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On targeting as a mood this electoral season, 1

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the only virtue I can see in this darkness is that the light contrasts with it ]

I find this frankly horrifying:

This, at a supposedly Christian university?



Mark you, I think targeting an individual — any individual –in this way is very different from targeting contested seats in an election. I can understand both Democrats and Republicans using the imagery of targets or cross-hairs to suggest where they’d like their supporters to get active, get out the vote and win seats..


I said as much in On sneers, smears, and mutual sniping:

Neither “targetting” political adversaries nor “having them in your crosshairs” equates to killing or there would have been a whole lot more attempted assassinations — just the one was bad enough.

Have some proportion, people.


However, as an inveterate DoubleTweeter I have to say that pinning targets or cross-hairs on individual leaders in highly charged political disputes speaks a wholly different language, and presents a far higher threat level, than targeting districts on an electoral map:


For the record, I find this no less offensive:


Hinnary, or: Google Image Search, meet Hillary Clinton

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — artificial intelligence at the intersection of religion and politics ]

Our own J Scott Shipman posted what I term a DoubleQuote on Facebook this morning, offering a juxtaposition of politician Hillary Clinton and preacher Benny Hinn:


I’ve enlarged it and cropped it lengthwise to give you a proper appreciation of the comparison.



Okay, I thought, Scott’s doing an informal DoubleQuote, let me see if I can find the two images and rework them into one of my regular DoubleQuote formats. Only it wasn’t that easy. The only versions of the Hinn photo I could find were too small for my format, and the Hillary image wasn’t a photo but a screencap from a video — I could find a similar screencap from another TV channel, but not the exact one Scott had found.

As you’ve seen above, I finally settled for cropping and enlarging the image Scott had provided — but along the way I ran across another instance of the intelligence of artifice — in this case, Google Image Search’s recognition technology:


Ah — but spokesperson for what or whom?


I’m relieved to say that while Google is in general a brilliant, cutting-edge, genius of a search engine, it’s clearly not following the current Presidential race with any enthusiasm.

You see that lady? She’s one of the candidates, and she was on several TV channels and online streaming sites just last night.

There’s another candidate, who probably looks pretty much the same to you:


I don’t think my telling you all this will make you more artificially intelligent — but it might make you a little better informed about current affairs.

Electoral religion 2016

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — remembering the Ted Cruz Christ / Antichrist (and Obama ditto) rhetoric from an earlier post ]

Dismal, both of them:



  • NBC News, Trump Calls Clinton ‘The Devil’
  • NYT Magazine, I’m the Last Thing Standing Between You and the Apocalypse
  • **

    I could be wrong, but I somehow doubt that either Trump or Clinton is using the terms “devil” or “apocalypse” (respectively) in their literal religious meanings here.

    For that I’m thankful.

    But then..

    In contrast to the two posts I’ve linked to above, these two below appear to me to be making overtly and deliberately religious appeals with respect to the current election.

  • Alex Jones, InfoWars, Hillary Clinton: Demonic Warmonger
  • Andy Crouch, Christianity Today, Speak Truth to Trump
  • I’ve included the InfoWars video clip because it makes it very clear that Alex Jones, at least, claims he is being “Biblical” — his own word — when he calls Hillary Clinton demonic — and the Christianity Today piece because it represents a distinguished Evangelical response to the general tendency of Evangelical Christians to support Donald Trump‘s candidacy.

    In somewhat related news, I am saddened to report that Christianity Today‘s literary magazine Books & Culture will close at the end of the year. John Wilson, the editor, is a long time and valued friend from Pasadena bookstore days — see his kind words about the late Bill Tunilla, the bookman who introduced us, in this Letter from the Editor.

    Washington’s governing elites think we’re all morons

    Monday, October 3rd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a study in the mighty and their lowly, knowledge and ignorance, truth and falsehood ]


    Vice News, Washington’s governing elites think we’re all morons


    First, if you’ll permit, the simple truth:

    Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.

    That’s Laurence J Peter, and it’s a quote so succinct and powerful that Jeff Conklin puts it, in large print, above the title of his pamphlet on wicked problems:


    The simple truth is that the truth is complex, beyond the minds of elites and morons, deplorables and desirables alike.


    Next, the untruth:

    The untruth is in a view down the nose from one human person at another, or at a group, a crowd, a mob — a diversity of others.


    You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables’. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it.


    There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. .. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. .. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

    Such sentiments remind me irresistably of the Magnificat — given here in my own version:

    He is not one who is ashamed to show his strength,
    and buffets proud folk about like leaves in a gale.
    He upsets those that hold themselves high and mighty
    and rescues the least one of us.
    He feeds the hungry,
    and tells the rich they can go fetch their own food.


    And then the nuance..

    Let’s start with the fact that I’m a snob. I’m an almost equal-opportunity despiser. I prefer not to act on my snobbery, except when choosing which sorts of books and music I wish to consume, but it’s there in me, like an undertow, like an unrest.

    Now we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s the setup, as described in What Washington Gets Wrong:

    73 percent of government officials think the public knows little or nothing about programs aimed at helping the poor, 71 percent of them think the public knows little or nothing about science and technology policy, and 61 percent of them think the public knows almost nothing about childcare. In fact, when it comes to fundamental policy areas like social security, public schools, crime, defense and the environment, it was hard to find government officials who thought the public knew “a great deal.”

    Assuming Americans know so little, government officials tend to use their own judgment rather than the people’s when making policy decisions. With issues of science and defense, more than half of officials think they should “always” or “mostly” heed their own opinions. With crime, welfare and the environment, at least 42 percent of officials who felt the same way.

    Okay, first off, government officials — how well do they stack up?

    This is from Counterpunch — it’s a succinct summary of a Jeff Stein piece from the New York Times:

    There are very few people in the U.S. government who understand basic Islamic history or even regard it as important. In 2002 Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), the incoming chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked by a reporter whether al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. “Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he responded stupidly. And what about Lebanon’s Hizbollah? “Hizbollah. Uh, Hizbollah . . . Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock?” He later added, “Speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.” Obviously the Intelligence Committee chairman was unaware that Hizbollah is a Shiite organization aligned with Shiite Iran and Shiite-led Syria against al-Qaeda-type Sunni Islamist forces.

    Jeff Stein, the national security editor of Congressional Quarterly, wrote a New York Times op-ed in 2002 highlighting the (bipartisan) ignorance among Washington “counterterrorism officials” including key Congressional committee members about the divisions within Islam. He had asked many of them the fundamental question, “What’s the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” and was shocked by their responses. “Most American officials I’ve interviewed,” he concluded, “don’t have a clue.” Rep. Jo Ann Davis, Republican Congresswoman from Virginia then heading the subcommittee overseeing much of the CIA’s work with Muslim assets, told Stein, “The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa.” (In other words, all Muslims are radical; it’s just a question of degree. Talk about Islamophobia. And talk about ignorance!)

    Alabama Republican Congressman Terry Everett, head of a subcommittee on tactical intelligence, told Stein after some briefing, “I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something. Now that you’ve explained it to me, what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult.” In 2001, after FBI counterterrorism chief Gary Bald had publicly revealed his ignorance about Islam, FBI spokesman John Miller declared such knowledge to be unnecessary, and indeed made it a point to belittle it. “A leader needs to drive the organization forward,” he told Stein. “If he is the executive in a counterterrorism operation in the post-9/11 world, he does not need to memorize the collected statements of Osama bin Laden, or be able to read Urdu to be effective. … Playing ‘Islamic Trivial Pursuit’ was a cheap shot for the lawyers and a cheaper shot for the journalist. It’s just a gimmick.”

    That was in 2006, ten years after Osama bin Laden’s Decxlaration of War against the United States, and five years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

    In fact, one might say, when it comes to fundamental policy areas like defense.. government officials aren’t necessarily terribly savvy. And I’m relieved to know that by March 2014, at least, the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, knew that ISIS has an “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision.”

    Of course, if Dabiq falls, as it very soon many, that strategic vision may get stretched to breaking point..


    So much for government officials. What of the general population, down on whom those paragons of virtue look?

    In November 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks, according to National Geographic News:

    In a nation called the world’s superpower, only 17 percent of young adults in the United States could find Afghanistan on a map, according to a new worldwide survey released today.

    Ast forward to 2006, and a National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs Geographic Literacy Study of American youth between ages 18 and 24 finds:

    Six in ten (63%) cannot find Iraq on a map of the Middle East, despite near-constant news coverage since the U.S. invasion of March 2003. Three-quarters cannot find Indonesia on a map ñ even after images of the tsunami and the damage it caused to this region of the world played prominently across televisions screens and in the pages of print media over many months in 2005. Three-quarters (75%) of young men and women do not know that a majority of Indonesiaís population is Muslim (making it the largest Muslim country in the world), despite the prominence of this religion in global news today. Neither wars nor natural disasters appear to have compelled majorities of young adults to absorb knowledge about international places in the news.

    Of course, that’s young people.

    Young people today .. if you want to dismiss these findsings .. or young people are our future .. if you want to let the impact settle in.


    Here, for my convenience, is a map kindly provided by The Washington Post in 2013, in an intriguing Ezra Klein piece aptly titled Most Americans can’t find Syria on a map. So what?


    Maybe Firesign Theater had it right when they titled their 1971 album: I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus.

    Meltdown, No Mouth Must Scream

    Friday, August 12th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — two powerful graphic images, one simple truth ]

    Tablet DQ Meltdown Scream


    From a purely graphic angle, the two images mirror one another quite nicely, and arguably the meltdown is the cause for the need to scream.

    I generally try to avoid politics, but when it leaks over into the same religious issues I’ve been studying and writing about here for a few years now, I’m liable to voice my opinions.

    I’m a loser in Trunp‘s terms by vocation, whether I follow the dictum “go and sit down in the lowest room” (Luke 14.19) or am “content with the low places that people disdain” (Lao Tzu 8), so it won’t bother him when I point out that contrary to his recent statement that President Obama was the founder of ISIS, which he’s doubled down on —

    I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.

    — he’s just plain wrong, as John Schindler — far from an admirer of Hillary Clinton — reminds us in today’s detailed and thorough Observer piece mildly titled No, Obama Is Not the Founder of ISIS. Some choice paras:

    It’s not every day the presidential nominee of the Republican Party calls our commander-in-chief a “founder”—that is a terrorist, a traitor, and “MVP”—of the global Salafist caliphate, an organization that commits mass murder and even genocide. Not to mention that ISIS seeks to kill Americans with gusto at home and abroad.

    Trump’s claim is so absurd as to render terror experts speechless. In the first place, ISIS was born in a practical sense in 2006, when elements of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq fused with bitter-enders from the Saddam Hussein regime that the United States overthrew in its invasion of Iraq three years before. Back then George W. Bush was president and Barack Obama was a junior U.S. Senator from Illinois.

    None of this is to defend Obama’s track record against ISIS, which in column after column here I’ve lambasted as incompetent and lackadaisical. His pseudo-war on that murder gang and its imaginary caliphate has been a train-wreck of quarter-measures, muddled strategy, and outright lies. Obama ought to never live down his dismissal of ISIS as the “JV team,” but that’s a far cry from “founding” the Islamic State.

    There’s no doubt that Obama’s withdrawal of American forces from Iraq in 2011, hailed as a great victory at the time, was strategically harmful and enabled ISIS’s meteoric growth in the Middle East. However, the president had little choice there, since the democratically elected Iraqi government in Baghdad demanded that the U.S. military leave their country. Not to mention that withdrawing our troops from Iraq was supported by Donald Trump.

    Saying Obama and Hillary “founded” ISIS therefore is a ridiculous claim that deserves to be taken no more seriously than related tinfoilisms like “Jews did 9/11” or “My cat is the Illuminati.” It’s therefore deeply alarming to see the GOP nominee say it—repeatedly.

    It’s not difficult to see where Trump gets such wacky ideas. Mike Flynn, his national security guru, has repeatedly come close to saying the same, hinting that Obama wanted ISIS to succeed. Flynn is a retired Army three-star general whom Obama fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency with ample cause.

    Since then, Flynn’s gotten cuddly with the Russians, regularly appearing on their propaganda network RT, even admitting he’s taken Kremlin money for a photo op with Vladimir Putin. This is where things get really interesting. “Obama created ISIS” has been a Kremlin trope for a couple years now and it’s frequently trotted out by Putin’s mouthpieces and online trolls. When your campaign is riddled with people on the Kremlin payroll, with deep ties to Moscow, it’s not surprising that the candidate starts mouthing their disinformation.


    Or, to make it very simple, in the words and images of ABC News:

    these guys

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