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Archive for April, 2019

Which century do you wish to live in? Crossword puzzle edition

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

] by Charles Cameron — btw, is Scrabble a form of crossword puzzle — I’m puzzling over that this week ]

Two magazines and two crossword puzzles, with a great deal of sociology and a smattering of art history in the comparison between them:

I have to say, there’s much to be said for the early twentieth century if you are advantaged: disadvantaged not so much. And tablets? There’s much to be said for tablets, too.

The New Yorker [upper panel, above], the Atlantic [lower panel], and Vanity Fair [no panel] are the three magazines whose emailed synopses most often bring me items of delight


Th purpose of my DoubleQuote format, as instanced above, is to provide a haiku-like form for succinct compare and contrast explorations, inviting the viewer or reader to make the relevant associative / creative leap..

The Mercy, logic, the model digitized, the glass, the music survives

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — logic, the arts, and technology offer an Easter, resurrection corrective, philosophically speaking, to the ruin of the cathedral of Notre Dame ]

For the terrible fire that consumed so much of Notre Dame de Paris this week, grief is great. Here, I wish to recall some of the ways in which the essence of the great cathedral has been saved.

Above, Piero della Francesca‘s Madonna della Misericordia. Our Lady of Mercy, for whom the cathedral was named, continues to shelter us all..


Perhaps the most extraordinary, as well as the most abstract, form of Notre Dame to survive fire, war, and the French Revolutionary idea — to replace Mary with the goddess Reason enthroned in her place — is the logic embedded in the theology that accompanied its building and — lex orandi, lex credendi — the worship within it, for which purpose it was designed and built

The American philosopher CS Peirce was among the first to propose a kinship between Gothic architecture and the logic of the Paris schoolmen:

Art felt the spirit of a new age, and there could hardly be a greater change than from the highly ornate round-arched architecture of the twelfth century to the comparatively simple Gothic of the thirteenth. Indeed, if any one wishes to know what a scholastic commentary is like, and what the tone of thought in it is, he has only to contemplate a Gothic cathedral. The first quality of either is a religious devotion, truly heroic. One feels that the men who did these works did really believe in religion as we believe in nothing. We cannot easily understand how Thomas Aquinas can speculate so much on the nature of angels, and whether ten thousand of them could dance on a needle’s point. But it was simply because he held them for real. If they are real, why are they not more interesting than the bewildering varieties of insects which naturalists study; or why should the orbits of double stars attract more attention than spiritual intelligences?

Erwin Panofsky‘s work, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, is the central presentation of the parallels. Pierre Bourdieu, who translated Panofsky into French, characterizes the work:

The parallelism between the development of Gothic art and the development of scholastic thought in the period between about 1130–1140 and about 1270 cannot be brought out unless one “brackets off phenomenal appearances” and seeks the hidden analogies between the principles of logical organization of Scholasticism and the principles of construction of Gothic architecture. This methodological choice is dictated by the intention of establishing more than a vague “parallelism” or discontinuous, fragmentary “influences”. Renouncing the semblances of proof which satisfy intuitionists or the reassuring but reductive circumstantial proofs which delight positivists, Panofsky is led to identify the historical convergence which provides the object of his research with a hidden principle, a habitus or “habit-forming force”.


Rachel Donadio, Witnessing the Fall of Notre-Dame for the Atlantic, depicts the ruin of the cathedral with incredulityn–

How could Notre-Dame be burning? How could Notre-Dame, which had survived for eight centuries—survived plague and wars of religion, survived the French Revolution, survived the Nazis—be falling? Notre-Dame, the heart of Paris, not only a Catholic site but the preeminent symbol of European cultural consciousness, the heart of France, the kilometer zero from which all its farthest villages are measured—how could this majestic structure collapse so fast

— Oh, ruin, from the Latin ruere, meaning to fall.. John Milton, Paradise Lost:

                                                          Hell saw
Heaven ruining from Heaven, and would have fled

Viollet-le-Duc‘s 19th century spire, in this archaic sense of the word, ruined.


The competition is already afoot to rebuild it.


Fortunately, a few years back the entire structure was mapped with ferocious accuracy by Vassar professor Andrew Tallon, using advanced laser photography to capture detail — wear and tear included, to an accuracy of a tenth of an inch:

Vassar College/AFP Photo / Andrew TALLON

Alexis Madrigal, in the Atlantic:

Now, with the building having sustained untold but very substantial damage, the data that Tallon and Blaer created could be an invaluable aid to whoever is charged with rebuilding the structure. Ochsendorf described the data as “essential for capturing [the structure] as built geometry.” (He added, however, that the cathedral, no matter what happens now, “is irreplaceable, of course.”)

Tallon and Blaer’s laser data consist of 1 billion data points, structured as “point clouds,” which software can render into images of the three-dimensional space. Stitch them together, inside and out, map the photographs onto the precise 3-D models, and you have a full digital re-creation of incredible detail and resolution.

Professor Tallon died less than six months ago, in November 2018, age 49. If you’re looking for another Easter parallel, Tallon may be metaphysically resurrected with the promised rebuilding of the cathedral he so loved and diligently studied.


It appears that the great Rosace Nord (north rose window) survived the fire —

As Incunabula commented:

By far the greatest blessing – a miracle – is that the Rosace Nord has survived. The South and West windows were very extensively restored in the 18th and 19th century, but the North Rose Window has stood basically unchanged for 800 years, the glass is the 13th century original.


To close with a blaze..

In January of this year, Olivier Latry, titular organist of Notre Dame, made what is very likely the final recordings of music on the cathedral’s great organ, for a recording which was released in March, just weeks before the terrible fire. The organ, as built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in the nineteenth century, houses some 8,000 pipes; it seems the fire has left it largely intact, though with damage to its electrical systems and wind-chest.

Olivier Latry plays Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 on the Cavaillé-Coll organ of Notre-Dame de Paris::

Expletives asterisked

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — language, Sir, such language! ]

The most interesting redactions in the entire Mueller affair are these, signifying as they do the tenor of President Trump and his administration.

The first redaction is not made under a claim of executive privilege:

Nor is the presidential attorney’s remark noted here redacted on grounds of attorney-client privilege:

Such language was already in Use in Nixon’s Oval Office (and no doubt before), and the words “expletive deleted” were familiar to me from that era in some ways so parallel to our own. “Redacted” however is the word bandied about in our own day, and it took me a while to realize that all those asterisks in fact represent “expletives redacted”..

Language, my enduring love.

Descendit ad inferos, he descended to those below..

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — the low down, the vanishing point, and the exaltation ]

There is no Christ: he has died, he is not yet resurrected. According to the usual English translation of the most basic of the Church’s three statements of faith, the Apostles’ Creed, he descending into hell: or as Ephesians 4.9-10 has it:

Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.

This worldly world is no place into which such doctrines comfortably fit. Hell? The lower parts of the earth?

No, there is a low doorway by which we may enter such a cosmos, encounter such a Christ. We must shed, in fact, reality and self-importance, twin delusions, and embrace imagination.

Above all heavens?


The second to final section of Bach’s St John Passion deals with this intermediate state, the boirderland between life and death, in this melancholy yet resigned chorus, Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine:

The lyric addresses the now dead Christ

Rest well, you blessed limbs,
now I will no longer mourn you,
rest well and bring me also to peace!
The grave that is allotted to you
and encloses no further suffering,
opens heaven for me and closes off Hell.


The Latin of the Apostles’ Creed does not actually say that Christ descended into hell, but that he descended to those below, and this in turn is interpreted to mean that he came to those of good character who died before his coming, and were thus unable to hear the gospel he preached until this Holy Saturday — his body in the tomb, his presence preaching to them for their salvation. We are thus offered a neat answer to the otherwise tricky question — what happened to those who, through no fault of their own,never heard him.

For Christianity, this is the archetypal liminal moment, this day between crucifixion and resurrection, death and renewed life. How unimportant it seems, how humble, falling between Good Friday and Easter Day — yet there is beauty here, as the whole gospel story is beautiful.

But there is more. It is characteristic of the Passion story that Christ touches the depths of human doubt on the cross — crying My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?


As I have noted before, the Lakota medicine man Archie Fire Lame Deer told his biographer, Richard Erdoes:

I am no wino or pishko, but I am no saint either. A medicine man shouldn’t be a saint. He should experience and feel all the ups and downs, the despair and joy, the magic and the reality, the courage and the fear, of his people. He should be able to sink as low as a bug, or soar as high as an eagle. Unless he can experience both, he is no good as a medicine man.

Ifb you have not suffered as deeply as those who come to you with their sufferings, you will seem shallow to them, and be unable to console them. If youhave not experienced joy as fully as those who rejoice nearby, you will seem stiff and stilted to the, and cannot join thewir dance, their song/\.

Christ on the cross, Christ in the tomb descending to those below — bith are instances of that same descent which is the natural accompaniment of sacent — just as Chrust’s birth in a stable — no room at the inn — is the descen to vulnerable humanity of Godhead impassible — beyond all suffering.

It is in the descent that the ascent is prepared.


Or as Heraclitus says:

The way upward and the way downward
is one and the same

Or St John of the Cross, greatest of Spanish mystics, writing of the Dark Night of the Soul:

Although this happy night brings darkness to the spirit, it does so only to give it light in everything; and that, although it humbles it and makes it miserable, it does so only to exalt it and to raise it up; and, although it impoverishes it and empties it of all natural affection and attachment, it does so only that it may enable it to stretch forward, divinely, and thus to have fruition and experience of all things, both above and below, yet to preserve its unrestricted liberty of spirit in them all.

And again, as TS Eliot has it, who quoted that fragment of Heraclitus as an epigraph to his Four Quartets:

And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.


I have written this post, this day, to teach myself these things, to do the necessary research, the discovery and the remembering: and I hope they will be of interest and profit to you too.

But I must post in haste — Easter Day approaches, and with it the joyful cry, Christ is risen! Christos aneste.

For your consideration — this I must listen to myself:

For joy!

Prof Hadar Aviram’s close reading of Mueller, 2

Friday, April 19th, 2019

[ by Charles CameronHadar Aviram continues her distillation of the Mueller report, here providing us with the essence of volume 2 ]

Mueller Investigation Report, Volume II: Obstruction of Justice.

2. The report starts off with a decline of the “binary” decision to prosecute or decline, because of the DOJ’s opinion that indicting a sitting president would “impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

3. Despite Mueller’s opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted, they conducted the factual investigation “when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.” The report EXPLICITLY states that “a president does not have immunity when he leaves office.”

4. They deliberately refrained from an ordinary determination whether crimes were committed because ordinary channels for clearing one’s name are unavailable in this case, and because the consequences of a recommendation would extend “beyond the realm of criminal justice.”

5. Most importantly: they did not find that the president did NOT obstruct justice and say so explicitly. The money shot is enclosed:

6. The report proceeds to review the efforts to cover up the contacts with Russia, which were reviewed in my previous thread. The chronology is as follows:

7. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly denied links to Russia, denied that the leaks were coming from Russia, and denied that he or other campaign officials sought any information from Russians. As my previous thread shows, the Mueller team found these denials to be false.

8. In Jan 2017, Flynn lied to Pence about meeting Kislyak. When Trump found out, he summoned Comey, then FBI director, and told him that he needed “loyalty.” He then proceeded to fire Flynn and commented to an outside advisor, “now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over.”

9. Later that evening, Trump summoned Comey to a one-on-one meeting, telling Comey, “I hope you can see your way to letting this go.”

Trump proceeded to ask Deputy National Security Advisor McFarland for a letter saying that Trump did not order Flynn to meet Kislyak. McFarland declined because he did not know if it was true and didn’t want that to look like a quid-pro-quo favor for his Ambassadorship.

11. As Sessions began to consider recusing himself, Trump asked White House counsel McGahn to instruct Sessions not to recuse, and after Sessions’ recusal, took Sessions aside and asked him to “unrecuse.”

12. Later, when Comey admitted that there was an FBI investigation on Russia, Trump reached out to National Security Advisors asking them what they could do to dispel this suggestion. Despite McGahn’s advice to the contrary, he also reached out twice personally to Comey.

13. On May 3, Comey testified in a congressional hearing, refusing to say that Trump himself was under investigation. Within days, he was terminated. Trump claimed that the termination was unrelated to the testimony, but the timeline does not bear this out.

14. On May 17, Rosenstein appointed Mueller special counsel. Trump reacted by telling advisors that this was “the end of [his] presidency.” He first demanded that Sessions resign (but then did not accept his resignation.)

15. Trump then argued that Mueller had a conflict of interest, but his advisors told him that claim was meritless.

16. When Mueller announced that Trump was a target, the latter called McGahn at home and asked him to fire Mueller. Fearful of starting a Saturday Night Massacre, McGahn resigned, instead.

17. Two days after the convo w/McGahn, Trump met with Corey Lewandowski, asking him to relay a message to Sessions, who as you recall had recused himself.

18. Lewandowski was to instruct Sessions to issue a public announcement that, notwithstanding his recusal, Trump had done nothing wrong, and to instruct the Special Counsel to redirect the focus of the investigation toward “future elections.”

19. Lewandowski told Trump he understood the message, but did not want to relay it himself, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to do it. Dearborn didn’t want to do it either and did not relay the message.

20. In the meantime, while Trump was waiting for Lewandowski to relay the message to Sessions, Trump went on a twitter tirade, criticizing Sessions and implying that firing Sessions was imminent.

21. In the summer of 2017, news of the meeting at Trump Tower leaked to the press. On numerous occasions, Trump instructed aides not to reveal any information about the meeting and expressed confidence that the information would not leak on its own.

22. When Trump Jr. issued a statement about the meeting, Trump (the father) edited out what we know to be true: that the campaign was promised incriminatory information on Clinton. The edited statement stated that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children.

23. Trump’s lawyer subsequently denied to the press that Trump played any role in crafting or editing Trump Jr.’s statement.

24. In Summer 2017, Trump made several efforts to reach out to Sessions and convince him to “unrecuse” himself. Trump met with Sessions at the Oval Office and asked him to “take [a] look” at investigating Clinton.

25. When Flynn pleaded guilty and collaborated with the Mueller investigation, Trump called Sessions again and told him that, if he “unrecused” himself, he would be “a hero”. Sessions did not “unrecuse” himself.

26. In early 2018, the media revealed the story behind McGahn’s resignation. Trump directed White House officials to tell McGahn to publicly deny that Trump had ordered McGahn to sack Mueller. McGahn refused to publicly deny this, saying that the reports were factually accurate.

27. Subsequently, Trump summoned McGahn to the Oval Office and pressured him to deny the reports, interrogating him about what he had told Mueller. McGahn told the investigation team later that he got a sense that the President was “testing his mettle.”

28. When Flynn started to collaborate with the Government, Trump reached out to him and asked him for a “heads up” if he learned “information that implicates the President.”

29. Flynn informed Trump that he was unable to cooperate with this request. Trump’s personal counsel said he would make sure that the President knew that Flynn expressed “hostility” toward the President.

30. During Manafort’s trial, Trump praised Manafort for not “flipping” (pleading guilty and cooperating with the investigation team), saying among other things that “flipping” “ought to be illegal.”

31. In 2017, as explained in Vol. 1, Michael Cohen falsely testified before Congress that Trump’s involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project ended long before the campaign (when in fact it continued well into 2016.) Trump praised Cohen for his testimony.

32. In April 2018 the FBI raided Cohen’s home. Trump encouraged him to “stay strong” and relayed messages of support. Cohen reached out to Rudy Giuliani to discuss the possibility of a pardon.

33. When Cohen started cooperating with the investigation in Summer 2018, Trump turned on him, called him a “rat”, and suggested that his family members had committed crimes.

34. We now turn to how the Mueller team analyzed whether these facts constitute Obstruction of Justice.

35. Obstruction of Justice has three elements: [1] an obstructive act [2] a nexus between the obstructive act and an official proceeding and [3] a corrupt intent.

36. The offense covers both successful endeavors and attempts to obstruct justice.

37. The report enumerates the people they questioned in connection with the report. It explicitly says that “The President declined to be interviewed” and there are redacted bits around this statement.

38. The Mueller team had the power to subpoena Trump and refrained “in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation.” Also, even w/o his testimony, they had enough evidence “to understand relevant events.”

39. In deciding whose version was credible, they relied on general principles, including reasons to lie, good memory, opportunity to observe events, corroboration, and contradictions.

40. The part of the report that discusses Trump’s reaction to the Russian hacks and his instructions to Cohen and Manafort in this respect is heavily redacted.

41. Trump reached out to the intelligence community asking them to publicly deny the Steele Memo after it leaked through Buzzfeed.

42. We now move on to the Mueller team’s conclusions about whether Trump’s behavior constituted obstruction of justice.

43. Regarding Flynn’s resignation and pressure on Comey: Trump’s effort to procure false reports about Flynn, and especially the 1-on-1 convos w/Comey, count as “obstructive acts”.

44. This was directly related to concerns about criminal exposure for Flynn (=”official proceeding.”)

45. Corrupt intent: Trump’s demeanor in pressuring Comey suggests he knew he was not doing something that was above board. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE.

46. Regarding the pressure on Comey and others in the intelligence community to end the investigation: Trump’s convos about this, through McGahn and others, were not interpreted as inappropriate efforts to end the investigation.

47. There was a nexus to official proceedings that would follow disclosures about the involvement with Russia.

48. The nature of the pressure on intelligence officials does not clearly reveal corrupt intent. => NO CONCLUSIVE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. Read on.

49. Re firing Comey and claiming it was unrelated to Russia: This would qualify as an obstructive act if the anticipated effect was ending the investigation, which is unclear here.

50. Nexus: There is some connection this is related to the proceedings against Flynn.

51. Corrupt intent: The evidence supports the idea that the firing was aimed at protecting the president and that the other reasons were merely pretextual. => IF NOT “OBSTRUCTIVE ACT” THEN DOESN’T RISE TO LEVEL OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE.

52. Re the efforts to remove Mueller through McGahn and others: This is clearly an “obstructive act” to terminate Muller.

53. Nexus: There is a clear nexus between the effort to remove Mueller and the desire to end the investigation.

54. Corrupt intent: Substantive evidence links this to an effort to end the investigation and not to aboveboard behavior. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

55. Efforts to curtail the investigation through Lewandowski, Sessions, etc: Obstructive acts: Trump’s directives show that he was trying to push Sessions to deviate the Mueller investigation.

56. Nexus: This was directly related to the Mueller grand jury.

57. Corrupt intent: Provable through Trump’s 1-on-1 meeting with Lewandowski. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

58. Trump’s efforts to cover up the Trump Tower meeting: Obstructive act – there’s no strong evidence that this was more than a press strategy.

59. Nexus: unclear.

60. Corrupt intent: Unclear from these facts if it’s merely a press strategy. => NO SUFFICIENT PROOF OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE.

61. Trump’s efforts to “unrecuse” Sessions and have him take control of the investigation: Obstructive act b/c clearly aimed at terminating the Russia investigation.

62. Nexus to the Russia investigation is clear.

63. Corrupt intent: “a reasonable inference” on Trump’s side was that Sessions would “play a protective role.” => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

64. Trump tries to get McGahn to lie that he wasn’t ordered to fire Mueller. Obstructive intent: Duh – he’s trying to get McGahn to create a false record.

65. Nexus: It was foreseeable that McGann would testify about these matters, so there’s a connection to the Russia investigation.

66. Corrupt intent: an effort to influence McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of Trump. => OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

67. Trump’s statements to Flynn and Manafort in the context of the criminal proceedings against them: Obstructive act in the sense that his statements could influence the jury.

68. Nexus to both trials.

69. Intent: because of Atty-client privilege issues, we don’t exactly know what Giuliani did when threatening Flynn and whether he properly represented Trump’s opinion. => NOT ENOUGH FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

70. Trump’s about-face toward Cohen (praise then excoriation when Cohen cooperated w/the Feds.) Obstructive act: Trump knew that Cohen provided false testimony but no proof that he procured said false testimony.

71. Proceeding: Cohen’s testimony at investigations.

72: Intent: There’s evidence to support the inference that he hoped Cohen would falsely testify. => BUT NOT ENOUGH TO SUGGEST HE PROCURED THE FALSE TESTIMONY.

73: Now the report looks at these instances as a whole. The report cautiously suggests that Trump might have just been upset because the Russia investigation (which, as per Part I, stops short of arguing conspiracy) cast doubt on his legitimacy as president.

74. There were multiple efforts to exert undue influence, but they were largely unsuccessful (this, I think, is a legal mistake, because obstruction of justice does not require success, merely an attempt.)

75. In general, federal law advances a broad definition of obstruction.

76. Also, other obstruction statutes might be relevant to Trump’s conduct, including tampering with witnesses.

77. This speaks for itself – no criminal charges against a sitting president, but there are other avenues (“I won’t indict, but you can impeach”):

78. More “I won’t indict, but you can impeach” statements:

79. I’ll let the parting shot speak for itself:

80. Thank you all for reading along. I hope this was helpful to you. Please tweet and share in case others find this useful.


Note from Charles Cameron:

I’m grateful to Thread Reader, the application which makes extensive Twitter threads like this one available in easily readable, sequential form, and which was used to reformat Hadar’s threads before posting them here on ZP.

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