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Teaching your Enemy to Win, Infinity Journal

Monday, January 21st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — self-defeating, as theme and variation ]

A new issue of Infinity Journal is now out. One featured piece:

The whole setup is self-destructive, self-referential, self–eating — ouroboric, IMO.


Compare with this, from a Vanity Fair Hive article, and ask: Who’s the apparent, and who’s the real enemy here?

This is bullshit,” a senior State Department official messaged on Thursday, shortly after the Trump administration announced that all United States diplomats and department employees were to return to work next week, despite an ongoing government shutdown that has deprived some 800,000 federal employees of a regular paycheck. Earlier that afternoon, Bill Todd, the deputy undersecretary for management, had sent out an urgent memo elucidating the rationale. “As a national security agency,” he wrote, “it is imperative that the Department of State carries out its mission.”

For staffers who were already frustrated with their newish, Trump-loving boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, being forced to work without pay has felt like a last straw. “It just further destroys morale . . . It demonstrates a continued lack of respect, even apparent enmity, for people committed to the national security of the country, only in order to serve a political calculation,” one current State Department staffer said. “It’s like, we’re supposed to show up and pretend like everything is cool? Work as normal?” [ .. ]

Together with his unceasing praise of Donald Trump, Pompeo’s perceived cavalier attitude toward the shutdown has made some staffers feel like they have been taken for granted—or worse, been taken advantage of. “What is universal is a sense that they are pawns in a bigger political dynamic,” said Rob Berschinski, a former deputy assistant secretary of state still in touch with former colleagues…

Self-destruction within State? That too seems ouroboric to me.

Brutal Times 02

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — on Kakutani, Hitler, Trump, Duterte, Aesop — and was Don Quixote a converso Jew? ]

You don’t have to be an aging Kremlinologist to read between the lines, you don’t have to be a member of the target audience to be alert for dog-whistles, you don’t need a decoder ring to catch what the Washington Post calls “a thinly veiled Trump comparison” in Michiko Kakutani‘s New York Times review of Volker Ullrich‘s new biography, Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939.




In his essay Persecution and the Art of Writing, Leo Strauss suggests that..

Persecution gives rise to a peculiar technique of writing and therewith to a peculiar type of literature, in which the truth about all crucial things is presented exclusively between the lines.

Such a style may or may not be evident in Michiko Kakutani’s review, but if it is there it is skilfully done — and not, I’d guess, in fear of persecution.

There’s a blunt equivalent now in use of social media in which, to quote but one example (others, equally or more distasteful, here):

“skittles” has come to refer to Muslims, an obvious reference to Donald Trump Jr.’s comparing of refugees with candy that “would kill you.”

Here, the purpose is to avoid algorithms that hunt down racist and other hateful comments on social media and expunge them — so the code words used include google, skype, yahoo and bing.


But wait. If you lob the h-word at Donald Trump, what ammunition will you have left for Rodrigo Duterte? Duterte is quite open about his admiration for Hitler.

But Trump?

David Duke wouldn’t mind:

The truth is, by the way, they might be rehabilitating that fellow with the mustache back there in Germany, because I saw a commercial against Donald Trump, a really vicious commercial, comparing what Donald Trump said about preserving America and making America great again to Hitler in Germany preserving Germany and making Germany great again and free again and not beholden to these Communists on one side, politically who were trying to destroy their land and their freedom, and the Jewish capitalists on the other, who were ripping off the nation through the banking system,

And Trump himself? From that 1990 Vanity Fair interview:

Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Kennedy now guards a copy of My New Order in a closet at his office, as if it were a grenade. Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.

It’s worth noting that a few lines later, Trump declares:

If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.

and that the interviewer, Marie Brenner, concedes:

Trump is no reader or history buff. Perhaps his possession of Hitler’s speeches merely indicates an interest in Hitler’s genius at propaganda.


So. Why Trump?

Mightn’t Kakutani simply be writing about Hitler and the new biography?

Oh, and if you insist on her having a second target, Trump may be nearer to hand, but Duterte is, well, more overt about his leanings..

Have you considered the Duterte possibility?


The range of uses to which “Aesopian language” — defined as:

conveying an innocent meaning to an outsider but a hidden meaning to a member of a conspiracy or underground movement

— can be put is enormous.

Here, to take your mind off contemporary politics and point it towards the higher levels of literary and religious thought, is Dominique Aubier’s comment on the Quixote, from Michael McGaha, Is There a Hidden Jewish Meaning in Don Quixote?

if one accepts that Cervantes’ thought proceeds from a dynamic engagement with the concepts of the Zohar, themselves resulting from a dialectic dependence on Talmudic concepts, which in turn sprang from an active engagement with the text of Moses’s book, it is then on the totality of Hebrew thought — in all its uniqueness, its unity of spirit, its inner faithfulness to principles clarified by a slow and prodigious exegesis — that the attentive reader of Don Quixote must rely in order at last to be free to release Cervantes’ meaning from the profound signs in which it is encoded.

You want to read the Quixote? How about spending a few decades in the Judaica section of your local university library first?

But then, those were brutal times.

Why do people cover their mouths?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — mostly amused, a little curious ]


The image is from Vanity Fair‘s Exclusive: President Obama Considered Putting Osama bin Laden on Trial if Taken Alive, teaser for a forthcoming article, which includes this intriguing Obama quote:

I mean, we had worked through a whole bunch of those scenarios. But, frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr.

That — the quote itself, the Vanity Fair piece I grabbed it from, their upcoming full article by Mark Bowden, and or Bowden’s own book The Finish, plus any and all ramifications and queries relating thereto — strikes me as the sort of thing we might like to discuss here.

Not that I personally have any competence in such matters.


What I want to know, just out of idle curiosity, is this: why do so many of the people in the photo want to keep their thoughts to themselves?

Life imitates art, or vice versa?

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — burqas and veiled threats, Martha Nussbaum, virtual reality ]

I believe the photo is from Dubai, the cartoon is by New Zealand’s Malcolm Evans, and all sorts of things are going on when we put the two of them together, thus:


For a start, the photographer presumably saw the same thing with his eyes and through his lens that the cartoonist saw in the mind’s eye, and then on paper. Who knows, one of them may have seen the other’s work, and that could have been what triggered their interest in capturing the same effect.

Call that the problem of simultaneous, independent vs sequential, causally connected origination. It’s a fascinating issue in archetypal psychology and cultural anthropology…

Then there’s the juxtaposition of the two images, and the fact of their close similarities and differences. Apart from the obvious difference of media, there’s the neat difference that the women in the photo reality might be thinking roughly the thoughts attributed to them in the cartoon, we’ll never know because thoughts are private — but the cartoon reality adds a “virtual” layer of text to the image, so the women’s “thoughts” and their parallelisms and oppositions are no longer tacit.

But then — hey, those two sets of thought are juxtaposed, just as the two styles of clothing are — so each of the two images I’ve juxtaposed is itself a carefully-executed juxtaposition, artfully conceived, and revealing by comparing and contrasting.

Each of those two images is a Sembl move.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about the issue of burqas and veils — or bikinis and short short skirts — yet.


But this post is really my oblique way of introducing Martha Nussbaum‘s book, The New Religious Intolerance, which grew out of her column on veils and burqas — and tummy tucks and breast implants — Veiled threats, on the NY Times Opinionator blog.

I’d love to review it. Will I ever even find time to read it?


Veils worn by nuns, Muslims, ninjas — and everybody in the Windy City in December. Circumcision in Islam and Judaism, metzitzah b’peh — and various forms of female genital mutilation around the world. Prayer in schools, other people’s prayers in school. Peyote and wine as taboos, as sacraments. Pork and beef, pigs and cows. Kosher, halal, voodoo — and Socrates sacrificing a cock to Asclepius…

This business of religion and society is a subtle, multi-faceted business.



My sympathies tend to go with whoever wants to wear whatever. But then I tell myself, I have different body parts, and they have different preferences.

Perhaps more accurately — and certainly more metaphorically — I might say that I am part-angel, part-beast.

Either way, I too contain multitudes.


Monday, May 24th, 2010

WAR by Sebastian Junger

Received a courtesy review copy of WAR yesterday from the publisher, due entirely to the kind offices of Kanani.

Read the first 50 pages this afternoon and found it it interesting because as a book, it exists on the opposite end of the spectrum from Mackinlay and Kilcullen. Where the former are giving a panoramic or telescopic view of COIN as strategic-operational-grand tactics, the author of WAR, journalist Sebastian Junger, is using a microscope to show COIN in the Korengal valley, Afghanistan as seen by an Army platoon, squad and individual soldier. Maybe an electron microscope would be a better analogy. Gritty.

Will write a full review when I am finished. If any active duty or veteran readers were in Korengal or Afghanistan or have read WAR and care to sound off in the comment section, you are cordially encouraged to do so.

Junger is also part of the documentary film project, RESTREPO, which he personally financed.

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