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Mirror for princes…

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

[finally acknowledged by Lynn C. Rees]

Meet Cousin Tom.


Cousin Tom

Cousin Tom could have stopped Hitler.

Or so they say.

The space-time continuum would have felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of History Channel viewers suddenly cried out in disappointment, and were suddenly silenced. No Nazi Knights Templar From Outer Space in Search Holy Blood, Holy Grail for you, History viewers. Only Knights Templar From Outer Space in Search of Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

Thin gruel.

Two things thwarted Cousin Tom’s sudden silencing of malign time, one Big, one small.

The Big Thing was the missing Twenty-fifth Amendment, which might as well be called Cousin Tom’s Amendment:

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Not ratified until February 10, 1967. Much too late to stop Hitler.

Cousin Tom was stuck with:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

Insufficient to force change on a reluctant timeline. Cousin Tom was no aggressor like the traitor Tyler.

The small thing that prevented Cousin Tom from stopping Hitler? Cousin Tom was no mirror for princes.

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A State Dept DoubleQuote

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- countering violent extremism, or the State Department goes Godwin, plus beards, good and evil ]
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I’ve found quite a few examples of people posting what I term DoubleQUotes in the Wild — twinned images that say more when juxtaposed than if presented singly — and argue that this form of pairing is something we do naturally as humans, somethin that can and perhaps should be sharpened into a tool, so that we are more aware of it, more alert to the possibilities of dicovering patterns, impliucations, inverences and questions than we might otherwise be.

It’s my contention, far from original I believe, that human faculties of this kind, when exercised and developed deliberately as tools, have much to teach us, and that the tool of juxtaposition, working as it does with our analogical sense, may offer us a key to the nonlinear, “horizontal” capabilities of the brain to match the highly developed tools of logic and “vertical” linear thinking.

I’m not sure that the juxtaposition the US Department of State makes in this tweet will be very convincing to diehard jihadists, but if it catches just one or two wannabes off-guard at a point where their dislike of Israel has not blossomed into a capacity to approve Hitler, it will have serve its intended purpose —

— albeit by demonstrating that even the State Department, in conversation with the proponents of the IS “caliphate”, can serve as further evidence of Godwin‘s insight.

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Here’s another recent tweet from my feed, in which I’d argue the DoubleQuotes effect is implied rather than used:

This second tweet via Clint Watts / @selectedwisdom.

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Vexillology 2

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- in response to a comment by Zen on a previous post -- swastikas, anarchist flags, Gadsden flags, black banners, and their various variants ]
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Yesterday, in response to my piece on Black Banners in the Washington Post Zen commented:

Funny how no one mistakes the meaning of a flag with a swastika or a hammer and sickle.

I pretty much agree. Most of us — with occasional exceptions – recognize the swastika as the detestable symbol of Hitler‘s National Socialists or Nazis, right?

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And yet there are nuances — and it was in search of those that I sent myself off on one of those wild goose chases to which the internet entices us. My response got so long in fact, and so heavily illustrated, that I decided to make it a post of its own.

The Nazi swastika is pretty straightforward — except that it can be confused with an ancient Hindu symbol of Life, Love and Light..

found in pujas or worship ceremonies,

associated with Lord Ganesh,

from which Rudyard Kipling no doubt drew his own use of a swastika imprint on his books,

although he later withdrew it,

Kipling was so disgusted by the Nazis and the sight of their flag that he removed the swastika, a Hindu symbol of good luck, from his bookbindings. It had been his trademark for nearly forty years but it was now ‘defiled beyond redemption’

and in Buddhism, for instance decorating the throne of the Dalai Lama,

in the design of US Naval dormitories in Coronado,

in old-style greetings cards,

and a kabbalistic diagram:

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Ah, but it also has many variants:

the Maru ni Hidari Mannji crest, from Japan,

the symbol of the Slavic Union,

the National Power Unity Party of Latvia,

the Syrian Social Nationalist Party,

National Unity of Russia,

Russia’s National Socialist Movement,

the Tohokai Party flag,

the Golden Dawn, from Greece,

the Dutch National Socialist movement,

and Swedish National Socialist Bloc,

Action Front Nationalist, Germany,

and the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, S Africa,

reminiscent of this flag of the Isle of Man,

not to be confused with that of the Isle of Women:

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You might think Anarchist flags would be pretty simple, eh? Red and black triangles..

except that this shouldn’t be confused with the right-wing Nation flag from Belgium:

Interesting anarchist variants apparently include the Anarcho-feminist flag,

the Eco-anarchist,

and the Market-anarchist,

illustrated here,

and sometimes, apparently, in conjunction with..

.. the Gadsden flag:

which will be familiar to Tea Partiers and Chicago Boyz.

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I found or was pointed to most of the images above by the three Political Flags of Extremism pages, to which I am grateful.

Now, as to the Black Banners — Wikipedia has an entry on The Black Standard, showing diferent variants of the black banner (or raya) — notably these three:

The simplest version — the one Muhammad carried into battle,

next, the flag with shahada used by AQ,

and finally the version associated with al-Shabaab and most recently the “Islamic State” caliphate:

There are doubtless many more, some official and some the work of individuals, and exactly which versions have ben recorded in use by which groups is beyond my scope to say.

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My real point, my real answer to Zen’s comment isn’t to agree or disagree with him, just to say that both group flags and logos and which groups they’re attributed to, with what exact shades of meaning, can be a tricky business.

When the US Embassy in Cairo was attacked on September 11th 2012, the “caliphate” was not yet in existence, and the black flag visible in this photo was labeled “the al-Qaida flag”:

It wasn’t even the only black banner there:

To add yet a further touch of symbolic mashup, you can also see an Anonymous / Guy Fawkes / Vendetta mask in both pictures.

In any case, back then the “shahada with seal” was an al-Qaida flag, and this week, Abby Phillip called that same style of flag the “signature flag” of the Islamic State in her WaPo article this week.

As Heraclitus famously said, panta rhei — all is flux.

And a tip-of-the-hat to Lewis Shepherd for a reminder of that great word, vexillology!

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Humanitarian intervention in the Mesozoic: lukewarm

Monday, July 21st, 2014

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Article II, Section 3 of our Constitution opens with this strongly worded suggestion:

He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

As a people, we underutilize the President’s Annual Messages to Congress from 1789-1913: here is a compact, blow by blow, year by year glimpse into how we saw ourselves through what the president wanted us and our representatives to hear about the state of our Union. What is reported is, inescapably, political. Yet, before Thomas Woodrow Wilson (may his bones be crushed) and cousin Franklin turned the president’s annual message into the State of the Union Spectacular, its submission to Congress was low key. Real history could seep through without being pooped on by monarchial excesses that turned its submission to Congress into a spot-the-living-applause-line-sitting-near-to-the-First-Lady-snore.

The instinct of His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, that old serpent of creative hypocrisy, was right: a clerk reading the annual message into the Congressional Record is less monarchial, more modest, and more republican than what we do now. Over time, Americans have acquired the usual growing taste for what the Nazis sold as Führerprinzip“leadership principle”. If your answer to every question is, from most complex to least complex, “These problems will be fixed when we elect __________” or “We need presidential leadership” or just “We need leadership”, you’ve already broken Godwin’s Law. Hero worship is a crutch for the weak-minded and beneath the dignity of a free people.

Few Americans worship at the altar of Grover Cleveland. Understandable: he was a walrus-like fat dude from Buffalo, New York. Yet his administration’s reporting on its evolving response to the Cuban War for Independence is a model of how sovereignty clearly communicates its responsibilities under the law of nations before that law was corrupted by international law.

The response began lukewarm:

Whatever may be the traditional sympathy of our countrymen as individuals with a people who seem to be struggling for larger autonomy and greater freedom, deepened, as such sympathy naturally must be, in behalf of our neighbors, yet the plain duty of their Government is to observe in good faith the recognized obligations of international relationship. The performance of this duty should not be made more difficult by a disregard on the part of our citizens of the obligations growing out of their allegiance to their country, which should restrain them from violating as individuals the neutrality which the nation of which they are members is bound to observe in its relations to friendly sovereign states. Though neither the warmth of our people’s sympathy with the Cuban insurgents, nor our loss and material damage consequent upon the futile endeavors thus far made to restore peace and order, nor any shock our humane sensibilities may have received from the cruelties which appear to especially characterize this sanguinary and fiercely conducted war, have in the least shaken the determination of the Government to honestly fulfill every international obligation, yet it is to be earnestly hoped on every ground that the devastation of armed conflict may speedily be stayed and order and quiet restored to the distracted island, bringing in their train the activity and thrift of peaceful pursuits.

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Dialectic, or a waltz within revelation

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- on three-fold movements in time in Islam, Christianity and Judaism ]
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The three ages of Joachim of Fiore, in the latter's Venn-like diagram

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The question of how Islam in its many varieties views other religions is a compelling one, and perhaps never more so than in our own times. Today I was informed that many of William Chittick‘s papers were available for download on Academia.edu, and the first couple I wanted to read were these:

  • The Theological roots of peace and war according to Islam
  • A Sufi Approach to Religious Diversity — Ibn al-Arabi on the Metaphysics of Revelation
  • While scrounging around the net for an easily quotable form of the second paper, I ran across Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Universal Validity of Religions and the Issue of Takfir — and like a dutiful netizen, I stopped off to read a little, and ran across the gem I’d like to bring you this morning>

    **

    Shaykh Faraz Rabbani offers a fascinating example of the dialectic three-step in the prophetic books of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (Tawrah, Injil and Qur’an), writing:

    A familiar example cited by ulama is the law of talion, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, which was obligatory in the religious law of Moses (upon whom be peace), subsequently forbidden by the religious law of Jesus (upon whom be peace) in which “turning the other cheek” was obligatory; and finally both were superseded by the law of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), which permits victims to take retaliation (qisas) for purely intentional physical injuries, but in which it is religiously superior not to retaliate but forgive.

    **

    In general, Christianity — having the Tanakh and New Testament for its scriptures — offers a binary or two-step process in place of this movement of the dialectic: the lex talionis is commanded in the Old Testament and rescinded in the New. Only in the work of Abbot Joachim of Fiore do we find a three-fold dispensation, in which the first term or “age of the Father” follows the many laws (mitzvot) of the Old Testament, the second follows Christ’s abridgement to include simply the two commandments of Matthew 22. 37-40:

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    And the third?

    Mirabile dictu, it is the age in which the presence of the Holy Spirit liberates us from all necessity of law. Gianni Vattimo, writing in After Christianity, expresses Joachim’s vision thus:

    Three are the stages of the world indicated by the sacred texts. The first is the stage in which we have lived under the law; the second is that in which we live under grace; the third is one in which we shall live in a more perfect state of grace. . . . The first passed in slavery; the second is characterized by filial slavery; the third wiII unfold in the name of freedom. The first is marked by awe, the second by faith, the third by charity. The first period regards the slaves; the second regards the sons; the third regards the friends. … The first stage is ascribed to the Father, who is the author of all things; the second to the Son, who has been esteemed worthy to share our mud; the third to the Holy Spirit, of which the apostle says “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

    The Archdruid’s Report discussed Augustinian and Joachimite views of the nature of time a while back, and while his entire post is worth your attention, here I would like to pick out this one paragraph:

    What made Joachim’s vision different from any of the visionary histories that came before it—and there were plenty of those in the Middle Ages — was that it was a story of progress. The Age of Love, as Joachim envisioned it, was a great improvement on the Age of Law, and the approaching Age of Liberty would be an improvement on the Age of Love; in the third age, he taught, the Church would wither away, and people would live together in perfect peace and harmony, with no need for political or religious institutions. To the church authorities of Joachim’s time, steeped in the Augustinian vision, all this was heresy; to the radicals of the age, it was manna from heaven, and nearly every revolutionary ideology in Europe from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries drew heavily on Joachimist ideas.

    Indeed, Norman Cohn in his classic Pursuit of the Millennium sees Joachim’s Third age in the Drittes or Tausendjähriges Reich (the Third or Thousand Year = Millennial Kingdom) of Nazism, and in Friedrich Engels’ notion of the “withering away of the State” — both great tolitarian systems of the last century thus being under the spell of Joachim’s apocalyptic notion of utopia.

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    And Judaism?

    Judaism has its own developmental scheme, in which sacrificial Temple worship gives way to the synagogues, talmudic scholarship and the diaspora — yet always with the Pesach refrain:

    Next year in Jerusalem.

    Here too, it may be surmised, time moves to the music of the dialectic.

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