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Wishing Charles Cameron Well

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

Image result for charles cameron

Some of the regular readers may have noticed an absence lately at zenpundit.com. I regret to report that our genial managing editor,  Charles Cameron, suffered a heart attack over the weekend and required open heart surgery yesterday. Fortunately, Charles has gotten through the operation and is now recovering in a cardiac ICU where he is expected to spend some time.

While you would not know it from his prolific output of thought-provoking posts, imaginative double-quotes and learned musings on the intersections of theology, culture, politics and fiction, this latest episode is one of a number of serious medical ailments Charles has been contending with for a number of years. All of this has taken a severe toll on his energy, mobility and finances while Charles now faces the prospect of an extended convalescence and significant medical bills.

If you have enjoyed and respected Charles’ work here – and he deserves much of the credit for keeping zenpundit.com going as an active blog when many other strat-mil-FP blogs have gone by the wayside; I’m serious, without Charles Cameron I probably would have shuttered the place – there is an opportunity to show some appreciation and wish Charles a speedy recovery. It would, I’m sure, raise his spirits

If you would like to send Charles Cameron a get-well card or note, you can mail it to:

Charles Cameron c/o Merino
8323 Berman Walk Way
Citrus Heights, CA. 95610

If you would like to make a donation to help Charles off-set his medical expenses in this difficult time, his gofundme account has been reactivated and is accepting donations:


Sending you all the best thoughts Charles. Get well my friend!

The weathervane vote

Friday, October 28th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — not a weatherman myself, though I do appreciate Bob Dylan ]

Is what I suggest here ridiculous, or important but largely overlooked, or well known and in general background awareness? What say you? I just want to air the topic..


There’s a lot of talk about swing voters, right? A Brookings Institution chapter, What Exactly Is a Swing Voter? Definition and Measurement runs to 31 pages and 27 footnotes explaining the concept, but I think there’s one swing vote they may be missing.

I came to this conclusion after pondering the whole question of margins of error in polls. It’s generally accepted that polls have margins of error, often in the mid-single digits. Margins of error call forth interesting analytics, too — see this graphic and accompanying comment from Pew, 5 key things to know about the margin of error in election polls:


For example, in the accompanying graphic, a hypothetical Poll A shows the Republican candidate with 48% support. A plus or minus 3 percentage point margin of error would mean that 48% Republican support is within the range of what we would expect if the true level of support in the full population lies somewhere 3 points in either direction – i.e., between 45% and 51%.

Even a relatively small margins of error can be enough to encourage misreading an upcoming election result, but the margin of error I’m thinking of is in the range of 35% of undecideds. Let’s call it the weathervane vote.


Consider this quote from Theodore H. White’s The Making of the President, 1960:

The weather was clear all across Massachusetts and New England, perfect for voting as far as the crest of the Alleghenies. But from Michigan through Illinois and the Northern Plains states it was cloudy: rain in Detroit and Chicago, light snow falling in some states on the approaches of the Rockies. The South was enjoying magnificently balmy weather which ran north as far as the Ohio River; so, too, was the entire Pacific Coast. The weather and the year’s efforts were to call out the greatest free vote in the history of this or any other country.

That’s also the epigraph to another piece of learned disquisition — and yes, I love (envy, mock) academics — The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections. That’s from The Journal of Politics, Vol. 69, No. 3, August 2007, pp. 649–663.

Parasols or umbrellas?


But my figure of 35%?

First, let me admit i’m not exactly clear on the distinctions or overlaps between swing voters and undecideds, so I may be adding my own margin of error by conflating the two — but my 35% comes from a 2012 piece titled Bad Weather on Election Day? Many Won’t Vote. I think my favorite bullet point therein was this:

  • In bad weather, Mitt Romney supporters are more likely to vote.
  • Their lead paragraph gives me my 35% figure:

    Among those who plan to vote this year, 35 percent of undecided voters say that inclement weather conditions would have a “moderate to significant” impact on whether they make it to the polls on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

    Don’t ask the the margin of error on that particular poll, though, the good folks at Weather.com failed to say.


    My favorite weathervane to date:


    Bottom line: If 35% of the swing vote hinges on which way the wind blows, I’m prone to thinking the weather may well have the deciding vote in this here election.

    Hat-tip for pointing me to the 35% piece: rockin’ andee baker.

    Trump’s candidacy ‘spells end of American religious right’ — my latest just up at Lapido

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — plus a link to Dr Moore’s Erasmus Lecture yesterday ]

    My latest for LapidoMedia concerns Trump and the religious right, and centers on some remarks by Dr Russell Moore. It begins:

    DONALD Trump’s presidential bid is dividing not just of the American people but American religious opinion.

    Evangelicals and Catholics alike are deeply split on his candidacy.

    What’s at stake is both individual conscience and the future of American religious politics.

    Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy office, says ‘the Donald Trump phenomenon … is an embrace of the very kind of moral and cultural decadence that conservatives have been saying for a long time is the problem.’

    Read the rest on the Lapido site


    Dr Moore gave the 2016 Erasmus Lecture yesterday, after my article went to press: Can the Religious Right be Saved? for First Things [link is to video, I don’t have a transcript]. I am by no means an Evangelical, but I find him very impressive.

    Two more tweets of interest from Elijah Magnier

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — angels as force multipliers for ISIS, and the cross restored ]

    I used a tweet from Magnier in Prophetic dreams, Dabiq now, Mosul back then, and another in my comment on The map borders on the territory? Turkey, Palestine. Here are two more..

    The first updates us on the Qur’anic concept of angels, rank on rank, supporting the Muslims at the Battle of Badr (Qur’an 8.9):


    And before I show you the second, let me remind you of this, from November of last year:


    Now the situation is blessedly reversed:

    Prophetic dreams, Dabiq now, Mosul back then

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — two dreams of the Prophet attributed to al-Baghdadi, one just now, one a year and a half ago ]

    Another response to the failure of a prophecy is to claim the Prophet foretold it. That at least is the claim made recently about the ISIS retreat from Dabiq:

    However, we should note that something very similar was reported back in March of 2015!



    Dreams were important to Muhammad and his Companions, gave guidance to both bin Laden and Mullah Omar, and are important to ISIS. They are among the “soft” aspects of jihad that we overlook at our peril (cf Thomas Hegghammer).

    For a quick overview, see Iain R Edgar‘s pieces, Islamic State and Dream Warfare from September, or his earlier The Dreams of Islamic State. The second edition of his book, The Dream in Islam: From Qur’anic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration includes material on ISIS.

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