Rosh HaShana reading: Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “The Lonely Man Of Faith”

Rabbi Dr. Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (below, JBS) was the acknowledged intellectual leader of American modern Orthodox Judaism. To his many disciples he was known simply as “The Rav” [the teacher, “the” rabbi] — but his influence reached beyond Orthodoxy (and indeed beyond Judaism) as well as beyond the USA.

A scion of an old and venerable dynasty of rabbis from “Brisk” — the Yiddish name for Brest-Litovsk — JBS remained a scrupulously Orthodox Jew all his life, but made the for his family unprecedented decision to pursue a doctorate in secular philosophy at [presently named the Humboldt-]University of Berlin, whence he graduated in 1932 with a thesis on the neo-Kantian philosopher Hermann Cohen. Interestingly, his Ph.D. co-advisor, Prof. Eugen Mittwoch, was himself an ordained rabbi as well as a secular professor and orientalist.

JBS then emigrated to the USA together with his father R’ Moshe Soloveitchik, who became rosh yeshiva (freely: dean of the rabbinical seminary) at Yeshiva College (presently Yeshiva University) in New York. In 1941 he succeeded his father, but would commute to teach while continuing to live in Boston. (He would also guest-lecture at Harvard.)

Halakhic Man (original title in Hebrew: Ish ha-Halakha) is probably his most famous work of religious philosophy translated into English. But another, shorter, work that left a deep impression on readers is The Lonely Man Of Faith, first published in the Jewish religious journal Tradition in 1965.[*] The full text in PDF format can be read and downloaded here.

The following passage from the introduction looks like it could be written today:

He starts off with the observation that the book of Bereishit/Genesis tells two, not one, creation stories for the first human.

In the first, with G-d referred to as “El-him” [the name associated in rabbinical tradition with the Divine attribute of justice] Adam is created “in the image of G-d”, and is mandated to “be fruitful and multiply, populate and conquer the Earth”. In the second, with G-d referred to by the pairing of El-him with the Ineffable Name YHVH [the name associated with the Divine attribute of mercy], Adam is created “from the dust of the Earth” and is placed in the Garden of Eden, “to serve it and to preserve it”.

The Rav reconciles these two seemingly divergent accounts as referring to two essential aspects of being human — both of them created and willed by G-d.

“Adam The First” (Adam I) is the majestic, material[istic], secular aspect, concerned with “how does the Universe function” and “how can I tame it?”. Adam I lives very much in the present, material world, builds utilitarian communities, and is not at all alone in society.

screencap from video by R’ Dr. Chaim Poupko

“Adam The Second” (Adam II) is the humble, spiritual, covenantal man: in JBS’s own words:

The relations that Adam II develops with G-d and with fellow humans are deep, emotional, spiritual.

These two together are what makes us human — each on its own could not. “To reject either would be tantamount to an act of disapproval of the Divine scheme of Creation.” (R’ Jonathan Sacks zt”l).

Below are two lectures further summarizing the ideas in the essay, one by Rabbi Dr. Chaim Poupko, the other by “the Rav”‘s own grandnephew (grandson of his brother), Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik.

Or go read the whole original essay — the Rav was an excellent writer as well as a brilliant Jewish scholar.

In conclusion, I cannot help thinking of these lines from my favorite poem in the English language:

Let knowledge grow from more to more
But more of reverence in us dwell
That mind and soul, according well
May make one music as before…
… but vaster.

(from: Alfred Tennyson, “IN MEMORIAM A.H.H.”)

Shana tova u-ktiva ve-chatima tova.

Have a wonderful year, and may you be sealed and signed in the Book of Life.

[*] A recent documentary about the Rav’s life calls him “The Lonely Man Of Faith” — as he clearly always went the Orthodox, yet intellectually fiercely independent road his mind dictated, in complete disregard of what was popular or fashionable. Amusingly, in the days he commuted from Boston to New York by plane, and knowing how difficult his last name would be for airline employees to deal with, he flew under the pseudonym “Joe Solo”.

Rosh HaShana day 2 musical delight: historical recording of Artur Schnabel playing Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106

Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) was the first pianist ever to record a complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas: they were recorded between 1932 and 1935 at “the” Abbey Road Studios in London.

They were first issued on 78 rpm gramophone records, and hence the sound quality is a bit problematic. But Schnabel was not just any pianist: he was a musical great-grandson of Beethoven himself, as his teacher Leschetitsky had been a student of Beethoven’s own pupil Carl Czerny. Hence, the ‘oral tradition’ of how Beethoven himself used to play his own works was handed down the generational chain to him.

The long, slow, reflective third movement, marked Adagio Sostenuto, is a particularly appropriate Beethoven moment for the holiday — it has long been one of my favorite moments in the entire piano literature. None other than Rachmaninoff referred to Schnabel as “the adagio pianist” (possibly because flashy technical-for-its-own-sake stuff, of the type Rachmaninoff ate for breakfast, was not really up Schnabel’s alley). I now realize where Wilhelm Kempff (whose complete Beethoven cycle, recorded in the 1950s for Deutsche Grammophon, is one of my longtime treasures) was inspired for his own breath-taking rendition of that movement.

00:00 Allegro; 8:56 Scherzo; 11:38 Adagio Sostenuto; 29:43 final movement

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life. Ktiva ve-chatima tova.

Rosh HaShana musical delight: Angela Hewitt concert featuring Bach, Mozart, Chopin

Angela Hewitt has been so associated with her Bach performances — some people call her “the female Glenn Gould” — that some people are unaware she actually has a very broad repertoire reaching from French Baroque composers like Couperin into the 20th Century. (So did, incidentally, her fellow Canadian Glenn Gould — although he was famously dismissive of Mozart, Chopin, and much of Beethoven, and his oldest repertoire was the English Orlando Gibbons and the Dutch Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck.)

In a very recent concert at Wigmore Hall in London, Ms. Hewitt shared some of that repertoire, and the foundation running the hall was kind enough to post a high-resolution video of the entire concert on YouTube.

Have a wonderful, sweet, and fulfilling Jewish New Year 5783!

Looking around, pre-Rosh HaShana edition: Russia-Ukraine, USA, Iran

(A) Looks like Vlad Puttanesca is “taking more direct control of the war” and is now organizing a shamferendum (sic) in Donetsk and Luhansk on these “independent republics” joining the Russian Federation.

Also, that the “partial mobilization” is actually causing more vocal opposition than the war itself. [cached copy: pending]

[quote]Most Russians […] may have prejudices with which the Kremlin’s propaganda resonates, but they are passive not active supporters.

And until now the Kremlin has done everything in its power to keep it that way. The structure of sociopolitical life in Russia is such that it actively and deliberately hinders political agency, both for the Kremlin as well as against. This is why the police carted off pro-war advocates during Wednesday’s anti-mobilisation protests as well as those against the draft. It is why the Kremlin busses in apparatchiks for rallies, rather than genuine supporters. And it is why the government, up until now, has been luring contractors to war with salaries up to seven times the local average rather than the promise of a civilisational crusade.

In a poll taken shortly before Putin’s draft announcement, 80 per cent of Russians opposed mobilisation, with those who will be drafted the softest core. Those who can are now fleeing, leading to steep price rises for flights out of Russia and long queues at the borders. For those without the means to run, it is unclear to what extent, if they weren’t already attracted by incredible salaries to slay ostensible Nazis, they will be effective or willing fighters.

This is why the decision to mobilise, in temporarily resolving an intra-elite threat, is certainly no silver bullet to the Russian army’s failures.

By contrast, it will likely decrease morale yet further, since military contractors, many of whom were said to be despondent and preparing to leave the army to cash in their cheques, now have to stay at the front indefinitely.

Forced mobilisation will also aggravate existing class and racial tensions within and beyond the army, as the rich can afford to leave or buy their way out of the draft. It will also fail to deal with the underpreparedness of Russian soldiers, especially since there is already evidence that the promised training to new recruits will not actually be delivered.

Finally, the way the mobilisation process is organised, granting governors considerable powers, will only exacerbate the morale-destroying corruption that has undermined the modernisation of the Russian army. [/quote]

All in the service of staving off the inevitable debacle. Hardcore nationalists have turned against Putin (not out of concern for Ukraine, but because he’s made a pig’s breakfast of the war) and now he has to appease them somehow — or risk being shunted aside as too soft.

[cached copy:]

The Kremlin’s nuclear doctrine basically reserves the right to use nukes in the event of an attack on Russian Federation territory. By incorporating Donetsk and Luhansk into the RF following the “decision of the people” (10-20% turnout, mostly coerced), he basically subjects Kiev to nuclear blackmail concerning these regions.

Ukraine has about a month, give or take, for more ground operations before the fall rasputitza (freely: mud season) will pin down both sides. I

(B) Insty, in his weekly NYPost op-ed, asks the same question I have been asking:

(C) Meanwhile, major protests are going on in Iran, with recently a general killed in a street battle (!)

[cached copy: ]

Count on the US to leave the protestors hanging dry when they need help the most, as BHOzo did in 2011.

Gad Saad will have Iranian refugee Patrick Bet-David on later: likely to be a good interview

It for sure has been quite the Jewish calendar year, and another “interesting” year is bound to follow. Out with the old year and its curses — in with the new year and its blessings.

I wish all, Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike,


A good, sweet, and blessed New Year and good health and all goodness

Then they came for “Dilbert”…; STEM academics defending the indefensible as ‘recalibration’

(a) So Scott Adams sees his strip “Dilbert” canceled by nearly 80 newspapers, which represents a serious hit.

Now Adams has been poking fun at corporate wokebaggery for many years, and has been a Trump supporter. The latter got his lecture invitations to dry up. So what is new?

Is it simply the “banana republic without bananas” kicking into higher gear?

Or is it that his latest target have become ESG (economic environmental and social governance) scores — which are big, big business for firms like Blackrock Capital?

My money is on… follow the money.

(b) Seemingly unrelated, the Powerline authors are mystified why what I will in code-speak call “trans-butadiene hair grooming” of young children — a policy that is deeply unpopular with the electorate — became a hill for the Brahmandarin Left to die on.

I’ve been mystified myself, and pondered many of the possibilities discussed in the comments:

  • living in an echo chamber and being out of touch with people outside their bubble?
  • war on objective reality: making people accept that “2+2=5” if the Gentry so desires?
  • preparing the ground for normalizing evils like child molestation?
  • pursuit of the “social justice revolution” by supporting anything that threatens the nuclear family?
  • “the fix is in”, i.e., no matter what people will vote, it only matters who ‘counts’ the votes?
  • SJWism needing a perpetual supply of “the oppressed”, so as formerly marginalized groups gain mainstream acceptance, they have to invent new ones?
  • Or… is this all a “laser pointer to a cat” to distract us from their real agenda?

Lots of supernatural reflection also in the comments. But commenter “99Monica” wonder if it’s simply that the hormone treatments and surgeries required are… big business? And a source of diversification (ahem) for Planned Parenthood as abortion is no longer a growth industry? And that the said big business is a major source of campaign donations?

My money is on a linear combination of all of the above.

(c) For shame. Scientists defend ‘cancel culture’ as ‘recalibration’, ‘consequences culture’.

The paper in question was written in response to the paper in the same journal by a longtime associate of these authors, who compared the intellectual atmosphere in today’s academia to what she remembered from the former USSR.

I used to wonder how the “Gleichschaltung” [literally: switching into line] of academic institutions in the Third Reich could have happened. Or, for that matter, the tragic destruction of geneticist Nikolai Vavilov (and, more broadly, of the science of genetics in the USSR) at the hands of the charlatan (and his onetime protégé) Trofim Lysenko.

“Used to” is the operative word.

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

(d) and this story puts me in mind of a quote from the French renaissance author François Rabelais (d. 1553), himself a physician in his day job:

Science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme.[*]

[Science without conscience is nothing but ruin of the soul.]

[*] Rabelais himself attributes the maxim to King Solomon: in his magnum opus The life of Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Mais parce que, selon le saige Salomon, Sapience n’entre poinct en âme malivole, et science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme, il te convient servir, aymer, et craindre Dieu, et en lui mettre toutes les pensées et tout ton espoir ; et par foi formée de charité , estre à lui adjoinct, en sorte que jamais n’en soys désemparé par péché.

[Translation: But because, according to the wise Solomon, wisdom is worth nothing in a malicious spirit, and knowledge/science without conscience is nothing but ruin of the soul, it befits thee to serve, love, and fear G-d, and to devote to Him all thoughts and all thy hope; and by faith borne of charity, be near to Him, in a manner that thou will never be lead astray by sin.]

Putin calls up reserves, “out of good exit paths”; tony LA suburb becomes open-air asylum; mentally ill man kills 18-year old for being Republican, crickets from Monkeypox Media

(A) So as things are going pear-shaped for Vlad the Invader, he is calling up 300,000 reservists. Note, this still isn’t “mobilization” which would require him admitting that the “special military operation” is actually a war.

Insty summarizes as follows:

THERE IS NO EXIT PATH FOR HIM THAT ISN’T BAD, SO HE’S PICKING THE SLOWEST: Putin Chooses Mobilization, Sham Referendum, Continuing Humiliation. “The Russians are now discovering that they’re actually outnumbered locally, and that with all the captured equipment, the Ukrainians actually now have more artillery and more ammo.”
Plus: “Part of the mobilization effort seems to be banning airline ticket sales for males between the ages of 18 and 65. That decree is every bit as popular as you would expect.”
So are they really trying to draft 65 year olds?

(B) Meanwhile, in the tony Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks:

Good grief. “Homeless” men defecating into plastic bags so they can throw the contents at you. And the “solution” is more “affordable housing” made available — which won’t be used, because mentally ill people think the problem is you for not being cool with them defecating in public.

And you wonder why Vlad the Invader thought the West was so decadent he’d only have to kick at the rotting door and it would collapse.

In the wake of the discovery of the first effective antidepressants and antipsychotics, deinstitutionalization came about through the strange bedfellowship (I prefer the Dutch term “monsterverbond”, literally ‘monstrous alliance’) of the liberal left (concerned for mental patients’ rights) and the libertarian right (who saw a huge cost cut from medicating mental patients and mainstreaming them into society). Alas, one cannot force a mentally ill person to take their medication…

(C) And speaking of mental illness, man admits killing somebody in hit-and-run because he was ‘a dangerous Republican’.

Yes, I know, the criminally insane will always be with us. But if the entire mediatainment complex ceaselessly floods the zone with demonization of a group — be it “da Juice”, “les franc-maçons”, or “MAGA Republicans” — don’t be surprised when they become the target.

(D) and as we see every single election, the US Olympic synchronized turntabling team, a.k.a. The MSM, declare the current GOP star worse than the previous one, who suddenly becomes reasonable in comparison. So after years of going DJ Lethal on their Orange Man Bad vinyls, now it’s the turn of Ron DeSantis. How predictable, and how utterly pathetic. I’m reminded of the bad Dutch joke about the guy explaining why he’s worried about his parents’ reaction: not that his girlfriend’s brother is a drug dealer and her mother the ‘madam’ of a brothel, and her father a convicted burglar… but that she is Belgian. I’d replace the latter by “but that she works for the US mainstream media”.

SPECIAL BONUS: well, isn’t that precious:

Apparently, the laws on those matters only apply to politicians the machine dislikes. How… Putinesque

ADDENDUM: I’ve been wondering about this as well:

Autumn equinox edition: So which clown is running the WH clown show?

So right after F. Joe Biden said twice that “the pandemic is over”, WH officials rushed in to explain that “White House policy has not changed”.

Other officials like Surgeon General Vivek Murthy contradicted Biden. He tried to claim that Biden meant they’d made tremendous “progress.”

See also

Whoever is in charge at 1600 Penn, it isn’t “Brandon”.

“He is not in charge,” tweeted The Spectator contributing editor Stephen Miller, who also shared an image of the CNN headline that read, “White House says Covid-19 policy unchanged despite Biden’s comments that the ‘pandemic is over.’”

In subsequent tweets, Miller added, “It wasn’t a gaffe. It wasn’t a slip. He said it pretty definitely twice. In the same interview he dared anyone who questioned his mental fitness. Here’s the example. Right here.”

“Biden reportedly complains that he looks weak. This is why. His own administration undercuts him every time he opens his mouth,” he wrote, and then asked, “Is he in charge or not?” [….]

“Like clockwork. Biden’s handlers are out in force,” commented Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. [….]

“Hint: it will never be ‘over.’ they gained too much from lockdowns, mandates, and wealth transfer. They permanently reorganized the country over a virus. You think they would give that up voluntarily? It’s not going away,” tweeted conservative commentator Logan Hall.

Radio host Derek Hunter mocked Biden, writing, “Didn’t Joe say something about just watch him when asked whether or not he has the mental abilities to be President? One interview, at least two walk-backs by staff (so far). #WatchMe”

Abigail Marone, the press secretary for Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asked, “Who exactly is running the country here?”

Jim Treacher:

Did you get that? The president of the United States doesn’t speak for the White House. Biden is not in charge of the Biden administration. 

So… who is? 

Who’s running the show? It sure isn’t Kamala. And Jill — excuse me, Doctor Jill — is just barely more lucid than her husband. Who’s the boss of that house? Ron Klain? Susan Rice? Ex-PFC Wintergreen? What the hell is going on?

My money is on the 3rd term of BHOzo.

source link


(b) Harsh but fair:

I’ve gotten many earfuls back in the day from legal immigrants — highly qualified profssionals — who resented being made to jump through umpteen hoops because they played by the rules. I can only imagine what it is now.

(c) And Don “the” Lemon starts derping about the UK Royal Family paying reparations for slavery — and gets his derrière handed to him

“Well, I think you’re right about reparations in terms of if people want it, though, what they need to do is you always need to go back to the beginning of a supply chain,” Fordwich replied. “Where was the beginning of the supply chain? That was in Africa, and when it crossed the entire world, when slavery was taking place, which was the first nation in the world that abolished slavery? The first nation world to abolish it, it was started by William Wilberforce, was the British. In Great Britain, they abolished slavery.”

She continued, “Two thousand naval men died on the high seas trying to stop slavery. Why? Because the African kings were rounding up their own people, they had them on cages waiting in the beaches. No one was running into Africa to get them. And I think you’re totally right.”

The look on Lemon’s face was priceless. Fordwich succeeded in agreeing with him, although for different reasons than he was obviously suggesting. And she wasn’t done with the lesson.

“If reparations need to be paid, we need to go right back to the beginning of that supply chain and say, ‘Who was rounding up their own people and having them handcuffed in cages?’ Absolutely. That’s where they should start. And maybe, I don’t know, the descendants of those families where they died at the, in the high seas trying to stop the slavery, that those families should receive something too, I think, at the same time.”

(d) Insty at his pithiest:


More about the “gentry class” bit later, perhaps — gotta run to work now. Have a nice day!

Biden declares “pandemic over”; “addresses” concerns about unfitness for office; masgramondou on recent Ukraine developments; burn of the day

(a) So F. Joe Biden declared the pandemic “over”, and his advisors are not happy.

Read: even addle-brained Biden understands it’s no longer politically useful in the sense of a bogey-man to scare people into accepting massive ballot-stuffing-by-mail that would help the antiDemocrats stave off electoral disaster in the midterms; but some of his advisors still hope to make hay out of COVID restrictions.

Leaving FJB aside, one of my colleagues just got COVID (from his kids) and a bunch of another department caught it at a retreat, so it’s not “gone” — but at this point in the omicron BA.5 era, it’s gone from a public health scare to a nuisance. All of us at Casa Arbel have had omicron by now: Mrs. Arbel and me mild cases last March and July respectively, our daughter (paradoxically, as she’s something of a physical fitness fanatic) a nastier case that had her in bed for a week with high fever (versus two days and mild fever for us).

(b) Oh my word:

 Jim Treacher comments: “As Biden told us, the proof is in the pudding. Unfortunately for America, that pudding is between his ears.”

(c) “masgramondou” summarizes recent Ukraine developments in detail. Go read the whole thing. A few quick takeaways:

  • whatever you’ve read about the shambolic state of the Russian army, the reality is worse, if anything
  • right now, the biggest unintended supply of military hardware to Ukraine is Russia, as Russian soldiers running away leave behind Russian tanks in sort-of running condition that the Ukrainians don’t have to learn how to use (as they would with Western-supplied armor)
  • cheap drones are effective for Ukraine through sheer numbers — Russia can’t shoot them all down
  • an interesting idea for Germany, if it doesn’t want to get its hands sullied by too much weaponry: it could assist in rebuilding the infrastructure of the reconquered towns — something it has fairly unique expertise in

The most disturbing read is where he argues that some European powers that be, even as they loudly profess their support for Ukraine, don’t want it to actually win, but prefer a drawn-out stalemate.

Talking of Germany and (lack of) support for Ukraine, this Bloomberg article(archive) makes me wonder to what extent even Ukraine’s cheerleaders in the West actually want it to win. Various twitterati (such as Trent Telenko, but he’s far from alone) have suggested that the industrial leaders of Germany and perhaps France would prefer it if Ukraine’s industrial capacity remained broken because it threatens their own enterprises. The Bloomberg article points out that the US might not want Ukraine to actually win because a win might lead to instability in Russia and tactical nukes etc. The Germans/Europeans may not want Ukraine to win because they may fear a resurgent Ukrainian engineering  and manufacturing industry that can compete with German/European industry at a technical level while being extremely competitive on price.

Putting this together cynically makes me think that what a lot of people may have wanted is for a Ukraine to keep Russia occupied while not actually winning. A European version of Afghanistan if you like. I can certainly see a lot of the “Realpolitik” sorts in various foreign ministries, state departments and so on not wanting to face the likely geopolitical upsets that a Ukrainian victory will probably produce. There is some justification for this. After all the collapses of totalitarian regimes in other places (Iraq, Syria, Libya to pick three) have led to mostly failed states (see also Somalia and Afghanistan come to think of it) and a failed state with nukes is not a thing to make anyone happy. But…. it isn’t clear to me that the alternatives are any better.

Keeping Putin or a corruptocrat leader similar to him at the top is only asking for a repeat of the current mess. “Short, victorious wars” are tempting to leaders of all sorts of stripes and a Russia that is forced to give up most or all of its Ukrainian territories is likely to try and flex its muscles somewhere else just to prove that it isn’t a paper bear. So that’s not good. I don’t think anyone expects Russia to suddenly evolve into a real democracy with respect for the law, lack of corruption etc. etc. so we’re stuck with dicatorial power of one sort or another. A corruptocrat is at least unlikely to make Russia an effective military power so the mischief he can cause is limited – particularly if one assumes that Europe learns its lesson and finds other sources of energy. On the other hand a strongman who manages to stamp out the worst corruption would be a bigger threat because Russia is resource rich and thus, if competently managed, could finance a powerful well-equipped military that uses war-fighting technology designed and manufactured in Russia.[…]

So letting Russia get some kind of face-saving deal doesn’t seem like a real bargain. Plus, given what we are learning about Russia’s mistreatment of Ukrainian civilians, it seems unlikely that Ukraine would accept such a deal except to take a breather while it arms up more and then invades.

Therefore I think the politicians, bureaucrats and business-people who want a managed, face-saving peace deal are misguided and, almost certainly SOL. What they will discover, however, is that Ukraine will remember who they are and take their sliminess in mind when looking at a post-war future.

(d) but the prize for the “sickest burn of the day” goes to Mark Hemingway, husband of Mollie Ziegler Hemingway whose work I’ve featured here often.

“When Republican governors send 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, it’s a humanitarian crisis. When 51 migrants who were encouraged to cross the border by Democrats die in the back of a truck, well, that’s a statistic.” [*]

Related, Vodkapundit at Insty’s snarks: NOT OUR KIND, DEAR: Martha’s Vineyard Residents Claim They Don’t Have Room for Immigrants, but Airbnb and Say Differently.

Seen on FB. Ouch

[*] The supposed Stalin [y”sh] quote “One death is a tragedy, a million dead are a statistic” appears to be a misattribution.

This quotation may originate from “Französischer Witz” (1925) by [German-Jewish satirist — Ed.]  Kurt Tucholsky: “Darauf sagt ein Diplomat vom Quai d’Orsay: «Der Krieg? Ich kann das nicht so schrecklich finden! Der Tod eines Menschen: das ist eine Katastrophe. Hunderttausend Tote: das ist eine Statistik!»” (“To which a Quai d’Orsay diplomat replies: «The war? I can’t find it so terrible! The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!»”)


“Russian Army started war in Ukraine as the second strongest military in the world. Six months later it is the the [sic] second strongest military in Ukraine.” (Misha Firer on Quora)

ADDENDUM 2: In the Spectator:

Why ordinary people cannot enter the arts world.

[…]The problem is not that [actors and artists] hold opinions and express those opinions, but that their opinions are all exactly the same. They fall in the acceptable range which stretches all the way from affable centre-left (e.g. Midsomer Murders’ affable DCI Barnaby Neil Dudgeon, whose Twitter feed confirms he remains rather upset about Brexit) to full-on moonstruck ‘Israel was behind George Floyd’ conspiracy theorising Corbynite (Maxine Peake). 

[…]Maxine Peake[‘s] bizarre outburst about Floyd saw a couple of days’ kerfuffle, an apology that was accepted immediately, all forgotten and back she went to her glittering career. James Dreyfus and Frances Barber are denounced and harassed continually and have lost work – despite their impeccable liberal credentials – for daring to voice opinions which are now called ‘gender critical’ and which were until c.2015 known as the bleeding obvious. 

This happens across the cultural sphere. We live in a world where Ricky Gervais and JK Rowling are, to everyone’s surprise, not least their own, ‘right-wing’. The supposed rule breakers such as Frankie Boyle, Nish Kumar and Stewart Lee are crushingly orthodox. Roger Waters has a portfolio of crankery going back decades but remains unbesmirched, whereas a single tweet from Winston Marshall saw him exiled from polite society. […]

This is the function such outbursts as Henshall’s and Sheen’s serves, I think. It is a kind of territorial display, like a cat urinating. They signal that it is inconceivable for a person with ordinary, widely held opinions to enter the arts world. It is for The Good People with the correct thoughts, however bizarre or outlandish. Anybody else: back off! If you work in the arts and think the wrong thoughts, better keep quiet. 

It’s no wonder that the mass cultural output of the last decade has been, with a few shining exceptions, so terrible. The disconnection between creatives and audience, always present, has widened to a chasm. And barmy actors mouthing off are a reminder that it’s going to stay that way.

Just because: Focus, “Hocus Pocus” live (1973)

This live performance on NBC’s Midnight Special is even more “controlled insanity” than the original. The program wanted them to play their current hit, but only gave them 4:30 — so they had to either trim a few sections out or drastically speed up the tempo.

They chose the latter, having the musical chops to pull it off.

Enjoy the madness of fusion jazz guitarist Jan Akkerman, drummer Pierre van der Linden [*] and keyboardist/flautist/yodeler Thijs Van Leer!

[*] “achterneef” (first cousin once removed) of Ekseption keyboardist Rick van der Linden

Here, there, everywhere: Baghdad Bob Biden; Germany nationalizing Russian-owned refineries; the Age of Unreason; censorship to protect the narrative

(a) A few goodies from the Sunday edition of the Daily Telegraph:

(b) Circulating on FB:

(c) RealClearPolitics: on inflation and immigration, Biden has entered Baghdad Bob territory

(d) (via Instapundit) why exactly did Blogger (owned by Alphabet, a.k.a. the Google piovra) unpublish/censor a decade-old blog post about the hostility of National Socialism to any form of Christianity it could not “domesticate”/”coopt”? Is it going to censor works of mainstream historians that argue the exact same thing?

Speaking of which, I ought to blog about this myself, particularly about the split in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (between a state-supporting and a “Confessing Church”). Or about the protests led by the (Catholic) Bishop of Münster against the T4 mass “euthanasia” program — which led to the program being publicly suspended! (It sadly continued on the sly.) Or about the incarceration of thousands of Polish clergy … You get the idea.

(e) and in local news, a sinkhole suddenly opened across two southbound lanes of the Ayalon Highway, not far from Casa Arbel. Mrs. Arbel immediately wondered if construction work for our (mostly) underground light rail was to blame.

Sabbath musical delight: Edward Elgar, Enigma Variations, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

The English late-Romantic composer Edward Elgar was improvising one night in 1898, and as a melody that came up caught his wife’s attention, the idea came up to write a set of variations on it, in different styles that would each characterize one of his close friends and relatives.

This was the starting point of the orchestral work that was published the next year as the “Enigma Variations”, dedicated “to my friends pictured within”.

One of these friends was his German-born publisher Augustus Jaeger. As the surname means “Hunter” in German (in fact, the family would anglicize their surname thus after WW I), Elgar named the 8th variation “Nimrod”, after the Biblical hunter of renown.

I have no idea what Jaeger was like as a person, but Nimrod pictures him as a stately, grand, yet restrained individual. The variation reminds me a bit of the 2nd section of Bach’s Prelude in Eb major from Book I of the WTC — and not just because they are in the same key. Alternatively, if you transpose it to Ab major, the melody reminds one a bit of the middle movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique. (Was this Elgar’s way to indicate his friend’s German origins?)

When I first heard the piece and immediately took a liking to it, I had no idea that it is often played at British funerals, presumably in a “here’s to a life well lived” fashion. (It is also performed at the annual National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Whitehall — which takes place on Remembrance Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of November [i.e., the Sunday nearest to November 11].)

The English Symphony orchestra, on their YT channel, dedicated this performance to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

And here is a performance of the entire set of variations by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

Have a great weekend and Shabbat shalom.

Schadenfreude as TX and FL governors bus illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard and Klueless Kackling Kamala’s doorstep; Gad Saad interviews NYPost’s Karol Markowicz; Insty on why Congress has neither the power to “guarantee” nor “limit” abortion

(a) I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning. Powerline:

[…] when I saw the headline that Gov. Ron De Santis had flown two planeloads of illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, and that Gov. Abbott had dropped off two busloads of illegal immigrants out front of Kamala “The-Border-Is-Secure” Harris’s residence, I thought sure this had to be another madcap satire of the Babylon Bee. But no, this actually happened.

Finally—Republicans are learning how to fight, and we’ve seen the sanctimony of “sanctuary cities” revealed for what it is. More of this please. I’ve been saying for years that southern border states should send busloads of illegal immigrants to Marin County, Evanston, Westchester, Montgomery County, Bucks County, Malibu, Boulder, Cambridge, etc. Hopefully this is only the beginning, and the pace of these resettlements to affluent blue enclaves will increase. After all, isn’t Vice President Harris in favor of busing?

(b) Great discussion between Prof. Gad Saad and NYPost columnist Karol Markowicz.

(c) So in response to the criminally insane attempts by the antiDemocrat party to ram through federalized at-will abortion until birth, the GOP’s Lindsey Graham introduced a competing bill placing a cap of 16 weeks on elective abortion. The latter bill is actually more permissive than most European countries, which generally place the cutoff at 12 weeks. Many people regard it as a step toward the broad center.

But Insty, who is after all a brilliant law professor, argues fairly persuasively that both bills are unconstitutional, since regulating abortion is not part of the enumerated powers of the federal government. (If the fetus were a citizen, it would be different.) Instead, each state of the Union should regulate abortion on its own as it sees fit — which is the situation that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision effectively affirmed. (One has to be either a fool, or intellectually dishonest, or both to claim that Dobbs “took away the right to abortion”.[*])

But what about the “commerce clause”, you say? Yes, the Constitution gives Congress a broad power to regulate “interstate commerce”. Insty explains:

Ever since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal — or, more accurately, ever since FDR threatened to pack the Supreme Court for striking down his New Deal proposals — the high court has given Congress wide latitude in regulating what has come to be called “interstate commerce.”

As recently as the 1990s, the argument that the commerce clause would authorize an abortion ban as a regulation of commerce “among the several states” would have had some force — since most saw the clause as authorizing Congress to do pretty much anything it chose. Yet even then, many federalists and some Republican officials were criticizing such a reading as far too broad.

But since that time, the Supreme Court has agreed, holding repeatedly that Congress’ power under the commerce clause extends only to, well, the regulation of commerce.[…]

Abortion isn’t interstate commerce, as it takes place entirely in one state, and regulation of medical procedures is traditionally the domain of the states, not the federal government.

It’s possible to argue otherwise — as I tell my law students, for a sufficient fee, it’s possible to argue almost anything — but such arguments aren’t compelling and are unlikely to convince the current Supreme Court.

Graham’s bill is not only unconstitutional — it’s also dumb. The great political appeal of Dobbs is that it allows the states to go their own way. A national abortion law does the opposite. (And of course, it’s all posturing anyway since the bill has no chance of passing a Democratic-controlled House and Senate.)

Put it down to election-year posturing, but I don’t think Graham’s bill will do much for Republicans or for the Constitution. Let the battle over abortion rights move to the states, where under the Constitution it belongs.

(d) The 8th Amendment outlaws “cruel and unusual punishment”. I have always contended that the punishment has to be both cruel and unusual to be outlawed. Here is a great argument why the pillory and bastinado should not be unusual:   Facebook spied on private messages of Americans who questioned 2020 election.

ADDENDUM: “Just as quickly as they arrived, the Martha’s Vineyard immigrants have been politely kicked off the island by the inclusive-and-tolerant rich white liberals

[*] I will spare you my reflections on whether the parents of certain antiDemocrat politicians should have has easier access to abortion.

Looking around: Russian hawks turning on Kremlin?; Looming rail transport strike in US; crime wave in Sweden causes electoral upset; remembering Battle of Britain Day

(a) Lots of updates at Battleswarm Blog on the situation in Ukraine. This looks like a complete rout. An Ukrainian[-Jewish] friend of mine, who recently brought her family to Israel, was worried this was all a feint to distract from a major offensive in the South. While massive sacrifices of cannon fodder for strategic deception did occur on the Eastern Front in WW II, this looks like something else.

Two new phenomena:

  • the Kremlin openly admitting a setback in Kharkiv, though of course it is blamed on the military leadership rather than on the low-rent vozhd who got them into this fustercluck in the first place
  • hardcore Russian nationalists questioning the handling of the “special military operation” and indeed the operation itself?

(b) The Biden clown show keeps bumbling from one disaster to the next. Now it’s the freight railway workers threatening a general strike. (For those unfamiliar: while passenger rail isn’t anywhere as big a thing in the US as in European countries, cargo rail is massive — about 30% of all commercial goods transportation in the US.)

A bipartisan effort to stop it was blocked by “Wicked Uncle Bernie” Sanders. If it takes place starting Friday, it is expected to cost the US economy US$2 billion/day, Tim Pool points out. Sadly, that’s almost a rounding error compared to the economic damage wreaked by the puppet at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and and his puppeteers.

And need I ask where in the world is the failed mayor of a midsize town who fell upward to “Transportation Secretary”? I have my theories, but they are not suitable for a somewhat family-friendly blog.

Senate minority leader Mitch “Murder Turtle” McConnell predictably is having a field day. But I agree with Insty that

Brutal swipes are nice, but something more . . . lasting is essential. These morons are doing serious lasting harm to America, and need to be stopped.

(c) Meanwhile in Sweden, a rising crime wave and the unwillingness of the Brahmandarinate to deal with it, for fear of ruffling some feathers, caused an upheaval at the polls: the left-wing PM conceded defeat, and the “far right” Sweden Democrats are now the second party in parliament.

The story is that a Swedish prosecutor successfully convicted a migrant (hailing from the Third World) for raping a Swedish twelve year old. A sentence of confinement was imposed by the court. The judge asked the prosecutor to make a recommendation in regard to whether the defendant should be deported after the period of confinement ends.

The prosecutor made a recommendation against deportation.

The prosecutor reasoned that the defendant was unlikely to be rehabilitated by confinement, and therefore, the defendant was likely to commit the same crime again. The prosecutor’s position was that whether the defendant goes on to rape a Swede (or a non-Swede in Sweden) or someone in the defendant’s own home country should not be considered because the health, safety, and lives of all potential future victims should be valued equally. And equality is a value upon which we all do or should agree.

Did the prosecutor act rightly or wrongly?

Insty comments:

Wrongly, of course, because the prosecutor owes a special duty to protect his/her own constituents. But our Western ruling class doesn’t like that idea, because owing duties limits its freedom to do what it wants.

Emphasis mine. Two relevant quotes from chaza”l [the Jewish sages of blessed memory]:

  • ani’ei irekha kodmim — the poor of your [own] city take precedence [over those of others]
  • kol ha-merakhem al ha-akhzarim, sofo le-hitakhzer al ha-rakhmanim — whoever is merciful to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful

(d) Today is September 15, or Battle of Britain Day. In honor of the day, here are the final three minutes of the eponymous movie.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” (Winston Churchill, in a speech to the House of Commons, August 20, 1940)

Dispatches from the coulroverse (=clown universe), USA edition

Call it the “Crazy Years” of Robert A. Heinlein’s future history — but like Sarah Hoyt, I’m convinced we are living in an alternate reality which she calls Clown World and I’ve dubbed the Coulroverse (from Greek koulros=clown).

In today’s dispatch:

(a) Hard to beat the optics of this image: F. Joe Biden trumpets how he beat inflation as the chyron shows the DJIA is taking nearly 1,300 points on a single day.

(b) And while the anilinguist PravdaMedia is claiming the terrible inflation figures aren’t as bad as expected (speak of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear), their own employees are protesting return to the office 3 days per week, citing escalating fuel and food costs.

[…] while busy working to spin the bad figures as much as possible, at the same time the paper was dealing with strife with its workforce. There is a protracted labor dispute with the various unions at the Times, and as a result, when this week’s scheduled in-person return was to take place a significant number of those persons balked. Reports are that over 1,300 Times employees declared they would not be returning to the cubical farms.

Are you ready for the reason? Inflation.

The very impact that so many of us are contending with on a regular basis while being told it is not as bad as we experience, is said to be unsustainable for those people attempting to persuade us on the conditions. 

“People are livid,” Tom Coffey told The Post. A 25-year veteran editor at the NYT, he works on the news desk and serves on the union’s Contract Action Committee. He added that being forced to return to the office during a period of high inflation means workers will have to spend more money on gas, mass transit, clothing and lunches, despite the lack of salary increases.

Living in the gaslight approaches the unreal.

Bonus points to the writer for the lyrical reference to one of my all-time favorite Rush songs, “Limelight“.

(c) Department of Banana Republic Without Bananas? FBI raided MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — actually tracked him down on vacation, then seized his phone.

Via Facebook:

(d) The academic emperor is naked and fapping?

Dearborn University Provost Drives Naked While [Abusing Himself]: Police

The car radio was presumably playing the “Five Against One Blues”, or otherwise “Pump Up The Jam”.

But seriously: he was only taking to the physical level what he does all day intellectually. I saw the rot when I was still in US academia, and it’s only been amped up to 11 since.

(e) Harsh but fair:

No, you aren’t.

ADDENDUM: railway strike looming, Transportation Secretary AWOL.

Dudes. You can’t work around this. There aren’t enough planes, not enough pilots, not enough drivers and trucks on this earth to move a fraction of the rail freight, and the diesel demand alone would crash the fuel supply in this country. Speaking of which, Biden geniuses, have you checked that Strategic Petroleum Reserve you keep raiding lately? YOU. MIGHT. WANT. TO.

…The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) fell 8.4 million barrels to 434.1 million barrels last week, the lowest since October 1984, according to government data on Monday.

The United States may begin refilling the SPR when crude prices fall below $80 per barrel, a Bloomberg reporter said on Twitter.

(Remember when Chuck Schumer bragged about stomping Trump’s plan to fill it at $25 bbl? Good times, good times.)

Rock, hard place and an administration peopled with incompetent ideologues, chosen for the diversity boxes they check, vice the skills and knowledge they bring to the cabinet position they are plopped into. They can’t hashtag their way out of this, and the best hope is a settlement. If not, then this feckless Congress stepping in and forcing them to work would be next, but, as Barron’s says, the cost is already baked in. The question is whether it’s just raises and better working schedules, or an arm, leg, three quarts of blood, and catastrophe. With these boobs in charge.

Russian rout in progress, deputies calling for Putin ouster; hilarious scene as leftist calls cops on PragerU activists; defamation of a family business defended as academic freedom; Jen Psaki now “fact-checker” in risible MSM move; does the coulroverse exist?

(A) The situation in Ukraine seems to be so fluid that nobody can keep up anymore. Masgramondou tries;so does Vodkapundit and Battleswarm blog.

Summarizing: Russian troops in the Kharkov/Kharkiv area are running away, leaving equipment behind, Ukrainian forces are alleged to be operating within Russian Federation territory (Masgramondou can see this happening for at least a small marauding force pursuing fleeing Russian troops), rocket strikes seem to be happening on Russian bases inside Russian territory, and a (so far smallish) group of Russian deputies to the Duma (=parliament) are calling for Putin’s ouster.

(B) Hilarious scene here where some leftie activist calls the police on two PragerU activists for “spreading misinformation” on campus and thus “threatening” him. To my pleasant surprise, the cops school him on freedom of speech.

I honestly cannot tell if this is a staged event or the leftie is that crazy. We have for some time entered Poe’s Law territory, where you can’t tell the difference anymore between unhinged radicals and parody by the opposing side — like with the “cake gender: light, airy, and fluffy” activist Sky News Australia’s Rita Panahi was making fun of.

(C) meanwhile, having lost all legal appeals of its defamation conviction against the Gibson Bakery, Oberlin College started paying up damages — while claiming that it was exercising its academic freedom.

And you wonder why some college professors, when asked by people in the community what they do for a living, dissemble and answer “electrician” or “Linux sysadmin” because they are ashamed of the actual industry they work in. Yes, I’ve been known to do so while I still lived in the USA. (Israeli academia is not that far gone yet. There’s something to be said for Samuel Johnson’s observation about the mind-concentrating effects of the knowledge one’s life is not secure from a man-made ending — a reality all Israelis sadly live with, except perhaps the most deluded lunatics or the Haaretz editorial board, BIRM.)

(D) and just when you think the collusion between the antiDemocrat party and the MSM couldn’t become more risible, Jen Psaki joins MSNBC as an über-fact checker of sorts. That’s like asking a Flemish pig farmer to become a kashrut inspector at a kosher restaurant. (Though a more appropriate comparison might be with the digestive products excreted by the farmer’s pigs.)

ADDENDUM: Sarah Hoyt has wondered aloud if we are living in Clown World. But what if this really is the Coulroverse? Maybe I ought to rename this blog “Coulroverse chronicles”? 😉

Signal boost: Insty on 9/11 anniversary

quoting below in full:

SO NOW IT’S THE 21st ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11. Back then, InstaPundit was shiny and new. Now it’s not (and neither am I!), and for years people have been warning of “blogger burnout.” But I’m still here. On prior 9/11 anniversaries, I’ve given shooting lessons to a Marine, I’ve taken the day off from blogging, and I’ve even gone to a Tea Party with Andrew Breitbart.

At this late date, I don’t have anything new to say on 9/11. Most of my law students don’t even remember it. My worries about the growth of a monstrous and ineffective internal security bureaucracy certainly bore fruit, alas.

The picture above is by my cousin-in-law Brad Rubenstein, taken from his apartment that day. You might also want to read this piece by James Lileks.

And here’s a passage from Lee Harris’s Civilization And Its Enemies.

Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe.

They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the Enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish.

They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the Enemy. And that, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the Enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn’t done enough for — yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part — something that we could correct. And this means that that our first task is that we must try to grasp what the concept of the Enemy really means.

The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason — it is his reason, and not ours.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating today.

One thing I guess I didn’t believe 21 years ago is that America would elect such a feckless President in 2008, and stand idly by while he flushed our global position, and security, down a left-wing toilet. But we did — and then we did it again in 2020 — and we’ll be paying the price for a long time. 

We said “never forget.” Well, we haven’t forgotten the heroism of people like Rick Rescorla, the Flight 93 passengers, the firefighters who charged up the WTC stairs, or the volunteers who set up the American Dunkirk evacuation of lower Manhattan by boat. 

But we have forgotten the criminal negligence of our political leaders and intelligence services that got us to that point. We should have purged the incompetents then. Instead, they’re still running the show. The country is still sound, but the people in charge of it have only gotten worse.

God bless America. We need it.

I don’t mean this to sound gloomy. But Americans consistently shrink from the realities of both international and domestic politics and that’s not good. I think the coming decade will be a dose of reality, for better and for worse.

420Posted at 8:46 am by Glenn Reynolds  

Sabbath musical delight: the “bright sunshine after the rain” of a Picardy third

I was listening to a video by a composer I’d never heard of on a channel called “Gamma1734” — the piano piece was in B minor but ended on a B major chord, IIRC.

Somebody commented on how “hopeful” this ending was. In fact, this so-called “Picardy third”, i.e., ending a piece in a minor key on a major triad, used to be the norm in Western classical music.

As 19th century scientist and musicologist Hermann Helmholtz explains in his “On the Perceptions of Tome” (available in Dover paperback, like many classic science texts) the minor third was still perceived as more dissonant than the major third, and hence it was not considered acceptable to end a piece on it. The change in attitudes “coincidentally” happened in the same time frame as the gradual adoption of 12-tone equal temperament. (All thirds are slightly out of tune in ET12, major no less than minor. This has likely hardened listeners’ ears to mild dissonance.)

One can see an evolution in the music of J. S. Bach. In Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier, all but one (IIRC) minor-key movements end on a Picardy third. In Book Two, finished two decades later in the early 1740s, Bach used minor ending chords freely. Some of Bach’s great works for organ in minor keys end the prelude on a minor chord, but the concluding fugue on a Picardy third.

By the time of Mozart, the Picardy third was no longer a style convention — from then on, perhaps, started its deliberate use as an ‘uplifting’ device at the end of a somber, moody piece. One even encounters it in pop music today (Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly”, in F minor but the chorus end on an F major chord; The Beatles’s “A Day In The Life”, in a mix of G major and its relative minor E, ends on a massive E major chord) not to mention in progressive rock (Yes’s “Roundabout”, with a ‘home key’ E minor but ending on an E major chord.

Here is one of my favorite pieces not by J. S. Bach that end on a Picardy third: the adagio sostenuto from Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” sonata Op. 106, which is in F# minor but ends on F# major.

Enjoy, have a great weekend, and Shabbat shalom

End of an era: Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)

She passed away peacefully at the ripe old age of 96. Her last act of state, just a couple of days ago, was to swear in Liz Truss as the new Prime Minister.

Originally growing up as just another princess — who never expected to rule despite being named after her illustrious ancestor — she suddenly became heir presumptive when her childless uncle Edward VIII abdicated, putting his younger brother, her father “Bertie” on the throne as George VI. (British monarchs may choose a regnal name other than their birth name — “Bertie” did so to indicate continuity with his father George V, and presumably in tribute.)

During WW II, she insisted on serving, and trained as a driver and mechanic in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

In uniform as a 2nd Subaltern

She had first met Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, her second cousin once removed, when she was 13: later romance blossomed, resulting in a rare love marriage between royals. Philip was a serving Royal Navy officer by then, and the couple in fact lived on Malta for a while when Lt. Philip Mountbatten (he had renounced his claims to the Greek and Danish successions, and taken the surname of his English ancestral line) was stationed there.

The sudden death of George VI in 1952 put her on the throne. As an aside, her choosing Elizabeth II as her regnal name was somewhat controversial in Scotland, as Elizabeth I had never been Queen of Scotland. (Her successor James I of England was also James VI of Scotland, and held both crowns in personal union. Only under Queen Anne were England+Wales and Scotland formally united as Great Britain.)

It would take a book to discuss all the trials and tribulations of the United Kingdom during her seven-decade reign. The Daily Telegraph has a long “definitive” obituary (non-paywalled cached copy

Note that such are of course not written on the occasion, but drafted many years in advance and regularly updated, so they can be released instantly when the time comes.

I’m hardly a royalist, but also too much of a student of history not to understand the role of the British monarchy in keeping the country together. Constant features of Elizabeth II were her affability and lack of ‘airs’, her stoic temperament and imperturbability, her holding on to tradition while embracing (especially technological) change, and her devotion to duty above all.

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott calls her “the embodiment of Keep Calm and Carry On”

Piers Morgan reminisces:

She will be an extremely hard act to follow. (I still have trouble believing Prince Big Ears is now King Charles III.)

May her memory be for a blessing.

ADDENDUM: ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Company) has a detailed explanation of Operation London Bridge (the well-scripted contingency plan for the monarch’s demise) and the concomitant Operation Spring Tide (the accession of the new monarch).

No, Israel is not falling into China’s orbit; the days when “Palestinians” insisted they was no such thing as “Palestine”


The article reviews the changing relationship between China and the US (and the West more broadly), as what I would call a Second Cold War emerges.

Where does this leave Israel? Following several years of rapidly growing relations with China since early last decade, championed by then-Prime Minister Netanyahu, this past year continued to provide much evidence of strengthening ties. In September 2021, the Shanghai International Port Group began operating the Haifa Bayport, while the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing opened a campus in Petach Tikvah, near Tel Aviv. On November 17, 2021, Presidents Xi Jinping and Isaac Herzog spoke by phone about the upcoming 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between their two countries and about how to develop those relations further. Vice-President Wang Qishan and Foreign Minister and then-Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid headed the fifth meeting of the Sino-Israeli Joint Innovation Committee, which was held virtually on January 24, the day of the anniversary itself. Currently, the two governments are negotiating a free-trade agreement, while the overall volume of trade between them continues to grow. But this isn’t the whole story. […]

It’s easy to be floored by the big numbers, and much commentary on the subject of Israel-China relations has relied heavily on a few figures. Those who see reason for panic point out that bilateral trade has grown from $50 million in 1992 to the $15 billion in 2021 (according to Israel’s Bureau of Statistics) or even $22.8 billion (according to China’s). Then there is the Chinese investment in the Israeli high-tech sector, which has also grown over the years. But these figures can be misleading, and when they are presented—as they often are—without the proper context they obscure more than they reveal.

A closer look at the data shows that in 2018 both Israeli exports to China and Chinese investment in Israel peaked. The former thereafter declined and then plateaued: chips produced in Israel by the mulinational corporation Intel account for about half of all these exports; minerals and chemicals account for another quarter. Meanwhile, investments decreased dramatically, and the number of deals in 2021 stands at 44 percent of what it was in 2018. If the second half of 2022 follows the pattern of the first, this year’s deals will near a third of the 2018 peak. Some sources describe a decline in Chinese investment in Israel from around 10 percent of the foreign investment in Israeli high tech a few years ago to the low single digits at present. That being said, precise and comprehensive data are not publicly available. […]

Comparing the relative size of Israel’s export of services to these three partners provides an even sharper picture. In 2020 Israel exported $170 million worth of services to China compared to nearly $17 billion to the U.S., and more than $7 billion to the EU. Develop as it may, Israel’s comparative trade with these three major partners depends more on their economic performance than on any decision taken in Jerusalem. […]

On the monetary side of the equation, news broke in April that the Bank of Israel added the yuan to its reserve currencies for the first time. Reporting on this fact in isolation makes it seem as if China is expanding its hold on the Israeli economy at America’s expense. But the fine print explained that Israel diversified its currency mix from dollars, euros, and British pounds to include Canadian and Australian dollars (3.5 percent each) as well as the yen (5 percent) and yuan (2 percent). While the changes will indeed include a decrease in the share in dollars from 66.5 percent to the still-dominant 61 percent, it is the euro’s share that dropped most—from 30 percent to 20 percent. In other words, this wasn’t a move away from American to Chinese currency, but a general diversification that still mostly favored the currencies of U.S. allies.

Chinese involvement in Israeli infrastructure has received much attention from the would-be Cassandras warning of the unstoppable takeover of the Jewish state by Beijing. The warnings usually note several significant Chinese projects on Israeli soil: the 2007 Mount Carmel tunnels, the Ashdod Southern Port, the Haifa Bayport, the Sorek 1 desalination plant south of Tel Aviv, and the red-line light rail, which when completed will connect Tel Aviv to several cities in its vicinity. […But] Israel may have already begun to turn away from Chinese infrastructure investment. Galia Lavi, my colleague at the Glazer Center for Israel-China Policy, has shown in a recently published study that in eight of the sixteen years between 2006 and 2021, Chinese companies won just one project per year and in five years won none. The zenith came in 2015, when they won five, followed by 2019, in which they won four. But 2020 appears to have been a turning point: Chinese companies bid for four out of seven tenders but won just one. In 2021, they won only two small tenders, and in the first half of 2022 Chinese companies contested two tenders but lost both. In fact, no Chinese company has won a bid for an operating project since 2019, even if they continued to win construction projects, albeit in lower numbers. This trend may reflect two points: Chinese participation in Israel’s infrastructure projects peaked in 2019 and cooled down since, while construction (“build and leave”) projects are seen as entailing lower security risks than ongoing operating projects that come with long-term presence and access.

Read the whole thing.

(b) Steven Zipperstein on “when Palestinians insisted there’s no such place as Palestine“.

The thrust of the Palestinian legal case today is that Palestine is a centuries-old geopolitical entity whose residents are entitled to statehood as a matter of international law. But that has not always been the Palestinians’ legal position.

Immediately following World War I and continuing through most of the British Mandate period (1922-1948), Palestinian lawyers and witnesses argued repeatedly before various tribunals that there was no such place as “Palestine.” Instead, they claimed the area known colloquially as “Palestine” was in fact part of Syria, or “southern Syria” to be precise. Following the Israeli War of Independence, the Palestinians changed course and pledged their loyalty to Jordan.

It seems unthinkable that any Palestinian lawyer or legal scholar would argue today that Palestine is part of Syria or Jordan, but those were the predominant Palestinian legal positions from the end of World War I until the Six Day War.


the Mufti’s 1929 concession that the Mandate granted no political rights to the Palestinian people contradicts the arguments of some modern Palestinian lawyers that the Mandate remains in effect today and grants sovereignty and statehood to the Palestinian Arabs.

And the Palestinian rejections of offers of statehood from Great Britain in May 1939 and from the United Nations in November 1947, their pledge of loyalty to King Abdullah in December 1950, and the language in Article 24 of their original May 1964 charter disclaiming sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, all stand in discontinuity with their current legal position.

The Palestinians have every right to change their legal position. But when lawyers abandon old arguments and replace them with new ones, they need to be transparent with the courts. Some judges may view a major shift in position as a sign of weakness regarding either the prior or the new argument.

Unfortunately, Palestinian lawyers and their supporters have not been transparent with the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court about their prior inconsistent legal positions. 

Oh, they have been “transparent” all right — transparent dissemblers and deceivers, that is.

ADDENDUM: BREaKING NEWS: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom passed away peacefully in her sleep at the ripe old age of 96 and after a reign of 70 years. Requiescat in pace. Prince Charles is King Charles III now, unless he has chosen another regnal name.