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Okay this re North Korea this morning from WotR

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — from Korea hands vs nuclear wonks ]

Okay, the title of this piece intrigued me: Korea hands vs nuclear wonksVan Jackson at War on the Rocks today.

Okay, I mostly like wonks, but hands have on-the-ground awareness that beats the hell out of book-footnoted research and chat with like-mindedd others, so to my mind, Korea hands would naturally beat nuclear wonks (Cheryl Rofer and friends explicitly excepted), no contest. Anyway, neat, interest-grabbing title. I therefore clicked to see the piece, and while my own opinion was not affirmed, I found this:

I ranted about this a bit on twitter over the weekend, but what we’re witnessing is an open split between the United States and South Korea over North Korea policy. It’s not the first time; this happened in the early years of the George W. Bush administration too. Both sides have an interest in papering over differences in public, but the rift is there. The question is why.

Nuclear scholars see the emerging differences in the alliance as strategic “decoupling”—North Korea’s growing nuke threat is leading South Korea to search for security by other means because U.S. reliability shrinks as U.S. territory falls within range of North Korean missiles. South Korea would be hard-pressed to have faith that Trump would be willing to let Seattle eat a nuke in exchange for Seoul not eating one.

But Korea scholars see a more familiar pattern in the current divergences between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and President Trump. The breakdown of the U.S.-Korea alliance in 2002 and 2003 was about as bad as it’s ever been, it was due entirely to the politics (on both sides) of North Korea policy, and it was years before North Korea had a functional nuke.

So we all see a fissure opening up between allies, but what’s the best explanation for it? If the nuclear scholars are right, and the fissure is a function of North Korea’s growing nukes, then the alliance is in big trouble, because the nuke problem is on-trend to get worse not better.

If the Korea scholars are right, then the alliance is in a bad place but the situation is recoverable. South Korea’s president is just being a political opportunist, in this interpretation, and once the domestic mood in the South shifts against him (or North Korea), then the alliance will be in a better place.

Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.


Two points-of-view — the view from two points, two perspectives — distinct but not necessarily opposed, ie capable of binocular vision, if the balance between the two lenses is adjusted to the perceiver’s taste.

Binocular vision, adjusted to balance the inputs from the two lenses, is — if nothing else — an opportunity for dialectic, or for the HipBone approach (stereophany — see Meditations for Game Players, vii).

Binocular — stereoscopic — dialectic vision is a central aspect of my interest in polyphony, the capacity to hear twwo or more points of view at once. F Scott Fitzgerald once said, much to my delight:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

Then there’s Sir Lawrence Freedman, in The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives:

For Beaufre, strategy was the “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute.”

Strategy! Dialectic! Stereophany!


And now, back to N Korea and Van Jackson with all that in mind..

I’ve taken into account two viewpoints in my “binocular” discussion here — but Jackson offers a third possibility at the very end of his piece:

Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.


WHat do you think, Zen, Scott, Tanner, Cheryl, Michael??

Transfiguration, Tabernacles, and Yom Kippur

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ By Charles Cameron — responding to Scott, Jewish & Christian holy days ]

J Scott Shipman today sent some Zenpundit friends a post concerning The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), viewed through a “Messianic Jewish” (ie Judaism-observant Christian) lens:

As the last feast on the Sabbatical calendar, representing the final ingathering of the great harvest and the joyful celebration that will follow, the number seven is imprinted in this feast. The feast was in the seventh month, lasted for seven days, and the number of sacrifices, of which there were more than for any other festival, were divisible by seven. Little wonder that it was also called the “Feast of the Lord”.

Following closely after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), it was a particularly joyous celebration, representing the joy of those who have been reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sin. One of the names applied to this feast was “the season of our joy.”

According to Jewish tradition the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire which was given to guide the Israelites day and night first appeared to Israel on the 15th of Tishri, the first day of the feast. Moreover, Moses is said to have come down from the mountain and announced to the people that the tabernacle of God would be pitched in the midst of their tabernacles on this same day.


By way of response, I’d like to offer Scott and company the following post, The Transfiguration and Jewish feast days, from a liturgically traditionalist Catholic site:

I thought it might be helpful to look at today’s feast day in the light of two Jewish feasts. Many years ago, I was bowled over by Fr Jean Galot’s observation concerning St Peter’s profession of faith. He argued that if, as many scholars accepted, the transfiguration occurred during the feast of tabernacles, then the “after six days” of Matthew 17.1 would mean that the profession of faith of St Peter in Matthew 16.16 would have taken place on the Day of Atonement. This is highly significant because the Day of Atonement was the one day in the year on which the high priest solemnly pronounced the holy name YHWH in the holy of holies in the Temple. St Peter, by his confession of faith fulfils the work of the high priests, and Our Lord in His own person is the living presence the Most High.

There’s more at each site, naturally, and both Jewish and Christian traditions have their symbolisms as well as their festivals.

Greetings to all.

Sunday surprise — Orthodox choral music, and Lutheran

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — for Kristen and J Scott Shipman, Tim Furnish, Mark Osiecki, and whomever it may delight]

Note the words:

Music has certain remarkable qualities, which even the spoken word does not possess. Music does something that words can’t. It goes to the deepest point of who we are, the center of our person, it is a quintessential part of what it means to worship God, to be able to sing to God, to be able to pour our hearts in thanksgiving, praise, Orthodox worship cannot take place without singing.

You know, I have very few things to offer back to the world in thanks for the many, many things the world has offered me, but this remark reminds me of another from John Eliot Gardiner, spoken after Sara Mingardo‘s recitative in his rehearsal DVD for Bach‘s cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63. Gardiner quotes Bach:

Nota bene: Bei einer andächtigen Musik ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart. Now I find that very, very significant. That he’s saying wherever there is devotional music, God with his grace is present. Which, from a strict theological point of view is probably heresy, heretical, because it’s saying that music has an equivalent potency to the word of God. And I think that in essence is why Bach is so attractive to us today because he is saying that the very act of music-making and of coming together is, in a sense, an act which invokes the latency, the potency, the potentiality of God’s grace, however you like to define God’s grace; but of a benediction that comes even in a dreadful, overheated studio like Abbey Road where far too many microphones and there’s much too much stuff here in the studio itself, that if one, as a musician, puts oneself in the right frame of mind, then God’s grace can actually come and direct and influence the way we perform his music.


And so, once again, here is Sara Mingardo, incomparable:

Hinnary, or: Google Image Search, meet Hillary Clinton

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — artificial intelligence at the intersection of religion and politics ]

Our own J Scott Shipman posted what I term a DoubleQuote on Facebook this morning, offering a juxtaposition of politician Hillary Clinton and preacher Benny Hinn:


I’ve enlarged it and cropped it lengthwise to give you a proper appreciation of the comparison.



Okay, I thought, Scott’s doing an informal DoubleQuote, let me see if I can find the two images and rework them into one of my regular DoubleQuote formats. Only it wasn’t that easy. The only versions of the Hinn photo I could find were too small for my format, and the Hillary image wasn’t a photo but a screencap from a video — I could find a similar screencap from another TV channel, but not the exact one Scott had found.

As you’ve seen above, I finally settled for cropping and enlarging the image Scott had provided — but along the way I ran across another instance of the intelligence of artifice — in this case, Google Image Search’s recognition technology:


Ah — but spokesperson for what or whom?


I’m relieved to say that while Google is in general a brilliant, cutting-edge, genius of a search engine, it’s clearly not following the current Presidential race with any enthusiasm.

You see that lady? She’s one of the candidates, and she was on several TV channels and online streaming sites just last night.

There’s another candidate, who probably looks pretty much the same to you:


I don’t think my telling you all this will make you more artificially intelligent — but it might make you a little better informed about current affairs.

Recommended Reading—Summer 2016

Monday, July 11th, 2016

[by J. Scott Shipman]

Storm of Creativity2017



white horsewashington


The Storm of Creativity, by Kyna Leski

2017 War With Russia, by General Sir Richard Shirreff

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

Serendipities, Language and Lunacy, by Umberto Eco

Paradise, Dante Alighieri, translated by Mark Musa

Undertow, by Stanton S. Coerr

The White Horse Cometh, by Rich Parks

Washington The Indispensable Man, by John Thomas Flexner

This list starts the first week of May, so perhaps the title should be Spring/Summer. Most of these books are quick reads and all are recommended.

I picked up Ms. Leski’s book at an MIT bookshop on a business trip in early May and read on the train ride home. Books on creativity are ubiquitous, but Ms. Leski takes an interesting approach by describing the creative process using the metaphor of a storm. Several ZP readers will find of interest.

2017 was recommended by a friend. The author was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the book focuses on a Europe/NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. Written in a Tom Clancy-like style, the plot is fast-paced even though the good general provides sometimes provides detailed insights into the inner workings of NATA and the North Atlantic Council (this is one of the values of the book—bureaucracy writ-large).

David McCullough’s Wright Brothers delivers an approachable and human accounting of the first men of powered flight. Some reviews on Amazon complain McCullough lifts and uses too many quotes to tell the story. At times the quotes were distracting, but not enough to prevent the enjoyment of the story of two brothers who changed the world. This book was a gift otherwise I probably would not have read.

Serendipities is a short book, but was a long read for me. Eco explains how language and the pursuit of the perfect language has confounded thinkers since time immemorial. He refers to Marco Polo’s unicorn (also used in his Kant and the Platypus which is excellent) explaining how language is often twisted to meet a preconceived notion or idea. The first couple of chapters were quite good, chapters three and four did not hold my interest or were over my head. The closing chapter was good enough to convince me I’ll need to read this little book again. (My Eco anti-library has been growing of late.)

Eco’s book led me to reread Musa’s excellent translation of Paradise. My son gave me the deluxe edition with parallel Italian and English, plus commentary. Eco referenced Canto 26 and 27, and I enjoyed the break so much I read the whole thing!

Undertow is my good friend Stan Coerr’s second book of poetry.  His first book Rubicon was a moving collection of poetry of men at war. Undertow deals more with the heart and is quite good, too. You won’t be disappointed.

White Horse is also a book by an old friend, Rich Parks (we’ve known each other since the mid-80’s). White Horse is self-published and in places it shows, but the overall story is quite good for a first book (I’ve already told him his book would make an excellent screenplay.). The plot is quick and entertaining even if a bit unbelievable, but the story is fiction. Rich is following up with a sequel in August in 2016 and I’ll be reading it, too.

Mr. Flexner’s Washington was a gift, too. In this quick biography Washington is made approachable and human. And when I say “quick,” I mean quick…Trenton and Princeton took one chapter compared to David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing which took up a standalone book. If someone were looking for a first Washington biography, this would be a good place to start.

This isn’t the conclusion of my summer reading, but a pretty good start.What are  you reading this summer?

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