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Unintended consequences, the collection

Monday, June 18th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — what you don’t see can blindside you ]
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Unintended consequences are the clearest indicators we have of just how much more complex the world is than we imagine it to be. They are therefore of great interest.

A short while back, WaPo had a piece that overtly referenced unintended consequences: Unintended consequences: Inside the fallout of America’s crackdown on opioids.

I’m going to take that as the starting point for another of my collections. When I find a clear case of an unintended cnsequence, I’ll add it to this post or in the comments session..

**

One major group of unintended consequences news items clusttered around the revision of redistricting rules in an attempt (at least purportedly) to curb the abuse of partisan power in gerrymandering, an ancient American political tradition practiced by both (all?) partties —

Overby & Cosgrove‘s 1996 Unintended Consequences? Racial Redistricting and the Representation of Minority Interests would appear to be a much quoted starting point, followed by Rose Institute’s 2008 Unintended Consequences of Texas Gerrymandering.

But the general principle is evident: course corrections don’t always set you back on track — or as the Taoist fellow might say, any map you can draw is liable to lead you astray — maps are fallible wrt terrain, wrt reality!

Case in point: The meandering path of the Mississippi, now here, now there — with oxbows!

Travelers, mappers and modelers, beware!

**

Oh, and BTW, I woke from the anaesthetic that accompanied my triple heart bypass to find.. Trump was president. That consequence was unintended by me at least, no matter hwat Mr Putin may have decided.

On negative space, private morality in the public square

Monday, May 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — not entirely keen about Judgment, me, but.. ]
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Continuing on from my discussion of negative space in the painting, here’s the MSNBC clip I overheard waas on about:

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The clip, in other words, is about private morality in the public square.

Raw Story picks up there thread in a piece titled ‘Where are the preachers of America?’:

Evangelical leaders slammed for hypocrisy of Trump support:Former New York Times White House correspondent Howell Raines, who rose to executive editor of newspaper, called out the evangelical community during a Friday appearance on MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber.”

“I want to ask you about the negative space in the painting, the thing that’s not happening — that we are always told would happen — because the Christian right and the conservative values organizations and the evangelical right cared deeply about the personal behavior of politicians and especially the president,” Melber observed.

“The president now has squarely admitted to paying this woman in direct connection to the allegations of this extramarital affair,” the host continued. “I ask you for your view of why we’re not hearing any outrage for any of those groups affiliated with Donald Trump and the Republican Party.”

“Where are the preachers of America when morality is legitimately at the center of our national life?” Raines wondered. “I think Director Comey was correct today on CBS when he said this is about values and supporting our institutions and it’s imperative that Americans who believe in the normal political process and the rule of law start speaking out.”

“That’s what’s missing in the picture to me,” he concluded.

**

That’s a significant question, to which various answers have been given — from a quick Google search:

  • The Nation, Why Evangelicals—Still!—Support Trump
  • Time, Why Evangelicals Support President Trump, Despite His Immorality
  • Atlantic, A Match Made in Heaven
  • but I’d like to leave — indeed emphasize — it as a question.

    How come the hypocrisy?

    And I think we should ask this, not as a question requiring a political answer, but as a moral question, hanging in the air, for the individual consciences of evangelicals to ponder..

    I have my own hyposcrisies to consider..

    For Jim Gant, On the Resurrection, 04

    Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — in thre “expansive” phase of this exploration ]
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    In her mysteriously beautiful detective procedural set in a Québécois monastery, The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, Louise Penny arrives, about midway through her tale, at this sentence:

    When Frère Mathieu brings out his bomb, the abbot brings out his pipe. One weapon is figurative, and the other isn’t.

    I’m riveted.

    **

    Because the phrase “One .. is figurative, and the other isn’t” is like a koan for me — a nut that if I could crack it would also explain such deep mysteries as:

  • “This is my body .. this is my blood” — one interpretation of “body & blood” is figurative, while the other isn’t? and:
  • “he died ..and on the third day he rose again” — one death is figurative, and the other isn’t?
  • Resurrection as myth, resurrection as history?

    **

    You might think I’m being fanciful, but just yesterday the Comey notes became accessible, and we find this exchange between the FBI Director and the President:

    The President then wrapped up our conversation by returning to the issue of finding leakers. I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message. He replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail. “They spend a few days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk.” I laughed as I walked to the door Reince Priebus had opened.

    I trust Comey‘s “head on a pike” is figurative, and it sounds like the other — Trump‘s “putting reporters in jail” — isn’t.

    The thing about language is that it’s polyvalent, polysemous –and that inherent ambiguity is seldom more significant than when making or interpreting threats, scriptures, or poems.

    **

    So I could take this post in the direction of a discussion of the ruthless politics of Washingtom, the Kremlin, Pyongyang, Baghdad, and or Beijing..

    Or into the exegesis of the Eucharist, Resurrection, Adamic Creation stories. In matters Biblical, the question “one reading fictitious, while the other, literal, isn’t?” more or less covers the major theological division of our times..

    On this, see the Catholic Catechism (115-117) for a more Dantesque elucidation:

  • The senses of Scripture

  • According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
  • The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”
  • The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.
  • The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.
  • The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.
  • The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.
  • Two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual — one is figurative, like Frère Mathieu’s bomb in Ms Penny’s novel, while the other, like the abbot’s lead pipe, isn’t?

    The Jesus of History, the Christ of Faith?

    Or all this might take another turn, with a morph into poetry..

    **

    Or history. Here’s another phrase that’s “riveting” for, I think, the same reason as that phrase “One weapon is figurative, and the other isn’t”:

    Pamphlets were both a cause and a tool of violence.

    A “cause .. of violence” — it t (a pamphlet) incites it. And “a tool of violence” — it’s (at least figuratively) a bludgeon in itself. Hm. I hope that makes sense.

    In any case, I’ve got my eye out for other examples that neatly juxtapose word and deed, as though words aren’t deeds — “speech acts” as the philosophers say. What I’m getting at, eventually, is the nature of sacrament — “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” — which is deeply tied up with simile, metaphor, and metamorphosis — “this is my body .. this is my blood”.

    And that quote about pamphlets? Its from a fascinating New Yorker piece, How We Solved Fake News the First Time by Stephen March, which compares fake news on the internet today with fake news in the time of the pamphleteers, and contains this remarkably “ancient and modern” observation:

    There is nothing more congruent to the nourishment of division in a State or Commonwealth, then diversity of Rumours mixt with Falsity and Scandalisme; nothing more prejudicial to a Kingdome, then to have the divisions thereof known to an enemy.

    So, -ismes were already infesting the language like kudzu grass — mixed simile? — back in 1642. And an enemy? Think Putin, ne?

    On which playful note, drawn from seven years before the martyrdom of King Charles I at the hands of the Puritans, I’ll leave you.

    For now.

    Weather: waterworks, fireworks, & how the mindworks

    Friday, April 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — and reality alwys strains towards a metaphor of itself, doesn’t it? ]
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    Today’s weather headline:

    This isn’t a metaphor, weather here means weather, even thought you might imagine it’s politics it’s talking about. If it was politics and we were lucky, the header might read:

    Wild storm raging across globe to unleash all modes of extreme weather through the weekend

    **

    Here are some of the details, graphically — very graphically — represented:

    Blizzard conditions and heavy snow

    Extreme fire danger

    Oh, my!

    Tornadoes and severe storms

    Torrents!

    Just suppose this was politics, after all!

    **

    Another headline today:

    That’s almost meteorological, ne?

    Or try this one, a week out, and international in scope:

    I’d be lost without my wifi..

    Biden Trump fisticuffs

    Friday, March 23rd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a war, a schoolyard war, a war of schoolyard words .. at least we know now how childlike American politics have become ]
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    In the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, General Zachary Taylor of the Whig Party defeated Senator Lewis Cass of the Democratic Party.

    **

    I searched for “biden trump fisticuffs” on Google, and Lord bless us, Elle magazine popped up with an almost exact title, Trump and Biden Challenged Each Other to Fisticuffs, which was a delight.. Well to be frank, the first time I’d spelled my inquiry “dien trump fisticuffs” and received the response Will: Trump is threatening war with North Korea. But what kind? The kind of war I was looking for was fisticuffs, as specified, and the hoped for opponent was Biden, not Dien. But I got satisfaction on my second attempt. Dien, pfft — what was Google thinking about, Dien Bien Phu?

    Anyway, even fisticuffs is a metaphor, I think / hope.

    **

    Elle’s words:

    Today, exciting news coming to us from the prison of masculinity — the sitting president and the former vice-president have gotten into a chest-puffing war of words over which elder statesmen would thrump the other in a schoolyard braw ..

    D dot Trump and J dot Biden fired warning shots at each other not at dawn on a field in Jersey but in the court of public opinion, a civilized and erudite arena if ever there was one.

    Everyone reading this post will almost certainly have seen a refernce to this “chest-puffing war of words” because it has been splashed all over the news — but I’m not featuring it here as anything original or particularly obscure, but because of its sheet delight, as conflict reduced to a children’s brawl reduced to words — a cousin twice removed from real war, which is itself drawing appreciably closer at a diplomatic removed by the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor — gatekeeper to the President, and supposedly an even-headed fellow who can balance out the differing views of the Secretary of Stat,, Secretary of Defense, the Intel community, and other advisors.

    Bolton is distinctly not level headed, distinctly an ideologue, a hawk’s extreme hawk, in favor of war and opposed to Islam — Islam’s claim to be a religion of peace appears firmly confirmed by the contrast!

    **

    The 7 Traits of a Great Nat Sec Adviser (Bolton Has 0):

    Just a few days ago, Brent Scowcroft celebrated his 93d birthday. He is not in the best of health. His days on the public stage are behind him.

    But for those who study American power and leadership in the modern era, the slender, quiet former Air Force lieutenant general remains a giant. He established the standard by which all will be measured who hold the office of national security adviser to which John Bolton was just named. And understanding the reasons for Scowcroft’s success is the key to understanding why Bolton is such a disturbing, devastatingly bad choice for the job.

    Read the whole thing!


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