does not live in a Haaretz bubble.

Abbas made a similar statement last month in Arabic to the Kul al-Arab media outlet.Joint List MK and Balad Party leader Sami Abou Shehadeh responded by accusing Abbas of “having a split personality” and making contradictory statements in Hebrew and Arab

Whether or not this is just “taqqiya”, it is a drastic departure from the dogma of other Arab Israeli parties grouped in the “Joint List”: to call for Israel to divorce itself from its Jewish identity. (That is what the code phrase “a state of all its citizens” really means.)

(2) And I didn’t see this coming: the United Arab Emirates’s first astronaut, Hazzaa Al Mansoori, brought an Israeli flag to space and offered it afterward as a gift to the Israeli delegation at the Dubai Expo 2020.

The Emirati astronaut was part of Expedition 61 to the International Space Station (ISS), staying at the station for eight days before landing safely in Kazakhstan in October.”It was a precious, touching gift to receive,” said Josh B[e]ndit,[*] the Israeli pavilion organizer. “To come dressed in his spacesuit and visit our pavilion – it shows a genuine caring for Israelis,” B[e]ndit added.The Expedition 61 crew included Jessica Meir, an Israeli-American astronaut who also had her first spaceflight along with al-Mansoori.

In addition, al-Mansoori stated his intent to visit Israel as early as next month, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions. He is expected to visit the Ilan Ramon Museum and Memorial in Mitzpe Ramon during his planned stay in the Jewish state.

חזה אל מנסורי, עם הדגל שהעניק לביתן הישראלי
Photo from

I’m not a Christian, but Christmas is supposed to be about peace on Earth, and by coincidence, December 25 tomorrow also falls on a Shabbat, on which Jews greet each other with “Shabbat shalom”, a peaceful sabbath.

To Christian readers of the Western communion, and any Greek Orthodox Christians[**], Merry Christmas; to my fellow Jews, shabbat shalom; to the diehard atheists, happy Newtonmas; and peace/shalom/salaam to all.

[*] The original had the bizarre English transliteration “Bandit”, but I suspect the actual surname is Bendit, an archaic spelling of Benedict (“Blessed”) corresponding to the Hebrew “Baruch”.

[**] Russian Orthodox Christians observe Christmas according to the Julian calendar, December 25 of which falls on January 7, 2022 this year.

COVID19 micro-update: omicron wave in UK, South Africa continues to show signs of milder disease course [UPDATE: confirmed by UK official report]

The Daily Telegraph reports that South Africa’s Omicron wave may already be… peaking?

Some caution is in order, and beware of confirmation bias. For instance, as John Campbell points out in the video below, relatively expensive PCR testing in South Africa means many COVID cases go undiagnosed or just diagnosed with a cheaper lateral flow test from the pharmacy — which does not end official statistics.

But that does not apply to hospital admissions, and those seem already to have peaked?! This may reflect the complete displacement of the nasty delta strain by the apparently milder omicron.

And mortality remains (thank G-d!) quite low. South Africa has a relative low vaccination rate (according to, less than 32% have had at least one dose), but the percentage of the population that’s been exposed to the pathogen in the past three waves is quite high, much higher than in the UK where the vaccination rate is quite high. As of last August, an estimated 80% of South Africans were

Dr. John Campbell explains below what is happening in the UK: it seems, essentially the same thing but some weeks later. There might be a brief crunch on the health service as rapidly spreading infections might cause a spike in admissions. So far 18 people are reported to have died of, or with, omicron in the UK.

Here in Israel, the media reported that the first omicron death had happened at Soroka hospital in Beer-Sheva — but the hospital quickly set things straight: the man, in his sixties, had succumbed to multiple severe health conditions and just happened to test positive for omicron.

As I’ve explained here previously, the likely endgame of the pandemic is a mutant that is very contagious (like common-cold level) but causes only mild disease. It is just a question of whether that final variant is omicron, or whether that’s still one or more waves away.

In the meantime, Pfizer’s Paxlovid oral treatment was granted an EUA ((emergency use authorization) by the FDA. Merck’s molnupiravir got its own EUA yesterday. However, France has canceled its order of the latter following reportedly underwhelming results at a clinical trial in France.

UPDATE: The Daily Telegraph quotes a UK official report as stating

new analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)found that the risk of admission to accident and emergency was 31 to 45 per cent lower when a person develops omicron rather than delta, while the risk of hospitalisation was 50 to 70 per cent lower.

Further down in the same article, we read that of the COVID patients in the hospital in London, for one in four the primary diagnosis was something else: i.e., they just happened to also test positive for COVID.

Rampant sycophancy culture in CCP China: does that explain the affinity of so many US (il)liberals for it?

A friend told me about his Aussie postdoc advisor answering effusive praise with “oh come on, life’s miserable enough already without you assiduously brown-nosing me”.

Leave it to Aussies to come up with “down under” terms for what the ancient Greeks called “fig showing”, which entered the English language as the word “sycophancy”.

The above video shows to what degree, in modern CCP China, nauseating displays of extreme sycophancy are the norm in the workplace and officialdom. This of course goes all the way to the top: the NYPost reports (via Insty, who of course snarks the catchphrase “Xi’s gotta have it”) that Amazon was ordered to delete all critical reviews of Xi Jinping’s book, critical apparently meaning in context “fewer than five stars”. Well, so this review is OK then? “***** All hail Chairman Xi, greatest turtle-lover in the universe!”

But perhaps this general attitude explains a lot of the affinity that many so-called “liberals” (illiberals, more like) have for the CCP system: they just wish they were on the receiving end of this themselves.

My late mother (z”l) used to teach me that there are three things for which [some] people are willing to commit any crime, no matter how vile: sex, power, and money (in no particular order). As I grew into middle age, I gradually learned there is a fourth: narcissistic supply.

“Worse than useless” award of the month goes to the ADL

Pournelle’s Iron Law:

 Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Arbel’s corollary to Pournelle’s Iron Law: given enough time, every bureaucratic organization reaches a point where it becomes worse than useless to its own stated goals.

The Bnai Brith Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was created in the early 20th century by German-born Chicago lawyer Sigmund Livingston [presumably né Loewenstein], with a budget of $200 (!) and two desks in his law office. Its aim was to combat judeophobic defamation and discrimination, but over time it broadened its mission because, as the ADL puts it on its own website, “the fight against one form of prejudice cannot succeed without battling prejudice in all forms.”

The ADL has done a lot of good in its century-plus of existence. At some point, however, it lost sight of its mission, and allowed itself to be captured by, and hitched to the wagon of, the [anti]Democratic machine. This has become particularly egregious since national director Abe Foxman retired and was replaced by an 0bama White House official named Jonathan Greenblatt.

Nowadays, its idea of fighting judeophobia is not to go after the hardcore variants existing on the hard left and among islamists, but to get Fox News to retract an “antisemitic” cartoon by A. F. Branco about the “individual” I have myself been known to refer to as “Soros of Puppets”.

Never mind that George Soros is inimical to everything that has to do with Jewish values and peoplehood.

By the standard the ADL now has set for itself, it should fight such forms of “antisemitism” as considering the “film” work of Harry Reems and Ron Jeremy obscene, criticizing the music of Kenny G., and highlighting the crimes of Bernie Madoff [whose main victims were fellow members of the Jewish community, BTW: preying on people in one’s own social circle and leveraging one’s social standing in it for scams is so common that fraud squads invented the term of art “affinity fraud” for it.]

Of course, there is a material difference: Soros is not just a major financier of the [anti]Democratic machine, but also the ultimate Brahmandarin transnational oligarchic collectivist. And that our “betters” cannot allow to let stand.

Es ist zum kotzen/Het is om van te kotsen/Ça donne envie de vomir/It’s enough to make you vomit/זה גורם לי להקיא

Looking around: China’s economic house of cards; the Realpolitik behind Israel’s counterintuitive alliance with Azerbaijan

[Still busier than a one-armed paper hanger at work. But here are some interesting videos on matters abroad.]

(1) It’s not just Evergrande: Chinese e-commerce is being hit hard

And lots of tech companies — even the owners of TikTok — are engaging in massive layoffs. This is causing all sorts of knock-on effects, as people who used to earn fairly good to great salaries in the tech sector now are making a subsistence living as delivery drivers etc., and no longer have the disposable income to keep restaurants etc. in business — who then in turn go broke or have to lay off employees, etc.

(2) In the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, Israel is widely perceived as siding with the latter. This seems strange, since Israel has its own Armenian minority (mostly living in the Armenian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem) and has traditionally had good relations with it.

A commentator from (allegedly) South Korea going by the handle “Mahanology” (a reference to the 19th century naval officer and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan ) offers a pretty good summary of the hard-boiled Realpolitik behind it.

Right after the collapse of the USSR, Israel extended diplomatic recognition to the successor states, including the majority Muslim ones like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan. There are actually Jewish communities in this region of very ancient lineage, known as “Bukharan Jews” and” Mountain Jews”, many of whom immigrated to Israel when it became possible. Not all of them belong to these “Mizrachi” [Oriental] communties — I personally know Ashkenazi Jews from Kazakhstan whose families moved there from the Western USSR two generations ago — some to be further from the clutches of the NKVD, others to work as engineers and technicians in its then-nascent oil industry.

Breaking the “Islamic rejectionist front” against Israel was a major diplomatic coup, for which Israel was willing to offer some quid-pro-quos. [*]

Azerbaijan not only has a Jewish community of about 25,000, but accounts for about 40% of Israel’s oil imports (via the Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan pipeline running through Georgia and ending on the Turkish coast).

Mediawiki CC BY-SA 4.0 “Charles”

Conversely, Israeli companies set up Azerbaijan’s wireless communications infrastructure, and — controversially — sold advanced drones to the Azeri army.

But this is about more than trade. Look on the map who’s Azerbaijan’s southern neighbor… As one says in Dutch, “need I draw a picture”? (“Moet ik daar een tekening bij maken?”) [May I recall that Iran itself has an Azeri minority in the border region, increasingly disgruntled at that.]

And as explained at the end of the video, the recent rapprochement between Azerbaijan and its rival Armenia adds an additional wrinkle…

Straight-up Realpolitik makes for strange bedfellows. At times I am still surprised how strange — or, at least, counterintuitive…

[*] For instance, Turkey demanded, as part of the price for diplomatic recognition, that Israel refrain from recognizing the Armenian genocide as such (i.e., state-sponsored mass murder on ethnic/racial grounds — on these pages, I use R. J. Rummel’s term “democide” if the motivation is different) — that Israel has not done so to this day sticks in the craw of many Israelis, including this blogger.

COVID19 micro-update: possible reason why omicron variant both more contagious and causing less severe disease

Busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger at work. But I feel compelled to share this latest from Dr. John Campbell. We have already pointed to evidence from South Africa that omicron not only puts much fewer people in hospital, but that a much smaller proportion of those who are hospitalized require oxygen, let alone ventilators:

From the Daily Telegraph citing Discovery Health Insights

Now Dr. Campbells draws attention to a paper that just came out of the Medicine Dept. of Hong Kong (preprint here ):

In a nutshell:

 HKUMed have pioneered the use of ex vivo cultures of the respiratory tract for investigating many emerging virus infections since 2007, such as avian influenza, coronavirus of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Now this technique has been applied to understand why the Omicron variant may differ in transmission and disease severity from other SARS-CoV-2 variants. 

They found that the novel Omicron variant replicates faster than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and Delta variant in the human bronchus. At 24 hours after infection, the Omicron variant replicated around 70 times higher than the Delta variant and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. In contrast, the Omicron variant replicated less efficiently (more than 10 times lower) in the human lung tissue than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, which may suggest lower severity of disease. 

And here is the December 16 report from South Africa by Discovery Health Insights: Rather unusually for the business, the report (posted on LinkedIn, a veteran social media network for professionals and job seekers) is written in clear English.

While we are witnessing a steep trajectory of new infections, indicating Omicron’s rapid spread, we are also seeing a flatter trajectory of hospital admissions, indicating lower severity. For example, adults in the Discovery Health population are experiencing a 29% lower admission risk relative to South Africa’s first wave of infection in 2020. Furthermore, hospitalised adults have a lower propensity to be admitted to high care and ICU, relative to prior waves.

These data insights correlate strongly with the anecdotal consensus shared by healthcare professionals treating COVID-19 patients in both the out-of-hospital and in-hospital settings. However, caution must be exercised in this regard considering that this data relates to the very early period of the Omicron-driven wave, and this severity picture may change over time. The majority of those requiring hospitalisation, exceeding 75%, are unvaccinated.

We will keep an eye on South Africa, but also the UK, as things unfold. As per Dr. Campbell, 60% of daily new cases in the UK are already Omicron; while delta is still there, omicron will likely compete it into oblivion over the next weeks, the way it already has in South Africa.

Stay tuned, but so far I’m fairly optimistic.

Sabbath musical delight: Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, ‘September Fifteenth’

As Rick Beato explains below, this eerie, beautiful, harmonically incredibly complex piece was a musical eulogy for their late friend, the jazz pianist Bill Evans who had recently passed away on that date.

Here is an intimate live performance:

And finally, a similarly intimate piece, from Pat’s soundtrack for “A Map Of The World”, again performed by the duo of Lyle Mays (RIP) on keyboards and Pat on guitar.

Have a nice weekend and Shabbat shalom

Uber, China, and a scam Mel Brooks would have been proud to invent

I realize Uber is a polarizing company with forceful opinions for and against. The following documentary seems siomething of a hatchet job.

But one story, starting at 24:56, had me laughing so hard I replayed the brief segment about it twice. Here was something that could compete with the plot of Mel Brooks’s “The Producers” in terms of brazen fraud.[*]

In a nutshell: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was desperate to break into the Chinese market, not just to wade into a pool of 1.4 billion customers, but also for the bragging rights of being the first Western tech company to “make it big in China”.

So not only did flood the zone with coupons for free rides, he offered new drivers $600 sign-up bonuses. And of course, the drivers would get paid per mile, on Uber’s dime, even if the rides were free trial rides.

Alas, he had not counted on the creativity of the local scammers. Local cybercriminals bought up whole “containerloads” (probably hyperbole) of cheap burner phones, half of which were used to sign up as drivers under false identities, the other half as customers.

So a signed-up “driver” would drive all over town with 40-50 “ride” cell phones spread all over the back seat, cash in the signup bonus and the mileage rewards for the “Potemkin passengers”, then the phones would be wiped, new throwaway phone numbers setup on all, bogus rider signups done with the new numbers, freebie codes applied, and then a fresh (in both senses) round of Uber-milking would start…

Eventually, Kalanick exited the Chinese market in return for an equity stake in the Chinese clone of Uber.

[*] SPOILER ALERT: the fictional Broadway producer Max Bialystock [played by Zero Mostel] and his acoountant sidekick Leopold Bloom [played by Gene Wilder] sold shares in a production that added up to about 50,000% . If the play flopped, then no profits needed to be paid out — so the ploy depended on finding an utterly terrible play with no redeeming features, and staging it in the worst possible way with the worst actors and directors.

Alas, Bialystock & Bloom did such a marvelous job at creating the turkey of the ages that it became “so bad, it’s good” and an unintentional box-office hit as such — and now they were on the hook for 500 times the actual profits…

How socialist was National Socialism? The brothers Otto and Gregor Strasser

It is received wisdom among the (il)liberal left commentariat that Nazis were never socialist at all, to the extent that “fact-checker” derpseals fact-check you as “false” for attaching the label socialist to a movement explicitly calling itself the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). [It’s one reason I make a point of using the term National Socialist rather than the German nickname “Nazi” whenever possible.]

An interesting twist that not enough participants in this debate are aware of was the intra-NSDAP power struggle between two rival factions, which I will call the Hitlerites and the Strasserites.

Gregor Strasser and his brother Otto Strasser (five years his junior) were two of five siblings[*] born to a Bavarian jurist and civil servant. Both saw service in World War One and were discharged as Lieutenants, and both were awarded the Iron Cross First Class for bravery. Both had university degrees: Gregor in pharmacy, Otto in economics. Gregor took over a pharmacy in Landshut near Munich, Otto worked for a few years as a civil servant at the Reich Ministry for Food and Agriculture (Reichsernährungsministerium) in Berlin.

Gregor Strasser (CC:BY 3.0 from the Bundesarchiv/German Federal Archives)

In fact, Otto’s first political engagement was in the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany), which is still one of the two main political parties in Germany today and to which the new Chancellor Olaf Scholz belongs. Otto even fought in an SPD-affiliated paramilitary group, the “Rote Hundertschaft“ (Red Hundreds) against an attempted military coup (the so-called “Kapp Putsch“).

His brother Gregor apparently became a member of the NSDAP early on, and from December 1924 until March 1933 was a member of the Reichstag for it. Otto joined him in the party. Major intellectual influences on both men, especially on Otto, were two thinkers that combined hardcore Prussian nationalism with economic socialism: (1) the cultural historian and antiparliamentarian polemicist Arthur Moeller van den Bruck (1876-1925, whose magnum opus was called The Third Reich!); (2) the self-declared “National Bolshevik” Ernst Niekisch (1889-1967), who openly advocated a German-USSR alliance against “Africanized France”.

While Gregor Strasser lacked the [diabolical] demagogic talent of “Der Widerchrist” Hitler [y”sh], he made up for that in organizational talent and zeal, and built up an effective party apparatus of which he became “Reichsorganisationsleiter” [National Organization Leader, read: General Secretary] in 1928. The elder Strasser, possibly even more than Hitler himself, was materially responsible for transforming the NSDAP from a regional semi-fringe group into a national mass movement.

Moreover, both brothers were skilled polemical journalists and publishers. Soon Gregor head-hunted an editor with a doctorate for his new Berliner Arbeiterzeitung [Berlin Workers Paper], a failed playwright called [Paul] Josef Goebbels.

Their message, one that emphasized the socialist elements of the NSDAP program over the nationalist ones, resonated in the North of the country, especially among the working class in the country’s twin industrial heartlands of the Ruhr and greater Berlin. Strasser and Goebbels indeed drafted a revised party program that had Hitler accusing both of “Bolshevism”. The full text is available (in German) in R. Kühnl, “Zur Programmatik der Nationalsozialistischen Linken: das Strasser-Programm von 1925/26”, Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte [=Contemporary History Quarterly] 1966, 14, 317.

As Otto Strasser put it after the war, the Strassers believed not just in common ownership of the means of production (“socialism” by any reasonable definition) but — while there were plenty of rhetorical tropes about Jewish usury etc. — they rejected what Otto Strasser called “zoological” [sic] antisemitism.

Hitler recognized Goebbels’s propaganda skills as well as his personal insecurity, and soon won him over to his camp. But Strasser was still a force to be reckoned with.

In 1930 the Berlin SA, in league with the Strasserites, rebelled against the national leadership. Hitler won the showdown, and Otto Strasser — who had quit the party and founded a dissident group that was popularly referred to as the “Black Front” — was forced to flee abroad. Hitler took personal command of the SA, then pled with Ernst Röhm — who was working as a military advisor to the Bolivian government — to return to Germany and become its chief of staff and de facto commander.

Back in 1919, then-Captain Ernst Röhm had been impressed by the rhetorical fury of one of his soldiers, Corporal Adolf Hitler, who had been sent by military intelligence to join a new small party called the DAP (German Workers Party) and had quickly become its chief orator. Röhm then in turn had joined the party himself [as member #623 — Hitler was #555; numbers started at 501 ;)], which soon changed its name to the familiar NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party). Röhm was one of the few people with whom Hitler was on a first-name basis, allowing Röhm to address him by the informal second person pronoun “Du”,[**] or as “Adolf” or “Adi” rather than “Mein Führer”. Remarkably, Röhm was openly homosexual (of a “butch” variety that defied the popular stereotype of the time) — which led to persistent rumors that Hitler himself was homosexual. (His own comments at the time: “we cannot be childish about people who put their lives on the line for the movement”. Later he would sing a very different tune about “violators of Paragraph 175”. [***], explicitly invoking it in a speech “justifying” the Night Of The Long Knives.)

Röhm accepted the position, and the ranks of the SA soon swelled mightily, from 77,000 when he took the position, to 430,000 in the spring of 1933. Especially in large cities, many a new Sturmbann (battalion) was said to be made up of “beefsteak Nazis”: brown[****] on the outside, red on the inside.

Coming back to Gregor Strasser: he continued to be the only serious rival for Hitler within the party. Indeed, in late 1932, the Reichswehr general and last Weimar Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher offered Strasser the position of Deputy Chancellor in an attempt to strengthen his minority government by including the Strasserite faction of the NSDAP. This led to a confrontation within the party leadership that ended with Strasser resigning from all leadership positions within the party.

After the NSDAP came to power first on January 30, 1933, then acquired dictatorial powers through the Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz) of March 24, 1933, the SA leadership became gradually disgruntled, and started talking of the need for a “second revolution”, while spouting quasi-Strasserite rhetoric.

Hitler’s real or feigned fear of being overthrown by an SA-putsch [with SS-leader Heinrich Himmler, y”sh, egging him on for Macchiavellian reasons] ultimately resulted in the purge codenamed “Unternehmen Kolibri” [Operation Hummingbird], better known as the Night of the Long Knives (June 30 and July 1, 1934). Among its 300-odd victims, the three most prominent ones were Röhm, Gregor Strasser, and Schleicher. The SA continued to exist but became a shadow of its former self; from then on, Himmler’s SS, which had “done the dirty work”, displaced the SA as a major power center and would ultimately become a state within the state.

Otto Strasser had fled first to Czechoslovakia, then via Switzerland, France, Portugal, and Bermuda would ultimately settle in Canada in 1941. His brand of “national socialism with a capital S” would ultimately become a major inspiration for what in far-right circles is known as the International Third Position (the two positions they reject being communism and capitalism). Bizarrely enough (?), in 1950, he was offered a position in the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, i.e., the East German Communist Party), but declined, as he ultimately wanted to return to his native Bavaria. He ultimately did return there, and after an unsuccessful attempt to launch a political party (the German Social Union), he lived out his remaining years at his sister’s house, writing his memoirs (which I read in French translation decades ago after stumbling onto them as “bookshelf filler” in a furniture store).

The Ensign: “Canada’s National News Weekly” (Montreal, publ. 1948-1956) , issue of April 8, 1950.

Paraphrasing J. B. S. Haldane’s famous quip about the Universe: history is not only weirder than we suppose, it is weirder than we can suppose.

[*] The three remaining siblings were their sister Olga (about whom little is known except that Otto lived at her house during his twilight years); the youngest son Anton, a civil law notary who later fell in battle on the Eastern Front; and Paul, later Father Bernhard, a Benedictine monk who spent the postwar years as a teacher and priest in the USA.

[**] Unlike English and Hebrew, but like many other Indo-European languages, German has a T-V distinction, between an informal second person (“Du”, cognate of English “thou”) and a formal/respectful one (“Sie”). Indeed, German has the reflexive verb “sich duzen” (calling each other “Du”) to describe people being close enough to adress each other so, like French “se tutoyer” [hence the Dutch loanword “tutoyeren”].

And yes, I am aware that German youngsters nowadays use “Du” indiscriminately — but that is a very recent development.

[***] Paragraph 175 of the Strafgesetzbuch/Penal Code originally went back to the days of Bismarck (May 15, 1871). Jurisprudence had limited its application very narrowly to one specific male-on-male act, in the presence of witnesses. The Third Reich broadened its scope to all forms of sexual activities between men, and reclassified it from a Vergehen (misdemeanor) to a Verbrechen (“crime”, idiomatically: felony).

[****] That brown became the uniform color of the SA/”brownshirts” is an accident of history: after the Versailles treaty forced Germany to give up its African colonies, tens of thousands of brown uniforms for the German colonial troops became useless, and the fledgling NSDAP bought them up at a fire sale price.

The story of the “Stahlhelm”

There are few objects more identified with the German military of both world wars than the Stahlhelm, the German steel helmet first introduced in the middle of WW 1. Indy Naidell — well known to fans of the Swedish power metal band Sabaton , which often retells true war stories — covers the history of the Stahlhelm.

Originally the Kaiser’s army went to war wearing the Pickelhauben (“pin helmet”, as we called it in Dutch — sometimes we jokingly referred to “Keizer Pinhelm II” instead of “Kaiser Wilhelm II”). Its design was meant to protect against cavalry sabers; interestingly, the US Marine Corps used a similar design from 1892 until 1904.

CC BY-SA 3.0 ‘sebastiensecrets” on Mediawiki

The WW I front soldier, however, had to worry much less about cavalry charges than about shrapnel. Additionally, the infantry Pickelhauben was made of leather, which came to be in ever shorter supply.

The design of the Stahlhelm was carried out by Dr Friedrich Schwerd of the Technical Institute of Hanover. In early 1915, Schwerd had carried out a study of head wounds suffered during trench warfare and submitted a recommendation for steel helmets, shortly after which he was ordered to Berlin. Schwerd then undertook the task of designing and producing a suitable helmet,[7] broadly based on the 15th-century sallet, which provided good protection for the head and neck.[8]

After lengthy development work, which included testing a selection of German and Allied headgear, the first stahlhelm were tested in November 1915 at the Kummersdorf Proving Ground and then field-tested by the 1st Assault Battalion. Thirty thousand examples were ordered, but it was not approved for general issue until New Year of 1916, hence it is most usually referred to as the “Model 1916”. In February 1916 it was distributed to troops at Verdun, following which the incidence of serious head injuries fell dramatically.

Wikipedia (caveat lector as always)

#SignalBoost: FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff on wokebaggery as the 2nd Great Age of PC; Tom Knighton on the skeletons in CNN’s closet

(a) FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) chair Greg Lukianoff has a feature in Reason Magazine on what he terms “Second Great Age of Political Correctness”.

As he puts it, when the first great wave of PC was laughed out of the marketplace for its absurdity, humorlessness, and internal contradictions, it did not go away but went underground in academia and goverment / quaNGO bureaucracies — reserves for what I’ve been calling the Brahmandarin caste (y term). Particularly in education departments, the next generation of educators was indoctrinated with more zeal than ever, and now the mutated, more virulent forms are hitting us twice as hard.

preliminary research showed a “12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators,” wrote Samuel J. Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College in The New York Times in 2018. His conclusion: “It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate—and socialized by an incredibly liberal group of administrators.” Following the Times article, Abrams was targeted twice by students in an unsuccessful campaign to get him fired for speaking out. […]

Education schools, in particular, became even more activist, which had an outsized impact on where we are today. The early 2000s began with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)—the accreditor of over 600 graduate education programs—”recommending” that education students be required to demonstrate a commitment to social justice. The extremely influential Teachers College at Columbia University adopted the requirement, as did others. In 2005, in the face of protest from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where I am president and CEO, NCATE removed the recommendation. But many schools, including Columbia’s Teachers College, did not.

[…] The University of California, Berkeley, uses a rubric to score prospective faculty on adherence to specific ideological positions. Candidates are scored negatively, for instance, for attesting to the position that one should “ignore the varying backgrounds of their students and ‘treat everyone the same.'” […]

From 2015 through mid-October 2021, FIRE identified 471 attempts to get professors fired or punished for their constitutionally protected speech, with almost three-quarters of them resulting in some type of sanction. In 106 of those cases, the sanction included the loss of a job. The frequency of these attempts has risen dramatically, from 30 in 2015 to 122 in 2020. And the list includes 172 tenured professors who were punished, 27 of whom were fired.

Tenure was designed to be a nearly invincible protection from termination for one’s speech, beliefs, teaching, or research. Until very recently, even a single fired tenured professor for anything related to his or her speech or scholarship was a huge deal. Twenty-seven tenured professors fired in a handful of years for their expression is unprecedented. It undermines the whole function of tenure, which is to protect academic freedom by assuring professors they won’t find themselves unemployed for exercising it. 

[…] Of the top 100 schools according to U.S. News & World Report, 65 have had a professor targeted since 2015. Meanwhile, the top 10 schools had an average of seven incidents each.

Read The Whole Thing, as they say. Lukianoff considers “fighting fire with fire” counterproductive and instead says:

We cannot afford to just give up on higher ed. College and university presidents can and should do the following five things:

1. Immediately dump all speech codes.

2. Adopt a statement specifically identifying free speech as essential to the core purpose of a university and committing the university to free speech values.

3. Defend the free speech rights of their students and faculty loudly, clearly, and early.

4. Teach free speech, the philosophy of free inquiry, and academic freedom from Day One.

5. Collect data and open their campuses to research on the climate for debate, discussion, and dissent.

Indeed. Every day I thank G-d Almighty that I am no longer in US academia.

And it is undoubtedly true that one cannot fight an implacable enemy for a long time without becoming a little bit like him — by adopting tactics that work for the other side, by

But none stated the danger of taking this too far more poignantly than Nietzsche:

“Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, daß er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.
Whoever is fighting monsters must be watchful not to become a monster while doing so. And when you stare for long into an abyss, the abyss also stares back at you.

(translation mine)

The quotation is often mistranslated as “Beware when fighting monsters”. Sometimes you have no choice but to fight monsters, and to fight with all one’s might. That does not mean the danger isn’t there.

(b) Tom Knighton on the skeletons in CNN’s closet (and not only CNN’s), of a variety that in British prisons is known as “nonce”. (I.e., the type that, when placed in general prison population, will be “nonce” offenders since their fellow prisoners will ensure no second offense will occur ;)) My mother (z”l) used to quote the Christian New Testament about such characters:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones […] it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6 (King James Version)

(c) I don’t know if progressive EDM is your thing (not mine really), but I have a soft spot for this unreleased DeadMau5 track once it’s past the fade-in intro. So many melodies write themselves over this chord progression:
Ebm – Ebsus – Ebsus4 – B – Bbm7 – Gb – Bbsus4 – Bb – Abm/B – Ebsus4 – B – Bbm7

Here, there, and everywhere: more hopeful omicron news; university “diversity” bureaucracy vs. actually helping disadvantaged students

(a) Following up on our earlier report, Dr. John Campbell has more good news from South Africa (omicron variant central). Yes, it clearly spreads very rapidly (R=2.5 now — in South Africa other variants have largely been outcompeted), but there has been a change of kind rather than degree. Dr. Richard Friedland is the CEO of Netcare, a private HMO that operates a network of 49 acute-care hospitals, most in the Gauteng (formerly Transvaal) area, which includes the country’s largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital Pretoria. During the first three waves the country saw, his hospitals treated 126,000 COVID19 patients, 44% of whom required hospital admission and 26% of whom required intensive care. Nearly 100% of admitted patients required oxygen.

Currently, in the “omicron wave”, just 337 COVID patients are in Netcare hospitals, about one-tenth of whom require oxygen, and just eight patients (2%) require ventilators (two of them for primary trauma). In fact, many of these admissions are “with” incidental COVID, with the primary reason for admission being something else. Just a handful of people have died (a dramatic reduction in mortality from previous waves).

Dr. Friedland says he sees this “omicron wave” as primarily manageable at home. Prof. Eleanor Riley from the U. of Edinburgh, in Scotland, even claims it could act as a “natural vaccine” against nastier strains of COVID19.

(b) Want to boost your immune system generally (and for COVID while you’re at it)? Making sure you’re not deficient in vitamin D is a good start, particularly if you live in the northern US or northern England rather than, say, Florida, Texas, or sunny Israel. [Scandinavia is a special case, in that its long, dark winters have been making serious vitamin D supplementation a necessity for the longest time.] Zinc supplements are another, but here you want to not overdo it, as you might otherwise become copper-deficient (the same structures store zinc and copper). Dr. John Campbell interviews British-Israeli GP on both supplementations, not just for COVID (and COVID prophylaxis) but for viral infections more generally.

(c) In case you were under the illusion that the fauxversity bureaucracy at US universities is about helping actual people (rather than generating cushy jobs for diversicrats), Prof. Mark Perry has some figures for Ohio State University, a large public college in the USA.

Alternatively, “Commander Salamander” adds:

Think of the opportunity cost. How many tutors and half-ride scholarships for low income students would $13.4 million dollars cover. Well, we know that is 1,120 full ride scholarships … imagine 2,000 half-ride and 220 full time tutors in math and science to help those from low performing high schools excel in the fields that our 21st Century economy needs.

This is classic Pournelle’s Iron Law at work:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.