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US and Israel, a double ouroboros

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Netanyahu, Trump, and their interchangeable ambassadorships? — also fake news and truth ]
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Two versions of two serpents biting each others’ tails to form a loop

On the left, we have a western, alchemical version of the two-serpent ourobouros, and on the right an “Infinite Wealth Sacred Buang Nak Bat Amulet” from Thailand. The accompanying text on the Billionmore Rare Thai Buddhist amulets and Talismans site reads:

Naga is the great snake of wealth in Buddhist belief when two Naga connect into a circle, it means wealth will never end..

That’s right, infinite wealth is yours for only $26.90.

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In today’s New Yorker, we see the same secondary form of the ouroboros: two serpents, biting each others’ tails, to form a loop:

In recent years, ascendant political currents in America and Israel had already begun to merge. We have now reached the point where envoys from one country to the other could almost switch places: the Israeli Ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, who grew up in Florida, could just as easily be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, while Donald Trump’s Ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, who has intimate ties to the Israeli settler movement, would make a fine Ambassador in Washington for the pro-settler government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

As you may know, I’m generally disinclined to support one side in a conflict when it appears to me that conflict itself is the basic conundrum we should be examining. Accordingly, it’s the form here — the two serpents, the two ambassadorships working together as an integrated system, that I’d call your attention to.

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While we’re on the subject of twin serpents…

Sometime back in the last century I suggested the utility of a Tarot-like pack of cards showing the great archetypal images that have populated the imaginations of so many cuotures across the globe and centuries.

Thus both the caduceus of western medicine and the kundalini of eastern yoga show twinned serpents spiraling up a central pole – and if Linus Pauling had seen that double serpent image when he was chasing the structure of DNA, he might have spent less time on the triple and more time on the double helix, and beaten Crick and Watson to the punch.


Left, an image of the kundalini; right, the caduceus or rod of Aesculapius — see also the two linked wikipedia pages for a flaw in this portion of my argument

A similar case can be made for Kekule’s realization that the form of the benzene molecule was a ring, supposedly triggered by a reverie of the ouroboros or serpent biting it’s tail.


diagram of ouroboros and benzene molecule from ChemDoodle

It’s worth noting, however, that this appears to be an old wives’ tale, perhaps fashioned by Kekule himself, as detailed by JH Wotiz and S Rudofsky in Kekulé’s dream: Fact or fiction?” Chemistry in Britain, 20, 720–723 (1954).

Now, are the debunking stories better stories than their respective archetypal insight stories? And what’s the truth in story, in any case? In the psyche, story and fact are both story, tiny molecular weavings of the imagination.

And how does this tie in with “news” — fake and true?

Scots and British values

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Scots by clan, audibly British to American ears, and American by friendship, long residence, and weather preference ]
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Here’s a pair of tweets I picked out to comment on a while back, when writing was a lot more effort than is is now — and will hopefully be in the near future. The second is pretty obviously a serpent-bites-tail example, but I suspect “haggis” and “Scottish” are close enough conceptually (staggeringly close) to qualify the first as a serpentine loop too — why else would Rifkind have mentioned the Scottishness of the fiver?

Serpent-bites-tail logic is pretty cut and dried — but it can express itself in some pretty elusive / allusive forms.

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Scots wha hae!

It’s easier to accept John Nash than the goddess Namagiri

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — delighted to find Ramanujan is not alone in dreaming of mathematics ]
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When the Hinduism Today writer above says people found Ramanujan‘s assertion that his equations were given him in dreams by the local goddess Namagiri “irksome” he was understing the case: many mathematicians are allergic to the idea of a goddess providing inspiration to a mathematician in a devotional dream state. Thus Krishnaswami Alladi, in his Review of the Movie on the mathematical genius Ramanujan, writes:

The legend is that the Hindu Goddess Namagiri came in Ramanujan’s dreams and gave him these formulae..

See? It’s a legend, a priori, since “goddesses” don’t exist.

John Nash, he of the Beautiful Mind, game theory equilibria, and the Nobel Prize, on the other hand — if he provides inspiration to a fellow mathematician in a dream?

Why, his solution can be acknowledged as such in a learned paper..

Happy Christmas: Of Shia & Christian in Beirut and Aleppo

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — season’s greetings ]
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Posted by Rami Al Khal on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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I trust you can see and hear this video, or at least click through to Le Liban c’est ça aussi : une chorale musulmane qui chante Noël dans une église and watch it. It presents, as the post in French tells us, a Lebanese Shiite choir singing Christmas carols in a church, and with it I offer you my Christmas greetings on behalf of one and all at Zenpundit, greetings secular, sacred, Maccabean, Nazarene, Muslim, or at the mall.

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I’m, as you may know, in recovery from heart surgery and on kidney dialysis, and this year I received a very kind care package of renal-failure appropriate food from an anonymous source, so I’m reminded that while the mall, grocery store and food-laden table may not represent the “essence of Christmas” as my mother would have wished — the child born God to brighten our dark world — they can nonetheless represent generosity as well as commerce, a break in the relentless pursuit of dominance, human life as gift and giving.

On this day, therefore, of commercial, charitable and Christian celebration, we wish you all, according to your varied natures and our own perspectives, happiness this Christmas in the teeth of winter and the world.

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That Muslim voices are raised above in a Christian church in praise of the Christian nativity offers a glimpse of hope for mutual respect in the strife-and faith-torn Middle East — but such matters as the overlapping and interconnections of faiths are never simple, and by way or remembering something of the nuance, here’s a quick sentence from COL Pat Lang‘s post at Sic Semper Tyrannis yesterday, Christmas in Aleppo – Attention Joe Scarborough:

One of our German correspondents on SST informed us the other day that there are now some Christian members of Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia militia. This would make sense because after the 2006 war against Israel Hizbullah assigned priority of its own reconstruction money to Christians in south Lebanon.

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To quote Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity..

Best wishes & blessings to all..

The weathervane vote

Friday, October 28th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — not a weatherman myself, though I do appreciate Bob Dylan ]
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Is what I suggest here ridiculous, or important but largely overlooked, or well known and in general background awareness? What say you? I just want to air the topic..

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There’s a lot of talk about swing voters, right? A Brookings Institution chapter, What Exactly Is a Swing Voter? Definition and Measurement runs to 31 pages and 27 footnotes explaining the concept, but I think there’s one swing vote they may be missing.

I came to this conclusion after pondering the whole question of margins of error in polls. It’s generally accepted that polls have margins of error, often in the mid-single digits. Margins of error call forth interesting analytics, too — see this graphic and accompanying comment from Pew, 5 key things to know about the margin of error in election polls:

horseracepolls

For example, in the accompanying graphic, a hypothetical Poll A shows the Republican candidate with 48% support. A plus or minus 3 percentage point margin of error would mean that 48% Republican support is within the range of what we would expect if the true level of support in the full population lies somewhere 3 points in either direction – i.e., between 45% and 51%.

Even a relatively small margins of error can be enough to encourage misreading an upcoming election result, but the margin of error I’m thinking of is in the range of 35% of undecideds. Let’s call it the weathervane vote.

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Consider this quote from Theodore H. White’s The Making of the President, 1960:

The weather was clear all across Massachusetts and New England, perfect for voting as far as the crest of the Alleghenies. But from Michigan through Illinois and the Northern Plains states it was cloudy: rain in Detroit and Chicago, light snow falling in some states on the approaches of the Rockies. The South was enjoying magnificently balmy weather which ran north as far as the Ohio River; so, too, was the entire Pacific Coast. The weather and the year’s efforts were to call out the greatest free vote in the history of this or any other country.

That’s also the epigraph to another piece of learned disquisition — and yes, I love (envy, mock) academics — The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections. That’s from The Journal of Politics, Vol. 69, No. 3, August 2007, pp. 649–663.

Parasols or umbrellas?

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But my figure of 35%?

First, let me admit i’m not exactly clear on the distinctions or overlaps between swing voters and undecideds, so I may be adding my own margin of error by conflating the two — but my 35% comes from a 2012 piece titled Bad Weather on Election Day? Many Won’t Vote. I think my favorite bullet point therein was this:

  • In bad weather, Mitt Romney supporters are more likely to vote.
  • Their lead paragraph gives me my 35% figure:

    Among those who plan to vote this year, 35 percent of undecided voters say that inclement weather conditions would have a “moderate to significant” impact on whether they make it to the polls on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

    Don’t ask the the margin of error on that particular poll, though, the good folks at Weather.com failed to say.

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    My favorite weathervane to date:

    garden-installation-rabbit-weathervane-drawing-p

    Bottom line: If 35% of the swing vote hinges on which way the wind blows, I’m prone to thinking the weather may well have the deciding vote in this here election.

    Hat-tip for pointing me to the 35% piece: rockin’ andee baker.


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