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Wealth redistribution: from rich to poor, or from goats to sheep?

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — surplus and lack vs good and evil ]
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SPEC DQ Sanders Cruz

I have to admit, I’m used to wealth redistribution being a concept on the left — socialist, whether in the sense indistinguishable from communist, often found in the US, or in the more moderate sense of the word found more frequently in Europe — as proposed by Bernie Sanders in the upper panel, and was surprised to see Sen. Cruz‘ father using the same concept, albeir in a different sense, lower panel, on the right.

As my title suggests, the distinction to be drawn here is between the material distinction between rich and poor, and the spiritual distinction between sheep and goats.

**

For a different distinction, see also Tim Furnish‘s comment in his book Sects, Lies and the Caliphate “that liberals are almost always messianic, while conservatives tend more toward the apocalyptic”:

It’s certainly the Democrat party, for the most part, that worships the idea of our elected democratic officials as messianic wealth-redistributors, assisted by their hordes of bureaucratic disciples; while the GOP (not unreasonably, perhaps) obsesses about apocalyptic demise—whether politically, theologically, or both.

Furnish is writing in response to Anne Barbeau Gardiner‘s review of Ross Douthat‘s book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics here — making use of a distinction which comes from Douthat himself:

The fourth heresy is American nationalism, which has two sides, messianic and apocalyptic. The messianic side turns democracy into a religion capable of doing the “redemptive work that orthodoxy reserves for Christ and his Church,” while the apocalyptic side envisions our national history as a “downhill slide.” Today these two sides are “bipartisan afflictions.” Each takes its turn in the driver’s seat — the messianic when a favored political party is in power, the apocalyptic when it is out of power — with the result that they go through cycles of “utopian hopes and millennial angst.” Moreover, the two parties are “theological worlds unto themselves,” creating a Manichean landscape of good versus evil where a Christian is pressured to conform his “theology to ideology.”

**

Within a purely secular context, transfers of wealth happen all the time, in regular clock time, by means of gift, trade, theft and plunder.

Within a Christian theological context, however, humans taking it upon themselves to separate the sheep from the goats is surely no different from separating the wheat from the tares — and as such, distinctly not something to be done until “the harvest” — in “the end times”.

Matthew 13. 24-30:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

And that’s a very different scenario, in which the timing is by definition unknown.

Official policy targeting weddings?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — as if in brutal proof that “the bed waiting inside belongs to death” — that bridal and burial veils are one ]
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Does the Coalition have an official policy targeting weddings?

Sorry to be so blunt about this, but I get déjà vu these days when I read about Coalition attacks on wedding parties.

**

Today, for instance, WaPo has this headline:

WaPo

I believe that headline is only in white on a black background because that’s the “style” for WaPo’s “video channel” pages — but it’s suitable, really, eh? Funereal?

Lest we forget, let’s see, now, Wikipedia has entries for:

  • Deh Bala wedding party airstrike of July 6, 2008
  • Wech Baghtu wedding party airstrike of November 3, 2008
  • **

    Then there’s December 12, 2013, reported by the admirable Greg Johnsen:

    Greg Johnsen

    If I’m not mistaken, that was also the occasion of these two headlines from Conor Friedsdorf:

    Friedsdorf 02

    Friedsdorf 01

    Stunning, those headlines. Of course there may have been other funereal weddings that I’ve missed.

    **

    Oh, and there’s always the money to consider:

    more than $1 million

    **

    Headline sources:

  • Air strike on Yemen wedding kills
  • Sorry our drones hit your wedding party
  • If a drone strike hit an American wedding
  • The Wedding That a U.S. Drone Strike Turned Into a Funeral
  • Yemeni victims of U.S. military drone strike
  • Gregory Johnsen’s piece is beautifully written as always. Conor Friedsdorf’s title alone — The Wedding That a U.S. Drone Strike Turned Into a Funeral — deserves high praise.

    **

    Déjà vu? If these things keep on happening, I’ll have to call them flashbacks.

    Lexington Green Interviewed on Against the Current

    Thursday, September 10th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    America 3.0 : Rebooting Prosperity in the 21st Century by James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus

    Lexington Green” of Chicago Boyz blog, a.k.a Michael Lotus, co-author of America 3.0 was interviewed recently by Chicago talk radio host and TV commentator Dan   Proft, on Proft’s video podcast, Against the Current.

    I heartily approve of the cigars.

    Tune in for approximately fifty minutes of conversation regarding national and local politics, futurism, economics and political philosophy through the analytic prism of America 3.0 (a book I warmly endorse):

     

    We’re a legacy industry in a world of start-up competitors

    Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]
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    chautauqua haqqani daveed

    **

    From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”

    I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:
    **

    Amb. Haqqani:

    None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.

    You’ll see how neatly this fits with my recent post on borders, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream?

    And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.

    Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..

    **

    If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.

    Daveed G-R:

    In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.

    Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.

    **

    The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us

    a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities

    — down to our own times.

    Amb. Haqqani:

    What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.

    The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:

    Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.

    Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.

    **

    Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.

    Daveed G-R:

    The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.

    And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being real – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.

    **

    Amb. Haqqani:

    The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.

    This makes a nice DoubleQuote with Gabriel Marcel‘s more general aphorism:

    Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

    **

    Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..

    Daveed G-R:

    Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?

    He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:

    Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.

    — and had the final, pointed word:

    We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.

    **

    Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:

    The Washington Post – can’t read, or can’t count?

    Thursday, August 20th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a grumpy grammatical plaint, plus Proclus for poet’s delight ]
    .

    You know me, maybe — I’m not a quant, if anything I’m a qualit, but even so..

    CEOs at the top 50 U.S. charities, including Samaritan’s Purse, earn in the $350,000 to $450,000 range, which makes Graham’s $622,000 salary from his aid organization alone about 40 percent to 50 percent higher than average, according to a Forbes story. He receives the rest of his $258,000 compensation as CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

    That’s straight out of the Washington Post, who got it whole cloth from Religion News Service.

    **

    OK, we know what the writer means to say, but.

    If top US charity CEOs including Franklin Graham earn between $350,000 to $450,000, and Graham earns $622,000 as his CEO’s salary, then — bzztzz — top US chatioty CEOs earn in the $350,000 to $622,000 range, , not “in the $350,000 to $450,000 range” period.

    Further, if Graham earns $622,000 from Samaritan’s Purse — which purse it seems I shall not be filling any time soon, and which might want to change its name to Sadducee’s Purse — the “rest of his $258,000 compensation” doesn’t make any sense at all — bzztzz. How can $622,000 plus an additional fee possibly sum to $258,000?

    There is a language, English, and a numerical method, Arithmetic, and this paragraph is lacking in one, the other, or both.

    **

    Or is Franklin Graham paid in irrational numbers?

    Proclus, as quoted by Danziger:

    It is told that those who first brought out the irrationals from concealment into the open perished in shipwreck, to a man. For the unutterable and the formless must needs be concealed. And those who uncovered and touched this image of life were instantly destroyed and shall remain forever exposed to the play of the eternal waves.

    Play of the eternal waves?

    Perhaps Graham’s expefrience is not unlike that of George Boole, who wrote a sonnet on the Trinity, and of whom Margaret Masterman wrote:

    Towards mathematical truth he had indeed a consciously religious attitude, which he sometimes expressed to himself by the phrase, ‘For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.’ Boole’s behaviour during his last illness was characteristic of the man… When his mind had been wandering in fever, he told his wife that the whole universe seemed to be spread before him like a great black ocean, where there was nothing to see and nothing to hear, except that at intervals a silver trumpet seemed to sound across the waters, ‘For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.’ And as he lay in bed on the borders of delirium, all the little sounds of the house, such as the creaking of doors, resolved themselves into a chant of these words, which expressed for him the excellence of mathematical truth.

    **

    Ah, but I drift.


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