Klaus Schulze’s final composition, “The Breath of Life”

The late ambient electronic music pioneer’s final album, “Deus Arrakis” (the 2nd time he recorded an album inspired by Frank Herbert’s “Dune”), will be released on July 1. The record company SPV however released the final track early. Fittingly, it is called “The Breath of Life” (der Hauch des Lebens).

The piece revisits familiar Schulze-ian textures and chord sequences. But it has a special poignancy to it, given it was the last thing he created.

Looking around: Germany’s new government disappoints at home and abroad; leading Flemish politician eloquently pillories eco-extremism

(cached copy: https://archive.fo/7gHjs)

[…] many people are wondering whether the German Chancellor is using his country’s burden of historical guilt to wriggle out of his pledge to supply Ukraine with the tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery it desperately needs.

The newspaper Die Welt has revealed that, in nine weeks, Germany has supplied none of the promised heavy equipment. Only light arms and defensive weapons have been delivered. Endless excuses have been offered by Berlin, from claims of secret Nato deals to attempts to blame the manufacturers. None of which has turned out to hold water. “Militarily, Ukraine is simply being left in the lurch by Berlin,” according to Andrij Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany.

Scholz’s Nato counterparts are now asking whether his word can be trusted at all. President Duda of Poland has been scathing about Berlin’s failure to honour its pledge to replace equipment that his country sent to Ukraine.

Indeed, Germany’s image as the leading power in Europe, already compromised by its addiction to Russian energy, has collapsed. With the exception of Hungary, the whole of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe has joined the Anglo-American camp, demanding a tougher line towards Moscow. Berlin is no longer taken seriously among the countries most threatened by Russia – which are also among those that suffered most at the hands of the Nazis. Scholz’s serpentine manoeuvres have cast doubt on the sincerity of postwar Germany’s efforts to restore its reputation, and lessened the power of the motto “Never again”.

It could have been very different. When Scholz announced his Zeitenwende (“turning point”) after the Russian invasion, the world sat up and took notice. His enhanced military commitment to Nato and Ukraine seemed to herald a new epoch, with Germany emerging from Angela Merkel’s shadow. In the 100 days since, however, his geopolitical immaturity has been painfully obvious.

Instead of turning Germany into the arsenal of democracy, Scholz has strung Volodymyr Zelensky along with empty promises. Meanwhile Berlin’s billions continue to pour into Putin’s coffers: blood money for Russian gas and oil.

Together with Emmanuel Macron and Mario Draghi, the German Chancellor has formed a triumvirate of appeasers, continuing to negotiate with Putin and entertaining concessions in return for a ceasefire that would freeze the conflict and leave Russia occupying vast tracts of Ukraine.

The latest round of phone calls to Moscow were touted as a chance to lift the Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain supplies. But the Kremlin is clear that shipments will only be permitted by its Black Sea fleet in return for the removal of sanctions. With this prevarication and bargaining, the Zeitenwende is unravelling.

But perhaps most importantly, Scholz is no longer even in tune with German public opinion. In the past month, his party, the Social Democrats, has done badly in two regional elections. Much of the public consider that the gap between what their leader says and what he does is now so wide that he looks like a liar.

Meanwhile, the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, his coalition partners, are deeply uncomfortable. Unless Scholz can restore his credibility fast, it is no longer inconceivable that one or more parties could switch sides, bringing down the government just six months after it took office.

Abandoning the caution of the Merkel era, the opposition Christian Democrats are back in the game. Their new leader, Friedrich Merz, has visited Kyiv – unlike the thin-skinned Scholz, who was mocked by Ambassador Melnyk as a “silly sausage”. Within the coalition it is the Greens, especially Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who are setting the pace. On Ukraine, Ms Baerbock seems closer to hawkish conservatives such as Norbert Röntgen than she does to Scholz.

The fresh start promised for Germany is long forgotten. Instead, its embattled Chancellor is simply out of his depth. Perhaps his comparison with Wilhelm II, however ill-advised, was apt after all. Scholz may not be as dim as the Kaiser, but he looks very like an emperor with no clothes. 

(b) Related to my earlier Janet Daley post, a friend forwarded me a commentary piece in Dutch by Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerp and leader of the N-VA party (“New Flemish Alliance”, conservative Flemish nationalists). It was originally published on LinkedIn, it seems, but the link was dead (censored?). De Wever, for many years the de facto prime minister of the Flanders region, is one of a rare breed in continental European politics: a Burkean conservative like myself. Anyway, here is a DeepL Pro machine translation slightly edited by yours truly:

On September 19, 1995, an ideological manifesto appeared in The Washington Post entitled: “Industrial Society and its Future. The text paints a grim picture of the industrial age, which would primarily ensure the destruction of the environment and the corruption of our natural way of life. The reader is therefore called upon to oppose these tendencies in a revolutionary way by actively “destabilizing” the industrialized system.
The author of the manifesto was later exposed as Ted Kaczynski, better known as The Unabomber. For seventeen years he had regularly sent homemade bomb packages to airlines, oil companies or engineering faculties of various universities, resulting in a total of three deaths and many lost fingers and eyes.
Last week, De Morgen published an opinion piece with the salient title: ‘How long will the climate movement limit itself to peaceful protest?’ The piece leans awfully close to Kaczynski’s argument, but is written by a Flemish student of environmental sciences. The young author’s worrying thesis is that climate activists are in a state of legitimate self-defense and thus may legitimately commit violence against companies that emit greenhouse gases. The piece even insinuates that violence is the most effective means of overthrowing the so-called “profit model” that is allegedly destroying our planet.
Incitement to violence is punishable. Yet in response to this piece, a former student lecturer even expressed delight on twitter that his pupil showed that he had learned much from his lessons. The ideological stupor of ecological doom has become incremental. Last year I warned in this newspaper that violence would become a logical next step in this.
Throughout our audiovisual culture, it has become an archetype that the “system,” led by corrupt politicians and evil corporations, is doomed to make the planet unlivable. The danger of such thinking is being severely underestimated. Witness the numerous young adults who have now been imbued with the idea that having a child is immoral. Or even worse: that the child they already gave birth to should never have been born in the first place.
Of course we must take the climate issue seriously. But the feelings of guilt and doom that are invariably associated with this are unjustified and counterproductive. Over the past thirty years, we in the West have made enormous progress. Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU fell by 31 percent between 1990 and 2020. Some 11 percentage points more than the original target. At the same time, our European GDP increased eightfold. Ecological and economic progress have gone hand in hand in Europe for decades.
Even in Flanders – one of the most densely populated and industrialized areas of Europe with the least potential for the generation of renewable energy – emissions are falling and we are also seeing an improvement in just about all air quality parameters. As the only region in the country, Flanders also has a concrete climate plan ready to accelerate the reduction of emissions in the future. With regard to climate adaptation, we are preparing ourselves with the Coastal Defense Master Plan and the Sigma Plan for unavoidably choppy waters.
This positive trend is far from self-evident throughout the world. In China, greenhouse gas emissions quadrupled in the same period. Today, the Chinese account for almost a third of our global emissions. Of course, economically they are still at a different stage of development than Europe. Yet it is striking that climate activists never send pleas to, say, The Beijing Times for attacks on vital infrastructure. In ecological doom thinking, the West is by definition to blame for everything.
This irrational humility is detrimental to the necessary ecological transition. With assertiveness instead of guilt, Europe can encourage other trading blocs to go green. As mayor of the second largest petrochemical [industry] cluster in the world, I am proud that Antwerp is playing a pioneering role in this. It almost went unnoticed, but BASF and Air Liquide recently secured the lion’s share of the European Innovation Fund for the Kairos@C project: the construction of the largest cross-border carbon capture and storage value chain in the world. Antwerp will also soon welcome the most low-carbon ethane cracker ever built in Europe, an installation that is also being built to run on green hydrogen in the future. Thanks to this multi-billion INEOS project, more polluting crackers elsewhere in the world will be pushed out of the market and the global climate standard in the sector will be raised even higher. This means new, well-paid jobs in Flanders and pure net profit for the climate.
Yet it is precisely this type of company that ecological doomsayers prefer to target. Even the risk that a hothead sabotaging an installation would cause an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe is apparently considered acceptable enough to call for it. Surely a prosperous future for humanity is off the menu. Solutions through innovation and even the consideration of promising technologies, such as nuclear power or GMOs, are therefore slapped under the spell of the Green Church. Only regression and penance can save us.
Even if it [amounts to] uphill cycling [funny Dutch version of “an uphill battle”] in the prevailing intellectual climate in the West, it is time to actively counter this nonsense. The future of humanity is too important to leave it to ideological dumbing down.

ADDENDUM 1: China threatens to downgrade ties with Israel if Jerusalem Post does not withdraw interview with Taiwanese foreign minister. Editor Yaakov Katz, whom I’ve repeatedly criticized here, is standing his ground: credit where credit is due.

The true story that inspired The Hunt For Red October

To my American readers: have a meaningful Memorial Day.

Here is “a story behind the novel” I was unfamiliar with — specifically, Tom Clancy’s debut technothriller The Hunt For Red October.


I know [Tom Clancy’s] ‘The Hunt for Red October’ was inspired by an actual situation that someone in the government told him about. He asked if he could use it for a novel and was told it needed to be completely changed so the USSR wouldn’t know the US knew what happened.

It stemmed from an incident where a Soviet political officer mutinied a destroyer, with the intention of sailing it to Leningrad (St Petersburg) and calling for the Soviet people to revolt against it’s corrupt government and put in place another socialist government over it’s loud speaker. Sweden had some sophisticated listening devices it got from the US, while claiming to be neutral, and they over heard Soviet jets threatening they’d sink a Soviet ship unless it stopped, and the Political Officer talking about his mutiny over the air and the captain eventually taking control of the ship back. Since Sweden claimed neutrality, it was very important the USSR not find out anyone heard anything.

There was a giant submarine the Soviets put out NATO called the Typhoon Class that also got Clancy’s attention, so the the story went from a political officer wanting another revolution to a Captain wanting to defect, a destroyer to a massive Typhoon nuclear armed submarine, the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and the Riga naval base to the Murmansk naval base.

He was referring to the Soviet frigate Storozhevoy (“sentry” or “guardian”)

The mutiny was led by the ship’s political commissarCaptain of the Third Rank [*] Valery Sablin, who wished to protest against the rampant corruption of the Leonid Brezhnev era. His aim was to seize the ship and steer it out of the Bay of Riga, to Leningrad through the Neva River, moor alongside the museum ship Aurora, an old symbol of the Russian revolution, and broadcast a nationwide address to the people from there. In that address, he was going to say what he believed people publicly wanted to say, but could only be said in private: that socialism and the motherland were in danger; the ruling authorities were up to their necks in corruption, demagoguery, graft, and lies, leading the country into an abyss; communism had been discarded, and there was a need to revive the Leninist principles of justice.[1]

On the evening of 9 November 1975, Sablin lured the captain to the lower deck, claiming that there were some officers who needed to be disciplined for being drunk on duty. When the captain arrived at the lower deck, Sablin detained him and other officers in the forward sonar compartment and seized control of the ship.[…]

THere was, however, another figure, which inspired the protagonist Captain of the First Rank[*] Marko Ramius in THFRO: Lithuanian-born Soviet submarine commander Jonas Pleškys, who fled to Sweden with his boat (later returned by the Swedes) and was given asylum in the USA.

[*] In the Russian table of ranks, a Captain of the Third Rank is the equivalent of a Lieutenant-Commander in the US and Royal Navies or a Korvettenkapitän in the German Navy; a Captain of the Second Rank corresponds to Commander and Fregattenkapitän, respectively; while a Captain of the First Rank is like a full Captain or Kapitän zur See, who would command a ship of the line or other major vessel. The relative corresponding army ranks are Major; Lieutenant-Colonel; and Colonel.

Janet Daley on the anti-humanism of the anti-growth lobby

Must-read in today’s Sunday Telegraph (paywalled; cached copy).

[…] This “overpopulated world” thesis has gone rather quiet since the pandemic threatened to make its wish come true. But the more palatable version remains: the populations of the developed countries must adjust to the new reality. They must embrace abstinence and self-denial as a matter of urgency.

Having enough disposable income to indulge yourself in what were once regarded as the basic accoutrements of modern life, let alone the luxuries of variety and consumer choice, should be consigned to a shameful past. And as for those heavily populated developing nations which haven’t yet caught up with our privileged standards – well, they can forget it. Any expectations the poorest people on earth might have had for sharing in the bonanza of Western economic success must now be out of the question. But they won’t be alone in their comfortless existence because the West will have to voluntarily relinquish its advantages. The new ethic decrees not that we should make the poor parts of the world richer but that we should make the rich parts of the world poorer. Outside of self-denying puritanical communities or the poverty vows of religious orders, this kind of self-abnegation has been virtually unknown in the contemporary world.

Whatever your views on the urgency of climate change, the tone of this evangelism must be disturbing if only because there is something so odd about its psychology. It expresses supposed deep concern for the future of humanity in terms that imply a profound dislike of the most basic human desire to improve one’s condition in life. This goes way beyond the traditional Leftwing hatred of wealth and those who possess it. It suggests something much darker: a loathing of human-ness itself. Maybe that is why the talk is of saving “the planet” rather than people: because in truth, this campaign does not like human beings very much.

The less impact they are permitted to have on the “ecosystem” the better – even though, of course, much of that living system would not exist without human husbandry. There is a bizarre merging of Malthus and medievalism here. The world cannot support its growing – and increasingly aspirational – population and this dilemma is all the fault of human wickedness: the endless, unquenchable desire to have more and more of everything and the venality that profits from that desire.

This goes way beyond what might seem like practical recommendations for efficiency or the elimination of waste. That could be dealt with rationally if it were thought to be an acceptable answer to the problem. But the driving force here is not reasonableness. It is a crusade against the assumptions that created the modern world which puts human need at its moral centre. So it is not just the industrial revolution – which made the fruits of prosperity widely available – that is to be repudiated but agrarianism too. The advances in food production which disproved Malthus’s prediction of doom and even the farming of animals must be condemned because they exploit the “natural world”. Nature itself, always referred to as if it were a conscious being, is sentimentalised in an infantile way as a Garden of Eden despoiled by selfish human activity when it is, in reality, more of a Hobbesian war of all against all in which extinction occurs quite regularly.

On countless fronts, some of them almost laughably pointless, there is a rejection of human agency. Sometimes this rejection must be simulated to conform with the fashionable dogma. At the redoubtable Chelsea Flower Show last week, the top prize was awarded to a kind of anti-garden – quite deliberately designed to look “wild” as if it had emerged by chance with the assistance of beavers who are now being (by human intervention) re-introduced into the countryside. A pair of sentient human designers had contrived to create something which disowned human intervention. That says it all.

I have been saying for decades that “deep ecologism” — or what we used to call “the fundamentalist greens” (as distinct from the more pragmatic “realo-greens”) back in Europe — is at heart an anti-humanist movement by and for misanthropes.

Ukraine: have drones shown both tanks and fighter jets to be obsolete? Plus: RUSI director on why the West should not fall for Putin peace overtures at this time

Lewis Page in The Telegraph thinks so (paywalled original; cached copy)

He then goes on to explain what lessons the British army and the RAF ought to learn from this. Go read the whole thing — I can’t do it justice by selective quoting.

(b) Michael Clarke, the director of the Royal United Services Institute, explains on Times Radio why he thinks time is on Ukraine’s side, if promised Western ordnance arrives on time

Newsweek op-ed [!]: the left hasn’t eaten the rich, it has been coopted by the ultra-rich

I’m not entirely surprised that a man with the obviously white supremacist name[*] Raheem Kassam would identify with the populist right and would express the views below. The big surprise was that his article didn’t appear in Breitbart, NewsMax, or a similar publication, but in Newsweek [!!!]. Some excerpts:

On the back of then-recent protests in London, Seattle and Melbourne, the [far-left] self-proclaimed “anti-globalization” movement had the wind at its back [in the early 2000s].

Interestingly, the (far-left) S11 Alliance sounded somewhat similar back then to the homepages of The National Pulse (where I now serve as editor in chief), Breitbart or Human Events today. Unfortunately, at that time, much of conservative media was more concerned with defending corporate interest and assailing the much-hated “crusties.”

In the years proceeding, the Left has become far less robust in its critique of corporate greed, and most yesteryear “crusties” now take a fairly pro-globalization position. Curious, that.[…]

“When the people shall have no more to eat, they will eat the rich,” goes the old Rousseau quote truncated for the placards of the dreadlocked white boys from the early 2000s. Instead, it was the Left that got eaten by the rich, who, between 9/11 and the Great Recession, caught populist-left politicians licking their lips and sharpening their knives. Very quickly, though, “corporate social responsibility” took center stage. Soon after, there were Pride flags on every brand’s logo. This year, there was a humiliatingly tepid showing of “dozens” of left-wing protesters at the [World Economic Forum]’s Davos forum.

[…] Well, as far as its own admissions make clear, the Left has failed to remain united.

More importantly, the Left decided that the world was, in fact, for sale. With great corporate greed came great corporate largesse—which meant a reprieve for those willing to pipe down, and cash for those willing to become complicit in corporate globalism. Despite Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes’s (D-NY) left-populist tub-thumping, her “Tax the Rich”—rather than “Eat the Rich”—dress at the 2021 Met Gala was emblematic of her side’s neutering. In just 22 years, we’ve watched the Left go from “targeting” McDonalds, in their own words, to cheering on the corporate giant for refusing to sell Big Macs to hungry Russians.

For [Klaus] Schwab and his WEF, this was cause for relief. Right-wing activists who feel similarly about globalization are viewed as less likely to smash up whatever city his conference is held in, and certainly less intent on confronting the police protecting them. Much of the media’s outrage about January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. was the disbelief that some right-wingers would adopt a similar mob mentality to the Left’s own rank and file.

And while most of the political Right would currently rather BE the rich than EAT the rich, what they might just do along the way is eat the Left’s populist lunch.

This week’s brief detention of right-wing reporter Jack Posobiec in Davos, coupled with its current near-monopoly on anti-globalist rhetoric, reveals how the modern Right is far more potent a threat to the WEF and its interests than the modern Left will be for a long time—if ever again. Too busy enjoying the spoils of their manifold failures, one supposes.

[…]If the Right really wants to rein in Western oligarchs, it must learn the right lessons from the populist Left’s failures and refuse to be bought off with political donations, California mansions and government grants. The anti-globalization fight is now the Right’s to lose. If we fail, corporate global leadership—in Schwab’s own words—wins.

Read the whole thing.

[*] Sarcasm tag needed? Oh yeah, and he’s a christofascist too despite being an atheist of Muslim background.

Russian local politician demands end to Putin’s war on camera; Insty asks question I’ve been asking myself

(B) In his weekly op-ed in the New York Post, Instapundit asks whether the Biden bubatron [Hebrew for puppet show], a.k.a. The Third Term of 0bama, is “purposely grinding down the middle class”. As a foreign observer who’s intimately familiar with US society, I’ve been wondering about this myself, but as I am a firm believer in Hanlon’s razor (really Heinlein’s Razor), “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”, I’ve always dismissed this concept as too far-fetched or scandalous to be true. But increasingly, this theory of deliberate immiserization looks compelling to me. Can anyone explain to me what the Biden bubatron would be doing differently if they were actually doing it on purpose?

Signal boost: rebuttal to CNN report on death of Al-Jazeera reporter

Contemptible News Network, a.k.a. Complete Narrative Network, lives up to its name with a new “report” trying to blame/frame Israel for the killing of Al-Jazeera’s Shirin Abu Akleh.

Read this rebuttal by NY Sun reporter Dovid Efune in a Tw*tter thread, which I’m echoing here in its entirety.


A new @CNN report is now claiming “evidence” that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in a “targeted attack” by Israeli forces.

It’s a wildly irresponsible report, reminiscent of the al-Durrah libel of 2000 that fueled the deadly 2nd Intifada. 

CNN’s claims defy logic and some are overtly false. The report also makes ample use of multiple discredited sources and uses word tricks to misdirect the reader.

Below is a partial breakdown of the deceitful account and the unanswered questions it leaves. 

CNN essentially offers 4 arguments to make its case. Each of them is problematic. Credit for some of the below goes to a handful of intrepid internet sleuths, including blogger @elderofziyon.

First, a bit of logic: 

1. Per CNN’s own map, the Israeli forces were positioned in between Abu Akleh and the militants. If they were shooting at each other (green arrow for IDF, red arrow for gunmen), then the Palestinians were the only ones shooting in Abu Akleh’s direction. 

2. CNN confirms that both the Israelis and the militants were using M16 and M4 rifles. 

It then cites an “expert” who claims that the Palestinians, about 300 meters away from Abu Akleh, were out of range. 

The M4’s range is 500+ meters. The M16’s range is 800+ meters. 

3. The report relies heavily on “eyewitnesses.”

Citing witness testimony from within what @NatanSharansky would call a “fear society” is inherently problematic.

The sources are highly motivated to toe the line and would place themselves at great personal risk if they didn’t. 

4. CNN then cites “explosive weapons expert” Chris Cobb-Smith, who is no objective observer.

Cobb-Smith has a history (over a decade) of directing his “expertise” towards incriminating Israel. He’s also tied to some reliably anti-Israel groups, including Forensic Architecture. 

Cobb-Smith claims that the grouping of bullet holes at the scene could not have come from random (militant) fire. 

But CNN ignores the likelihood that the gunmen were firing — and specifically aiming — in the direction of the IDF, whom Abu Akleh was standing behind. 

Also, the spacing of the bullet holes shown by CNN, with one higher up and two lower down, seem unlikely to have come from a sniper, as CNN asserts. 

I know of no military that would retain a sniper who was that bad a shot, no less the IDF. 

5. CNN’s final piece of “evidence” comes from forensic audio analyst Robert Maher who matches the distance (200m) from which the deadly bullet was fired to the IDF.

Maher seems straight enough, but here’s the catch. Per CNN, there were 2 volleys fired in Abu Akleh’s direction… 

Maher only analyses the second volley because, CNN says, “eyewitnesses” say Abu Akleh was hit in the second barrage. But what if the eyewitnesses were wrong, per the above, and she was killed in the first?

Why does CNN not give us the same data from the first volley? 

If, as seems a more likely scenario, the militants (from 300m) came up behind the Israelis and fired in their (and Abu Akleh’s) direction, then the Israelis would have returned fire (from 200m) towards them.

Maher may be right on distance, but the IDF was shooting the other way. 

In sum, CNN’s report appears carefully constructed to fit a pre-determined conclusion: Israel is guilty.

It will no doubt be used to recruit for terror groups who prey on innocent civilians in Israel and in worldwide Jewish communities.

Their blood will be on @CNN‘s hands. 

All I can say is: if the “Palestinians” were sure their hands were clean in this matter, they would not behave in the manner they are.

ADDENDUM: Don’t miss HonestReporting’s detailed critique, which rightly speaks of a “character assassination” for this “farcical investigation”. Just one taste:

One can only imagine how credible CNN’s readers would find Huwail’s testimony if they knew he has described the terrorist who murdered four people in a vehicle ramming and knife rampage in Beersheba on March 22 as a “lone lion” who had “sounded the alarm of this criminal Zionist occupation.”

Mediatamites (“media-schandknapen”) will be mediatamites.

Here, there, eveywhere: Russian concert goers break out in “F— the war” chant; other Ukraine updates; European Parliament chair gives markedly warm speech in the Knesset; double jeopardy at Princeton

(a) via The Telegraph, at a big concert in St. Petersburg, the audience broke out in chants of “Khui voine” [literally, “d*ck the war”; idiomatically, “f— the war”]

(b) A few links (impossible to keep up with all the news)

Assassination attempt on Putin 2 months ago https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/05/23/assassins-tried-kill-putin-two-months-ago/

EU;s united front crumbling now that Putin has gotten a bloody nose https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2022/05/23/natos-united-front-crumbling-now-putin-has-humiliated-ukraine/

Henry Kissinger being Kissinger: calls for Ukraine to make some territorial sacrifice, citing fears of destabilization if Russia collapses. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/05/23/henry-kissinger-warns-against-defeat-russia-western-unity-sanctions/ Oh puh-leeze

Lithuania withdraws ambassador from Russia https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/05/23/ukraine-news-russia-war-latest-updates-putin-azovstal-soldiers/#update-20220523-1813 (at 6:13pm mark)

Also, at the 4:51pm mark, idea mooted of a grain export corridor from Odessa under Turkish security guarantee. How ironic, as the Black Sea coast used to be Ottoman territory until Catharina II added it to her empire as “Novorossiya”.

(c) European Parliament head Roberta Metsola gave a remarkable speech in the Knesset.

The 705-member European Parliament has in the past been criticized for taking anti-Israeli stands. 

Metsola said that the parliament was committed to strengthening its ties with Israel, including in culture, science, trade, education, arts, research and technology. It does so at a time of rising antisemitism, she said. 

“I will not be ambiguous: To be antisemitic is to be anti-European. And every day we still witness attacks on Jews, on synagogues. Places of peace, of God, of worship, still remain targets,” she said.

“The European Parliament is committed to breaking the cycle. To combat antisemitism. To ensure that we remember the devastation of history and that the lessons of the past will never be forgotten.”

Metsola said that Europe and its parliament firmly support a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a “secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.”

The Abraham Accords, she said, showed that progress was possible and that the cycle of violence could be broken.

“Violence has never been a solution. Terrorism is never justified. There are no excuses for [the] terror. People deserve to go about their lives, send their children to school, [and] walk down the street free from fear,” Metsola said. 

Her speech was heckled by the “opposite” extremes of Arafat [y”sh] groupie Achmad Tibi and of Itamar Ben-Gvir, who uses a picture of Kahane’s derrière as a mezuzah.[*] One longingly thinks of particle-antiparticle annihilation between these two zelfpijpers

(d) Dr. Seheult gives some calm, no-BS updates about monkeypox virus, which incidentally has been around for decades.

(e) Tenured classics professor Joshua Katz was fired by Princeton before he could resign himself, ostensibly over a consensual affair he had had with an undergraduate student, and for which he’d already been disciplined years ago. But academic tribunals, unlike courts, do not have to worry about pesky details like double jeopardy.

And this is a classic case of “when they want to beat a dog, a stick is readily found” (Dutch proverb). His real crime was that he had the temerity to speak up against the new religion of Wokeism. Much more on the story at Legal Insurrection, which also links to Prof. Katz’s own op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

“Ten measures of hypocrisy have been placed in the world. Nine are in American academia.” (Talmud Interneti, tractate Bubbe Meises 69a)

[*] I shamelessly stole this metaphor from Herman Wouk z”l

Looking around: China doubling down on “zero-COVID” insanity; Peter Zeihan declares the end of Chinese manufacturing hegemony; Russian UN diplomat resigns, blasts Ukraine invasion; worries about world wheat supply

(a) Clearly China’s “chelonian-attracted” despot has never heard of W. C. Fields’s adage: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up — there’s no use being a damn fool about it.”

To the extent that a “zero-COVID” strategy was ever realistic at all, it is completely and utterly unworkable in the face of Omicron — as New Zealand learned the hard way. But that hasn’t stopped Xi from doubling down. One large city after another under draconian lockdown — you’ve seen the disturbing images from Shanghai; most recently, it’s the port city of Tianjin (a.k.a. Tientsin) which is also home to China’s oldest university (in the Western sense of the word). [Epoch Times article, caveat lector.]

The latest wrinkle is mass testing of whole populations every 72 hours. “China Insights” notes that this of course means hundreds upon hundreds of millions of test kits every few days, and that the companies doing a brisk business churning test kits out are owned, surprise surprise, by close associates of the leadership. But “shame upon him who thinks badly of it” (honi soit qui mal y pense).

(b) More on why Taiwan will be way harder to invade than Ukraine

“Polymatter”, the vlogger above, is convinced that all the talk by the ChiCom regime about “reunification” is meant for domestic consumption, as a distraction from the mounting problems of the regime.

In fact, I’m increasingly of the opinion that a permanently simmering low-intensity war in Ukraine would serve Putin the Kleptocrat just fine as a way to legitimize his rule with the popularion.

(c) [Hat tip: Mrs. Arbel] Senior Russian diplomat at the UN resigns, slams “war of aggression”.

(d) So a black Anglican minister has now been deemed not woke enough by the white wokebag hierarchy of his own church, because he questions dogma. No, he didn’t question the existence of G-d or the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, but… “denying institutional racism” is apparently a mortal sin now.

(e) Telegraph (cached copy): world has only about 10 weeks’ worth of wheat reserves.

The world has just 10 weeks’ worth of wheat stockpiled after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted supplies from the “breadbasket of Europe”.

The UN has been warned that global wheat inventories have fallen to their lowest level since 2008 as food supplies are rocked by a “one-in-a-generation occurrence”.[…]

Earlier this week, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey warned of “apocalyptic” food price rises as Ukraine struggles to export products.

“Ukraine does have food in store but it can’t get it out at the moment,” he told MPs on the Treasury Committee.

“That is a major worry. It is not just a major worry for this country, it is a major worry for the developing world.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Mr Putin is “using food as a weapon”.

“The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage.”

He added: “Some 20m tons of grain sit unused in Ukrainian silos as global food supply dwindle (and) prices skyrocket.”

ADDENDUM: Immigrants to Israel from Russia end up going back, for now. Unlike past waves of olim (“ascendants”, i.e., new immigrants) from the former USSR, these people are actually reasonably well to do. But they came here in haste, and discovered they were unable to access their funds from abroad as their banks were under sanction, their credit cards no longer work,…

Why don’t the Flemish themselves call their spoken language “Flemish”?

A short, somewhat oddball item here. I keep being asked here if I also speak Flemit (“Flemish”) as well as Hollandit (Dutch). People are universally surprised when I tell them the Flemish themselves don’t use that name except in dialect speech.

In the part of my youth spent in Belgium, what y’all call “Flemish” was referred to in school as “Nederlands” (Dutch); in the Netherlands themselves, people might refer to specifically “Flemish” usages as “Zuid-Nederlands” (Southern Dutch), as does the Van Dale dictionary (the Dutch equivalent of the OED). Note: I grew up in an era where the standard language was still commonly referred to by the rather politically incorrect term “Common Civilized Dutch” (Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands, or ABN for should) rather than “Algemeen Nederlands” (Common Dutch).

Even rabid Flemish nationalists very proud of their “Vlaamse” identity and “Vlaamsgezindheid” would commonly refer to the language in writing as “Nederlands” rather than “Vlaams”.

But what about the spoken language? There are four clusters[**] of Flemish dialects: the easternmost, Limburgian, reflects a dialect continuum with Low German, while the westernmost, West-Vlaams, is actually fairly hard to understand by Antwerpians or Limburgers. So when people from different provinces would converse, they would either both use standard “school Dutch” or speak a kind of common-denominator koine that has been called “Verkavelingsvlaams” (subdivision/suburban Flemish). As dialects die out among younger people, this koine predominates. Two immediately recognizable features setting all “Flemish” varieties apart from ABN are: (1) the pervasive use of the archaic “gij” (thou) instead of “jij” (familiar you singular), “U” (respectful you singular), and “jullie” (plural you); (2) the broad use of French loanwords. In my youth, somebody who spoke strict standard was generally profiled as either “nen Hollander” (a Dutchman) or “bekakt” (posh), or as a foreigner who’d learned Dutch in school. Note that the latter phenomenon reminds me more of the relation between “Received Pronunciation” and lower-prestige regiolects or sociolects in the UK, than of two different languages.

Now compare the situation between, say, Danish and Norwegian Bokmål (“book language”)? Even today, in defiance of the received wisdom of linguists, some Norwegians will tell me flat-out they are two dialects of the same language — at least in writing. Bokmål emerged from the Danish-Norwegian speech of the educated urban class in the 19th century (after Norway became independent from Denmark in 1814). A competing form of Norwegian, Nynorsk (“new Norwegian”) was specifically developed from rural dialects that sounded less “Danish”: following unsuccessful attempts to assert a single unified standard (Riksmal, literally “state language”, or Samnorsk, “common Norwegian”), currently both forms are co-official, with Bokmål predominant in practice.

The best explanation of the different response I’ve heard is the following. In Norway, the main linguistic rival was the competing Danish “dialect” (or sister language, depending on one’s point of view). The same applies to a different degree to Serbian vs. Croatian (with the additional wrinkle that Serbs used the Cyrillic alphabets and Croats the Latin alphabet).

In contrast, for Flemish nationalists, the competing language was not a closely related one (like German or standard Dutch) but French, a Romance language that nobody would ever mistake for Dutch, and that at the time (Belgian independence until the post-WW II English dominance) was an international language of commerce, diplomacy, and culture that approached the global lingua franca status English enjoys today. Belgium’s ruling class at the time was French-speaking almost to the last man, and the sentiment “la Belgique sera latine ou elle ne sera pas” (Belgium will be of Latin [in context, French] culture or it won’t be/endure)[*] was widely held.

So the Flemish, when they were starting to assert their identity against the “franskiljons” (freely: Frenchifiers, Gallicizers) no longer saw the Dutch language as a threat to their identity, but as an ally in their struggle against the French Goliath, so to speak….

[*] quote misattributed to Belgian founding father Charles Rogier (1800-1888); in fact first written in a 1915 essay by Walloon activist Raymond Colleye de Weerdt

[**] The clusters are Westvlaams in and near the coastal province of West Flanders (visitors to Bruges will have heard it spoken); Oostvlaams a bit further inland in East Flanders, with Ghent as the provincial capital; Brabants in the center (from the Dutch-speaking suburbs of Brussels northward, including especially Antwerp which has its own city dialect, a bit like London has Cockney); and Limburgs in the East.

ADDENDUM: very tangentially related (as some propagandists peddle the canard that Ukrainian is a dialect of Russian), I found this map on Quora: percentages who voted in favor of independence in 1991.

Yes, even in Donetsk and Lugansk, which are predominantly Russian-speaking, the vote went 83% — the one big outlier is Crimea, where it was close to an even split. Much of the original Crimea Tatar population there was deported by Stalin post-WW II, and ethnic Russians settled in their place, who now make up about two-thirds of the population, Ukrainians making up about one-sixth.

ADDENDUM 2: A wordpress “localization” group retweeted my post. Which reminds me I forgot to mention one quirk: computer (and historically, typewriter) keyboards in the Netherlands use the QWERTY layout familiar to English speakers, while those in Flanders employ the French AZERTY layout.

Sabbath musical delight: “Journey to Ithaka”, documentary about Vangelis

After I posted my brief obituary for the electronic music legend, Mrs. Arbel and I found the entire 2-hour documentary “Journey to Ithaka” on YouTube. It is fascinating viewing (and listening). Here it is.

And if you want something briefer, here is a little-known gem from the otherwise somewhat regrettable “Oceanic” album, the elegiac piano piece “Memories of Blue” (not to be confused with the better-known “Memories of Green” from the Blade Runner soundtrack).

Have a nice weekend and Shabbat shalo m

RIP Vangelis (1943-2022)

Sadly, one by one, my musical idols are joining the choir invisible (or the Great Gig In The Sky, for Pink Floyd fans). https://pitchfork.com/news/vangelis-oscar-winning-composer-dies-at-79/

Evangelos Papathanassiou, known to all by the Greek nickname for Evangelos, “Vangelis”, was born 29 March, 1943, in a small coastal town in Thessaly and raised in Athens, where his father worked in real estate. [ADDENDUM: from a documentary called “Journey to Ithaca”, I just learned that his mother was an amateur classical mezzo-soprano who used to accompany herself on the family’s grand piano. Her young son would quickly learn reproduce the accompaniments by ear so she could just sing.]

He started playing the family piano at age four: while he took lessons for a while, he was largely self-taught, being blessed with keen musical hearing. I am reminded of how Eddie Van Halen (RIP, originally a pianist) never learned to properly read music — as he could reproduce anything his teacher assigned to him by ear. (His fondness for remote key signatures like Db major — even when not forced upon him by any singer’s vocal range — suggests to me he had absolute pitch.)

At age 18 Vangelis bought a Hammond organ and co-founded the rock ‘n roll band Formynx, which was locally popular. His first major break came with what I would call the “theatrical symphonic pop” band Aphrodite’s Child, featuring Demis Roussos on vocals and bass. Their “Rain And Tears”, inspired by Pachelbel’s Canon, became a number one hit in several European countries, and during its short existence Aphrodite’s Child saw massive record sales.

Demis Roussos became a big-name solo act in Europe (with music that isn’t exactly my cup of tea). Vangelis had started doing soundtrack work while he was still with the band, for a documentary called “l’Apocalypse des Animaux”.

As Rick Wakeman had just left Yes, Vangelis auditioned for the position at the invitation of singer Jon Anderson. In an interview with Keyboard Magazine I read (on paper) decades ago, Vangelis recalled being impressed by the band’s rehearsing of “Sound Chaser” (from the upcoming “Relayer” album). Vangelis and the band’s singer Jon Anderson clearly hit it off both musically and personally, but touring with Yes would involve massive amounts of air travel, about which Vangelis had a phobia. [ADDENDUM: Vangelis himself dismissed that in the “Journey to Ithaca” documentary. I do know there were also visa and work permit issues involved.] So in the end he declined, and Patrick Moraz — who auditioned on Vangelis’s own setup! — was hired instead. The singer and keyboardist would later record several solo albums together as “Jon and Vangelis”, producing such chart hits as “I Hear You Now” and “I’ll Find My Way Home”.

In the meantime, what we think of as the “classic Vangelis sound” developed over such solo albums as “Heaven and Hell” (a segment of which was used as the theme music for Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”), “Albedo 0.39”, “China”, and “Spiral” — all of them recorded at his own private Nemo Studios in London, on an ever-expanding array of keyboards (and percussion instruments). Tracks from those albums are not just familiar to every electronic music aficionado, but were often used as theme music for TV and radio programs across Europe.

It must have been around the time of “Spiral” that he acquired the Yamaha CS-80 that became a prominent part of his signature sound — a beast of an instrument that I once spent a very happy hour with, one that pushed purely analog technology to its limit and offered the player unheard-of expressive response, being both velocity-sensitive (like a piano) and polyphonically pressure-sensitive (e.g., you could apply vibrato to one note out of many by pressing down harder on it after the initial keystroke), aside from the ribbon controller and other accoutrements.

His best-known tracks follow a pattern of a tuneful melody — or two contrasting but related “call” and “response” phrases — being repeated for several instances, starting out sparsely then building up with ever more layers of “orchestration” on each successive pass. (This became something of a style convention of popular electronica.) Harmony was usually tonal or modal — occasionally venturing into territory one associates more with Chopin or Rachmaninov than with your typical electronic musician.

Vangelis’s music was well-suited to soundtracks, and it is with the movies Chariots of Fire (for which he won an Academy Award) and Blade Runner that he made his name in that field.

He continued to write and (especially in Greece) perform. He was a skilled improviser (many of his more atmospheric tracks appear to have been improvised) who memorably answered, when the Keyboard Magazine interviewer asked him about his creative process: “If you think about how you breathe, you choke”.

Unlike many electronic musicians who heavily rely on sequencers, Vangelis preferred to play as much as he humanly could by hand. Here he can be seen improvising in the more neoclassical style of his later works, on a keyboard setup custom-developed for him:

Here is a classic 70s Vangelis track that showcases his classic sound, “Pulstar”.

And here he is with Jon Anderson, performing their hit “I’ll Find My Way Home” on Top Of The Pops.

May his memory be for a blessing.

Lag BaOmer pilgrimage tragedy: 44 dead in stampede at Meron

Now one year ago…

Spin, strangeness, and charm

Today, practicing Jews mark the minor holiday of Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day[*] of the counting of the Omer [=the period between Passover and Shavuot]. According to legend,many students of Rabbi Akiva died in a plague that ended on Lag Ba-Omer. The surviving remnant included Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), one of the pre-eminent scholars of his generation and later the attributed author of the Zohar [“radiance”, a mystical commentary on the Torah that became the foundational work of the kabbala school of Jewish mysticism]. [**]

Lag Ba-Omer is marked with bonfires, in which often marshmallows, (kosher) hot dogs,… are roasted.

In addition, 100,000s of fervently religious Jews make a pilgrimage on that day to the tomb of Rashbi, in the Upper Galilee village of Meron, not far from Tzfat/Safed. The site is always jam-packed on that day, and a number of people in the know said it…

View original post 502 more words

Russian retired colonel on Russia 1 state channel [!]: “The war is going badly and is likely to get worse” and Putin “had better get out of this conflict!”

Completely snowed under today at work, but this was quite a shocker to Russian TV viewers who were expecting more propaganda pap:

(The video is in Russian with English subtitles.)

More here:

Mikhail Khodarenok, a former air defence commander and graduate of some of the Soviet Union’s top military schools, used his platform on one of Russia‘s most-watched talk shows to warn that the war is going badly and is likely to get worse […]

Speaking on Skabeyeva’s evening talk show – which toes the Kremlin line so tightly that she has become known as the ‘iron doll of Putin TV’ – Khodarenok urged his fellow panellist to wean themselves off of ‘information tranquilisers’ and look objectively at the situation.

First of all, he said, rumours of a ‘moral and psychological breakdown in the Ukrainian armed forces which are allegedly on the verge of some kind of crisis in morale’ are ‘to put it mildly, is false’.

‘The situation… is that the Ukrainian armed forces are able to arm a million people,’ he added, who will be equipped with western weapons and trained how to use them by armies that are part of NATO. ‘So a million armed Ukrainian soldiers needs to be viewed as a reality of the very near future,’ he said.

Batting aside objections from Skabayeva that most of those men will be conscripts, he insisted that what really matters isn’t how an army is recruited but its willingness to fight.

‘A desire to protect one’s homeland, in the sense that it exists in Ukraine, it really does exist there, they intend to fight to the last man,’ he said. ‘Ultimately victory on the battlefield is determined by a high level of morale among personnel, which sheds blood for the ideas which it’s prepared to fight for.’

On the world stage, Khodarenok added, things hardly look better. ‘We are in full geopolitical isolation,’ he said, adding that: ‘However much we would hate to admit this, virtually the entire world is against us.’

Nuclear sabre-rattling, he insisted, will do little to deter Russia’s enemies and in fact ‘actually looks quite amusing’ when the whole world is arrayed against the Kremlin.

Urging those around him to ‘maintain a sense of realism’, he warned that ‘sooner or later the reality of history will hit you so hard that you’ll regret it.’

It is hardly the first time that Khodarenok has voiced concerns. Even before the war started, he wrote that Ukrainians would fight like hell to defend their country and that Russia was walking into a longer, bloodier, and far more costly conflict than it was preparing for.

It is not even the first time he has spoken out on state TV. Ahead of Putin’s Victory Day speech on May 9, he warned that a rumoured mass mobilisation of troops would not solve the problems Russia’s military is facing.

But his latest remarks are the lengthiest, most in-depth analysis of the corner that Moscow has backed itself into and seems intended to spark a conversation about how exactly the country gets itself out again. 

What remains unclear – however – is whether anyone, and in particularly those in the Kremlin, are listening to him.

He spoke out after repeated briefings from western intelligence agencies said that Russia’s offensive in the Donbass has stalled and that a path to Ukrainian victory is now emerging.

In a sign of growing desperation in the Kremlin, military sources said last night that Putin is now micro-managing the war effort – taking decisions that are typically left to colonels as his battleplan falters.  

This latter aspect is reminding me of another dictator entirely — the one who, according to the Hebrew calendar, took his life today 77 years ago, on the eve of Lag BaOmer.

Tsar Wars: Attack of the Drones; why Taiwan may be an even tougher nut to crack than Ukraine

(a) In an essay with the priceless title “Tsar Wars: Attack of the Drones” [*], Francis Turner lays out why inexpensive drones will change the face of warfare as thoroughly as Hiram Maxim’s machine gun did, if not more so.

By 1920, by 1914 even, the Maxim gun and its friends and relatives were not limited to just the great powers wielding them primarily against ignorant natives. In much the same way a hundred years on the drone is no longer a weapon wielded by high tech superpowers and allies against ignorant tribesmen. In the last few years we’ve seen drones built by 2nd or 3rd level powers such as Iran or Turkey used by even lower level militaries in Africa (Ethiopia) and Arabia (Yemen). But IMHO the Turkish and Israeli drones used by Azerbaijan against Armenia in 2020 were the wake up call that drones have transformed warfare even against generally technologically competent opponents. […]

In the current Ukraine conflict, the Ukrainians have come up with a defensive doctrine using drones against a non-drone equipped aggressor that complements the Azerb[ai]jani doctrine for using drones against a non-drone using defender. As far as I can tell, the Azerbaijanis didn’t do a huge amount of innovation compared to what the US and Israel have developed, but they deployed the drones against a technically competent and well-armed defender (Armenia). The Azerbijanis showed that the use of drones must radically change the tactics required for air defence by using sacrificial drones to allow other drones to identify the locations of radars and SAM batteries that can then be taken out by the next wave of drones. That’s important but, in a way, it’s just a small upgrade from prior doctrines involving manned aircraft.

The Ukrainians, on the other hand, seem to have not just come up with a counter to that – mobility (which of course also works against traditional air attacks) – but to have come up with inventive ways to use drones against attacking forces. This is new. It is also likely to be as revolutionary as the machine gun once the use of that was figured out. As we all have seen, the key Ukrainian tactic has been to go after the Russian logistics support. They have not of course just used drones for this, but drones have proven to be very, very valuable in this kind of a war where you have special forces teams and resistance cells behind enemy lines blowing things up so as to starve the front lines of food, ammunition and fuel.

Drones are key for this because they are fairly hard to detect, let alone shoot down, but yet can loiter for hours providing remote intelligence or waiting in semi-ambush for a suitable target opportunity. They are of course also cheap, relatively speaking, as well as being a lot safer for the operator compared to a helicopter pilot or similar. If a drone operator makes a mistake and sends his drone into a power line or tree then that’s a loss of several hundreds of thousands (low millions at the high end) of dollars of hardware, but that’s it. The operator is still alive and the several hundreds of thousands of dollars is still a small fraction (certainly under 10%, possibly under 1%) of the cost of a new attack helicopter – not to mention the cost and time of training the replacement pilot, gunner etc. etc.

The cost means that you can deploy dozens of drones for the price of a single piece of manned equipment and that means you can do things like swarm a supply convoy or defended chokepoint (e.g. a bridge) so that even if a few drones are shot down others get through and hit the target. You can also equip every SF team with a drone or two so that they all have the ability to recon enemy forces from a safe distance and so on. One of the major implications for this, as the Russians are discovering, is that logistics convoys require a lot of defence. Now it is certainly true that the Russians have made this easier than one would have expected. Lack of maintenance as well as a failure to have an explicit second wave of invaders to protect supply lines have meant that the actual Russian logistics convoys are a lot more vulnerable than, say, US ones were in Iraq or Afghanistan but I suspect the doctrine would have had some success even there. Admittedly the US had their own reconnaissance drones and clear air superiority, neither of which the Russians really have in Ukraine right now (though they seem to be deploying drones a bit and this Orlan drone that Ukrainians mock is close to the sort of drone I expect to be commonplace in the fairly near future).

Go read the whole thing, especially where it gets into swarms of low-cost drones. It is long but rewarding.

from the blog post

(b) Also at Francis Turner’s site l’ombre de l’olivier [the shadow of the olive tree], a look at what a putative invader of Taiwan would face. Basically, Taiwan’s best friend is its mountainous topography (think Switzerland on an island, but with forests on top), which couldn’t be more unlike Ukraine’s vast plains.

Resupplying Taiwan would actually be easier than I thought: I had no idea it was that close (30mi, 50km) to Japan’s territorial waters (not around the Four Islands, but around an outlying island of Okinawa).

from the article

(c) Richard Fernandez on “The War of the Zombie Empires

[…] When people speak of “escalating the war in Ukraine,” they commonly refer to the possibility of a nuclear conflict between the West and Russia. But there is another sense in which the present conflict can grow: it can enlarge in scope through the participation of new great power alliances formed to exploit the changed conditions. The collapse of Russia as a great power has kicked off a frenzy of adjustment among other global players.

Consider Europe. Some politicians in France and Germany have long seen Russia as a buffer against the westward march of China on Eurasia’s riches, as epitomized by its Belt and Road projects. They fear that a prostrate Kremlin, or one indentured to Beijing, cannot keep order in the ‘Stans and allow China to extend its influence right up to the border of Europe. Efforts to “save Putin from humiliation” are all about holding the dragon at arm’s length by propping up Moscow. But other parts of Europe are being driven in the opposite direction, with long-time neutrals Sweden and Finland opting to join NATO and nuclear-armed Britain providing interim security guarantees.

China is mentally adjusting to the prospect of being stuck with a dependent rather than a great power ally.

Again, read the whole thing.

These three blog posts give a glimpse of “the shape of things to come”.

So let me sign off with the eponymous 1979 hit song. Have a great day!

[*] For readers who are not sci-fi buffs, this is a reference to “Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Looking around: In Russia, quoting Putin’s past utterances can get you arrested; Auftragstaktik; Extra money for the UK’s National Health Service mostly went to doubling the size of its bureaucracy

I haven’t linked in a while to Der Spiegel (the German current affairs magazine originally founded as a German version of Time or Life, when those magazines were worth more than the paper they were printed on).

They have a long article (in German) on how censorship in Russia has become ever more extreme and Kafkaesque or Orwellian (I can’t decide which more).

  • getting arrested for showing a poster with a red cross on a white background
  • a woman asked a shared taxi driver to remove his “Z” sign. He instead drove to the police station and had her arrested
  • But this takes the cake…

“The war brought boundless suffering — people will never forget. Should somebody again make plans for aggression, it will be never forgiven them.” The protestor who carried this around on a sign in St. Petersburg was arrested and got a 30,000 rubel fine slapped upon him. Never mind that the offending sign was a direct quote from Putin’s own VE-Day speech one year ago.

Who isn’t reminded of “Oceania is not at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia”?

(b) What Israel, Western armies can learn from the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Officers in both countries’ militaries inherited the tradition of centralized Soviet doctrine, where operational decisions are dictated from the top down, [Hebrew U. of Jerusalem military historian, Dr. Danny] Orbach noted.

The Russian army has continued to follow this doctrine, he continued, following “irrelevant and un-updated plans conceived under a centralized lens. Its junior commanders who were in the field don’t ever think of modifying plans dictated from above.”

The Ukrainian army, on the other hand, evolved past the centralized Soviet doctrine and developed a highly decentralized strategy, Orbach said.

“Decentralized” does not mean that there is nothing ordered from above, he stressed. The Ukrainian army has a coherent, centralized strategy, which is mainly to draw the Russian forces in, wear them down through attrition, and engineer counterattacks.

“I think the strength of the Ukrainian army is that it developed a very strong band of what military experts call Auftragstaktik [mission command], which is a German term that means that junior commanders on the ground have a lot of leeway to change plans because they’re familiar with what happens in the field,” he continued.

According to Orbach, Ukrainian units are successful because they can adjust tactics as they see fit, while the Russians are much less flexible. “We see that Ukraine is winning engagements again and again and is able to impose attrition on the Russian army,” he added.

It is a matter of flexibility, “because if you can change your plans and the enemy cannot change its plans or can do it with much more difficulty, it’s easier for you to ambush, outflank, and change plans at the last moment in order to confuse the enemy,” Orbach said.

(c) Meanwhile, on a completely different subject, the Telegraph discusses the administrative bloat at the top of the National Health Service (the UK’s socialized medicine system).

NHS bureaucracy doubled in two years while waiting times actually got worse. [paywalled; cached copy here].

NHS bureaucracy has doubled since the pandemic despite little change in the size of the frontline workforce, an explosive report reveals. 

The figures come as a record 6.4 million people – one in nine of the population – are on waiting lists, with record trolley waits in Accident & Emergency departments. 

And it follows concern that an extra £12 billion a year funding boost, funded by a 1.25 per cent National Insurance hike, which came in last month, will be swallowed on management salaries, instead of clearing the backlogs. 

The new analysis shows that the number of officials working in the Department of Health and NHS England has more than doubled in two years, with even sharper rises seen at the most senior levels. Meanwhile the number of nurses rose by just seven per cent, thinktank the Policy Exchange found. 

Its experts said the trends showed an “astonishing” explosion in central bureaucracy, calling for an urgent review and action to slim down and streamline its workings. 

The findings come ahead of a review of leadership in the NHS by a former army general. 

Sir Gordon Messenger has been sent in by Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, amid concern over the quality of management in the NHS as the service faces the biggest backlogs in its history. 

The general has been asked to stamp out “waste and wokery” in the health service and ensure “every pound is well spent”.

Bureaucratic entropy and hostile takeover of the organization by paper-pushers and empire builders. Looks like much of US academ(ent)ia these days…

Looking around, May 15: the true story behind the US baby formula shortage; Ukraine liberates Kharkiv, wins Eurovision

(A) I’ve been a little puzzled by what the fluke is going on with the great US baby formula shortage.

from WSJ article linked below

I am shocked, shocked, I tell you, that governmental bureaucratic entropy could be involved. Via Powerline, here is a series of tweets from Abbott:

At the White House press conference today, the Press Secretary mistakenly said that our formulas were tainted and killed two infants. The deaths of these infants are a tragedy. 🧵 [1/11]

The facts, however, are critical: A comprehensive investigation by Abbott, FDA and CDC found no evidence that our formulas caused infant illnesses. Specifically… [2/11]

CDC concluded its investigation with no findings of a link between our formulas and infant illnesses.

We conduct microbiological testing on products prior to distribution and no Abbott formula distributed to consumers tested positive for Cronobacter or Salmonella. [3/11]

All retained product tested by Abbott and the FDA during the inspection of the facility came back negative for Cronobacter and/or Salmonella. No Salmonella was found at the Sturgis facility. [4/11]

The Cronobacter sakazakii that was found in environmental testing during the investigation was in non-product contact areas of the facility and has not been linked to any known infant illness. [5/11]

Genetic sequencing on the two available samples from ill infants did not match strains of Cronobacter in our plant. Samples from ill infants did not match each other, meaning there was no connection between the two cases. [6/11]

In all four cases, the state, FDA, and/or CDC tested samples of the Abbott formula that was used by the child. In all four cases, all unopened containers tested negative. [7/11]

Open containers from the homes of the infants were also tested in three of the four cases; two of the three tested negative. The one positive was from an open container from the home of the infant, and it tested positive for two different strains of Cronobacter sakazakii… [8/11]

…one of which matched the strain that caused the infant’s infection, and the other matched a strain found on a bottle of distilled water in the home used to mix the formula. Again, neither strain matched strains found in our plant. [9/11]

The infants consumed four different types of our formula made over the course of nearly a year and the illnesses took place over several months in three different states. [10/11]

The formula from this plant did not cause these infant illnesses. [11/11]

And here the Wall Street Journal (paywalled; cached copy here) gives a good backgrounder.

Meanwhile, America’s Newspaper of Record, the Babylon Bee, explains that Transportation tiddlywinks playerSecretary Pete Buttigieg is now forced to chest-feed.

ADDENDUM: more from the Foundation for Economic Education (hat tip: Dawn S.)

(B) Meanwhile in Ukraine:

Ukraine declares Kharkiv/Kharkov liberated, now in counteroffensive at Izyum

Residents start returning to war-torn Irpin

(C) To the surprise of probably no-one, Ukraine won the 2022 Eurovision song contest.

Not wanting to be a wet blanket here, but in the last 25 years, Eurovision has degenerated from something that could bring (already locally famous) pop artists to the world stage — Abba and Céline Dion [who competed as a hired gun for Switzerland] come to mind — to a cornucopia of kitsch and camp (with prerecorded backing tracks) that only tangentially has anything to do with music anymore. Even my own country’s win recycled a riff from The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, which itself, as I blogged earlier, can ultimately be traced back to Bruckner’s 5th Symphony.

Anyway, here is the winning entry.

The runner-up was the UK “Space Man” by singer-songwriter and social media personality Sam Ryder, which likely would have won if [halevai/would it were so] there were no war in Ukraine. A vocal coach enthusiastically reviews his performance:

ADDENDUM 2: Don’t miss this backgrounder on the death of the Al-Jazeera journalist in Israel, and the nauseatingly cynical way her death (from, I strongly suspect, “friendly fire”) is being exploited for the so-called “Palestinian cause”.

Sabbath musical delight: Schubert’s Impromptus D.899 and D.935, played by Alfred Brendel

The two sets of Impromptus are among Schubert’s most performed piano pieces, and remain accessible for a somewhat skilled amateur.

The first set of four was published during Schubert’s lifetime, the second set posthumously.

Below is a performance by a then still youngish Alfred Brendel.

Bonus: Khatia Buniatishvili performs Liszt’s piano arrangement of Schubert’s “Staendchen” (Serenade).

Have a nice weekend and Shabbat Shalom!