Sabbath and New Years Eve musical delight: Yes, “Awaken” (live)

This epic symphonic track, which fills up most of side two of “Going For The One” – is a longtime fan favorite (including of yours truly). Here is a live performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2003. Enjoy, Shabbat shalom, and best wishes for secular New Years’ Eve!

Kakistocracy, Israel edition

On a TV in a break room at work, I had the extremely dubious pleasure to see our new (mis)government sworn in.

Looking on the bright side, I will no longer have to look far for an example the next time somebody asks me what the word “kakistocracy” means.

Unlike in the US, it is not unusual for some professors and staff scientists at an Israeli university to be right-wing, a handful even pretty hardcore. I have never heard such wall-to-wall dismay as this time, even from people who not only voted for his party Likud but are card-carrying Likud members (and had voted for him in its primary). They blame him for giving the store away to his three coalition partners: a hard-right nationalist list that includes the truly rancid Itamar Ben-Gvir (said to use a picture of the posterior of Meir Kahane as a mezuzah), and two ultra-religious parties, one of them (Shas) led by a convicted felon (Aryeh Deri, who served a prison sentence for accepting bribes while serving as a minister), the other if anything even more obscurantist. The Likud itself, which accounts for half the total, “is getting the crumbs that fall off the table”.

Leaving aside Netanyahu’s egomania and living beyond his means, he is undeniably highly intelligent and one of the craftiest practical politicians ever in this country. Moreover, as far as I know his personal views, they are highly pragmatist (actually left of his own party’s center), secular-to-traditional, “live and let live” concerning alternative lifestyles, moderately hawkish yet conspicuously wary of armed conflict, and hardline pro-free market — all very hard to reconcile with the rhetoric of his coalition partners. So his willingness to sell out not only his country to “the worst [that] are full of passionate intensity”, but also his party and his own principles is dismaying. He may be hoping he can bury the most deranged demands in endless committees, play off coalition partners with conflicting demands against each other, and the like… but in order to keep this motley crew together, he may need to give in on some “proxy issues” that have little practical consequences but huge symbolic value (such as changing the Law of Return to exclude non-Orthodox converts) and thus risk irreparable harm to relations with the Jewish Diaspora.

With typical Israeli black humor, some are blaming “the First BDSM Mistress”, a.k.a. “sar ha-Netanyahu” (a Hebrew pun on her name meaning “minister of the Netanyahu”) who with the equally insufferable eldest son supposedly whipped a supposedly reluctant “Pipi Mezuyanhu” (another Hebrew pun meaning “screwed is he”) into becoming Prime Minister again at any price so he can maintain them “in the style to which they are accustomed”.

I will not deny it, dear reader: as an unapologetic Zionist and onetime Likud voter, I am only laughing because it hurts too much for cry.

Back in the day, the irreverent comedy show HaChartzufim had a parody on Naomi Shemer’s Al Kol Eile (“Of all these things” [bitter and sweet]) where the lyrics were changed to “Al ha-kotz ve-al ha-tachat” (of the thorn and the tushy) and downhill from there. [UPDATE: here (not safe for some workplaces).] I can’t find a video right now, so let me instead give the last word to Monty Python’s parody of “All Things Great And Small”:

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The L-rd G-d made the lot.
Each little snake that poisons,
Each little wasp that stings,
He made their brutish venom.
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous,
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous,
The L-rd G-d made them all.

Each nasty little hornet,
Each beastly little squid
Who made the spikey urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did!

All things scabbed and ulcerous,
All pox both great and small,
Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
The L-rd G-d made them all.


UPDATE: welcome Instapundit readers! A couple of clarifications for American readers:

• “right-wing” here doesn’t mean the same as it does in the US. The two most important “principal component axes” of our political spectrum are dovish vs. hawkish on the one hand, and secularist vs. religionist. Socialism vs. capitalism is a distant third, and correlates poorly with the two other axes. Some of the most hawkish elements in the Likud, for instance, want a social economy while its more dovish members may be neo-Thatcherites like Netanyahu. The ultra-religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism would prefer that Israel become at least soft-theocratic (and hence qualify as hard-right on the ‘synagogue-state relations’ axis) but tend to be more moderate on territorial issues, and favor socialist state handouts to their sector at the expense of the taxpayer — hardly an economically conservative policy. Meanwhile, the neo-Kahanists want to annex everything in sight and dream aloud of tampering with the citizenship of Israeli Arabs (ugh), and thus definitely qualify as extreme rightist on that axis — but again, want their pet causes and constituencies bankrolled by the state. (They are somewhat more moderate on religion-state issues.)

For contrast, some of our most pro-free market parties tend to be dovish or moderate on territorial issues, and secularist to aggressively so. To a large extent, these positions reflect the demographics of their voters (as, in a different way, do those of the others mentioned above).

  • do not see nonexistent parallels between Trump and Netanyahu. The latter is already our longest-serving PM in history (having surpassed the previous record holder, Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion). In a system with term limits for the PM (like the US has for its unitary executive), Bibi would have been forced into retirement a while ago.
  • Also, our electoral system is basically tamper-proof (no voting without ID card and personalized voter’s summons, no absentee voting at all,…) — the big problem here, as in any proportional representation system, is cobbling together a workable coalition that commands a stable parliamentary majority.
  • See also my previous post on the electoral results and what they mean, and on how Netanyahu alienated his former and natural allies by pulling dirty tricks on them, one after the other. (More here and here).

UPDATE 2: via the Times of Israel, here is an op-ed by Bezalel Smotrich, the new finance minister, in the WSJ. (Paywalled original; cached copy.)

The U.S. media has vilified me and the traditionalist bloc to which I belong since our success in Israel’s November elections. They say I am a right-wing extremist and that our bloc will usher in a “halachic state” in which Jewish law governs. In reality, we seek to strengthen every citizen’s freedoms and the country’s democratic institutions, bringing Israel more closely in line with the liberal American model.[…]

This op-ed is worth reading in its entirely, if only to see what image he is trying to project. The TOI speculates that this article was written at Netanyahu’s instigation, in an attempt to assuage concerns on the part of Republican and Independent Israel supporters in the US. I do know from well-informed sources that there is little love lost between Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, and in fact the two factions Religious Zionism (Smotrich) and Otzma Yehudit (Ben-Gvir) split up shortly after the elections, where they had run a joint list to avoid “wasting votes” in our Bader-Ofer seat allocation system. (a.k.a, D’Hondt system, a.k.a. Jefferson method).

Happy Linux Day!

Today is the 53rd birthday of Linus Torvalds, the Finn of Swedish ancestry who created the Linux kernel that is powering most web and HPC servers around the world (plus so much more). Here is a brief video interview with him.

(BTW, the name Linux wasn’t his choice: he wanted to name it “Freax”, but Ari Lemmke, the administrator of the University of Helsinki FTP server where the first versions were shared disliked that name, and renamed the files “Linux” without asking Linus. The name stuck and eventually Linus embraced it himself.)

(1) Toward a new European prehistory; (2) the Jews of India

Have a very busy day ahead, but am leaving you with a couple of fascinating videos about the origin of two populations:

(a) At the University of Oslo, Norway, Prof. Kristian Kristiansen (Goteborg University, Sweden) pulls together archeological and genetic evidence, presents a fascinating origin story of the present Indo-European population. I will have to blog about this more when I’ve digested everything.

(b) I know some Indian Jews at work, and Israeli universities (at least in STEM fields) are teeming with Indian postdocs, some of whom have told me about their own contacts with Jews. Dr. Henry Abramson (who assures his viewers he is not a rabbi, despite looking the part) looks into the different populations.

TL;DR summary:

  • the Cochin Jews probably descend from Jews who were plying the spice trade by sea even more than 2,000 years ago and settled at one of their waystations. Fascinatingly, the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) contains a number of loan words from the Tamil language (specifically but not exclusively, names for spices). That such long-range trade existed that far ago is no more surprising than that Phoenicians came to Cornwall for tin — but sea voyages in those days would likely have been with multiple stops along the way.
  • the Bene Israel of Mumbai (Bombay), according to their own origin story, descend from people shipwrecked in the 1st or 2nd century CE. Their descendants lost contact with the Jewish mainstream, but about a millenium ago, were reconnected by a Cochin Jewish trader.
  • the Cochin Jews and Bene Israel practiced something that is quite clearly rabbinical Judaism, but includes a number of customs not seen in any other community
  • after the Spanish expulsion, Sephardic Jews settled in many places where boats would carry them, including in Cochin, but also in the Portuguese colony of Goa, and in places like Chennai (Madras). The local Jews referred to them as “Paradesi” (freely: foreigners). At least initially, they practiced a form of the Sephardic rite.
  • Finally, during the Mughal empire, traders from the Ottoman Empire Aleppo (present-day Syria) and Baghdad (present-day Iraq) established a tightly-knit trading network — not only in India, as illustrated by the example sof the Sassoon family , “the Rothschilds of the East”, and the Kedoorie family. They were referred to as “Baghdadis“, and followed the minhagim (religious customs) of the Edot ha-Mizrach (“communities of the East”) generally, albeit with some Indian culinary twists. [I have previously blogged about the Jews of Islamic Lands, who are often mistakenly conflated with Sephardi Jews.]

What about waystations of overland trade routes? Later in the video, Dr. Abramson discusses the Jews of Kaifeng, China, with which I was somewhat more familiar.

(3) and on a very different note, it takes a heart of stone not to laugh at this #getwokegobroke story: Hollywood lost $500 billion, or about 40%, of market cap in 2022.

J. S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 performed yesterday at Bach’s own St. Thomas Church in Leipzig

Merry Christmas to my Christian readers! (Here it is still Chanuka.)

Below I’ve embedded a special musical treat for the occasion: at the very church, the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church) where this work first premiered in 1734, livestreamed just yesterday, here is J. S. Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio) BWV 248 performed by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Thomanerchor [St. Thomas Choir] that Bach himself once used to conduct. Conductor is Andreas Reize, the 35th Thomaskantor [musical director of the St. Thomas Church and School], and the 18th since Bach himself.

Enjoy, and I wish you all wonderful holidays.

Sabbath and Chanuka musical delight: Israel Philharmonic gala concert in… Abu Dhabi!

(Hat tip: Mrs. Arbel)

Who would have expected this event five years ago? (Actually, I knew that “on the down low” we had pretty good relations with these Gulf states — the Abraham Accords just represented “coming out of the closet” ;))

The program bgeins with the national anthems of first host country, then guest country (Hatikva, naturally). Then the program consists of Mozart’s Piano Concerto Nr. 23 (with Lahav Shani also as the piano soloist), followed by Mahler’s Symphony Nr. 1 “Titan”.

The encore is an orchestral arrangement of Prokofiev’s March for military band, Opus 99.

Timestamps within the video:

7:54 introductory remarks by Lahav Shani

11:33 national anthem of the UAE, “Ishi Biladi” (“Long Live My Country”)

12:45 Hatikvah (“The Hope”, Israeli national anthem)

17:28 Mozart 23rd piano concerto in A major K.488, 1st movement, Allegro

29:09 2nd movement, Adagio (in relative minor key F#m)

35:40 3rd movement, Allegro Assai

44:40 intermission

1:05:45 Mahler, 1st symphony, “Titan”

2:02:02 applause and end of main program

2:05:12 encore: Prokofiev’s march for military band, Op. 99

Let me add a nonclassical encore that seems apt for the occasion

Peace will yet come upon us / Od yavo shalom `aleinu (3x)

And upon all / Ve`al kulam
Salaam [Arabic for peace], upon us and upon all the world / Salaam, aleinu ve`al kol ha`olam.

Shabbat shalom and Chanuka sameach!

Here, there, and everywhere: politics downstream from culture, Spanish language edition; the real scandal of January 6; Netanyahu embarrassed by remarks to Jordan Peterson about his present coalition allies

(a) In “money talks in Spanish”, Powerline looks at how a Miami-area Hispanic network, very pro-liberty in its orientation, was bought up by a company controlled by “Soros Of Puppets” and turned left. They reiterate the Andrew Breitbart (z”l) maxim that politics is downstream from culture, and Insty’s advice to the Koch brothers that instead of wasting millions upon millions on GOP election strategists and consultants, they should instead spend the money on buying up ladies’s magazines and giving them a more conservative slant. The other side doesn’t need to be taught this lesson…

(b) Lots of rapping and scratching by the US Synchronized Turntabling Olympic Team (a.k.a., the MSM) about Trump’s alleged role in January 6, but crickets about this:


House Republicans have issued a report on the real scandal of January 6: the inexplicable absence of Capitol security. I haven’t had time to read the report; those who have should weigh in via comments. The Daily Wire has a summary and comments on the report:

[F]ailures include Pelosi and Democrat leadership being closely involved in security decisions, which excluded Republican lawmakers from key meetings and conversations related to House security. The report further noted that Democratic leadership showed widespread concern about “optics” over the early deployment of protecting the grounds with the U.S. National Guard.

It has long been reported that President Trump pleaded with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to beef up security in advance of the January 6 demonstration, but Bowser refused to do so. Bowser was in charge of D.C. law enforcement, Pelosi in charge of Capitol security.

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the riot, told The Washington Post that the House speaker’s authorities turned down requests for preemptive deployment of the National Guard six times before January 6.

Sund also reportedly testified that then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said “optics” were the reason for not sending in the National Guard.

On February 9, 2022, Pelosi reportedly said she has “no power over the Capitol Police.”

“This is false,” the report reads. “Documents provided by the House Sergeant at Arms show how [Irving] carried out his duties in clear deference to the Speaker, her staff, and other Democratic staff.


I have called January 6 a “Reichstag Fire”. Looks like I wasn’t that far off the mark. The antiDemocrat machine needed a pretext to “kill democracy in order to save it”.

I remember when unfunny radio personality Dan Savage coined the neologism “santorum” for the unsavory mixture that is an alleged by-product of buggery. I’ve been saying for years that “pelosi” would be a better term.

(c) Meanwhile in Israel, some amusement about an interview of Netanyahu with Jordan Peterson. Specifically, the segment in which he describes his tenure as finance minister in the early 2000s, and his implementation of pro-market reforms and austerity measures. He specifically discussed how economic subsidies encouraged people not to work, and singled out the chareidi (“ultra-Orthodox”) sector by name.

In response, caretaker PM Yair Lapid — like his late father Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, an arch-secularist — and Avigdor Liberman — head of the historically Russian immigrant party Israel Our Home, personally traditional but fiercely anti-chareidi — tweeted that “For once, Netanyahu is speaking the truth”.

I cannot but say that these sentiments are widely shared among Israel’s secular, traditional, and even Modern Orthodox populations, but this is of course a major embarrassment for Netanyahu now that his chareidi coalition partners have him by the beitzim.

(Belated hat tip about the interview to Brad Torgerson.)

Finally, hat tip to Instapundit:

ADDENDUM: Victor Davis Hanson wonders if universities are doomed

At Yale University, administrative positions have soared over 150 percent in the last two decades. But the number of professors increased by just 10 percent. In a new low/high, Stanford recently enrolled 16,937 undergraduate and graduate students, but lists 15,750 administrative staff—in near one-to-one fashion.

In the past, such costly praetorian bloat would have sparked a faculty rebellion. Not now. The new six-figure salaried “diversity, equity, and inclusion” commissars are feared and exempt from criticism. […]

Stanford’s published 2025 class profile claims a student body of “23 percent white.” Fewer than half of the class is male. Stanford mysteriously does not release the numbers of those successfully admitted without SAT tests—but recently conceded it rejects about 70 percent of those with perfect SAT scores.

Read the whole thing – and weep.

Looking around, Chanuka and Winter Solstice edition: Qatargate in the EU; Tim Pool on Twitter; Bibi claims he has a coalition; another look at Chanuka

Too much insanity going on in the world, too little time. A few things I overlooked:

(a) Battleswarm Blog looks at two major scandals in the EU

The scandal everyone is paying attention to is Qatargate, where a rich, middling despotic gulf petrostate has evidently been hosing down the faces of eager Euro-types with bundles of unmarked bills to improve their image while hosting the quadrennial outbreak of EuroFlopBall. […] Following the raids at [European Parliament deputy president, Eva] Kaili’s home, her father was later arrested as he tried to flee the Sofitel hotel at Place Jourdan in Brussels after being tipped off about the raids. Investigators found a suitcase with “several hundred thousand euros” on his person as he attempted to flee. […]

Keep in mind here that the European Parliament is mostly pseudo-democratic window dressing — the real power rests with the European Commission, the executive made up of unelected bureaucrats — the mother of all “Deep State”s, if you like.

As the Qatargate scandal widens, questions are being asked as to whether its reverberations will reach the Commission, the EU’s executive branch. Recent revelations suggest the EU’s Chief Diplomat Josep Borrell could be implicated.

Since erupting last weekend with police raids on MEPs’ homes and offices in the European parliament, the Qatargate scandal has done nothing but mushroom. What began as a criminal probe into current and former MEPs and parliamentary assistants implicated in a bribery ring aimed at burnishing the public image of the current World Cup host has widened significantly — not only in terms of the number of people involved but also the number of organizations and third countries, which now also include Morocco.

Read the whole thing.

(b) Tim Pool on the latest in Twittergate, and Elon Musk’s brinkmanship about the future of the company

(c) So just before the deadline, Binyamin Netanyahu went to President Herzog [The Younger] saying “he’s done it” and assembled a coalition, even though no coalition agreements have been inked yet.

Alas, Bibi seems hell-bent on tarnishing his considerable legacy because being our longest-serving Prime Minister in history is not enough for him: he’s desperate to be back in the PM’s office and his corruption trials. Hence, he’s put together what looks like the worst cabinet in Israeli history, with theocratic parties (one of them left by a convicted bribe-taker) and a far-right bloc that includes a truly rancid neo-Kahanist faction. And no, none of these parties are “right-wing” by American standards, as all of them want more government money handouts for their sectorial special interests.

The main opposition will be competing center and center-right parties, as the left has basically made itself irrelevant (and thus helped bring about this situation).

Speaking as a politically homeless person here[**], I cannot say outgoing PM Yair Lapid, an erstwhile journalist and talkshow host. has been the light to the nation [ahem] that his name suggests.[*] In fact, I’ve been known to refer to him as “Yair Vapid”, since in a discussion with Ursula von der Leyen about the situation in Ukraine he started spouting trendy pro-LGBTQWERTY BS instead of sticking to the real issues at hand.

(d) What was the original Chanuka festival really about? No, this article does not engage in rewriting history, but compares different answers from four different ancient sources.

• the story of the successful revolt against the Hellenizers comes from the apocryphal (for Catholics and some others: Deuterocanonical[***]) First Book of Maccabees. That book, in fact, makes no reference to miracles nor does it use any named of G-d. It does describe an eight-day rededication festival [that’s what the Hebrew word Chanuka literally means, “dedication”] for the now-cleansed Temple, which began on the 25th of Kislev — the same Hebrew dates of today’s festival

• there is no mention there of the miracle of the oil in the Temple: that story comes from the Talmud (Shabbat 21a) which casts it as the origin of the holiday itself. Note that the Mishna (on which the Talmud is an enormous collective commentary) does not even mention the holiday by name (it does mention Purim, likewise a post-Biblical holiday but some centuries older).

• the Second Book of Maccabees is more religious in spirit than the first and has a number of tales of martyrdom. However: “This book begins with an epistle directed to the Jews of Alexandria exhorting them to keep an eight-day festival, a Sukkot of winter, complete with the “four species” (Lulav and etrog) to commemorate the Maccabean victory, the rededication of the Temple, and a miracle. However, the miracle referred to here was the sacrificial fire that Nehemiah found almost three centuries before the Maccabean rededication.  In this source as well, the cruse of oil and the Menorah are not mentioned.

Possibly the festival of fire was referring to the water libation festivities (Simchat Beit HaShoeva) which took place on the last day of Sukkot. These festivities included the descent of the High Priest to the Gihon spring in Jerusalem resplendent in all his official vestments and surrounded by numerous candles reflecting in the water. The Babylonian Talmud, compiled centuries later, comments, He who has not witnessed Simchat Beit HaShoeva has not seen true celebration in his life. (Sukkot 53a)”

• the Antiquities of Flavius Josephus, written about two centuries later, do refer to an eight-day “Festival of Lights” and refers to the very first Chanuka and to it being observed every year for eight days since. However, description of the holiday ccustoms we observe today are lacking.

In short, there was likely an elaborate eight-day rededication of the Temple after its purification, and the event was considered momentous enough that some sort of eight-day festival was marked from the beginning — but the present form was likely only settled upon in Talmudic times.

[*] “Lapid” literally means “torch”. His father Yosef “Tommy” Lapid (z”l), born Tomislav Lempel in former Yugoslavia, Hebraized the family name thus.

[**] There is nothing resembling a constitutional conservative, pro-market party here that could even meet the electoral threshold. Some individual MKs go in that direction, but their parties come with other baggage and one can only vote for a party slate here, not for an individual MK.

[***] Literally, “canonical the second time”

Chanuka festival music: selections from Händel’s oratorio “Judas Maccabeus”

Actually, Händel’s oratorio was commissioned to celebrate a then-recent English victory on the battlefield, namely the defeats of the Jacobites [supporters of the Stuart Pretender] in the 1747 Battle of Culloden. But the libretto does refer liberally to the fight of Yehuda ha-Maccabi, or Judas Maccabeus in Latin, against the Hellenizers who wanted to outlaw Jewish worship and have the Seleucid king Treifovich IV Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”.

The whole oratorio is about 3h long, so I am embedding below a 1hr selection of the best arias and choruses. The famous “See The Conquering Hero Come” occurs near the end, but I will also embed it separately,

Among ancient, not modern, Jewish festivals, Chanuka is kind-of unique in that it commemorates a historical event that can be dated and documented without resorting to scripture.

If you like, you could call the Hellenizers the “hipsters” or “wokebags” of their day, who considered the Jewish traditionalists hopelessly behind the times for not being “down with” worshiping mortal men, nude sports at the gymnasium, paiderastia, etc.

The Maccabees won the fight, and founded a new Jewish kingdom that, sadly, would become a vassal state of Rome in the next century.

It was one of the decisive events in human history. Never before had men been convinced, as they were then, that an idea was something to fight for and to die for; and the success of the revolt saved for mankind the ethical monotheism which lies at the basis not only of Judaism but also of Christianity and Islam, as yet unborn, and of Western civilization in its true sense.

Cecil Roth, 1946, quoted in

Chag urim sameach / Happy Festival of Lights!

China trying to rope in Saudi Arabia; “Democrat” congresswoman defends the indefensible

Very busy day ahead. Let me leave you with just two stories:

(A) “Lei’s Real Talk” looks at the efforts of China to rope Saudi Arabia into its web, which have recently been kicked into higher gear.

(B) I can’t even embed this one, so I’ll leave you with a link

In brief, a[n anti-]Democratic congresswoman named Katie Porter (D-CA 45) has come out saying that the terms “gr00mer” and “p3d0phile” ‘discriminate against s3xual orientations’.

Is this just knee jerk “180-ism” (mindlessly favoring the diametral opposite of what the opponent opposes)? OK, so stop drinking water or other fluids, because the GOP does it too!

Or did she speak clumsily and needs to fire her speechwriter?

Or did she just say the quiet part out loud? In which latter case, a certain quote from the Christian New Testament about millstones and the depths of the sea comes to mind.

“Not evil, just wrong” is an adage of rational conservatives. This, however, is either stupidity so advanced these ‘people’ will only do damage in any leadership position — or it is outright evil.

And those hand-wringing about the return of “fascism” had better stop being so hell-bent on recreating (or making excuses for) the worst aspects of the Weimar Republic — because without it (and a major economic depression — hint, hint) there would never have been a Third Reich.

ADDENDUM: and because we can all use a laugh, the Babylon Bee reports that Hillary Clinton has been awarded an honorary Canadian medical license.

Sabbath musical delight: Genesis, “It’s gonna get better”

It will be no surprise to any reader that yours truly ‘connects’ more with the prog-era Genesis (the Peter Gabriel and early Phil Collins years) than with the prog-tinged pop that made them megastars later. Yet I can enjoy the latter on its own terms. Here is an underrated gem from that era — and a devout wish.

Have a nice weekend and Shabbat shalom

China jettisoning disastrous “zero Covid” policy – why now?

Dr. John Campbell on the massive Omicron outbreak in China — an Omicron sub-strain that appears to be even more contagious than the ones we’ve seen lately in the West, yet causes still milder disease — and the country’s exit from the disastrous and unsustainable zero-COVID policies.

In the comments, this revealing anecdote from inside:

Simon Gregory
1 hour ago
My daughter works in China and currently has covid, a very mild case. She works at a big theme park, living in a large onsite housing complex. A few months ago she’d have been sent to a central quarantine facility, a month ago she’d have been sent to a quarantine block in the onsite housing. A week ago she’d have been isolating in her room. When she contracted covid she asked if she’d have meals delivered to her room, but was told just to go to and get food from the cafeteria and wear a mask. She is actually allowed to work now with covid if she feels up to it. There is a shortage of tests and her employers can’t provide any. She has managed to get some from fellow workers who were more prepared, but they are hard to come by. A large proportion of the people she works with have contracted it. It was a very shambolic and distressing process for her as things changed there, with no-one really knowing what was going on for a while. Staff testing sites were removed but she still needed a ‘clear’ status from her health kit app to get access to certain places, but it was no longer updating due to the missed tests. Thankfully things are settling down now but it’s bizarre how it’s gone from the strictest controls to basically none in a few muddled weeks.

Wow. Why such a drastic U-turn?

Is it because Xi the King of the Turtle-“Lovers” got what he wanted with crowd-control-by-lockdown — namely, [s]election as dictator-for-life — and hence the policies have outlived their usefulness? Possible, I guess.

Or is it because public protests had become so fierce, defiant, and widespread, and had spilled over from questioning extreme lockdowns into questioning the legitimacy of the regime itself (the “Mandate of Heaven” in Chinese parlance) that the CCP decided to deflate the protests by back-tracking on zero COVID before the protests had fully morphed into a push to overthrow the regime? To Mrs. Arbel and me, the most probable answer.

Or is it that the new strain was judged to be so contagious as to be unstoppable, and some expert got through to the CCP top with that view? Likely will have played a role.

I am a firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor (“do not attribute to malice what can be adequately explained as stupidity”) but a more conspiratorially minded person than myself might wonder whether one could not deliberately release a gengineered strain that is maximally contagious with minimal morbidity in order to quickly create herd immunity….

ZDF reportage on “working poor” in Germany

Gotta blog about this later. (The original is in German.) I was feeling bummed out about something at work, but this 3-part documentary “Poor Rich Germany” by the ZDF channel (Süddeutsche Fernsehen=South German TV) made me realize just how good I have it.

One episode is titled “When being self-employed turns to nightmare” (wenn Selbstaendigkeit zum Albtraum wird)

The show interviews a number of self-employed Germans, such as a flower shop owner, a hairdresser, the owners of a restaurant, and a tattoo parlor owner. They talk about being squeezed: on the one hand, there are skyrocketing energy and raw materials costs. On the other hand, either demand is dropping as people need money for food and energy instead of haircuts (so they go every 3 mo. instead of every 6 wks.), or the restaurant continues to be full but they cannot raise prices without driving customers away, and the owners end up paying themselves less than minimum wage so they can pay their employees.

Many of them exhausted their financial reserves during COVID or went into debt, and just as they were exiting that nightmare, the chickens of the “Energiewende” (the turn to ‘renewable’ in theory, in practice to dependence on Putin’s natural gas) came home to roost [the documentary isn’t saying that out loud].

You see, you can choose to bundle up and nearly freeze at home, but when you run a shop, hair saloon, or cafe, that isn’t an option. (In fact, people from the Lowlands have told me that some save on energy bills by going to a café and nursing one or two cups of coffee while working on their laptops, so they are warm and leave the heating off or on pilot lights in their house or apartment during the day, and just heat a little at night).

Then again, bizarrely enough, the owner of a tattoo parlor still finds plenty of hipsters with more money than sense willing to drop 500-600 euro for a service that is absolutely unnecessary.[*] I suspect that at least some of the immiseration of the middle class goes in tandem with enrichment of the doucheoisie.

Another episode in the same series, “When work isn’t enough to make a living”, discusses fulltime employed people who used to consider themselves middle class (e.g., a bus driver, flight attendant,…), but because of spiraling cost of living now have to take on second jobs just to put food on the table (as rent or mortgage plus energy costs eat up nearly their entire income) or turn to food banks. The show claims some 13 million Germans (including some 2 million self-employed, discussed in the above episode) are either in Armut (poverty) or Armutsgefaehrdet (threatened with poverty; freely, ‘teetering on the brink of poverty).

Of all the bad decisions Angela Merkel made, going along with the Energiewende was the worst.

I know some (semi-)retired people who just closed up the house for the winter and rented an AirBNB in Greece, southern Portugal,… — as it’s low tourist season, fairly cheap, lower cost of living to begin with, …

Still further South, here in Israel’s coastal plain, we have yet to turn on the heating (in practice for us, that means reverse-cycling our A/C) this year: energy peak season here is summer, not winter, and during summer our main renewable energy source, solar, actually produces most when everybody wants to run air conditioning. (This is a rare scenario where renewables production is somewhat in sync with peak consumption.)

Speaking of Israel, one of the peculiar fallouts of the Euro energy crisis is that the same Eurocrats usually eager to criticize Israel have toned down their rhetoric. You see, we have started exporting LNG to Europe via Egypt (pipeline going there, then their LNG terminal). The world is sure standing on its head…

[*] Aside from very strict prohibitions against tattoos in Judaism, I am old enough to remember tattoos meaning either “sailor” (no shortage of those where i grew up :)) or “underworld”.

Iran protests update; poll reveals vast majority of Americans concerned about censorship of social media; Insty on how Biden promise of “normality” morphed into freak show #coulrophobia

(a) The Media Line comments on recent public executions (by hanging from construction cranes — this is the Iranian method) of two protesters. Quoting sources on the ground, the article argues the executions are an attempt by the regime to focus protester energy on demanding a stop to the executions, instead of continuing to focus on fundamental changes to the regime.

The article also notes that the protests, though larger and broader-based than ever, have no one leader figure that they coalesce around. This is both a strength (a leaderless movement is harder to stop by targeted assassination etc.) and a weakness (since an alternative to the present regime has no nucleus to coalesce around).

(b) Powerline quotes the latest Rasmussen poll, according to which

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 77% of Likely U.S. voters believe it’s likely that social media companies like Facebook censor news and commentary because of political bias, including 52% who think it is Very Likely. Only 14% say it’s unlikely social media sites are engaging in political censorship. […] Seventy-two percent (72%) think censorship by social media companies is a serious problem, including 49% who say it’s a Very Serious problem. Twenty percent (20%) don’t think it’s a serious problem. […] 66% of voters approve of GOP plans to investigate social media censorship, while only 26% disapprove.

The same survey shows that Republicans think censorship is a bigger problem than “misinformation,” while Democrats think “misinformation” is a bigger problem than censorship. The confounding fact is that most Democrats seem to think that anything they disagree with is misinformation. While, on the other hand, I don’t believe I have ever seen a single Democrat cite the Russia collusion hoax–the great disinformation campaign of our time–as an instance of misinformation.

(c) Insty’s coulrophobic weekly op-ed in the NYPost: Biden’s return to ‘normalcy’ brought us crazy instead — like Sam Brinton.

This is a reference to the now-disgraced “nonbinary” official in charge of nuclear waste policy at DOE, who was let go after being caught twice stealing luggage of women at the airport. But, Insty argues, this is only the tip of the iceberg: the regime is chock-full of dysfunctional, incompetent, and just plain crazy individuals, and the “best and brightest” are overcredentialed but under-educated, their ignorance about real-world facts and events only exceeded by their self-assurance and sanctimoniousness.

I blame Insty’s op-ed on pervasive coulrophobia [=fear of clowns].

Twitter files reveal they themselves knew Trump ban was bogus

Bari Weiss reveals, with Elon Musk’s blessing, that the former Twitter leadership knew that their ban on Trump was unjustifiable even under their own rules.

Nothing surprising if you were paying attention, but nice to have the “receipts” black on white.

Note the documents reveal that some employees had misgivings, one of them saying “I’m from China, I know where censorship can lead”. But the pressure both inside, from the wokerati inside the company, and outside, from the [anti-]Democrat machine, was too strong, so bogus “coded message” reasons were “found” at the explicit order of the head “Trust and Safety” officer.

Another exec, Yoel Roth[*], started prattling about Hitler [y”sh] and “the banality of evil”, while he should have been sweeping in front of his own doorstep. Meanwhile, tweets from Islamofascist leaders calling for mass murder of Jews or of Nigerian (non-Muslim) Igbos were left on the platform.

ADDENDUM: less political and tribal, this thread reveals what an unholy mess Twitter was from a data security and software management perspective. (Hat tip: Patrick R.)

[*] More about this vile disgrace to my people here. “No wonder LibsOfTikTok got put through the wringer.”

Must-see: Joel Kotkin on similarities between historical feudalism and today’s neo-feudalism

If you don’t have time to watch the 12-minute video below, here are some bullet points.

What historical feudalism has in common with today’s neo-feudalism:

• concentration of nearly all wealth in very few hands

• very small and harried middle class (some skilled craftsmen, etc.) with very limited rights

• the vast majority of people were serfs who “owned nothing and will be [un]happy”

• religious fundamentalism: Church then — environmentalist, gender,… now

• demographics: no growth then because of high child mortality, now because of low fertility rates

• the clerisy and the feudal oligarchs had different agendas and their fights in the Middle Ages just like now, but join hands to keep everybody else in their place

This is part of a much longer (over 1-hour) interview with former Australian deputy PM John Anderson, which you can watch in its entirely here.

“Jewish” communists as antisemites: the strange case of Ruth Fischer

With all the bizarre revelations about how the Biden regime suborned Tw*tter — and now, how it now traded an arms merchant not for an imprisoned Marine imprisoned by Russia on trumped-up espionage charges, but for a DIE box-ticker millionaire sportswoman arrested on apparently read drug offenses, and who despises her own country — allow me to turn briefly to a historical bit of insanity.

The German playwright Bertolt Brecht had two musical partners. Best known is Kurt Weill (a former student of Ferrucio Busoni), for whom he wrote the libretto of The Three Penny Opera (whence “Mack The Knife”), The Rise and Fall of Mahagonny (whence “Alabama Song”, as performed by The Doors and by David Bowie), and several other successful musical theatre works. (Weill also composed Jewish-themed works.)

In the same circles in Weimar-era Berlin ran Hanns Eisler [the double “n” is not a typo], Brecht’s first musical partner, after whom a conservatory in Berlin is named. (This is how I went down a rabbit hole.) During the Third Reich, Eisler was in exile abroad, eventually settling in the US where he composed soundtracks for a number of Hollywood movies, two of them (Hangmen Also Die and None But The Lonely Heart) being nominated for Oscars.

Hanns the son of Austrian Jewish philosophy professor Rudolf Eisler and a Lutheran mother, had an older sister named Ruth Fischer (née Elfriede Eisler — Fischer was her mother’s maiden name, which she at first used as a pen name, then as her legal name). In 1917 she co-founded the Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ, Kommunistische Partei Österreichs) with her husband, medical student Paul Friedländer. (Her other brother Gerhart Eisler was also involved.) Following a spat within the party and with her husband, she left Austria and settled in Berlin, where she became the head of the Berlin branch of the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands).

She and Trotsky confidant Arkadi Maslow emerged as the leaders of the left wing of the KPD.

In her attempts to broaden the base of the party to nationalist-minded students, she even gave speeches to National Socialists. Thus she spoke in 1923 to a group of Nazi students:

“Those who call for a struggle against Jewish capital are already, gentlemen, class strugglers, even if they don’t know it. You are against Jewish capital and want to fight the speculators. Very good. Throw down the Jewish capitalists, hang them from the lamp-post, stamp on them.”

Good grief.

Fischer later was expelled from the KPD for what later would be called Trotskyism. She declared Stalin [y”sh] “the leader of counter-revolution in the USSR” and founded a rival faction. During the Third Reich, she fled first to France, then made it to the US in 1941. She would later take the unusual step of testifying against her own brothers before the HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee. She passed away in 1960, survived by one son (raised by her grandparents) who became an applied mathematician and mathematical physicist of some note.

A few reflections:

• communism (and, in our day, radical environmentalism) are essentially g-dless religions, and a Jew embracing them to me is like a Jew converting to another faith. Google “Pablo Christiani” for an example of where there are no worse judeophobes than biologically Jewish converts to other religions

• I have argued many times before that Communism and National Socialism are not “opposites” but competing brands of the same evil (totalitarian collectivism). Nowhere was this more apparent than in Weimar-era Berlin, where the two parties competed for the same “customer base”, the NSDAP’s left wing (led by Gregor Strasser) was strongest, and where even a hybrid movement called “National Bolshevism” emerged led by Ernst Niekisch

• as for the family dynamics, I can’t help think of the Iron Maiden track, “The Thin Line Between Love And Hate”

Sabbath musical delight: Schubert and Beethoven’s “Odes to Joy”

Pretty much every classical music lover knows Beethoven’s “Ode an die Freude” (ode to joy) chorus from the final movement of his immortal 9th Symphony in D minor, Op. 125. Heck, every European Union subject knows it, as the transnational anthem of the EU.

I didn’t realize just how many other composers from the same era had tried their hand at putting Friedrich Schiller’s poem to music. Most of these compositions have been forgotten: here is one you may hear once in a while, a song by Franz Schubert.

Compare this setting with Beethoven’s:

An die Freude [Friedrich Schiller, 1785]

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

Wem der große Wurf gelungen
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!

Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben
und der Cherub steht vor Gott.

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen.
Ode: To Joy [Wikipedia’s translation, lightly edited by ME]

Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity [or: of the gods],
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly one, thy sanctuary!
Thy magic binds again
What custom/fashion strictly divided;
All people become brothers,
Where thy gentle wing abides.

Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt,
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever has won a lovely wife,
Add his to the jubilation!
Yes, and also whoever has just one soul
To call his own in this world!
And he who never managed it should slink 
Weeping from this union!

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breasts.
All the Just, all the Evil
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us and grapevines,
A friend, proven in death.
Lust was given to the worm 
And the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, as His suns fly
through the heavens’ grand plan 
Journey, brothers, on your way,
Joyful, like a hero to victory.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss to all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Are you collapsing, millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy!
Above stars must He dwell.

As a bonus, I give you another Schubert song, more Sabbath-themed: “Du bist die Ruh” (you are the rest[ing]), D.776.

Have a nice weekend and Shabbat Shalom!

“The second time as farce”: the bizarre Reichsbürger plot in Germany

“History occurs twice, once as tragedy, the second time as farce”. As much as I despise everything Karl Marx stood for, the quote is quite apt.[*]

In what is said to be the largest operation of its kind in the German Federal Republic, police working with the Verfassungsschutz [“protection of the Constitution”, i.e., the German domestic intelligence service] stopped a bizarre, Quixotic plot to seize the Reichstag building and install an obscure aristocrat as the new German Kaiser (emperor).

The instigators belong to a small-ish (about 50,000 people all told) movement called the Reichsbürgerbewegung (Reich citizens movement). Its adherents claim the Kaiserreich or Second Reich never formally ceased to exist, and hence the current Federal Republic is an illegitimate state usurping sovereignty over Germany. (This echoes arguments by conservative German nationalists about the Weimar Republic, which tragically led many — but by no means all! — to make common cause with the emerging National Socialist German Workers Party and its infinitely-damned Führer.) The movement is superficially similar to the French Légitimistes of old (who considered the French Republic illegitimate and the House of Bourbon the legitimate rulers of France) and their Spanish Carlist counterparts.

There is apparently a small cottage industry issuing identity cards and passports of this claimed-extant, but actually defunct, “German Reich”:

Note the use of the old black-white-red Reichsflagge colors. An actual German ID would look something like this:

while an actual passport would look like the one on the left:

[More in German, in a newsletter of the German federal police, article titled “Just troublemakers or enemies of the Constitution” Nur Querulanten oder Feinde der Verfassung?]

This movement has been a (somewhat obscure) “thing” for decades, and appears to occasionally cross the line from silly pseudo-administrative cosplaying into true “Verfassungswidrig” (counter-constitutional) activities. There is some crossover with neo-Nazi groups, but the two movements are apparently distinct.

While I fully understand hypervigilance about a resurgent authoritarianism in a country that is still trying to live down the poisonous legacy of National Socialism, I am not afraid we are going to see anytime soon a new Kaiserreich, let alone goose-stepping pickle-helmeted[**] soldiers marching across Europe.

[*] It comes from an essay called “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (i.e., who would later crown himself Napoleon III). The ‘tragedy’ from the quote was the original 18th Brumaire coup which brought General Napoleon Bonaparte to power, on 9 November 1799, or 18 Brumaire Year VIII in the short-lived French Revolutionary Calendar; the ‘farce’ referred to his nephew Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte granting himself dictatorial powers in 1851. (He would crown himself Emperor Napoleon III the next year.)

[**] The point of the Pickelhaube was defense against sabres of cavalrists – thwart the blade as it swooped down on the head of the soldier. When in WW I shrapnel proved much deadlier than anything Hussars or cuirassiers could do, the Pickelhaube was replaced by the iconic “coal-scuttle” Stahlhelm.

Tim Pool: spiraling crime amounts to “Distributed denial of business” (DDoB); soaring costs for ever more vapid college degrees hollow out their value in the labor market

“Distributed denial of service” (DDOS) is a form of cyber attack in which a web server (for example) is flooded with requests from a host of computers spread all over the place to ensure it cannot be accessed by legitimate visitors.

By analogy, Tim Pool coins “distributed denial of business” (DDoB) and “distributed denial of law enforcement” where kajillions of simultaneous store robberies/shoplifts/… combined with insane catch-and-release policies for criminals, make it basically impossible for law enforcement to do its jobs.

(B) Opinion article about how the labor market value of college degree plummets as tuition soars and ever more money and teaching hours get spent on wokebaggery