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Archive for January, 2016

Juxtaposition: Qutb & Bahnsen

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — edited version, see final para ]

SPEC DQ Qutb Bahnsen

I’ve said before that juxtaposition does not imply eqivalence. It does, however, provide a striking means of raising questions, pointing up similarities where differences are also present and differences where similarities may be more easily discerned — questioning easy assumptions, in other words.

In this juxtaposition, I want to make it clear that a small subset of Christians (Dominionists or Theonomists, here exemplified by Greg Bahnsen, lower panel) like a highly visible subset of Muslims (Islamists, represented here by Sayyed Qutb) seek the universal imposition of what they believe to be God’s law.

It is worth noting, btw, that Gregory Bahnsen was a postmillennialist, which is to say he expected, to quote Wikipedia, that “increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations.” The dominionist / theonomist movement in which he partakes, in other words, is one which is busy making the world ready for Christ, not expecting him at any moment before that work is done.

Please note, also, that this juxtaposition does not mean that Christian and Islamic apocalyptic movements divine law movements are “the same” —


I have now edited this post in light of Joel Richardson’s comment below, and removed the second half of my original post, in which I’d invited Joel to comment, which will shortly to be found in edited and revised form at Juxtaposition: Christian and Islamic apocalypticisms.

Juxtaposition: No, it’s like, Lenny Bruce

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — further Donald Trumpery ]

SPEC Trump

No. It’s like, Lenny Bruce.


My thanks and appreciation to Mike Sellers, who noticed the corresponsence between Trump‘s recent statement and the Lenny Bruce routine, posting a slightly longer version on his FB page.

Life imitates art, perhaps even deliberately?

Of a Faig Ahmed carpet, huzzah!

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a perfect visual example of linking between similars across distance ]

Double Tension-Dark edition. Faig Ahmed, 2011. Image Courtesy of Faig Ahmed Studio 602
Double Tension-Dark edition. Faig Ahmed, 2011. Image Courtesy of Faig Ahmed Studio

This is a magnificent carpet from among the magificent carpets of Faig Ahmed. It also reminds me..


In March 1998, during an online forum with the computer scientist David Gelernter, I formulated my sense of how a move in Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game would function in these terms:

My own hunch is that an aesthetic sense is *the great sorting principle*, that it has to do with pattern recognition, and specifically the recognition of isomorphisms parallelisms in deep structure. So an AI that recognized deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances would be the ideal web navigator as an AI that recognizes deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances is a creative mind. It would also be playing Hesse’s Bead Game, no?

To which Gelernter responded:

I think basically, that’s exactly right. I wrote a book about this issue of what you call recognizing isomorphisms in widely different domains, a tremendously important issue in how the human mind works.

Some years later, in a post here on Zenpundit, I rephrased my original insight more precisely, thus:

The leap that intuits similarities, particularly rich similarities between rich concepts in widely separated fields, is the most powerful tool of the thinking mind.


I mean, the two ideas — one purely visual, deriving from the creativity of an artist who works in carpets, and one theoretical, from my own work in creative juxtapositions — are themselves richly parallel across a wide disciplinary distance..

SPEC DQ carpet

Differently said, you can DoubleQuote ’em.


For reference:

The DoubleQuotes board linking two ideas, before —

and after play —

The Four-floor War is Something to Avoid

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

“The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities”

 – Sun Tzu

It is said that when Alexander the Great conquered fabled Babylon, the already ancient metropolis was so vast in size and population that it took his army three days to reach the center of the city. Alexander’s path in Babylon, it is written, was strewn with flowers and welcoming crowds; the Babylonian elite, having experienced two thousand years of bloody Mesopotamian history, were shrewd enough to see the writing on the wall.

Those beside Alexander who have enjoyed such good fortune when fighting in cities have been few.

Cities however remain and battles are sometimes fought in them. What to do? A Marine general believes he knows:

ORLANDO, Fla. — US land forces will eventually find themselves locked in fights within huge, dense urban environments where skyscrapers tower over enormous shanty towns, and these troops need more realistic training to operate within these future megacities, a US Marine general is warning.

“I’ve trained in every environment, jungle, the desert, the mountains, cold weather, but I’ve never really trained well in an urban environment,” said Brig. Gen. Julian Alford, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory commander, earlier this month at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando, Florida.


“We are going to have these megacities that are ringed with these shanty towns and we are going to fight there because it will be the people who are uneducated, unemployed, the young men who are not married and they are mad about their lot in life,” Alford said.

“We talk about the three-block war, but we are moving quickly to the four-floor war,” he added. “We are going to be on the top floor of a skyscraper . . . evacuating civilians and helping people. The middle floor, we might be detaining really bad people that we’ve caught. On the first floor we will be down there killing them. … At the same time they will be getting away through the subway or subterrain. How do we train to fight that? Because it is coming, that fight right there is coming I do believe with all my heart.”

Well….yes, but a necessity is not always to be regarded as a virtue.

This is not a criticism of Brigadier General Alford, whom I’m certain is a smart man tasked with thinking through warfare in all possible environments to which a President might order young Marines. If he wasn’t seriously contemplating the risks and problems of urban warfare then the general would not be doing his duty. Heck, I hope he’s thinking about how Marines would fight in Antarctic mountains or in the Taklamakan.

That said, it would be most unwise for a great power whose political elite cringes at the death of enemy combatants in numbers and can no longer tolerate even incidental enemy civilian casualties when attacking enemy formations, to develop enthusiasm for plunging large numbers of American general purpose forces into a third world “megacity” of tens of millions where they might have to fight their way out. Putting troops in a vast warren of insurgency in some hellhole shantytown labyrinth with the highly restrictive ROE now so fashionable with Beltway chattering ninnies who reek of what military historian John Keegan termed “….the air of the seminar” would be to court defeat.

Assuming we do not have some kind of Jacksonian revolution in Washington that revives a tolerance for Stalingrad level casualties, the liberal use of heavy artillery and close air support, then urban warfare is better left to Special Operations punitive raids, drones and the intelligence community’s clandestine officers. Urban warfare on the large scale is seldom worth the cost, unless you need to exterminate an enemy force or impose unconditional surrender – and if you capture a “megacity”, you “win” the privilege of providing basic services to millions of desperately poor people who seethe with anger over your presence. Great.

The best way to win a war in a “megacity” is to stay the hell out of it.

Politics as a pocketful of curiosities

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a brief addendum to the previous post ]

While we’re on the topic of religion and politics, so to speak, here’s a theological curiosity — a pocketful of the current presidency:

I’ll leave it to individual viewers to decide whether that’s an interfaith pocketful or a pocketful of theological impossibility — either way, it’s thought provoking.

Quick summary: Christianity 2, Hinduism 1, Buddhism 1, Casinos 1.

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