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Philanthropic? I guess the bombs were sent pro bono?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — the horror! the incongruity! ]
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Tablet DQ Philanthropic

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To be fair, the Chronicle of Philanthropy carried this report because what happens to a MSF hospital in wartime is of appropriate interest to philanthropists.

The juxtaposition of journal title and topic, however, remains jarring — click on the link below and take a look at their page as it originally appeared, to see what I mean.

Sources:

  • Chronicle of Philanthropy, Report Examines Afghan Forces’ Role in Hospital Bombing
  • New York Times Magazine, Doctors With Enemies: Did AfghanForces Target the M.S.F. Hospital?
  • The Colossal Rhodes

    Friday, May 6th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski / a.k.a. “zen“]

    This is absolutely amazing.

    Quite possibly the most damning thing I have ever read about the Obama national security inner circle. This NYT profile far exceeds any wild polemic by an overventilating right-wing pundit. Ben Rhodes, whose complete lack of any FP/Defense/Mil/IC qualifications would have relegated him to getting coffee for bigwigs in any other NSC in history, is a Deputy National Security Adviser with Oval Office walk-in access. He gloats about his yes-man relationship with the POTUS, disparages Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, boasts of lying to reporters and mocks the servility of Beltway celebrity journalists who faithfully retweet the administration talking points he gives them. It reminds me of the tone of that Rolling Stone article that sank Stanley McChrystal.

    The Aspiring Novelist who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru

    ….He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press. His ability to navigate and shape this new environment makes him a more effective and powerful extension of the president’s will than any number of policy advisers or diplomats or spies. His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.

    Part of what accounts for Rhodes’s influence is his “mind meld” with the president. Nearly everyone I spoke to about Rhodes used the phrase “mind meld” verbatim, some with casual assurance and others in the hushed tones that are usually reserved for special insights. He doesn’t think for the president, but he knows what the president is thinking, which is a source of tremendous power. One day, when Rhodes and I were sitting in his boiler-room office, he confessed, with a touch of bafflement, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”

    I think we know where we can find your head, Ben.

    ….One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.

    Boost thinks very highly of me. My notes are so impressive that they have taken on the form of ideas, he feels. I capture other people’s words in a manner that not only organizes them, but inserts a clarity and purpose that was not present in the original idea. Connections are made between two opposing ideas that were not apparent in the meeting. I have gotten at not only the representation of things, but the way that the mind actually works.

    Is this for real? Who thinks of themselves like this?

    ….Obama relies on Rhodes for “an unvarnished take,” in part, she says, because “Ben just has no poker face,” and so it’s easy to see when he is feeling uncomfortable. “The president will be like, ‘Ben, something on your mind?’ And then Ben will have this incredibly precise lay-down of why the previous half-hour has been an utter waste of time, because there’s a structural flaw to the entire direction of the conversation.”

    The literary character that Rhodes most closely resembles, Power volunteers, is Holden Caulfield. “He hates the idea of being phony, and he’s impetuous, and he has very strong views.”

    Somewhere, someplace, J.D. Salinger is throwing up next to a dry-heaving George Kennan.

    There are White Houses in the past where an article of this kind would have gotten the staffer in question fired on the spot. That however was a more serious time.

    Better angels, honest selves

    Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — two phrases, two anthropologies, two ways of virtue — Lincoln & Trump ]
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    SPEC DQ Lincoln Sharlet Trump

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    Jeff Sharlet is one of our finer writers about religion, and his piece on Donald Trump in Saturday’s NYT Magazine is worth your attention.

    Here, I simply want to contrast Lincoln‘s “better angels of our nature” with Sharlet‘s “lust, the envy, the anger of our more honest selves” — idealism and realism? sanctity and authenticity? — as phrases representing two approaches to human nature, each clearly enunciating a virtue in its own context.

    Sources:

  • Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address
  • Jeff Sharlet, Donald Trump, American Preacher
  • Now you see it, now you don’t

    Monday, November 16th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — NYT re Paris — curious minds wonder why ]
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    In sequence:

    SPEC DQ NYT

    Sources:

  • The Paris attackers communicated with ISIS, officials say
  • Page Not Found
  • David Brooks gets his Islamic eschatology wrong on NewsHour

    Saturday, February 21st, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — why scholarship should inform punditry ]
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    I am a bit surprised, I have to say, that I haven’t seen — and Google doesn’t seem to have found, either — a clear rebuttal to one highly significant detail in David Brooks‘ discussion with Mark Shields and Judy Woodruff on Islamic eschatology.

    In the PBS NewsHour segment labeled Shields and Brooks on fighting Islamic extremism (above), Brooks makes the statement:

    I do think you have to take the religion seriously, that these people are — it’s not like they can’t get what we want. They want something they think is higher than what we want. Their souls are involved. And I’m saying you have to conceive of them as moving, as acting in a religious way.

    And you have to have religious alternatives. And they are driven by an end times ideology. They think there’s going to be some cataclysm battle and Mohammed will come down. And if you ignore that part of it, write it off as sort of marginal, that they are being produced by economic dysfunction, I just think you’re missing the main deal.

    I’m largely in agreement with this, but the phrase “and Mohammed will come down” is just plain wrong. In Islamic eschatology, it is claimed that Jesus (‘Isa ibn Maryam) — not Muhammad — will “come down” from heaven at the ‘Umayyad mosque in Damascus:

    God will send the Messiah, son of Mary, and he will descend to the white minaret in the east of Damascus, wearing two garments dyed with saffron, placing his hands on the wings of two angels. When he lowers his head, beads of perspiration will fall from it, and when he raises his head, beads like pearls will scatter from it.

    The return of Jesus and his “breaking the cross” and preaching the one faith of Submission (Islam) may be what Brooks should have mentioned — or perhaps he meant the arrival and recognition of the Mahdi, who does not “come down” to us but is already among us by the time his end times role begins.

    I can see how this may seem a slight slip-of-the-tongue to David Brooks, who is after all not solely preoccupied with IS, Islam, and / or apocalyptic — but it’s not something that should go unchallenged if we are to “take the religion seriously”.


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