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  • Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

    To The Lifeboats

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Pretty damned ironic, that the Costa Concordia disaster happened almost exactly a hundred years after the Titanic. It’s not all that often these days that a European/American flagged passenger ship becomes a catastrophic loss to their insurance company – although it happens with dispiriting frequency to inter-island ferries in the Philippines and hardly any notice of it taken in Western newspapers. The contrasts and ironies just abound; fortunate that the Costa was so close to land that some passengers were able to swim to safety, and that rescue personnel were at the scene almost before the air-bubbles from the sunken half of the ship even popped to the surface.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Europe, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous | 41 Comments »

    In Translation

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Ever since I finished the Adelsverein Trilogy, I’ve wanted to have a German language version out there.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Book Notes, Diversions, Germany, Miscellaneous, North America, Personal Narrative | Comments Off

    DeLeo’s Deli

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th January 2012 (All posts by )

    When I was a baby troop on my first overseas tour, at Misawa AB in Japan, I had a regular date in the form of a guy that Jenny bequeathed to me. Jenny was my friend simply because we were the only two women in the barracks who worked shifts. She was about to rotate out; her tour was up and she was going home.

    She also added, by way of convincing me to consider him as a regular date, “A nice guy, he’s a gentleman and he’s always good for a meal, he’s Baby Deleo.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Entrepreneurship, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative, Recipes | 17 Comments »

    What is on your Desk?

    Posted by Zenpundit on 26th December 2011 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Time for a bit of lighthearted, blogging fun.

    I spend a lot of time reading and writing and I do so primarily within a specific environment – my home office. The space reflects the man, to some degree.

    Surveying my office space here at home, I noticed that my desk has begun, like a coral reef, to accrete various objects, oddments and curious like a layer of bric-a-brac sediment.  Some objects change, others stay forever.  Exclusive of papers, books, printers and a computer, here’s what my desk holds:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Diversions, Human Behavior, Humor, Miscellaneous, Style | 18 Comments »

    Stand Off at the Salado – Conclusion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st November 2011 (All posts by )

    (Salado Creek today – not much water in it, because of the drought. And that is an egret. Part One of this post is here.)

    Texas did not have much of a regular professional army, as most western nations understood the concept. Texas did have sort of an army, and sort of a navy, too – but mere tokens – the window-dressing required of a legitimate nation, which is what Texas was trying it’s best to become, given restricted resources. What Texas did have was nearly limitless numbers of rough and ready volunteers, who were accustomed to respond to a threat, gathering in a local militia body and volunteering for a specific aim or mission, bringing their own weapons, supplies and horses, and usually electing their own officers. They also had the men of various ranging companies, which can be thought of as a mounted and heavily-armed and aggressive Neighborhood Watch. Most towns and settlements of any size on the Texas frontier fielded their own Ranger Companies. By the time of Woll’s raid on San Antonio, those volunteers and Rangers were veterans of every fight going since before Texas had declared independence - a large portion of them being of that tough Scotch-Irish ilk of whom it was said that they were born fighting. That part of the frontier which ran through Texas gave them practice at small-scale war and irregular tactics on a regular and continuing basis. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Ghost Ship

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th October 2011 (All posts by )

    (I came across this post in the old Daily Brief archives, and thought it would make a fantastic post for Halloween … for reasons that should become clear.)

    The searchers found it, the ghost ship, when they were looking for something else; it lay, broken but deceptively complete, draped across the crest of a dune, like a seabird on the flat swells of a calm sea. But this metal bird had landed in a desolate and frozen sand sea, an aeronautical Mary Celeste, all of itself, and remained eerily preserved. Baked in the desert sun, wheels-up, pancake-landed and broken in half aft of the wings and entirely empty of its’ crew … but still, their gear, and extra ammunition was perfectly stowed, the guns functional … the radio worked, so did the compass and at least one of the engines. There were still-edible emergency rations, drinkable water, even a thermos of still-potable coffee … everything as it had been left. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Film, History, Middle East, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Rivalrous and non-rivalrous goods and the OWS library

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 28th October 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- Jefferson, economics of possession and ideas, Occupy COG, library ]

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    1.

    Let’s start with Thomas Jefferson. I don’t know if he was the first to mention this curious distinction on record, but he makes the point nicely:

    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

    John Perry Barlow quotes that gobbit of Jefferson as the epigraph to his essay, The Economy of Ideas.

    2.

    Here’s Lawrence Lessig, in his essay Against perpetual copyright:

    Tangible goods are rivalrous goods
     
    For one person to gain some tangible item, another person must lose it. For one person to gain the ownership of some piece of land, the previous owner must surrender ownership. T his is the ordinary state of physical property, and the laws around physical property are designed around this fact. Property taxes, zoning laws, and similar legal constructs are examples of how the law relates to physical property.
     
    Intellectual works are non-rivalrous
     
    Intellectual works are ordinarily non-rivalrous. It is possible for someone to teach a work of the mind to another without unlearning it himself. For example, one, or two, or a hundred people can memorize the same poem at the same time. Here the term “work of the mind” refers not to physical items such books or compact discs or DVD’s, but rather to the intangible content those physical objects contain.

    3.

    As someone whose work falls almost entirely in the “non-rivalrous” category, I am naturally very interested by this distinction, both for my own sake, and because (if the coming economy is an “information” or “imagination” economy) it may be the hinge on which the future of that economy turns…

    4.

    Which brings me to the Occupy movement, and to this curious fact which I found in an article I didn’t otherwise read. It’s from David Graeber, On Playing By The Rules – The Strange Success Of #OccupyWallStreet :

    It’s no coincidence that the epicenter of the Wall Street Occupation, and so many others, is an impromptu library: a library being not only a model of an alternative economy, where lending is from a communal pool, at 0% interest, and the currency being lent is knowledge, and the means to understanding.

    In quoting this, I mean neither to endorse nor to condemn the movement, but simply to note that its center of gravity as described here (although technically, books are rivalrous goods) falls clearly within the non-rivalrous category: it is a market-place of ideas.

    5.

    As a one-time tank-thinker, I was trained to spot early indicators.

    I don’t know what this one means, but I suspect it’s an indicator. Give me another to pair it with, and I may be able to foresee a trend.

    What do you see?

    6.

    I spotted a copy of Mikhail Bulgakov‘s The Master and Margarita in one of the photos.

    tumblr_lsdaiufma61qzpfhxo1_500.jpg

    photo credit: Blaine O’Neill under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license

    and DH Lawrence, Sons and Lovers and Christopher Isherwood, The Berlin Stories; Strindberg, The Plays and Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape; Dr Who, yeah and Star Wars too; William Gibson‘s Neuromancer and his Mona Lisa Overdrive; Max Marwick‘s Witchcraft and Sorcery; Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game and Lewis Carroll‘s Alice in Wonderland — and for the politics of it all, Marina Sitrin, Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina and Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict… which I’ve linked for your convenience.

    7.

    For what it’s worth…

    Nathan Schneider‘s article, What ‘diversity of tactics’ really means for Occupy Wall Street, cites Zenpundit blog-friend David Ronfeldt‘s study (with John Arqilla) Swarming & the Future of Conflict — along with (among others) Gene Sharp, whose work I discussed on Zenpundit a few months back.

    Posted in Americas, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Political Philosophy, Politics | 11 Comments »

    The Obama economy really is the pits

    Posted by onparkstreet on 18th October 2011 (All posts by )

    I’ve been in a mild funk lately because of all of the changes to one of my favorite little corners of Chicago Land. Closed and vacant shops mixed in with lightly populated high-end condo buildings turned rental. Halted construction and empty lots from development projects that fell through after the 2008 “crash”. Noisy restaurants where once stood second hand mom-and-pop shops, stationers and book stores. Closed, closed and closed. And yet, the local government persists in its grand 20-year economic development plans (I am not making that up) so that citizens are paying good money to brick streets, put up complicated and fashionable street lights, or have closed door meetings between developers and governmental officials. Welcome to Chicago and its suburbs. Lots of this-FEST and that-FEST sponsored by local officials in order to bring in business traffic, although many residents are inconvenienced by the crowds, noise and garbage. Some months ago while walking through the hospital, I overheard a conversation about this very neighborhood. It wasn’t very reassuring. I heard the words “scary” and “changes”. Urban blight. The beginnings of urban blight. People are so in denial.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Obama, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    Strawberry Cows Forever

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th October 2011 (All posts by )

    For Dan, another in my series of Texas cows… Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Miscellaneous, North America, Photos | 12 Comments »

    Tea Party and / or Occupy?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 9th October 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- parallels, opppositions, analysis, games, coincidentia oppositorum ]

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    labelling-bodies1.jpg

    My friend Cath Styles, who has been developing an iPad playable version of my HipBone Games under the name Sembl for the National Museum of Australia, made a point I’ve been trying to make for a while now, with sweet lucidity, in a recent blog post:

    A general principle can be distilled from this. Perhaps: In the very moment we identify a similarity between two objects, we recognise their difference. In other words, the process of drawing two things together creates an equal opposite force that draws attention to their natural distance. So the act of seeking resemblance – consistency, or patterns – simultaneously renders visible the inconsistencies, the structures and textures of our social world. And the greater the conceptual distance between the two likened objects, the more interesting the likening – and the greater the understanding to be found.

    That’s absolutely right, and it gets to the heart of my games and analytic practice — to see and acknowledge both parallelisms and differences, oppositions…

    Oxford is the polar opposite of Cambridge as anyone at the annual boat race between them will tell you — yet they’re so similar that the term Oxbridge exists to distinguish them as a dyad from all else the wide world round…

    Similarly, in the example illustrated above, Cath shows two items from the Museum collection that were juxtaposed by players of an early version of her game, and writes:

    the Sembl players who linked the above branding iron to the breastplate – because both are tools for labeling bodies – cast new light on the colonial practice of giving metal breastplates to Aboriginal people.

    * *

    Since the essence of my own analytic style (and that of HipBone and Sembl games) is the recognition of parallelisms and oppositions, I was particularly interested to see one group of early Tea Party folk reaching out to the emerging Occupy movement. Here, then, are two posts in which we can see the beginnings of recognition that there may be a kinship between the two…

    Occupy Wall Street: Another View:

    You know what the “Occupy Wall Street” movement is?
    .
    It is all the things that were in the original Tea Party, but were steadily ignored as the TP became a Republican booster club.

    That comes from a post on FedUpUSA, a site with the Gadsden flag as its web-logo that was [as "Market Ticker"], one of the founding orgs behind the TP. It’s from someone who identified as a Libertarian Party activist.

    Here’s another post from FedUpUSA, not so identified:

    An Open Letter From FedUpUSA To Occupy Wall Street Protestors All Over The Country:

    This is a letter to OWS from FedUpUSA, one of the original Tea Parties:
    .
    We support you in exercising your First Amendment Right. We are outraged that any peaceful demonstrator would be assaulted or abused by any authorities.
    .
    If you are protesting because there are no jobs— We stand with you.
    .
    We are for a free economy and recognize that what we have now is NOT a free economy; it is not capitalism what we have is a fascist state or crony-capitalism. There is nothing free about doing business with Countries that manipulate their currencies to attract cheap labor. We agree that these jobs need to come back to America.
    .
    If you are protesting because no one has gone to jail— We stand with you.
    .
    Regardless of what is being said from the white house and media, we know that there are many in the financial district and the banks that have committed fraud and outright theft and we too want to see them prosecuted. We support the stop looting and start prosecuting.
    .
    If you are protesting because everything costs more— We stand with you.
    .
    We see prices rise in our food, gas, clothes yet our wages have stayed the same or have decreased. The Federal Reserve has bailed everyone out but us and not only are we going to have to pay for that, those bailouts make the price of everything else go up because it devalues our currency. We support monetary reform.
    .
    If you are protesting because you are tired of our bought and paid for government on both sides— We stand with you.
    .
    We are also against the banks and big corporations buying our politicians and writing laws that favor their special interests. We understand that our economy is broken BECAUSE of this and that all of our other issues will never be addressed as long as the financial elite control OUR government.
    .
    We understand that these issues cross party lines and ideologies and effect each and every one of us. We also understand that these issues will never get fixed as long as we continue to let the media, the elite, and members of the government separate us by our differing ideologies.
    .
    Only Together, can we Implement Change
    .
    It is time, We Americans, put our ideologies in our back pocket and not let them separate us so that we can work together for this ONE COMMON GOAL: to get the special interest money and elite out of OUR Government and return it to US — the people.
    .
    As long as the banks, largest corporations, and wealthy elite control our government, we will never have a representative republic and laws will continue to be passed that only benefit the few 1% at the expense of us 99
    .
    Demand that NOT ONE MORE LAW gets passed until they pass:
    .
    Lobby reform:
    .
    It is a Federal Offense punishable by a minimum 5 years in prison to:
    .
    Lobby any member of the US Congress outside of the district you live, work, or own a business.
    Lobby a member of congress while they are physically outside the district they represent.
    .
    Campaign Reform:
    .
    It is a Federal Offense punishable by a minimum 5 years in prison to:
    .
    For any one person, corporation, enterprise, group, union or the like, to donate more than $2,000 to any one candidate during one campaign period.
    For any member of the media to deny equal access to competing candidates.
    .
    These two laws will cut the control the Financial elite have on our government by leveling the playing field. You will have just as big as a voice with your representative as the big box retailer that resides in your town. Simply, it will end the Crony-Capitalism that is strangling our economy.
    .
    I encourage all my fellow Tea Partiers to join Occupy Wall Street protesters in their non-violent, peaceful protests and together demand that the Government be returned to the people. After all, this is precisely what the Tea Party was intended to be before it was taken over and marginalized by the establishment politicians.
    .
    FedUpUSA.org

    * *

    And we’re deep into John Robb territory…

    What do you think? Do the parallelisms strike you, or the oppositions — or, perhaps, both?

    FWIW, Cath’s Sembl version of my game looks like it is going to be a beautiful steampunk affair…

    Posted in Americas, Conservatism, Leftism, Libertarianism, Miscellaneous, Tea Party, USA | 25 Comments »

    Dead Sea Scrolls & Nag Hammadi Codices online

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 28th September 2011 (All posts by )

    [ corss-posted from Zenpundit -- archaeology, Biblical scholarship, eschatology, digital literacy ]

    .

    Both the Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran and the Gnostic and associated codices from Nag Hammadi are now available for study online:

    quo-codices.jpg

    The Nag Hammadi Archive can be explored via the Claremont Colleges Digital Library, and the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls via the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

    Here’s a description of the War Scroll from Qumran, which “is dated to the late first century BCE or early first century CE”:

    Against the backdrop of a long biblical tradition concerning a final war at the End of Days (Ezekiel 38-39; Daniel 7-12), this scroll describes a seven stage, dualistic confrontation between the “Sons of Light” (the term used by Community members to refer to themselves), under the leadership of the “Prince of Light” (also called Michael, the Archangel) – and the “Sons of Darkness” (a nickname for the enemies of the Community, Jews and non-Jews alike), aided by a nation called the Kittim (Romans?), headed by Belial. The confrontation would last 49 years, terminating in the victory of the “Sons of Light” and the restoration of the Temple service and sacrifices. The War Scroll describes battle arrays, weaponry, the ages of the participants, and military maneuvers, recalling Hellenistic and Roman military manuals.

    You can see why I’m interested.

    The Nag Hammadi texts are a little less well known but include — along with a variety of other texts, some of them self-described as “apocalypses” — the now celebrated Gospel of Thomas, which Bart Erhman reads as continuing a “de-apocalypticizing” of Jesus’ message which he finds beginning in Luke and continuing in John:

    In the Gospel of Thomas, for example, written somewhat later than John, there is a clear attack on anyone who believes in a future Kingdom here on earth. In some sayings, for example, Jesus denies that the Kingdom involves an actual place but “is within you and outside you” (saying 3); he castigates the disciples for being concerned about the end (saying 18); and he spurns their question about when the Kingdom will come, since “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out on the earth and people do not see it” (saying 113).

    Again, you can see why I am delighted that these texts are becoming available to a wider scholarly audience…

    In both the Nag Hammadi codices and Qumran scrolls, we have texts that were lost for almost two thousand years and discovered, somewhat haphazardly, in 1945 and 1947 respectively, providing us with rich insights into the religious ferment around a time and place that have been pivotal for western civilization.

    Now, more than half a century later, the web — as it becomes our global museum and our in-house library — brings us closer to both…

    Posted in Christianity, History, Internet, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Miscellaneous, Religion | 2 Comments »

    Bookworld

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th September 2011 (All posts by )

    There was a lot of discussion earlier this year and in a great many different writing and general interest venues regarding the success of indy writer Amanda Hocking  - which, however you slice it, remains a self-published and e-book success story. Candidly, I think that we need another zombie-werewolf-vampire saga like Custer needed another Indian, but hey- that’s just me. Not my cuppa, but if it floats yer boat . . .  To paraphrase the lyrics of a certain old pop song – I can barely run my own life, why the hell should I want to run yours? Yeah – Sunshine, go away and get those kids off my lawn!

    Anyway – as an indy-POD-author, untrammeled by the shackles of the literary-industrial complex, I had to give the Ms. Hocking all kinds of mad respect, for writing savvy,  plus marketing skills and the sheer neck to go out and just do it. 450,000 copies of nine books, each at a price of .99-2.99 and the author getting 30-70% in royalties  . . .  is  . . .  a  . . .  a lot of turnips.*

    I’m an English major, dammit! But I appreciate the business aspects of it all.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions, Internet, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    Eating Good in the Neighborhood

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th September 2011 (All posts by )

    For your weekend delectation … excellent eating, in San Antonio and environs:

    On the grill at Easy Picken’s BBQ, in Harper, Texas. Alas, they don’t have a website, and are only open Fridays and weekends … but the grilled meats are sublime.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Diversions, Miscellaneous, Photos | 11 Comments »

    Into the Wilderness – Part Two: The Platte, Fort Hall & the Desert Sink

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th September 2011 (All posts by )

    (The continuation of the essay from 2005 which eventually became my first historical novel – To Truckee’s Trail.  The print version is going to a second edition, but it is currently available as an e-book. Along about 2006 I began to be overcome with a belief that we had to reclaim our American history, to remember who we were and where we came from, to know that the American experiment was a grand and optimistic one, and that our forebearers were for the largest part, decent, courageous and honorable people. So, I turned to writing rattling good adventure yarns in an attempt to educate readers painlessly. We can’t let scum like Howard Zinn and Michael Moore have it all to themselves, can we?)

    Fifteen miles a day, more or less; the inexorable calculus of the overland trails. The wagon trains can only move out in late May, when the prairie grass is grown tall enough to feed the draft animals. And they must be over the last palisade of the high Sierra Nevada before the way is blocked by the winter snow. And they must do so before their food supplies run out. Any one of a hundred miscalculations, missteps or misfortunes can upset that careful arithmetic and bring disaster upon all. Is the water in that creek running fast and high? Can it be forded, or should the wagons carefully and laboriously be ferried over. An accident to a wagon, the loss of any of the supplies, an ox-team felled by disease or accident may be compounded later on. Balance taking a day to cross a high-water creek, against a day six months in the future and an early snow fall in the Sierras. Balance sparing a day camping by a pleasant spring of clear water, and the men going to hunt for meat – which when dried over the fire and stored away, may mean the difference between a nourishing meal by an ice-water lake half a continent away, and starvation in that place instead. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    3,650 Days

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th September 2011 (All posts by )

    Three thousand, six hundred fifty days, more or less,depending on leap years – since the end of the 20th century. Oh, I know, calendar-wise, only a year or two off. But we don’t count strictly by the calendar. Afterwards, we count by events. Myself, I have the feeling that the 19th century didn’t truly end for good and all until 1914. That’s when the 20th century began, in the muddy trenches of WW1. All the previous comfortable understandings and optimistic assumptions of the earlier world were shattered right along with three monarchial dynasties, over the course of four years. When it was over, the world of the time before seemed impossibly far removed, to those who could remember it – a number which, as the decades passed, became steadily fewer, until that old world was entirely the stuff of books, paintings and relics, rather than true human recollections. We eventually adjusted and accepted the new reality of things. The old way, and the shattering events in which it passed – became a date on a monument, a paragraph in a history text, a book on the shelf.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Islam, Miscellaneous, Personal Narrative, Society, Terrorism, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Fire Country

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th September 2011 (All posts by )

    The winds kicked up over last weekend, here in Texas – and it  was wonderful, after what seems like an eternity of soggy, brutal and unrelenting heat.  It has rained here in San Antonio precisely twice in the last three or four months, and the second rain was nothing but a thin mist that moistened the ground and dried up almost at once.  The temperatures have been in the 100s, all summer long, and now most of Texas is dried to a crisp. Seasonal watercourses are bone-dry. Even in the spring, when my daughter and I took the dog and walked along the Salado Creek Greenway, there were only occasional stagnant pools of water in the creek bed.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Miscellaneous, North America | 5 Comments »

    Shopping and sacrifice

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 30th August 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- values ]

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    Sacrifice was high among the unifying ideals that many Americans hoped would emerge from the rubble of ground zero, where so many Good Samaritans had practiced it. But the president scuttled the notion on the first weekend after the attack, telling Americans that it was his “hope” that “they make no sacrifice whatsoever” beyond, perhaps, tolerating enhanced airline security. Few leaders in either party contradicted him. Bush would soon implore us to “get down to Disney World in Florida” and would even lend his image to a travel-industry ad promoting tourism. Our marching orders were to go shopping.

    I’ve drawn this partial paragraph from Frank Rich‘s New York piece of August 27th, The 9/11 decade is now over. The terrorists lost. But who won? – it really caught my attention.

    If you shake it down in the mind like someone panning for gold to get rid of the lightweight details, the heavier material that remains for you to sort through will, I think, consist of two words: “sacrifice” as representing one order of values, gleaming in contrast with the darker “shopping” representing another.

    Yesterday I made a post about words and culture, this one is about culture and sacrifice… what comes next will be the series on ritual and ceremonial…

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Society | 3 Comments »

    Historical footnotes to game theory

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st August 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- philosophy, psychology, history, game theory, dilemma, commons cooperation, analogy, 9/11 ]

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    I have an interest in game theory that is much like my interest in music: I can’t play, but I can whistle. And so it is that I’ve substituted curiosity about the history of the thing, and whatever analogical patterns I can discern there, for any actual ability at the thing itself.

    Somewhere in my analogy-collector’s mind, then, I have these two quotes, cut from the living tissue of their writer’s thoughts, and prepped fpor contemplation. I find them, in retrospect, quite remarkable.

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in On the Inequality among Mankind, wrote:

    Such was the manner in which men might have insensibly acquired some gross idea of their mutual engagements and the advantage of fulfilling them, but this only as far as their present and sensible interest required; for as to foresight they were utter strangers to it, and far from troubling their heads about a distant futurity, they scarce thought of the day following. Was a deer to be taken? Every one saw that to succeed he must faithfully stand to his post; but suppose a hare to have slipped by within reach of any one of them, it is not to be doubted but he pursued it without scruple, and when he had seized his prey never reproached himself with having made his companions miss theirs.

    And David Hume, in A Treatise of Human Nature:

    Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both that I shou’d labour with you today, and that you shou’d aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know that you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains on your account; and should I labour with you on my account, I know I shou’d be disappointed, and that I shou’d in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone: You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.

    *

    Those two, I believe, are fairly well known – I was delighted the other day to run across a third sample for my collection. William James, in The Will to Believe, writes:

    Wherever a desired result is achieved by the co-operation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned. A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing achieved, but nothing is even attempted. A whole train of passengers (individually brave enough) will be looted by a few highwaymen, simply because the latter can count on one another, while each passenger fears that if he makes a movement of resistance, he will be shot before any one else backs him up. If we believed that the whole car-full would rise at once with us, we should each severally rise, and train-robbing would never even be attempted.

    *

    The first two quotes are of interest as showing the forms that an idea which will later be mathematized can take. They are, if you like, precursors of game theoretic constructs, although neither Hume nor Rousseau appears to be mentioned in von Neumann and Morgenstern‘s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.

    The third, I think, is even more interesting.. Consider the eerie and heroic “fulfillment” of that third paragraph if read “as prophecy” – in this account from the 9/11 Commission Report of the events on United Flight 93:

    During at least five of the passengers’ phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred earlier that morning at the World Trade Center. Five calls described the intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the hijackers. According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane. They decided, and acted. At 9:57, the passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt. One of the callers ended her message as follows:

    “Everyone’s running up to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.” The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door.

    Yesterday’s highwayman is today’s hijacker, yesterday’s train is today’s plane…

    *

    If there’s anything to be learned here, it’s not a novel way of protecting trains or aircraft from passengers of malicious intent –

    It’s that there’s a subtle thread running from something akin to instinct that’s also close to unspoken common sense, surfacing for a moment in the writings of thoughtful individuals, leading on occasion to the formulation of exact mathematical principles — but also (i) available, (ii) in the human repertoire, (iii) to be acted upon, (iv) cooperatively, (v) as required, (vi) via the medium of human common interest, (vii) which provides the resultant trust.

    Which may in turn offer some reason for hope — for a humanity in various forms of communal distress…

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Education, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    An excellent method for wholesale job creation (please note the slight sarcasm)

    Posted by onparkstreet on 9th August 2011 (All posts by )

    Instapundit linked to this Walter Russell Mead blog post, leading me to stumble across the following item (from the Chicago Journal):

    The project has had a tumultuous ride to get to this point, Fioretti said. Lease negotiations between Costco and the Illinois Medical District (a state-controlled body that owns the Costco site) were rocky, but a deal was reached earlier this year.
     
    “When negotiations began in earnest, the medical district wanted to make 982 changes to the lease — and I called the governor to intervene on it,” Fioretti said. “The governor’s office was very eager to assist. They understood what it meant to have almost 250 permanent jobs.”

    Yes, you read that correctly. Go ahead: rub your eyes, read it again, do a Looney Tunes or Bugs Bunny-like double take, and then read it a third time. THIS is why some of us were so deeply skeptical about transporting greater Chicagoland and Illinoisian, er, “political concepts” to DC, however well-meaning….

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Tea Party | Comments Off

    As long as we are talking about energy issues….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 31st July 2011 (All posts by )

    The US plans to hold what State Department officials are calling “exploratory talks” in Riyadh next week to gauge Saudi objectives behind their interest in a civilian nuclear deal. The US also wants to explore whether the Saudi government would accept restrictions to ensure its nuclear fuel is used purely for civilian purposes, according to congressional sources.
    .
    The US has recently concluded civilian nuclear trade deals – or so-called “123” agreements – with India and the United Arab Emirates and is in advanced discussions with countries including Jordan, Vietnam, and South Korea.

    Christian Science Monitor

    Top exporter Saudi Arabia approved sales of 3 million barrels of extra crude to India for August to make up for a loss of shipments from Iran due to a payment dispute, sources with direct knowledge of the sale said on Tuesday.
    .
    Iran cut sales for August to pressure Indian refiners into settling $5 billion in debts for oil supplied, after New Delhi failed to find a way around US and UN sanctions that make financing deals with Tehran difficult.

    TradeArabia

    After the talks by Kaplan and Lynch at the sponsors’ breakfast, Francis “Bing” West, who was sitting near me, said he found them wildly over optimistic about the next several decades, which he thinks will be dominated by the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. But let him tell it his own way: “That was insane. The lesson of Libya is, Get a nuclear weapon and tell everyone to go fuck themselves. Qaddafi got rid of his nukes and we said, ‘OK, you’re out of there.’”

    Tom Ricks, Best Defense

    Pakistan is currently facing a major energy crisis, which some analysts believe may be the worst in its history. It desperately needs Iranian gas and is not shy to say it. “Our dependence on the Iran pipeline is very high. There is no other substitute at present to meet our growing demand for energy” stated Pakistani minister for petroleum, Asim Hussain recently.

    the Atlantic

    Supposedly, the Bush administration attempted to use Musharraf to convince the Iranians not to go nuclear, which is one of several reasons the administration went so easy on his regime. Yeah, yeah, I know, but someone in the big-time thought it might work. Before you blow a gasket, remember that the world is complicated. There are so many complicated international relationships that Washington has no idea how to handle them in concert. Action A makes issue B better but issue C worse. That’s what happens when you have too many fingers in too many pies.

    Why is “drill here, drill now” not a national security imperative?

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Energy & Power Generation, International Affairs, Iran, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics | 18 Comments »

    Plus ça change I

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 20th July 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- backstory of Google+ ]
    .
    dq-circles.jpg

    Herrad von Landsberg seems to have corralled seven of his best friends — the Septem Artes Liberales– into his “Hortus deliciarum” on Google+ back in 1180.

    Here’s a larger version, for your viewing convenience:

    liberal-arts-med.jpg

    Posted in Diversions, Education, History, Internet, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy | 1 Comment »

    With Greco: two views of Toledo

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 6th June 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- perception, painting, pre-modern, modern, post-modern, heaven, sky, simulation, John Donne, El Greco ]

    .

    It is Sunday.

    I find it powerfully interesting that the sky as perceived by painters (our “seers” par excellence) used to be filled with supernatural beings and is currently filled with natural ones — a clear sign that our culture has effectively  moved from what one might call a theological vision of the world to a meteorological one (with astronomical trimmings under a clear sky)…

    And I see that transition captured very precisely in four words, when John Donne writes:

    At the round earths imagin’d corners, blow
    Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
    From death, you numberlesse infinities
    Of soules, and to your scattred bodies goe…

    The “round earth” is that of modern science, the “imagin’d corners” those of pre-modern maps – and angelology.

    *

    I have to admit, therefore, that I was surprised yesterday evening to come across an El Greco painting of Toledo that featured the blessed Virgin Mary over the city.

    I have long been familiar with his better known View of Toledo, which is entirely naturalistic unless you want to consider storm-clouds as portents of a divine presence –

    quo-sky-over-toledo.jpg

    but the second of these images, from the View and Plan of Toledo, came as quite a surprise…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Christianity, History, Miscellaneous, Poetry, Religion | 3 Comments »

    A HipBone approach to analysis VII: world wide spiders & the web

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th April 2011 (All posts by )

    [ by Charles Cameron -- cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    *

    I thought I’d back-track a little, and drag in two blog posts that I made elsewhere back in March of 2008, which may help to explain my basic outlook on the sorts of issues that analysts face.

    .

    I. The version of the idea as poetry:

    I am Charles

    .
    .

    My concern is the human mind in service
    to an open heart, and my problem
    is that the heart picks issues rich in ambiguity
    and multiplicity of voices, tensions
    and torsions tugging not one way but
    in many directions, even dimensions, as does
    a spider’s web weighed down with dew –
    to clarify which a mind’s abacus is required
    .
    equal in subtlety to subtlety itself, while
    in all our thinking and talking, one
    effect follows one cause from question
    to conclusion down one sentence or white
    paper — whereas in counterpoint,
    Bach’s fugal voices contain their dissonance.

    .

    II. The same idea presented in prose — as I say, a few years back — with graphical illustration:

    Spiders and dewdrops

    Spiders and dewdrops do a pretty convincing job of portraying a certain level of complexity in this node-and-edge diagram of the global situation.

    .
    spider_web.jpg
    .

    When, say, Castro hands over power to his brother, or Musharraf has to give up control of the Pakistani army, it’s like snipping a couple of threads in that spiders web — and the droplets fall this way and that, carom into one another, the fine threads they’re on swing down and around until a new equilibrium is reached…
    .
    But try thinking that through in terms of Cuba and Pakistan before breakfast one morning if you’re Secretary of State, with a linear Cold War mind, Russia going through its own changes, and al-Qaida and associates training and recruiting in the background…

    Well, those two instances have been and gone, and the new configurations are now the tired old same old configurations we believe we’ve figured out — until another dewdrop slips, and a thread breaks, and all things are once again new…

    *

    Funnily enough, I think this spider’s web of mine ties in with the Hokusai quote I posted in response to Zen‘s quote from Steven Pressfield yesterday, and with a piece I read today about intelligence analysts — Martin Petersen, What I Learned in 40 Years of Doing Intelligence.

    It’s the web of tensions that constitutes the “complexity” that must somehow be grasped by the analyst, the writer, the historian…

    And Hokusai, watching across the years how grasses bend in the winds, reach for sunlight, bow under the weight of dew — and spring back when released — may finally have a mind that’s attuned to that kind of complexity — to a degree that linear thinking will never reach…

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Education, International Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized | Comments Off

    The “Wag the Dog” Government Shutdown

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th April 2011 (All posts by )

    The Obama administration cannot change the horrid realities that are tubing its polling numbers with its most committed supporters, but it can change the subject by using the federal government shutdown as a political gimmick straight out of the 1997 black comedy “Wag The Dog.”

    Like Wag The Dog, the objective is to get the Obama administration out of its current quick sand of bad headlines about any of the following: the Libyan “Kinetic Military Action,” the budget deficit, historically high unemployment, high gasoline prices, Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s Guantanamo trial flip flop, etc.

    The Obama administration can count on the Journo-List 2.0 Main Stream Media (MSM) to do its part in presenting the Democratic Party line on these events as the gospel truth, up to and including stating the Obama administration’s acceptance of the GOP terms is a huge victory for President Obama over the evil GOP. Exhibit A — ABC NEWS’s Jake Tapper is already bragging of giving Obama talking points against Congressional Republicans.

    The upshot is that there is nothing anyone, especially Congressional Republicans, can do to divert a shut down, or the upcoming “Republicans are Evil” media campaign. The best Congressional Republicans can do is ignore the MSM, attend to their own political interests and work to get their message out on alternate media — Fox, talk radio, Internet bloggers, social media — trusting to the hard economic realities to inform the American voter. After all, this just worked in Wisconsin.

    If the Obama administration wants a government shutdown, it can get it, simply by changing the terms of negotiation. If the Republicans cave on spending cuts and social issues, Obama will demand more spending and immigration amnesty. The MSM will report “Republicans are Evil” no matter how the federal government gets shut down. And nothing will have changed, except for the headlines…and the consequences from the decision to close and reopen the federal government.

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, North America, Politics, USA | 8 Comments »

    A HipBone approach to analysis V: DARPA and storytelling

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 27th February 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross posted from DIME/PMESII ]

    I seem to be writing some mini-essays that braid together more of the various strands of my interests and thinking than usual – geopolitics and poetics, games and reality, warfare and peacemaking.

    Here’s one that I posted yesterday, on a list devoted to modeling and simulation, in a topic discussing DARPA’s STORyNET briefing tomorrow.

    *

    DARPA and Storytelling:

    One

    Sophocles, pushing the human mind to its limit, genius, wrote the Oedipus trilogy. His plays, which turn on the parallel guilt and innocence of a man who – unknowingly, the fated plaything of cruel gods — kills his father and sleeps with his own mother, were performed by the great actors of his day in the great amphitheater of Epidaurus, the sanctuary of Aesculapius to which the Greeks went for healing.

    Freud, also brilliant, also concerned with the human mind and healing, reduced Sophocles’ plot to his own “Oedipus Complex” – which he would then painstakingly find in the murkiest regions of his patients’ mental processing.

    Further reduced, the concept becomes a word of abuse so radical it takes two letters, one hyphen and ten asterisks to print it – and finally, it slides into song and speech as mofo, all meaning leached from the two words, let alone the complex insights of Sophocles or Freud.

    Two

    Story, you might say, has a trunk, limbs, branches, lesser branches, twigs…

    Trees and ferns, we now know, are fractal. The mathematical “story” of a tree is arguably just one story: branching. Different trees branch differently, the yucca pushing out its limbs in 90 degree rotation, oaks and birches, beeches and cottonwoods, poplars and ferns each having their own mathematical characteristics, and each individual of each species answering to certain specifics of context – water, sunlight, wind forming clusters of trees into copses.

    For the purposes of lumber, the “trunk” of a story may be enough, or trunk and limbs, mofo or m*****-f***** an adequate telling of Sophocles tale. For a winter wood supply, cords of sawn branches, for a camp fire, some branches some twigs — for Sophocles, for Ansel Adams, the one pushing the human mind to its limit, genius, only the full tree, root, stem, branch, and leaf, rich in all its detail and context, will suffice.

    Three

    So there are six stories, there is only one, the stories in the ocean of stories are infinite, as Salman Rushdie, another of those who pushes the human mind to its limit tells us:

    … the Water Genie told Haroun about the Ocean of the Streams of Story, and even though he was full of a sense of hopelessness and failure the magic of the Ocean began to have an effect on Haroun. He looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different color, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and [the Water Genie] explained that these were the Streams of Story, that each colored strand represented and contained a single tale. Different parts of the Ocean contained different sorts of stories, and as all stories that had ever been told and many that were still in the process of being invented could be found here, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was in fact the biggest library in the universe. And because the stories were held here in fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories …

    – and as Edward Tufte, another of the pushers of the mind, illustrates for us in his beautiful book, Visual Explanations, in a page or two of which this snapshot gives only a poor glimpse.

    Four

    So there is utility in the single equation, the single story line, and there is use for the outlines of the major branchings and knowing the main varieties of trees, and there is beauty and insight and pushing the mind to its limit in the whole tree, individual and splendid in all its detail, the great story, magnificently branching from its seed-story under the influence of a Shakespeare, a Kafka, a Dostoyevsky, a Borges, a Rushdie…

    The full spectrum of understanding that narrative might bring us will be found when the full spectrum from “one story” through “six” or “sixteen” to Rushdie’s “infinity” is taken into account, when we weigh the insights of the great novelists and poets of all cultures – Rumi, Shakespeare, Kalidasa, the anonymous singers of the Navajo Beautyway – alongside those of the critic, the psychoanalyst, the guy who puts together the Cliff’s Notes, and the editor with a headache’s headline version of the tale.

    We need the forester and the lumber baron, the watercolorist and the fellow who identifies the habitats of the Lepidopterae

    Narrative goes all the way from the obvious platitude to the work of genius. Somewhere along that scale, each one of us will have our area of interest, the place where our skill set fits and perhaps stretches. Numbers of board feet and likely return on investment can be assessed by quantitative means: the beauty of a particular oak tree in the eye of the novelist John Fowles is entirely qualitative, as is the language he must use to describe it.

    Five

    I suspect DARPA may be stuck at the quantitative end of the spectrum. The mind of a Musab al-Suri demands a finer level of interpretation.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Miscellaneous, National Security, Philosophy, Poetry, Tech | 3 Comments »