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Getting religion, forgetting circumcision

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — some characteristicc lacunae in journalisti praxis ]

As you know, I used to work for Lapido Media, which in turn used to be a media-eductional outlet that emphasized the major role of religion(s) in world affairs, so often overlooked by typically skeptical, secular journos.

Get religion is a fine site with a similar purpose, and today it has a fine article titled With Russia all over U.S. news map right now, how fares its huge Orthodox Church? For instance:

In addition to politics, there’s a historic religious turnabout in Russia that stateside reporters could well develop through interviews with the experts. The dominant Orthodox Church, which managed to survive Communist terror and regained freedom, has latterly emerged as a strategic prop for Putin’s Kremlin.

If that election day peg doesn’t work for your outlet, another signal event comes July 17. That’s the Orthodox feast day of the doomed final czar, Nicholas II, and his family, shot to death by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918 and canonized by the national church in 2000 as saints and “passion-bearers.”


It’s not just journos who forget / don’t get religion — pols in the extreme north do it, too. How else explain this header from Iceland: Iceland male circumcision ban: MP behind plan ‘didn’t think it was necessary to consult’ Jewish and Muslim groups, amid growing anger. The subhead is (from my POV) idf anytbing even more mind-boggling:

‘I don’t see it as a religious matter,’ insists Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir

What does Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir imagine the origin of the practice was?


What else do journos tend to miss?

Well, there’s female obits, for onr thing — although things may be improving in that regard. Here’s a New York Times’ obit, belated but in a good faith effort to catch and patch up: 1932-1963 Sylvia Plath –A postwar poet unafraid to confront her own despair. It begins:

She made sure to spare the children, leaving milk and bread for the two toddlers to find when they woke up. She stuffed the cracks of the doors and windows with cloths and tea towels. Then she turned on the gas.

And it quotes her poetry:

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.

Okay, it’s International Women’s Day 2018.

Thank you, Anemona Hartocollis and the NYT editors. We mourn you, Mrs easily forgotten behind your husband Hughes.

Shorts 2: Princess Ivanka, War Games, Trump President for Life, &c

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — if Paula White is Christian, must be the season of the witch ]

Princess (Jared’s) Bride:

It seems that beauty allied with power can add up to (almost) royalty. Consider Princess Ivanka. From the LA Times, Ivanka Trump: Born to legitimize corruption and make the shoddy look cute:

She has the same magic touch with the multitudes of flesh-and-blood rogues who flock to her for redemption. It’s Ivanka who first brought Gen. Michael “Lied to the FBI” Flynn into the administration, according to the New Yorker; she praised him for his “amazing loyalty” and offered him his choice of positions at a transition-team meeting. One person present said, “It was like Princess Ivanka had laid the sword on Flynn’s shoulders and said, ‘Rise and go forth.'”

The laying on of that princess sword seems to be Ivanka’s favorite pastime. In 2006, when she was 25, she toured Moscow with Felix Sater, who in 1998 pleaded guilty to a $40-million stock fraud scheme run by the Russian mafia. She also collaborated with the Soviet-born businessman Tamir Sapir, whose top aide in 2004 pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy with the Gambino crime family.

Redemption, did you get that?

And what a relief to get back to the Gambinos!


War Games:


  • NYT, U.S. Banks on Diplomacy With North Korea, but Moves Ahead on Military Plans
  • Twitter, Wargames with @avantgame – at Jewish Community Center
  • Comment:

    Wow, I’m impressed. I’m not quite sure what Dr Jane McGonigal is up to with her war games, but the generals who participated in the table-top exercise in Hawaii simulating a war with North Korea might like to try them.. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, and Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command.


    Immortal Trump?

    Trump on China’s Xi consolidating power: ‘Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day’

    In the closed-door remarks, a recording of which was obtained by CNN, Trump also praised China’s President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn’t mind making such a maneuver himself.
    “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

    The remarks, delivered inside the ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate during a lunch and fundraiser, were upbeat, lengthy, and peppered with jokes and laughter

    That’s all fun and games. Wait till Xi Jinping goes full Mao:

    Oh, ah — the immortality’s not just for Mao, it’s for all of us. ANd Lifton’s thesis is a meditation on the one and the many!

    Lifton undertook his book to supply an ingredient which he felt was lacking in current accounts of the Cultural Revolution: namely the link between psychological phenomena and historical framework, between the feeling of individuals and the events taking place around them.

    Briefly, Lifton argues that individuals relate to history and to other men by means of symbols. The symbols themselves vary in response to the historical context–different events make different symbols relevant. But their ultimate purpose is to give men a sense of connection with their past and future: to provide a sense of unity with other men and with history–a sense of immortality.


    Christian Today:

    Trump adviser Paula White says send money to her for blessings – or face divine consequences

    >onald Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White has told people to send her money – ideally their January salary – in order to receive blessings, or face divine consequences. [ .. ]

    ‘Right now I want you to click on that button, and I want you to honour God with his first fruits offering,’ she said in the video.

    ‘If God doesn’t divinely step in and intervene, I don’t know what you’re going to face – he does,’ she said. [ .. ]

    Explaining the theory behind her appeal for cash, she said: ‘January is the beginning of a new year for us in the Western world. Let us give to God what belongs to him: the first hours of our day, the first month of the year, the first of our increase, the first in every area of our life. It’s devoted…The principle of first fruits is that when you give God the first, he governs the rest and redeems in.’



    By way of explanation?

    When I look over my shoulder What do you think I see?
    Some other cat looking over His shoulder at me
    And he’s strange, very very very strange

    Must be the season of the Witch!

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland

    Thursday, February 15th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a smattering of thoughts about the most recent shooting ]

    Wednesday, 14 February, 2018:

    It was Valentine’s Day, among the family members grieving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, in Broward County, Florida (upper panel, below):

    — and it was Ash Wednesday, when ashes from palm crosses representing Christ’s hosannah-filled entrance into Jerusalem are smeared on the foreheads of believers (lower panel, above)..


  • Daily Herald, Sheriff: 17 killed in Florida high school shooting, image 2
  • Daily Herald, Sheriff: 17 killed in Florida high school shooting, image 1
  • A day set apart for love, a day for mourning. And each in turn could provide a potential shooter with an added impulse to act on this particular day.


    Control is the issue:

    But where? Should we be figuring out how to control youthful impulses, somewhere in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala (upper panel, below) —

    — or how to control the access to semi-automatic weapons of people who are slipping dangerously into forms of mental distress, while respecting both the right to privacy and the right to bear arms (lower panel, above).


  • Daily News, Florida gunman accused of killing 17 in high school massacre
  • Daily News, These are the victims of the Florida high school shooting
  • Impulse control, or gun control?


    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is too much of a mouthful: Parkland will be the name etched in memory, alongside Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. Such names are invoked, not spoken.


    Is there perhaps a connection between the school shooter issue and the national conversation on sexual harassment, such that a major shift in attitudes towards sexual harassment would naturally translate to, or facilitate, a similar shift regarding gun control?

    Are these in fact two conversations — waves on the same wave-front — “whose time (for change) has come”?

    Would each benefit from their being discussed together?

    Playing politics and other games, &c

    Thursday, January 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — how shall we frame this last week in Washington? ]

    Sapir-Whoff, George Lakoff, Carl Jung:

    I’m a firm believer of some version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to the effect that it’s hard for us to think thoughts when the necessary vocabulary is not available to us — so that while an expert surfer can distinguish maybe 50 different kinds of waves by name, the rest of us can only manage to discern maybe five or six types. I also think, with George Lakoff, author of Don’t Think of an Elephant!, that the metaphorical framings we use has enormous impact on our conversations — so that liberals framing things in terms of the “nurturing mother” contrasting with conservatives framing in terms of the “stern father” — or DACA people being “kids who, through no fault of their own” are in this country, vs “illegal immigrants” — will tend to win or lose depending on which of those framings has the most powerful resonance among voters. Finally, I’m in agreement with Carl Jung that certain deep patterns in the unconscious, which he termed “archetypes”, have a basis in instinct [CW 6, par. 765], are explored in myth and the arts, and have extraordinary profundity and depth — so that generations are moved by the story of St Eustace out hunting, meeting a stag with the crucified between his antlers, from Albrecht Durer and Pisanello to John Fowles [in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Tree, and The Ebony Tower] and Russell Hoban [in Riddley Walker].

    Pisanello, Fowles and Durer

    Some words and metaphorical phrasings, then, are of significant importance. It is for that reason, then, that I’ve tried to keep abreast of at least a few of the play and game metaphors that have surfaced in the course of the last few days, while I’ve been stuck in bed without the internet, and with only the TV — and no rewind button — to keep me abreast of events.


    Game and play metaphors, early:

    These were the metaphors and framings I caught during my first three or four days without internet.

    Reince Priebus was the one I caught using the phrase “play politics”, and White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said Senator Chuck Schumer “needs to up his game”. But if politics is a game politicians play, it’s a bipartisan game — both parties toss the term “game-changers” about freely, and each plays “the blame game” against the other. Indeed, Chuck Todd of Meet the Press sais “the blame game is what the two parties do best”, and Mitch McConnell said “When all the games stop, the issues are still there.” It might be nice to have no more games, with only the issues “in play”. Meanwhile, the President “has watched all this play out..”

    There are, however, many more specific game and play references to be found in recent news reports, and they’re more inventive, more interesting than the generalized game references I’ve noted above. I’ll do my best to identify whatever I managed to note down, though it’s hard for me to keep track of all the details while stuck in bed watching TV. Here goes:

    Chris Matthews said “I think [Sen Schumer] has all the cards.

    Jennifer Rubin (WaPo) said someone, likely President Trump, “bounces around like a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel”.

    Steve Schmidt compared a politician to “Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football.”

    Someone on Meet the Press said the shutdown was “the Fight Club vs the Waffle House” I’m not sure which is which, nor who’s the winner here.

    Brian Williams to Nicole Wallace: “As you delicately put it, the President plays whack-a-mole rather than chess”.


    later part of the week:

    Senator Graham’s suggestion to Democrats then currently in negotiation, after discussing ways in which the Republican position has been evolving: “don’t overplay your hand.”

    Another term I’ve heard tonight drawn from Bridge (think “Double No Trumps” and from other card games: “The president has been the wild card here”.

    Someone, The Dems “must play the hand they have”

    Better, delightfully punning, the New Yorker: “Jared Kushner Is China’s Trump Card“.

    Garrett Haake: “The House has always been the heavier lift for the Democrats..”

    Here’s a refreshing game-metaphorical novelty from Garrett Haake to Kasie Hunt: “It’s a waiting game, Kasie”.

    Rep Charlie Dent to Katie Tur: “The Queen of the Hill strategy“. Charlie Dent has used this phrase before, FWIW.

    And someone on MSNBC: “DACA is the football”.. Come to that, Fort Smith DACA recipient feels like ‘political football’. Ashley Parker, observing comings and goings on the Senate floor: “This is how I watch football games.. I don’t know how to help, I don’t really understand what’s going on.” Leigh Ann Caldwell: “They’re going to go and huddle and see if it’s enough” and (maybe someone else) “instead of kicking the can down the road”. Best football ref? “Pelosi, Dems accuse GOP of moving goal posts on DACA deal“.

    Regarding the Mueller investigation, Michael Steele used Shakespearean phrasing, telling Hallie Jackson: “Of all the players and actors in this drama, Sessions is the weakest link.”

    Ari Melber, comparing the loyalty Trump appears to look for in his AG and senior FBI officers with Christopher Wray‘s reasons for threatening to resign if Andrew McCabe is removed: “He was threatening over the same ballpark”.

    Tony Perkins, explaining thatt the Evangellical Right will no longer support Trump if he reverts to his earlier behaviors (eg his affair with a porn star), “Tony Perkins: Trump Gets ‘a Mulligan’ on Life, Stormy Daniels“: “We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,” Perkins told me.. “You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says.

    Lawrence O’Donnell discussing the government shutdown and his own times working in the Senate past midnight, saying there are often few options, none of them entirely satisfactory: “It’s usually a toss up”.

    Carol Leonnig: “Trump’s lawyers have been squaring off” with Mueller.

    Chuck Schumer before the final Senate vote to re-open the government: “The great deal-making President sat on the sidelines.”

    After the vote: “The White House chose to take an aggressive victory lap.”

    2020? “A far left and far right race?”

    A touch of game theory, late Sunday night: “But the Democrats’ strategy in Washington’s latest game of “shutdown chicken” has some important data behind it — at least as the numbers currently sit.”

    Chris Matthews won my prize for best paradox when he came up with “High Noon at midnight” — that’s not a game reference of course, but then Matthews is the guy whose program is called “Hardball”. And Ari Melber gets kudos for “eleven is the new ten” — brilliant, if you know the Spinal Tap “eleven” reference, and don’t think it’s about George Clooney and “Ocean’s Eleven”.

    And BTW, is “running for office” an athletics reference? Runners from sprints to the marathon at the Olympics might think so.. Come to that, I’ve seen this whole protracted negotiation around the government shutdown referred to as a “marathon” — a weekend of marathon closed-door negotiations on Capitol Hill to reopen the government, Rolling Stone — so there’s a game ref there after all.



    MTP: “the durability of institutions doesn’t matter to people in the ballgame.” DId I get that right?

    Ari Melber: “we are going towards the red zone.” Yup.

    Ari Melber, again: “You’ve been in these things — we call them scrums.” I’m not sure whether tjat’s a direct Rugby reference, it may come via the business methodology of that name…

    Chris Matthews: “You’re losing a game of checkers, you’re losing a game, you break the board”. I may be able to get this one in context when the transcript becomes availale tomorrow — watch this space.

    Carol Leonnig: “The President speaks in the language of a pugilist.” I googled “Carol Leonnig pugilist” to see if there was a transcript yet, and google supplied quotes from Leonnig about Barbara Boxer. Close, close.

    Meanwhile, Trump: “Now they’re saying, “Oh, well, ‘Did he fight back? Did he fight back?’ You fight back, ‘Oh, it’s obstruction.’ So, here’s the thing: I hope so.” That’s pugilist talk, I think.

    Someone, about the negotiations between Mueller and Trump’s attorneys, after the President said he’s looking forward to speaking with Mueller: “This doesn’t help if they wanted to start with a low bid.”

    Brian Williams to Philip Bump of WaPo: “This isn’t your first rodeo eitther.” That one took me by surprise! Ride’em, cowboy!


    Today, Trump is in Davos, and I’m still in bed, in recovery. I’ll bet there are some weak imstances here, but the overall use of sports metaphors is overwhelming — no other framing comes close. There are likely some typos here too — blame my meds, okay?

    Your crazed-looking friend:


    Let’s talk!

    Year’s End Musings

    Saturday, December 30th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — wry thoughts at the year’s turning ]

    The best of prophetic moments of the past twelve months according to Propheccy News Watch, and a glimpse of the Atlantic’s this and that..


    Prophecy News Watch:

    Obvs. the right place to go for a go-to report on the year in prophetic signage, Prophecy News Watch gives us a detailed breakdown of the past year, noting:

    Pieces of the eschatological puzzle continue to manifest daily. Even signs that are primarily Tribulation events are casting a shadow today. As I perused news stories of the year, I selected 15 items that tell us time is short. The King is coming soon. Don’t ever doubt that.

    Zechariah 12.3 isn’t the most commonly quoted of end times verses, and it’s a bit obscure at first sight:

    And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

    Still, that’s PNW’s first and foremost of 15 notable signs of the times for the past year, and PNW signals it in context:

    Jerusalem became a greater “burdensome stone” with Donald Trump’s acknowledgement that this is truly Israel’s capital and holy city. See Zechariah 12:3. Greater controversy will surround her in the year ahead.

    It looks like Zechariah (who?) had a point. And whether Zechariah (yes!) was thinking of Trump’s declaration “it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” on December 6th as the “that day” which PMW’s Zechariah quotation implies, or maybe December 21st when, as the Guardian put it, the UN “delivered a stinging rebuke to Donald Trump, voting by a huge majority to reject his unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital” — well, that’s an open question — perhaps both..


    Here’s a Christian point of view. According to al-Jazeera in a piece entitled Palestinian Christian leaders denounce Trump’s decision:

    The US move is offensive to “Christians and Muslims around the world who consider Jerusalem as an incubator of their most sacred, spiritual and national heritage”, Atallah Hanna, the archbishop of Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox church, said in a statement on Saturday.

    “We, Palestinians, Christians and Muslims reject the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he added.

    “The US gave the occupation what it does not deserve.”

    Pastor Hagee sees it differently, attributing “biblical timing of absolute precision” not just to the President’s December 6th proclamation, but to the actual movement of the embassy, which should occur in the next couple of days, or miss the once-in-fifty-years nark:

    He [Hagee] also talked with the president about the significance of moving the embassy in this “Jubilee Year.”

    “…I told him that God measures everything in modules of 50 years,” Hagee explained to CBN News. “And I said this is a principle that’s carried out in Leviticus, the 25th chapter.”

    “I said, ‘If you look at 1917, it was a Jubilee Year, and the Balfour Amendment came, and then in 50 years, it was 1967, and Jerusalem was reconnected to Israel,'” he continued.

    “‘And you add 50 to 1967, and you’re in 2017.’ I said, ‘This is the year to move the embassy and make that declaration because it is a biblical timing of absolute precision,'” Hagee said. “Thank God, he’s going to do exactly that.”

    If 2017 is tthe Jubilee Year, we have two Jubilee Days remaining to us for moving the embassy, today included!


    Ah, yes — the Atlantic!

    The Atlantic has also been recapping past events and articles at year’s end. It struck me as wryly amusing that they made The Case for Humility in 1918, just before the end of WW I — with some surprisingly prescient commentary:

    Before our educational system can furnish us the help that it should, the Humanist must learn … to abandon his faith in the mechanical and quantitative methods which belong to science, and to set about the task of reinstating the past in the present.

    And again:

    Examine the record of the nineteenth century, of the epoch which closed three years ago, and you will find that it is a record of increasing absent-mindedness on the part of men and nations who imagined that they were doing one thing but who were actually engaged in doing something else. They imagined that they were making the future secure by their feverish activity; they imagined that they had only to devote themselves to science and to industry in order to be happy. But, as a matter of fact, the whole tendency of their activity was to make the future insecure; and their blind faith in science and industry is being repaid by the unspeakable misery of war.

    The Atlantic then brought us up to speed in 2014 with The Case for Corruption: Why Washington needs more honest graft:

    Once upon a time, the budget process was reasonably regular. In fact, it was conducted under what was called regular order. The budget-committee chairmen would do some horse trading to build a consensus within each chamber, the House and Senate would then pass those budgets without too much ado, and the two chambers would work out their differences in a conference committee. Then the appropriations committees would do more or less the same thing, making sure to spread around enough pork-barrel goodies to get their friends paid off and the budget passed. The president and the congressional leaders would be involved throughout the process, every now and then calling a budget summit, but most of the real work would go on behind the scenes.

    In the past few years, by contrast, regular order has been replaced by regular chaos. Public ultimatums supplanted private negotiations, games of chicken replaced mutual back-scratching, and bumptious Republican House members took to dictating terms to their putative leadership. Last fall, after one tantrum too many, Congress seemed exhausted. As part of a deal to reopen the government, it returned the task of setting the next fiscal year’s budget to the budget and appropriations committees, sending them off to a smoke-free smoke-filled room to cut a deal.

    Sigh — one can’t help smiling at that phrase, “a smoke-free smoke-filled room” — beautifully, concisely, evocatively boustrophedonic!


    Boustrophedon — to and fro, as the ox ploughs — oh joy!

    Happy New Year to all!

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