Happy Thanksgiving: Ernst von Dohnanyi, “American Rhapsody”

Happy Thanksgiving! Herewith Hungarian-born composer Ernst von Dohnanyi’s paean to his adoptive home country, “American Rhapsody”, Opus 47.

Ernst was the father of Hans von Dohnanyi, a key figure in the German anti-Nazi resistance (a secondary character in my alternate history series Operation Flash). The conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi is Hans’s son.


As a bonus (although technically out of season), here is another piece of Americana, “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland (conducted by Leonard Bernstein)

COVID19 update, November 23: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine results; Danish study on mask effectiveness; Sweden abandons ‘Sonderweg’?

Very busy at work this week, but a quick update, starting with breaking news:

(1) After the promising phase III results with the mRNA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna, preliminary results are now also in for the more conventional Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. From the press release, at first sight the vaccine seems to be only 70% effective. Upon detailed reading, however, the study was subdivided into cohorts with different vaccination schedules, and the 70% was an average over the whole population. One of the schedules — where a half-dose is given first, then a full-dose as a booster 4 weeks later — reached 90% effectiveness (meaning, in plain English, that the vaccinated people contracted disease at about one-tenth the rate of the placebo control population).

One advantage of Oxford-Astrazeneca is that it does not require special cooling provisions beyond what hospitals already do on a routine basis for other vaccines. I am looking forward to the full results. Meanwhile, a local clinical trial is ongoing for the Brilife vaccine developed at the Israel Institute for Biological Research.

(2) Somewhat surprisingly, a recent Danish study showed that the effectiveness of masks worn by uninfected persons is not statistically significant. Here is the original research paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine: make up your own minds.


The Spectator also weighs in — hat tip, masgramondou, who also offers an interesting hypothesis on his MeWe timeline: “[Despite the Danish study] there have been various observational studies that showed mask wearing to be somewhat effective.[…]My hypothesis is that volunteer [emphasis mine, NA] mask wearers and healthcare workers (which are two of the prior studies) will tend to also follow other hygiene steps like washing hands. This sort of thing is exactly what those forced to wear a mask in a pandemic don’t do. In other words[,] voluntary mask wearing absent a pandemic is in fact an accurate signal of healthy hygienic behavior, whereas enforced mask wearing is just virtue signalling with no effect whatsoever if the mask wearer is not infectious.”

(3) De Standaard (in Dutch) reports that, in the face of overburdened hospitals, the Swedish PM Stefan Löfven is overruling his COVID czar Anders Tegnell and the country will take a U-turn from its reliance, for COVID19 mitigation, on friendly persuasion and laissez-faire policies.

Faced with overburned COVID wards in hospitals — a resident from Karolinska Hospitals in Stockholm is quoted as saying “it’s a war zone here” — the country is turning toward more restrictive measures, which will also be enforced with fines — although truly hard lockdowns don’t seem to be on the table yet.

ADDENDUM: Hmm (via Mackey C.)


US Elections 2020: shock and horror

This press conference had both me and Mrs. Arbel breathless.

Note that they are specifically saying “this is just an overview of what we have found”. It takes the guts of Rudy Giuliani (who got his spurs fighting the Cosa Nostra as a DA and then US Attorney) and of Sidney Powell to take on this…. I can only call it a ‘hostile takeover’ of the US electoral system.

I’ve wrangled data for a living half my life, not counting my years in graduate school. Political sympathies aside, I smelled a rat from the day after the election — there were too many ‘convenient’ statistical coincidences. But I assumed this was part incompetence, part local voter fraud, and part a system of mail-in ballots that simply begs to be abused. What was just revealed is something you’d expect as a plot bunny for a political thriller—but set in a fictional banana republic or emerging country somewhere. Not in the greatest democracy in the world.

I wrote earlier that this was no longer about Trump. After what I just witnessed, this goes up a hundredfold. Not just the long litany of vote manipulations (testified to by sworn affidavits or material evidence — herestheevidence.com), aided and abetted by complicit local and state officials — this was almost old hat in corrupt cities like the Chicago I once called home, just more of the same. But now things have taken a quantum leap. This is something else again.

I grieve for what is happening to the US, the birth place of my beloved wife, and the ‘shining city on a hill’ for so many around the world. My wife is a lifelong Democrat — from the days that said party at least still pretended to care about democracy, freedom of speech, and the welfare of the middle class. She never left the party — it left her and people like her to become the party of the Brahmandarins, of transnational oligarchic collectivists.

If what just happened is allowed to stand without drastic corrective action — regardless of which man will ultimately live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 21 — the US will no longer be a democracy. It will be the fiefdom of an oligarchy with sevenfold the sense of entitlement of yesteryear’s nobility, and none of its sense of noblesse oblige. Something will survive — with its name and its face, the way the institutions of the Roman Republic were maintained for show in the Roman Empire, even as they became sickening self-parodies.

If a Jew can quote Christian scripture (Mt. 7:3), I would tell everybody who has been screeching about ‘Russian collusion’ this: “Why beholdest thou the mote that [thou sayest] is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

Outside on the street, a loud party is going on, celebrating this or that, or maybe just unwinding after the second lockdown. Let them enjoy themselves—unaware as they are (except perhaps tomorrow via a highly incomplete and/or tendentious news report) of the enormity that took place ten hours by plane away.

But I cannot help being reminded of Izhar Ashdot’s Hebrew song about such a situation:

birkhovot Hiroshima sheli, ha-ason lo kara
(On the streets of my Hiroshima, the disaster didn’t happen…)

UPDATE: Rasmussen poll before the press conference: “According to a Rasmussen poll conducted November 17-18, nearly half of likely voters, 47 percent, believe the election was stolen from Trump. If Joe Biden is ultimately certified as the winner, there will undoubtedly be a big fat asterisk on his presidency. […] 75 percent of Republicans believe it is very likely (61 percent) or somewhat likely (14 percent) that the election was stolen from Trump. But, according to the poll, while 69 percent of Democrats say it is not at all likely (61 percent) or not very likely (8 percent) that the election was stolen from Trump, 30 percent of Democrats believe it is very likely (20 percent) or somewhat likely (10 percent) that it was.” Matt Margolis adds at the link: “Let me repeat, nearly a third of Democrats believe it is likely that the election was stolen from President Trump. That’s a remarkable number. Huge, in fact.”

John Hinderaker, himself a veteran attorney, sounds a cautionary note about researchers doing their proper homework. This hold doubly true when the stakes are this high and the allegations this startling.

And Mollie Ziegler Hemingway: in an essay written before the press conference, says D[emocrats In Name Only] and the media are reaping the fruit Of 4 Years of anti-Trump conspiracy theories. I would go one step further: that the conspiracy theories were Galactic IMAX-level exercises in projection.

UPDATE 2: this won’t show up in a search on YouTube, but let’s not forget… straight from the [Trojan] Horse’s mouth:

COVID19 update, November 16, 2020: Moderna vaccine; Elon Musk and false negatives

(1) On the heels of the earlier announcement by Pfizer, now also Moderna announced intermediate results of its Phase 3 trial (coverage by Reuters, BBC and by New York Times).

Moderna’s trial so far included 30,000 people: like the Pfizer trial, subdivided into two well-matched halves, half of which got the vaccine and half of which a placebo. From the NYT article:

In Moderna’s study, 95 people contracted the coronavirus: five who were vaccinated, and 90 who received placebo shots of saltwater. Statistically, the difference between the two groups was highly significant. And of the 95 cases, 11 were severe — all in the placebo group.

Moderna hence claims about 95% efficacy. From the BBC:

Moderna’s vaccine appears to be easier to store as it remains stable at minus 20C for up to six months and can be kept in a standard fridge for up to a month.

Pfizer’s vaccine needs ultra-cold storage at around minus 75C, but it can be kept in the fridge for five days.

Important, neither Moderna’s nor Pfizer’s vaccines appear to have severe side effects — though malaise and fatigue for 1-2 days seems to be reasonably

(2) Dr. Campbell discusses the Pfizer vaccine, and mRNA vaccines more generally, how they work, and the shape of the year to come. (Moderna’s data were not out yet at the time of making the video.)

Here is Dr. Seheult, again on the Pfizer vaccine but also mRNA vaccines more generally. (This is a new, promising technology. Traditional vaccines contain either attenuated virus, or viral proteins that by themselves elicit an immune response.)

In this slightly older video, Dr. Campbell hails a “game changer in [medical] research” — a pseudonymized database of NHS patients that can be searched by various (combinations of) criteria to extract data for retrospective studies: https://opensafely.org About 40% of all NHS patients in England are in this database. (Israel’s largest HMO, Clalit Health Services, has been operating a similar database for some time. See for example this preprint.)

Pseudonymized means, in plain English: you can identify individual patients by record ID in the system, but you cannot find out who is the person corresponding to the record.

One example of a question one can “ask” quite quickly is: take all the patients with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (194, 637 of them), find the subset who are taking hydroxychloroquine as an immunomodulator for these conditions (30, 569 patients), and compare the fatality rate from COVID19 between the groups with and without HOCq. Turns out, it’s the same to within statistical noise (0.23% vs. 0.22%).

(3) You have probably heard that Elon Musk had himself tested 4 times in a row on the same day and tested twice positive, twice negative. How is such a thing possible?

Well, we already know that RT-PCR testing in the field (i.e., with actual patients) has a false negative rate of about 30%. (With laboratory samples, it’s negligible — the problem lies primarily with the sampling.)

So if you have 30% false negatives and you are positive, what are the odds that you would pull two out of four tests positive? This is actually a simple statistical exercise: there are sixteen possible outcome combinations for four tests

  • all positive: one combination. Odds: 0.70^4=24.01%
  • one negative, three positive: four combinations. Odds: 0.70^3 x 0.30 x 4 = 41.16%
  • two negative, two positive: six combinations. Odds: 0.70^2 x 0.30^2 x 6 = 26.46%
  • three negative, one positive: four combinations. Odds: 0.70 x 0.30^3 x 4 = 7.56%
  • all four negative: one combination. Odds: 0.30^4=0.81%

(In general, the odds are (1-p)^k x p^(n-k) n!/(k! (n-k)!) where p is the fraction of false negatives, n is the number of tests, and k the number that turns up positive.)

In other words: purely based on 30% false negatives, if you have four tests done in a row, you have about one chance in four to get the same outcome as Elon Musk. (BTW, good to know: if you have just two tests done in a row, there is still a 9% chance of a false negative: the odds are 49% both tests turn up positive and 42% that you get one positive and one negative.)

What do German, Dutch, and Yiddish have to do with each other?

Not COVID19 or politics for a change. A Facebook friend (whose husband is of Dutch ancestry) asked me about the relationship between the languages, being as I speak two of them fluently and can sort-of understand the third.

Grossly oversimplifying: proto-Germanic, the ancestor of all Germanic languages, split up into three branches: East Germanic (now extinct), North Germanic (the ancestor of Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic) and West Germanic (the ancestor of Old English, Frisian, Dutch, German, and Yiddish). The cool video below shows a time evolution on the map:

In brief: the landmass that covers most of today’s Netherlands (minus Friesland), Belgium, and the German-speaking countries saw proto-West Germanic gradually diverge into three principal dialect groups: Low German in the North, Upper German in the mountainous South, and Central German in between.

The boundaries (technically: isoglosses) between them are probably best illustrated by a sentence, “I eat the little red apple”:

  • Dutch (Nederlands): Ik eet het rode appeltje
  • Low German (Plattdeutsch): Ick ete dat rode Äppelken.
  • Central German (Mitteldeutsch): Ich esse dat rode Äppelchen.
  • Upper German (Oberdeutsch): Ich esse das rote Äpfelchen.
North of the Benrath isogloss: Low German; between the Benrath and Speyer isogloss: Central German; south of the Speyer isogloss: Upper German. Picture CC-BY-SA by “Hardcore Mike” on German Wikipedia.

Upper German principally divides into Alemannic dialects (the direct ancestor of spoken Schweizerdeutsch, or Swiss German) and Bavarian dialects as spoken in Bavaria, most of Austria, and the Italian province of South Tyrol.

Central German dialects range from Letzebuergisch (Luxemburgisch) in the West to Obersächsisch (Upper Saxon) in the East (plus, historically, Schlesisch/Silesian in what is now Polish territory). Together, Central German and Upper German are known as Hochdeutsch (High German) — the invention of movable type by Gutenberg (Mainz, 1440) and especially Martin Luther’s Bible Translation set in motion a process of standardization. Thus spake Luther: “My language is based on that of the Saxon Chancery, which is followed by all the princes and kings in Germany” (“Ich rede nach der sächsischen Kanzlei, welcher nachfolgen alle Fürsten und Könige in Deutschland” ). This Early Modern High German is the direct ancestor of modern standard German — to the extent that Hochdeutsch is often used as a synonym for it. It is the sole written standard not only in Germany, but (with minor modifications) also in Austria and in the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland.

But in the Mundart (spoken vernacular), the dialects survived for centuries. In particular, Plattdeutsch or Low German can still be heard in the Northwest of Germany to this day.

Now if you go by dialects, there is no hard boundary between the Plattdeutsch dialects spoken near the Dutch border and the Dutch dialects spoken across it (known in Dutch as “Nederduits” or “Nedersaksisch”: “plat Duits” is only used derogatorily since ‘plat [language]’ in Dutch means ‘low-class, low vernacular [language]’). in fact, the Dutch (Nederlands) — Plattdeutsch transition is the textbook example of what linguists call a ‘dialect continuum’.

So are Nederlands/Dutch and Plattdeutsch brother and sister? Basically, yes. Plattdeutsch dialects can roughly be divided into Low Franconian and Low Saxon groups: Low Franconian is the direct ancestor of Old Dutch (of which very little survives in writing) and hence the grandfather of Middle Dutch (Middelnederlands). A significant corpus of written Middle Dutch survives, by poets like Jacob van Maerlant or Hendrik van Veldeke, or as anonymous works like Elckerlyc (Everyman), Van den Vos Reynaert (Reynard the Fox), …

Note: the language did not refer to itself as “Nederlands” yet, but as Diets or sometimes duutsch! (Cf. the Low German word for itself, Plattdüütsch). The word survives in the idiom “iemand iets diets maken” (freely: tell somebody straight up what’s the deal, in plain English). Only with the secession of the Netherlands from the Spanish Empire and the subsequent standardization of Early Modern Dutch (based on the dialects of North and South Holland) did “Nederlands” become the term of choice for the language.

As an aside, the so-called “Pennsylvania Dutch” in the eponymous US state were actually Germans (Deutsche), who spoke a western Central German dialect.

Now as it is the Sabbath, what about Yiddish? The name is actually short for “Yidish Taitsh” (Judeo-German); the oldest written mentions in Hebrew refer to it as “lashon Ashkenaz” (tongue of Ashkenaz, the medieval Hebrew name for Germany). Colloquially it is also referred to in Yiddish as “mame-loshen” (mother tongue) as distinct from “loshen-koydesh” (sacred tongue, i.e., Biblical Hebrew).

Grossly oversimplifying again, Yiddish vocabulary is a mixture of about 60% Middle High German, 30% medieval Hebrew (in the old Ashkenazi pronunciation[*]), and the remainder a varying mixture of Romance and Slavic loan words (the mix depending on the dialect). Structurally it is a Germanic language, but written with Hebrew characters. Some of the latter are repurposed: aleph (א) and ayin (ע) in Yiddish mean “a” and “e”, respectively, rather than glottal stops.

It originally came about in Jewish communities in the Rhineland. When they fled to Eastern Europe following medieval pogroms, they brought the language with them; a smaller community moved westward and developed a distinct West Yiddish dialect. In the East, depending on who you ask, two or three principal dialects developed: Litvak/Lithuanian Yiddish (which is advocated as the ‘purest’ form by the YIVO), Galitz/Galician Yiddish as used to be spoken in Polish and Ukrainian Galicia, plus a third variant that some lump in with Galician Yiddish and others consider a distinctive Hungarian Yiddish dialect. (“Hungary” includes here historically Hungarians regions such as Transylvania/Erdely/Siebenbürgen in present-day Romania.) The latter dialect, which is spoken to this day in chareidi (“ultra-Orthodox”) neighborhoods of Jerusalem, sounds fairly close to German and can fairly easily be understood if you know both German and Hebrew. (Litvak Yiddish takes more practice.)

Most English speakers are familiar with Yiddishisms introduced into the English language by New York Jews in general, and Jewish comedians of yore in particular: meshuga, putz, schmuck, shlemiel, shmear, the whole megillah,… But American English is not unique in this regard: Amsterdam Dutch slang is filled with Yiddishisms that filtered into colloquial Dutch more generally. A selection below (YPoH= Yiddish pronunciation [of a Hebrew loan word]):

  • bajes = jail (from YPoH bayit: house)
  • bolleboos = clever guy, egghead (YPoH ba’al ha’bayit: master of the house)
  • joet = Fl. 10 banknote (from Hebrew letter yod, also 10 in Hebrew arithmetic)
  • meier = Fl. 100 banknote (from Hebrew meah=100)
  • gein = joy, fun (from Hebrew chen = grace, pleasure)
  • tof = great, cool (from Hebrew tov = good)
  • goochem = clever (from YPoH chacham = wise)
  • gonef = crook (from YPoH ganav = thief)
  • jajem = wine (from yayin=wine)
  • jatten = to steal (from Hebrew yad=hand)
  • sjofel = [looking] poor, miserable (from YPoH shafel=low)
  • smeris = cop (from Hebrew shmira=guard)
  • mesjogge = crazy (from YPoH meshuga)
  • penoze = underworld (from YPoH parnasa = source of income)
  • mokum = Amsterdam (from YPoH makom aleph= place A.)
  • gotspe = chutzpah, unmitigated gall
  • lef = courage (from Hebrew lev=heart)
  • kapsones = arrogance (from YPoH ga’avtanut)
  • gajes = rifraff (from YPoH chayot = animals)
  • gabber = mate, buddy (from Hebrew chaver = friend)
  • mazzel = luck
  • koosjer = kosher (also metaphorically. Literal meaning in Hebrew=fit [for a purpose])
  • smoes = pretext (from YPhO shmu’ot=rumors)
  • gozer = bloke, chap (from YPoH chatan=bridegroom)
  • sjlemiel, slemiel = never-do-well, loser (possibly from shelo mo’il=who is not effective)
  • stiekem = in secret (from shtika = silence)
  • sores = trouble (from YPoH tzarot=problems)
  • afgepeigerd = beat, exhausted (from Hebrew peger=corpse)
  • pleite = broke, bankrupt (from plita=flight)
  • hij is gesjochten = “his goose is cooked” (from Yiddish: ritually slaughtered)
  • etc.

Some of these words entered standard German as well, e.g., Schlemiel, koscher, schiker (from Hebrew shikor=drunk), … Interestingly, Schmock [oaf, jerk] entered German as a back-import of Schmuck (which in standard German means ‘jewels’ but in Yiddish is both a euphemism for the male organ and, hence, an obnoxious person…)

[*] The standard pronunciation for Modern Hebrew is a simplified compromise form between various Sephardi and Edot HaMizrach [“Oriental communities”, e.g., Syrian, Iraqi, Yemenite,… Jews] pronunciations. Ashkenazi pronunciation (or “Ashkenozis” as some jocularly call it) differs in some obvious respects:

  • a final letter “tav” (t) is pronounced “s” unless it has a dagesh.
  • the vowel mark “kamatz gadol” is pronounced “o” rather than “a” as in Modern Hebrew. Hence: shabbos instead of shabbat; bais midrosh instead of beit mudrash (house of study); Dovid [English approximation: DOHveed] instead of David, [English approximation: DahVEED]
  • the vowel mark “cholam” is pronounced “oi” rather than “o”. Hence Moses becomes Moishe (MOIshe) rather than the Modern Hebrew Moshe (moSHE).
  • And yes, the penultimate (next-to-last) syllable is usually stressed, rather than in other Hebrew dialect (and standard Modern Hebrew) which usually favors the final syllable.

US Elections 2020: Meanwhile, in the House [UPDATED]

Brief update: with all the hullabaloo about the Presidential election, one might forget about the House. As of the time of writing, according to RealClearPolitics, of 435 seats, 220 have been called D, 208 have been called R (which includes one runoff in Louisiana liable to end up R), and 7 are still in the balance: NY-3, NY-22, CA-21, CA-25, IA-2, NJ-7, and UT-4. Of these, NY-22 has the GOP candidate with a solid lead, the remainder are too close to even call probably. So we’re looking at a GOP gain of 8-9 seats minimum.

And one wonders about PA, if a recount there might not flip a couple more seats. Perhaps somebody more familiar with the state might fill me in?

In the Senate, things stands at 48 D – 50 R (net change: one D pickup) and both GA races headed for runoff. One GA Senate race has Perdue (R) winning just 0.3 short of the mandatory runoff threshold, the other had the R vote split among Loeffler and Collins, with Loeffler now facing Warnock in the runoff. Among the remaining Senate races, the flip in MI smells funny to me (and many other observers).

Among governors, it’s 27 R to 23 D, after the GOP picked up Montana.

Some “blue wave”.

ADDENDUM: It gets better.

Tim Pool on the circular firing squad starting in the DINO party:

Elections 2020: Do the people elect, or do the Brahmandarins select?

There is a YouTuber who goes by the pseudonym Razorfist. His main beats are video gaming and heavy metal music, but when he veers into politics, he is a very astute analyst even when I don’t agree with him. Normally he is potty-mouthed at South Park level. The opening of this video is the first time ever I’ve seen him be dead serious, without profanities or obscenities. He actually starts off by saying “allow me to deactivate the Razorfist app”.

I was immediately reminded of a professor I knew. An upper-class Briton who had spent many years in Australia, he developed ‘protective coloring’ including a vocabulary that Tom Sharpe would have envied, let alone Amy Schumer. But when he stopped this shtick… you knew he was being dead serious. And if he started criticizing your work without lapsing into anatomy or bodily functions, you knew you had really messed up. I could not help being reminded of this.

Dear reader: this isn’t about Trump anymore. He is now just the object. This is about whether the US is a representative republic that democratically elects its chief executive — or an oligarchy where a Nomenklatura of party power brokers, Big Tech barons, and financiers get to select the candidate that is most congenial to them and, when they fail to stampede you into voting their choice, will retroactively ‘correct’ this. Where they get to run the federal election the way they run the “Democratic” primaries. [EDIT: see this post by my friend Tom Knighton, The Tyranny of the Technocrats.]

Left-wing Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi, who does not like Trump one bit, refers to the election as “a vomit milkshake” and to Joe Biden’s party as “democratic in name only”:

Hmm, what’s the acronym of “democratic in name only”: DINO? I can see some similarities:

More evidence that this is not just about Trump anymore: 59% of those polled concerned about fraud with mail-in voting. Party breakdown: 36% of Democrats, 86% (!) of Republicans.

On Twitter, I saw this one:

Adam: “Abel’s dead, we need an autopsy.”
Cain: “Why? Just accept he’s dead. Hold a funeral.”
Adam: “I want an autopsy to know if he was murdered.”
Cain: “It was a natural death.”
Adam: “Maybe, let’s have an autopsy to be sure.”
Cain: “The Serpent has already spoken his eulogy.”

And David Harsanyi: “”It’s pretty transparent. When Democrats win the presidency, we are treated to solemn calls for national restoration and political harmony, and to the expectation that, for the good of the nation, the opposition will embrace decorum and pass legislation they oppose. When Republicans win elections, grown women put on knitted hats depicting their reproductive organs and stomp around Washington protesting, all to a hero’s welcome.”

If they were that confident they had won fair and square, they would be the first to welcome audits. Instead, they actually want to run blacklists of people who “deny” President-Select [sic] Biden has won.

And via Powerline, the Pravd… er, New York Times “For the conservatives who are mad about this: yes, it is possible for a story to be factually accurate *and* for it to be part of a misinformation campaign aimed at undermining confidence in an election.”

This is the sort of manipulation usually lambasted by critics of fundamentalist religions (or Marxism, BIRM). “Even if the facts are true, they are false”.

John Hinderaker continues:

At the New York Times, indisputable truth is “misinformation,” and must be denounced as such, if it doesn’t advance that newspaper’s political agenda. Truthful information, in Timesspeak, is what helps the Democratic Party. “Misinformation” is what could harm the Democratic Party. As, very often, the facts tend to do. I have been saying for a while that the principal job of journalists these days is to block Americans from receiving information that they are better off (in the opinion of the Left) not knowing. Journalists don’t so much report the news as cover it up. This is an excellent example of that sick phenomenon.

Journalism definition by Iowahawk « Quotulatiousness



ADDENDUM: a cyber security expert explains in detail several ways how, if somebody wanted to ‘hack the vote’, it could be done:

UPDATֵE: With stupefying cluelessness, media criticize conservative tech refugees for fleeing censorship

Also, must-read: Larry Correia gives a LONG compilation of their answers from people to whom he reached out, to “One quick question, only answer if you have worked in auditing/stats/fraud/investigations/or other data analysis type fields. In your entire career, have you ever seen a case that threw up this many flags that DID NOT turn out to be fraud?”

In case you missed it: Tucker Carlson, “We heard you. It’s hard to trust anything. Here’s what we know.

And breaking news: “A judge in Pennsylvania has ruled in favor of the Trump campaign after concluding that ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day that were segregated should not be counted.[…] The judge also determined that Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of the Commonwealth, lacked the “statutory authority” to change election law days before the election.”

COVID19 update, November 10, 2020: Good news on Pfizer vaccine; whole-country testing in Slovakia

With all the news about the US election, you might wonder if I have forgotten about COVID19. There is, in fact, some big news.

(1) Dr. John Campbell shares with us the good news on the Stage 3 trial of the Pfizer vaccine.

Let me quickly share the gist with you. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine, specifically a piece of RNA that encodes the viral spike protein, rather than a piece of spike protein itself. Downside is: it requires deep-freeze (just –18°C=0°F) for transport and storage. Upside: production can be scaled up very quickly.

The trial so far had 43,538 volunteers from six countries in it, with a range of ages, ethnicities, and comorbidities. The volunteers were divided into two equal-sized subgroups, as closely matched in composition as possible. One-half were given the vaccine, the other half a placebo. They were encouraged to go about their daily lives in the community, with their usual protection or lack thereof.

94 people caught COVID19. Drumroll… 90% of those were in the placebo group. Hence Pfizer’s claim that the vaccine is 90% effective, which is actually quite high for this type of vaccines — much better than the 10-60% of seasonal flu vaccines, and better than the 78% of mumps vaccine, but not as good as the 99% immunity from measles that two-dose MMR can achieve.

This was an interim report: the trial will continue to enroll new volunteers until they have at least 164 cases total.

You could get statistics on effectively with fewer people if you found brave volunteers for a “challenge trial” (i.e., people who agree to be deliberately administered the live pathogen). But then you would still need to do the large-scale trial anyway to establish safety. Better to just do the whole Stage 3 trial then.

Papers will be submitted for an EUA (emergency use authorization) in the US. The UK has preordered 40 million doses.

Dr. Campbell predicts several more vaccines will be announced in the next weeks. He sees this as a good thing: some of them may have better safety or efficacy profiles for some age groups and populations.

How long the protection is good for? Time will have to tell. Immunity against the four common cold coronaviruses (which account for 15% of all common colds) is quite short-lived: on the other hand, people who got SARS-CoV-1 seventeen years ago still show immune response. His educated guess is that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will fall in the middle.

(2) Mrs. Arbel drew my attention to an article in the WSJ about Slovakia’s “whole-country testing” experiment. Basically they on one weekend administered SDBiosensor antibody tests to their entire population. (RT-PCR testing on that scale is simply not realistic.)

Why not do the same elsewhere? Belgium is now considering the same option.

An Israeli insider, however, told me the following (my paraphrase of a phone conversation): False positives (FP) would be a few %, which means that at an actual prevalence rate under 1% in the population, most of the “positives” are likely FP. If we applied the same in Israel, we would have to put about 100,000 people in isolation — and many would violate their quarantine if they realized they were likely false positives. Furthermore, test of this type usually have 20-30% false negatives, so you would have to repeat the “test weekend” process a few times to be sure you catch at least most.

Instead, my source told me, monitoring and enforcing isolation, combined with track & trace, would allow us to keep things under control with about 20,000 tests/day. If people who tested positive routinely break isolation (and we know this happens), then no amount of TT&T will cut off the infection chains.

US Elections 2020: media and Big Social peeing on our legs and telling us it’s raining

The DNCPropagandaabteilung mainstream media’s blue smokescreen is trying to make us believe that Biden is already the president-elect, and that there was absolutely no voter fraud.

Puh-leeze. And Elvis lives, and is married to Little Richard.

Even Powerline’s resident Trump critic, Paul Mirengoff, rips into Biden and Harris and discusses both the blatant voter fraud and the electoral system that made it possible. Have a good look at that one.

And here (via Instapundit) is a data scientist looking at time series of the vote. “But then as counting continues, the D to R ratio in mail-in ballots inexplicably begin increasing. Again, this should not happen, and it is observed almost nowhere else in the country, because all of the ballots are randomly shuffled in the mail system and should be homogeneous during counting. The only exceptions to this are other suspect states that also have anomalies.”

And hmm, 450,000 ballots voted only for Biden and left the rest blank.

If I were Biden (G-d forbid), I’d myself insist on a thorough audit, to put to rest any (well, most) rumors that the election was rigged. Roger Kimball agrees. [Best Captain Renault voice:] I am shocked, shocked! That gambling is going on in this establishment Biden is not interested in this!

Sky News Australia is doing the job most US MSM won’t do. Here are just two of their videos on the subject:

featuring Mark Steyn

As for the polls, even Victor Davis Hanson is saying flat out he thinks they were disinformation and voter suppression operations.

Apropos the fate of the so-called “Lincoln Project” (a grifting operation that has Honest Abe spinning in his grave so hard you could hook him up to a generator), from Dr. Hanson’s mouth to G-d’s ear.

My friend Dave Freer sighs, “I’d like to live in boring times“. Ironically, he wrote this post (very much worth reading, as always) today, on the very anniversary of the Reichskristallnacht (Nov. 9, 1938) as well as (on the other side of the ledger) of the coming down of the Berlin Wall (Nov. 9, 1989).

Finally, Fa[r]cebook and TwaddleTwitter are now up to censoring even postings in private groups and direct messages. As a result, many of my FB friends are abandoning the FB platform for platforms that at least pay lip service to free speech, particularly MeWe (as a FB alternative) and Parler (as a Twitter alternative). I have started migrating to MeWe myself: as my only Twitter activity these days consisted of WP auto-tweeting post headlines, I may not be active on Parler for a while.

UDPATE: much more from Larry Correia, (warning: salty, if entertaining, language). See also this update by Kurt Schlichter.

US Elections 2020: three videos worth seeing.

First, there’s Sky News Australia, saying “something stinks to high heaven in the US”. The presenter is convinced voting was rigged.

The second video has Tim Pool — a liberal, but a sharp commentator, who’s disaffected by the current D party and by “wokebaggery” — exploring the implications of the downticket races, where Trump had “coattails like a winner” (Instapundit). One that I had completely overlooked: the upcoming 2021 redistricting, where the GOP controlling so many state houses (and actually adding some!) will have significant consequences.

The third is the one and only Victor Davis Hanson, being interviewed by former deputy PM of Australia John Anderson AO, about developments in the US. Insightful and deep as always.

US Elections 2020: vote count incompetence or malice?

“Masgramondou” shared this helpful list from that rabidly Trumpist site, the BBC: Vote rigging: tell-tale signs.

The article focuses on Africa, but the observations are not culture specific. Let me summarize:

  • Anomalously high voter turnout. Even countries with mandatory voting (like Belgium or Australia, where you can get fined for not voting!) only reach 90-95% turnout.
  • Conspicuously high turnouts in specific areas. “Why would one particular area, or one individual polling station, have a 90% turnout, while most other areas register less than 70%?”
  • A large percentage of invalid votes/voided ballots. (I’d make an exception for countries with mandatory voting, like Belgium, where a certain percentage of voters would deliberately void their ballots by, e.g., writing helpful anatomical suggestions across it.)
  • More votes than ballot papers issued
  • Results that don’t match. (Even in Africa, citizen poll observers increasingly use cell phones to document vote counts.)
  • Inordinate delay in announcing the result: this can often reflect the need to either manufacture more of the desired votes, or to go back and disqualify more of the undesired votes.

Hmm, at least some of that sounds familiar. Now a number of my American friends (not least of which my writing mentor, Sarah Hoyt) have been sounding the alarm for months about “vote-by-mail” being an open invitation to fraud. I never understood who thought this was a good idea in the first place, except for cases of force majeure — it sounds a little too much like the title of the classic Dead Kennedys album “Give me convenience or give me death“. Then the COVID19 emergency came along and was used as a pretext to massively push this option, even though Anthony Fauci openly admitted there was no public health reason people could not vote in person.

The 2020 election also set a record for the highest number of votes cast before election day, with just under 100 million ballots either mailed in or cast in early in-person voting before November 3rd. By comparison, about 47 million votes were cast early in 2016.” Elsewhere in that article we read: “While 60.1% of eligible voters turned out in 2016, it is estimated that 66.9% of eligible voters participated in this week’s election. If correct, that would be the highest voter turnout level since the presidential election of 1900, when 73.7% of eligible voters turned out to vote.”

We had a national election here (Israel) during the first wave of COVID19, just before our first lockdown. Even so, and even with COVID19 risks, our turnout was 71.5%, comparable to 69.8% in late 2019, and 72% in 2015. All voting was in person — we have no other ways of voting. And no, the election caused no COVID19 surge that anyone was able to detect.

Full disclosure: Both in Israel and in the European country of my birth, I have not only voted, but done poll station duty and acted as an election observer. Hence I am fairly familiar with the (very similar) election integrity procedures of both countries.

  • There is no “voter registration”: all citizens in the national population registry who have come of voting age automatically get mailed voter summonses to their listed residence address, which list the location and polling station number where to show up.
  • Voters are expected to show up with their national picture ID card (which lists citizenship status) or their passport, as well as the summons. If the summons went lost in the mail, there are procedures for ensuring you can vote: but no proof of identity and citizenship? No vote, no way, no how.
  • When you are given your ballot, your name is struck through on the voter list to indicate you voted. (Hence voting at a ballot station other than your designated one becomes, well, a procedure.)
  • The country of my birth had limited means of postal or proxy vote. Israel doesn’t allow any such thing.
  • I can vote in my country of origin via its embassy here (but voluntarily refrain from doing so, on a point of principle). Israel does not allow overseas vote of any kind, excerpt for people on official duty abroad (e.g., diplomatic personnel), who can vote in person at the nearest embassy. It is not unheard of for Israelis working abroad to fly home especially to vote! (And, of course, touch base with family and friends while we’re at it.)

The norm here is for full results to be announced the next day, usually with a minor adjustment (1-2 Knesset seats) a few days later as the votes of deployed IDF personnel are tallied. Make no mistake: we have manifold political problems, and so did and does the country of my birth, but nobody ever seriously doubted the integrity of the vote. Any fraud committed[*] is retail level — at the wholesale level, there are too many safeguards.

Why requiring picture ID and proof of citizenship in order to vote would be even controversial anywhere has always been beyond me. But for an American perspective, allow me to quote Bryan Preston from the PJMedia live blog (no permalink to individual posts):

BRYAN PRESTON | NOV 06, 2020 12:41 PM EST
One of the best ways we could fight voter fraud is voter ID. But I lived through a cautionary tale on that very issue.

Years ago I was comms director at the Texas Republican Party. The GOP-majority legislature passed a voter ID law and Gov. Perry signed it. The law had strong majority support, roughly 70% [if I remember correctly], across the demographic plane. The Democrats fought that law tooth and nail, and the media never ever called them out for why they would fight so strongly for a law that a majority, across all demographics, supported. Without evidence, Democrats smeared voter ID’s backers as racists and the like, and the media never called them out on that either. Democrats also said voter ID would suppress minority votes.

The Democrats took that law to court and found pliant liberal judges who blocked it, forcing the state to keep fighting for it until it eventually won and voter ID became required in Texas. It took a couple of years for all this to shake out, in Texas, one of the reddest states in the country. Voter ID is now the law across Texas. Not coincidentally, the gigantic state tends to be prompt with its voter results.

As all that shook out, I wrote an op-ed for CNN about it all. The number of fact-checks and iterations I went through to get that very straightforward piece published just about turned me blind. I would prove something and the editors would come back and make me prove it again. The piece provided real and compelling evidence that the Democrats’ vote suppression claims had been proven wrong by actual elections conducted under voter ID requirements. The process to get the piece published took roughly six weeks.

We don’t have a federal presidential election, we have 50 state elections for president. Imagine trying to get voter ID passed in any blue or swing state. Imagine getting the media to cover the issue fairly. My experience tells me that neither will happen.

When a party that calls itself “democratic” throws up roadblocks to voter ID verification procedures that are commonplace across the globe, my question is whether perhaps there are four letters missing at the beginning of the party name: “a”, “n”, “t”, “i”. (Or 6 letters, “p”, “s”, “e”, “u”, “d”, “o”.) [**]

Speaking of “oligarchy”, and how it ever came to this. Continental Europeans and Israelis often wonder why the USA (and the UK) only have two major parties. This is actually a well-known feature of “first-past-the-post” polling systems known as Duverger’s Law.: one exception is that a regionally dominant party (e.g., Scottish National Party in the UK) can become a viable niche player at the national level.

But having room for only two major parties means in practice that they each become coalitions internally — be it Tories and Labour in the UK, or D and R in the US. Remember Ronald Reagan (of blessed memory) speaking of the GOP as a “three-legged stool”: libertarian conservatives, social/religious conservatives, and national security conservatives. The rise of Trump was a wildcard in that it added “populists” (call them “Trump Democrats”, if you like) to the mix. Likewise, I remember a perceptive Democrat commenting in the wake of the 2004 defeat of John Kerry against Bush fils, that the D party was made up of three components: hardcore “progressives”, economic soft-libertarians, and working-class patriotic democrats — and that the party was leaving behind the latter.

It would seem, to this admittedly distant (but highly engaged) observer, that the D party has been doing everything to mollycoddle the hard left and placate Big Tech, and in the process belittled, patronized, and alienated the “working-class democrats”. As long as the GOP had its image of country club/Chamber of Commerce elitists, this might have worked “because they had nowhere else to go”. But come Trump, and off many went. [EDIT: Actually, that process goes back at least to the “Reagan Democrats”. Trump just greatly accelerated it.]

And then came the time to find a challenger for Trump — and a power struggle erupted between the hard left in the party, who gathered behind avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, and the party’s leading gerontocracy — which may be staggeringly corrupt but generally does not share the enthusiasms and obsessions of the hard left. The party oligarchy saw the rise of Wicked Uncle Bernie as a lose-lose scenario:

  • either he would turn off the more moderate voters and guarantee a Trump landslide, dragging along “coattails” of dozens of congressional and senatorial seats
  • or, possibly even worse from their perspective, Sanders might somehow get elected — and he actually seemed to believe in the socialist and protectionist policies he was peddling and would implement at least some of them. This would crimp the style of Big Finance and Big Tech — and hence was unacceptable to the party’s main financiers.

The main problem was: while they could (and did) sabotage the nomination of Sanders, none of the moderates that the party tried to push forward gained any traction in the primaries. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who to me seemed the least odious of the lot (except for the undeniably somewhat charming Tulsi Gabbard), spent half a billion of his own money to get essentially nowhere in the primaries.

This left them with the aging retread, former VP Biden — whose outwardly avuncular, affable “ordinary guy” image might do well with voters weary of Trump’s overbearing style. So the power brokers engineered his nomination: To keep the hard left on board, the execrable Kamala Harris (whose balloon got punctured by the schooling Tulsi Gabbard gave her in the 2nd primary debate) was foisted on Biden as his running mate.

Now make no mistake: while I did not have a high opinion of Biden even before his loss of mental faculties became apparent, I am convinced that if he (rather than the repulsive Hillary) had been the 2016 nominee against Trump, Biden would have won in a walkover even without shenanigans. But now, as Biden’s outward affability started cracking and it became ever more difficult for him to keep his wits about him during a speech or interview? “Time for Plan B”: keep Biden away from the public as much as possible (citing COVID19), and arrange for the electoral battle to be won “by other means”…

Speaking of such other means: via Tim Pool, the Detroit Free Press reports how correcting “a little computer glitch” changed the outcome of a down-ticket race from a narrow D upset to a decisive re-election of the R incumbent. If you expect me to believe that this was a single isolated example, forgive me if I trust this about as much as 3-day old gas station sushi….

ADDENDUM: We all can use a laugh now. Sing it!


[*] One known technique, in certain chareidi and Arab communities, is to not report the demise of elderly relatives, and then to vote with their IDs a second time — relying on the distinctive dress and facial hair of your community to “make you all look alike”.

[**] To be fair and balanced here, I also believe that many Republican politicians have forgotten what it means to stand for a constitutional republic.

US Elections 2020: who is the biggest loser (no, it’s not Trump)

As I see this slow-motion trainwreck unfolding from afar, it occurred to me that there are numerous losers — and no, Donald Trump isn’t even among the top handful.

(1) The biggest single loser is the American people. Whoever will sit in the Oval Office come January 21 will be considered illegitimate by half the nation — whether it is Biden, or whether it is Trump after a successful court challenge of what are looking like increasingly bizarre vote counting shenanigans.[*] This is a dream scenario for the rivals and enemies of the United States, and of the West more broadly (including my own country despite its Eastern location). CCP Chairman Xi must be rubbing his hands with glee now.

(2) Another major loser are the big-name pollsters. They systematically underestimated the Trump or Republican vote by 6 to 12 percent, depending on the race. This does not surprise me one bit, considering all the stories I hear from friends (and about friends of friends) living in urban or suburban areas, who are afraid to state even the slightest approval of Trump or the GOP lest they be ostracized in their community or at work. This goes on top of the large percentage of Americans, of all political persuasions, who simply will not answer a phone unless they recognize the caller ID. Even the most objective pollster would have a major sampling bias to overcome.

(3) Believe it or not, another big loser is the Democratic Party [“democratic” as in the “German Democratic Republic” DDR of old]. “Dude, where’s my landslide?” (h/t: masgramondou) They were counting on big “blue wave” coattails to a Trojan Joe Biden victory; instead, as Instapundit quipped, “Trump has coattails like a winner”. The GOP is all but certain to retain the Senate, and in the House, actually gained five seats and is likely to win several more of the House races that haven’t been called yet. There is even an outside chance that the GOP might have a razor-thin majority in the House. (I don’t believe this will happen, to be clear.) On the gubernatorial front, the GOP actually gained one governor, and, e.g., the New Hampshire state senate actually flipped to GOP control.

Gone now are the pipe dreams of packing the US Supreme Court (to undo the 6-3 ideological balance, Amy Coney Barrett being the ‘insurance’ vote against Roberts going wobbly or being blackmailed). Such a packing scheme (akin to what FDR attempted to overcome SCOTUS rulings that thwarted his ‘New Deal’ agenda) would never pass the Senate now.

Ann Althouse quotes an anonymous D insider who speaks of “a dumpster fire” downticket, with veteran politicos losing what they thought to be safe House seats. And in fact, the nearly unthinkable may happen (h/t: masgramondou) “Stung by their party’s dispiriting showing at the polls Tuesday, two moderate House Democrats say they and other centrists are privately discussing a plan that was unthinkable just 24 hours earlier: throwing their support behind a challenger to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).”

(4) Speaking of races: the side that used to bemoan the influence of big money in politics blew about $250 million on longshot challengers to three veteran GOP senators — and got a big goose egg for its money. Does this look like “winning” to you? Not to me either.

(5) The mainstream media. I thought in 2008 that they were so far in the tank for 0bama they were hitting gravel, but they were positively demure then compared to 2020, when they (and Big Social) reached levels of presstitution [sic] and news manipulation that would have embarrassed even the Pravda.[*] Fortunately, more and more people are wisening up to this, and tuning the MSM out. But the experience with the MSM-“Big Social” complex “Covering the important stories… with a pillow, until they stop moving” (Iowahawk) has taught us we have to move to a more distributed ecosystem. Call it the “Blogosphere 2.0” if you like. Throttling a news story on a complicit Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube is one thing: doing the same when it’s locally hosted on hundreds of blogs becomes a rather more difficult preposition.

(6) Toxic identity politics. The GOP (not just Trump) polled their highest share of the non-white vote in 60 years. (This is one of the things that had the D party so hopping mad at Trump: governing as a populist rather than a classic conservative or Chamber of Commerce type, he made substantial inroads in the black and Latino voter demographics. Some predominantly Latino districts in Texas actually flipped to the GOP!)

Closer to home: an exit poll revealed that Trump pulled a historic high water mark of the Jewish vote. “[…] Of the 600 Jewish voters polled, it found that 30.5% cast their ballots for the Republican president, compared to 60.6% who cast ballots for Biden. The poll had a margin of error of 4%.[…] While the survey only included 80 voters who identify as Orthodox, it nominally confirmed a trend that has seen more religious Jews shifting heavily toward the GOP, with 79% of them voting for Trump.”

(7) And now for Trump. He has some experience at unexpected “reversals of fortune” in business — and may yet experience one in this election, with successful court challenges. But as Instapundit explains (my paraphrase) if he concedes and goes home, he has a giant megaphone now, and nothing stops him from using it incessantly and giving the D party hell every inch of the way. And what is indeed to stop him from running again in 2024, and possibly becoming the second president in US history (after Grover Cleveland) to serve two non-consecutive terms?

I can barely believe I am saying it — I likely would not have voted for the man four years ago, and instead have written in Zeeba the Syphilitic Camel — but Trump has substantial achievements to look back on after four years in office. Some (such as his efforts at deregulation and banishing toxic indoctrination programs from government service) may prove ephemeral, but others — like assuring a solid conservative majority on the Supreme Court — will outlast him by many years. Closer to home, skipping for the moment the symbolic value of the embassy move, the Abraham Accords are likely to outlast him, as they built on a fundamental change of the regiopolitical map as well as long-standing back-channel contacts between Israel and those Arab nations — without detracting from the man, Trump was merely an ‘obstetrician’ here, not a peace trailblazer.

But the one sin the Brahmandarin gentry — with twice the sense of entitlement as the old noblesse, and none of the oblige — will never forgive the populist Trump is that he punctured their delusions of competence, or even mere adequacy.

[*] Stories about massive and at times improbably transparent fraud are cropping up all over my newsfeeds, despite the MSM’s best efforts to run interference: this is just a few:

And no, Trump is not taking this lying down: he learned his lesson from, e.g., Dino Rossi and Norm Coleman, and others who got flipped from winning to losing close gubernatorial (WA) and senatorial (MN) races, respectively, after trunks of ballots were “found”.

I normally am a firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor (actually Heinlein’s Razor): “do not attribute to malice what you can adequately explain by incompetence”. And sure, to err is human. But honest human error, or incompetence, would favor the GOP side at least some of the time. So why is it that whenever missing votes are “found” in car trunks in the US, they always massively favor the D party, and often in amounts enough to flip a close race?

UPDATE: my friend Tom Knighton on his new Substack site: there’s a reason people suspect fraud. https://tomknighton.substack.com/p/theres-a-reason-people-suspect-fraud

UPDATE 2: David Burkhead: A matter of probabilities.

UPDATE 3: Larry Correia, who was a CPA before the success of the “Monster Hunter Nation” series allowed him to become a full-time writer, goes forensic on the election numbers, and boy, is he miffed. “I am more offended by how ham fisted, clumsy, and audacious the fraud to elect him is than the idea of Joe Biden being president. I think Joe Biden is a corrupt idiot, however, I think America would survive him like we’ve survived previous idiot administrations. However, what is potentially fatal for America is half the populace believing that their elections are hopelessly rigged and they’re eternally [bleep]ed. […] Before I became a novelist I was an accountant. In auditing you look for red flags. That’s weird bits in the data that suggest something shifty is going on. You flag those weird things so you can delve into them further. One flag doesn’t necessarily mean there’s fraud. Weird things happen. A few flags mean stupidity or dishonesty. But a giant pile of red flags means that there’s bad sh[*]t going on and people should be in jail.” He explains in great detail why. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE4 : Bethany Mandel , hardly an extremist, on Twitter [assembled from the thread]:

“I’m not saying there is [voter fraud], but you can’t pretend four years of lie after lie after lie meant to subvert the POTUS at every.single.turn will not be result with people believing you’re capable of anything when it comes to keeping a second term away from him.

Breaking the trust of the American people shamelessly and repeatedly has consequences. And it would’ve been nice for Democrats and the media to realize that in the lead up to an election that was already going to be razor thin.

Yes the President is going to fight every single close race and get his lawyers in to double check results. As he damn well should. I trust nobody. That trust was stolen. This is the result. Four years of denying Donald Trump won the 2016 election fair and square and now these same people are demanding Republicans accept results in multiple states despite clear irregularities and funny business. Nope. That’s not how this works. Donald Trump didn’t radicalize me. Democrats did. Reap what you sow.”

Not even pretending anymore

This is heart-breaking to watch from afar…

UPDATE: It’s not over yet. Live MI results direct here.


The Democrats aren’t even attempting to pretend at hiding their bullshit anymore. They updated their race in MI with nearly 140K new votes. But what they posted is a statistical impossibility. EVERY SINGLE ONE of those votes went for Biden.

obvious bsobvious bs 2

There is no way in hell that many votes all broke for one candidate. The Dems will steal this election and we will end up in a shooting war if they’re not careful. I fear the republic is dead.

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The second coming of new media (Samizdata)

Perry De Havilland on Samizdata (one of the oldest political blogs in Europe) wrote the post below that is especially appropriate on US Election Day,. Not only have the mainstream media thrown the last bit of caution to the wind and are making even the Soviet-era Pravda look demure, but now the people who are sitting atop Big Social are making even the free flow of information impossible. Regardless of who wins the election today, it is blatantly obvious that we will need a decentralized, censorship-proof alternative to the Stasi-monitored “curated” big social media sites. And one may already be in the making. If a “doubleplusungood crimethink” message is spread among a myriad blog sites around the world, they cannot all be muzzled at the same time.

As for the election:

“Pray as if it all depends on G-d, for it does.
Work as if it all depends on you, for it does.”

We are seeing the second coming of new media

Perry de Havilland (London) · Independent sites, Blogging & Bloggers · Media & Journalism

On this day back in 2001, the first iteration of Samizdata haltingly plopped onto the internet, wide eyed and not quite sure what to make of itself. 

Why did Samizdata happen? Because every time a ‘news’ feature appeared about the 9/11 atrocity, I and other assorted stalwarts were done shouting at the television screen (remember them?). That was the trigger, but frankly there was much more to it than just that. It was years, decades really, of seeing the mainstream media’s disconnection from common sense and observable reality on a great many issues. We were sick of the BBC, Robert Fisk, CBS, The New York Times, ITV, Dan Rather, The Guardian, CNN, all of them.

Glenn Reynolds created Instapundit and showed the way… and we followed (Samizdata was the UK’s second political blog, the first being the long vanished ‘Airstrip One’). Many more piled into the scrum, most now long extinct. Blogspot hosted most of the new online blurting initially, they were the blogosphere’s training wheels, even if most of us eventually moved elsewhere. We held blogger bashes, networked, and people got drunk and ended up with regrettable tattoos. I met Andrew Breitbart (truly amazing guy) and Arianna Huffington (um, yeah) and they were heady days, the wild west era of the opinionated internet. We had our own platform to say what we wanted to anyone who cared to listen (which back in the ‘golden age of blogging’ circa 2002-2008 was about 30,000 people a day for Samizdata, vastly more for Instapundit or Andrew Sullivan). We were social media before anyone called it social media.

But times move on.

Gradually the internet ecosphere changed, the cacophonous mosaic of a gazillion blogs were steadily overshadowed by bigger and taller things. In their place came walled gardens that commoditised the users in return for ‘free’ access, most prominently Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The very term ‘blog’ seems a bit archaic now, I tend to use the term ‘independent site’ these days. And independent sites like this one remain, as does Instapundit, but we are just part of a much bigger and far more managed internet, a fringe sitting on the edge of the new on-line mainstream media, which is what Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are, the new mainstream media with all that implies.

Heh, meet the new boss, same as the old boss; rolls of barbed wire are appearing atop the garden walls. With the internet rapidly becomes far more stage-managed and tightly controlled than I would have guessed possible almost twenty years ago, we are seeing a second wave of independent sites. And they are driven by the same discontent at the same MSM disconnect from reality that drove the first wave of new media post-9/11.

Excellent slick new operations like The CriticUnherdSpikedQuillette and others are rising to the occasion, with sites using a more ‘trad’ blog-like format also still popping up, like ExpunctLockdown Sceptics and others.

The weapons have changed a bit but battlefield looks pretty similar and the same war continues.

COVID19 update, November 2, 2020: opposition to lockdowns crosses political boundaries; interview with Swedish coronavirus czar Anders Tegnell

(1) Dr. John Campbell has an update on the COVID19 pandemic in Europe.

He talks not only about the dire situation in the UK and in Belgium (where hospitals are presently overloaded and in danger of being overwhelmed), but about the surprising success of “another island nation, Taiwan”. Sure, preparedness from the 2003 brush with SARS-CoV-1 played a role, but I suspect there is more to the Taiwan story (and the story of East Asian countries more generally) that meets the eye.

Apropos the UK, however, Prof. Tim Spector of the ZOE Covid symptom tracking project, while acknowledging COVID19 cases in the UK are steadily rising, denies that they are surging.

(2) It is received wisdom that opposition to lockdowns is a phenomenon of the libertarian right. Think again. Here is an interview with Prof. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University, one of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration and a staunch opponent of lockdowns. She openly describes herself as identifying with the far left, and points out that she disagrees with Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage on pretty much everything except their shared opposition to lockdowns (in her case, because she believes they cause more collateral mortality than they save direct COVID19 mortality). “This is an issue that transcends [traditional] politics.”

Note she does not say “do nothing”. She however says that instead of losing tons of money (and ruining livelihoods of many people) in lockdowns and having to spend even more money on relief payments, it would be better to have the economy running and spend the money on protecting the most vulnerable.

My own take? Once again, we see that the primary fault line in politics increasingly runs, not between traditional left and right, but between populists and transnational elitist “Brahmandarins”. The latter class are quite cool with months-long lockdowns because they can work from home just fine and lose no income , and in general believe in ruling and regulating the rest of us “for our own good” and “to protect us” (from things like stories in the New York Post that might make you vote against your “interest” ;)).

(3) Karen Donfried, President, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, here interviews Dr. Anders Tegnell, the Swedish chiefstate epidemiologist.

Among other things, he makes it clear that Sweden is not the straw man of “neglect” that lockdowners and lockdown skeptics alike make it out to be. Indeed, by various metrics, Swedes were socially distancing better than people in many countries that did have lockdowns. The main difference: they relied on dialogue and persuasion rather than coercion. (Plus an unspoken element always present in high-trust societies: peer pressure.) By way of non-COVID illustration, he mentions childhood vaccinations: you don’t get punished in Sweden if you don’t bring your children in, yet compliance rate is 98% (well in excess of even first-order herd immunity thresholds).

He acknowledges Sweden had a serious problem in care homes for the elderly (I have covered that repeatedly here) which led to a substantial percentage of 1st-wave mortality, and that after certain changes were implemented in care homes in may mortality there plummeted. Now, while other countries are battling the 2nd wave, Swedish COVID19 wards only have a few patients each, despite rising “cases”. He points out many of the new cases started after college started, in large part from extracurricular social activities. But in those age brackets, mortality of the disease is very, very low.

When asked how lower-trust societies like the USA can emulate this, Dr. Tegnell answers a diplomatic, subdued, Swedish version of “you know, you could try talking to your citizens as adults for a change and treating them as adults, rather than herd them around like sheep”.

COVID19 update, November 1, 2020: UK on 4-week lockdown; vitamin D, once more with feeling; Israel reopened 2nd stage; German spy chief warns against excessive dependence on China

(1) So UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced England is going into a 4-week lockdown.

I’m  afraid no responsible Prime Minister can ignore the message of those figures. When I told you two weeks ago that we were pursuing a local and a regional approach to tackling this virus, I believed then – and I still believe passionately – that was the right thing to do. Because we know the cost of these restrictions, the damage they do, the impact on jobs and on livelihoods and on people’s mental health. No one wants to be imposing these kind of measures anywhere. We didn’t want to be shutting businesses, pubs, restaurants in one part of the country where incidence is very low when the vast bulk of the infections were taking place elsewhere. And our hope was that by strong local action, strong local leadership, we could get the rates of infection down where the disease was surging and address the problem thereby across the whole country. I want to thank the millions of people who have been putting up with these restrictions in their areas for so long. I want to thank the local leaders who stepped up, and local communities. 

Because, as you can see from some of those charts, the R has been kept lower than it would otherwise have been. And there are signs that your work has been paying off and we will continue – as far as we possibly can – to adopt a pragmatic and a local approach in the months ahead.
‘We’re not going back to the full scale lockdown of March and April… But, I’m afraid, from Thursday, the basic message is the same: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.’

(2) Dr. John Campbell again hammers on a simple, cheap, and essentially risk-free intervention, now that the winter season is upon us:

I cannot resist plugging this paper once more: (1) Merzon, E.; Tworowski, D.; Gorohovski, A.; Vinker, S.; Golan Cohen, A.; Green, I.; Frenkel‐Morgenstern, M. Low Plasma 25(OH) Vitamin D Level Is Associated with Increased Risk of COVID‐19 Infection: An Israeli Population‐based Study. FEBS J. 2020287 (17), 3693–3702. http://doi.org/10.1111/febs.15495

I know for a fact that dietitians in my HMO (a competitor of the one whose data the study was based on) were told to advocate vitamin D supplements across the population, not just if the patient/client has low vitamin D levels in the blood or otherwise presents with deficiency symptoms.

(3) Israel reopened grades 1-4 of its schools today, plus synagogues (quorum of 10 people inside, outside prayers already allowed). One-on-one services such as hairdressing, driving lessons, and personal training are now also allowed. To the exasperation of many small business owners, small clothing, footwear,… businesses are still excluded (slated for reopening November 8 — stores selling food and household necessities were open all along). If you understand Hebrew, here is a sob story of a woman from the chareidi sector who is about to lose the jewelry store she built up from scratch with her own hands (on Kanfei Nesharim/Wings of Eagles street in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Shaul), had it be a lucrative business for 17 years (“it paid for the education and weddings of my eight children”). Now she’s on lockdown for over a month for the second time (in between, business was meager, as you can expect), she has used up her cash reserves, and both her business and home landlords are after her.

A different segment altogether, likewise in Hebrew, is how COVID19 will change the face of the synagogue. Don’t forget that the Hebrew name beit knesset (and its Greek translation, synagogue) literally means “house of assembly”: just how does that work in an era of social distancing? The Reform and Conservative movements (which in Israel are niche phenomena, with maybe 10K and 20K members, respectively) have in the main embraced distance prayer via Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms, but even in Orthodox circles, some voices are going up for permitting this on a “for the duration of the emergency” basis lest people lose touch with the synagogue and with Judaism. (Orthodox halachic authorities all agree that active use of electronic devices on the Sabbath and holidays is forbidden. And even on a weekday, can electronic presence be counted for the minyan/prayer quorum of ten? Questions, questions.) Against this, others stress the power of solitary prayer, and point out this crisis will be over one day.

(4) Tangentially COVID19 related: Germany’s former spy chief warns Angela Merkel “China is close to world domination”.

In an interview with the Times on Sunday, Mr Schindler detailed how Beijing approaches international relations, and sounded alarm for Europe over its reliance on China for exports.

He added: China is going about things very cleverly, very quietly, but all the same with an astonishingly consistent strategy, and it is a concern that we in Europe hardly notice this dominant behaviour.

“Our stance towards China has been dominated by business relations. We need to reconsider that. We are partly dependent on China, for example with our car industry.

“But you can’t ease this dependence by becoming more dependent; we should strive to be less dependent.”

He went on to point to Huawei as a major example of China’s influence, claiming the telecoms firm’s technology was so much more advanced than its European rivals Germany could no longer tell if “back doors” existed in its 5G network.

He added: “It’s as though an engineer specialised in steam engines were supposed to assess an internal combustion engine.

“If Huawei were to build [5G network components] we would have no idea what they were building.

“You can imagine where we are in a crisis and the threat ‘We’re going to turn your communication network off’ would influence our decisions.”

Sabbath delight: Herbie Hancock playing Jewish synagogue music?!

Yes, no kidding. The story of how this unusual collaboration between Herbie Hancock and rabbi’s son Jonathan Klein came about is told here:

And here is the actual album (recorded in a single 6-hour studio session):

Ron Carter – Bass; Phyllis Bryn-Julson – Contralto Vocals; Grady Tate – Drums; Jonathan Klein – French Horn, Saxophone [Baritone]; Herbie Hancock – Piano; Jerome Richardson – Flute, Saxophone [Alto, Tenor]; Antonia Lavanne – Soprano Vocals; Thad Jones – Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Rabbi David Davis – Voice [Reader], Other [Original Sleeve Notes]
Recorded in New York in 1968 and originally released on a private label.

Shabbat shalom

[hat tip: Mrs. Arbel]

COVID19 mini-update, October 29, 2020: Excess mortality; second lockdowns in Europe

(1) There is a lot of discussion whether the 220,000+ “official” COVID19 dead are an underestimate or an overestimate (due to counting “died with COVID19” as “died of COVID19”). What however cannot be fudged easily is the all-cause mortality in a given time period (say, a week, a month,…). Unless a country has a very rapidly growing or declining population, this can then be compared to the 5-year average of deaths in the corresponding weeks/months of the previous 5 years. In order to enable comparisons between countries, one can then express the difference as a percentage of average mortality, the P-value. Ourworldindata.org has great interactive graphs for this: let me include a static screenshot of one example below:

Click here for the original dynamic graph

What does this mean in absolute numbers for the USA?

The excess mortality is then the sum of the differences between the red and black lines. This actually will add up to more than the official number: the difference could be due to collateral mortality, e.g., as consequences of deferred care for the “Big Three killers”, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and cerebrovascular diseases. Or from “deaths of despair”. Indeed, if (as I suspect) the official COVID19 toll is highballed by about 30-50%, I would not rule out that collateral mortality rivals direct mortality.

(2) As Israel is gradually exiting a second lockdown, European countries are either instating them (France) or are about to (Belgium, Germany,…). Allister Heath in the Daily Telegraph tells British PM Boris Johnson this should not be done without a full cost-benefit analysis, and transparency to the public.

UPDATE from the increasingly slapdash Jerusalem Post:

The coronavirus cabinet met late into the night on Thursday [to discuss the 2nd stage of lockdown exit, starting this coming Sunday. It] approved opening classes for grades one through four, allowing one-on-one activities and services (driving lessons or personal training) to resume […] and for [hair] salons and bed and breakfasts to open. It also agreed to allow up to 10 people to pray in synagogues. […]  In addition, the ministers agreed to [compress] the nine-stage exit strategy originally outlined by the Health Ministry [in]to six stages […] presented earlier in the week by the National Security Council.

Small business owners took to the streets on Thursday as the cabinet convened, begging the government to allow them to operate. However, ultimately, the cabinet decided to push off opening street shops another week, until November 8, unless there was a significant drop in infection. 

COVID19 brief update, October 28, 2020: the devil is in the amplification cycle count; do flu shots also enhance COVID19 resilience?

(1) Twitter user ‘Black Swan Hunter’ [*] draws my attention to the following thread https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1320536482298384390.html in which Kevin McKernan discusses the “The Live-Dead qRT-PCR problem”, citing this paper (really a Note to the Editor) by Jaafar et al https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1491 which compares qRT-PCR test results with those of cell cultures—i.e., whether the sample can be used to grow a culture of the virus.

Basically, the said paper shows that beyond 35 or so amplification cycles (each representing a doubling), positive results are unlikely to represent viable virus particles — yet testing centers in many countries routinely run out to 40 cycles (i.e., a factor of 128 more). It is probably more precise to speak of “meaningless positives” than of “false positives”, but that is a distinction without much of a difference in public health terms. I believe it would be best to report not “positive” or “negative”, but the lowest cycle count at which a positive result is obtained — the lower the count, the more likely the patient will not just be infected but infectious, and the higher the count, the more likely it is just some dead RNA fragments.

(2) (Hat tip: littleoldlady). Does a flu shot improve your immunity for COVID19?!

Netea and his team also conducted a laboratory experiment that suggested how flu shots could prevent coronavirus infections. First, they purified blood cells taken from healthy individuals. Then they exposed some of the cells to the Vaxigrip Tetra flu vaccine, made by Sanofi Pasteur, and let the cells grow for six days. After that, the researchers exposed the cells to SARS-CoV-2 and analyzed them one day later.

The cells that had first been primed with the flu vaccine produced more of several kinds of virus-fighting immune molecules, known as cytokines, than did those that had not been exposed to the vaccine. Though such molecules can be detrimental when they are produced late in a patient’s course of COVID-19—inciting a so-called cytokine storm, which can damage many body organs—cytokines produced early in the infection process are helpful, Divangahi explains. They “get rid of the pathogen,” he says, making the infection milder.

It might seem far-fetched that a vaccine designed to protect against one infection could protect against others, too. But a growing body of research suggests that this does, in fact, occur through a process called “trained innate immunity.”

Read the whole thing.

(3) Researchers at U. of Arizona, building on work from U. of British Columbia in Vancouver, created a new test based on a saltwater gargle (which pretty much everybody tolerates well) rather than the unpleasant nasopharyngeal swab. Moreover, the test generates results in as little as 18 minutes and appears to be at least competitive with RT-PCR in accuracy.

[*] I stopped spending time on Twitter some years ago — Insta rightly calls it “the crack cocaine of social media” — my whole presence there consists of WordPress auto-tweeting new posts there. I however saw saw the notification when I clicked through from a thread elsewhere.

COVID19 quick updates, October 27, 2020: more on vitamin D; remdesivir skepticism; good news from Israel

(1) (hat tip: Jeff Duntemann). A Spanish study on vitamin D and COVID19 was just accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgaa733

In short: there is a very strong statistical link between COVID19 infection and vitamin D deficiency — but once it gets bad enough you’re in hospital, there is no significant difference in progress of the disease between deficient and non-deficient patients.

(2) Jeff also points to a post on climate skeptic website Watts Up With That, which completely takes apart the study supporting the effectiveness of remdesivir.

(3) Good news from Israel, where Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem was able to close down two of its four COVID19 wards. Severe cases nationwide have dropped to a bit over half the peak figure, and positivity rates in tests are now in the 2% range, down from 15% at the peak.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Prof. Ronni Gamzu will step down as COVID19 commissioner in November and be replaced by former IDF Surgeon-General Nachman Ash, who will start transitioning into his new role tomorrow. Gamzu was on leave of absence from his job as Director-General of Sourasky Medical Center (still known to Israelis by its old name Ichilov Hospital), and apparently had previously committed to returning on November 13.

Also, the Brilife vaccine developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research will start clinical trials next week.