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City analogues and climate change 2019-2050

August 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — pretty sure there will be black swans between here and 2050 ]
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We’re beginning to see visual expressions of the implications of climate change that can perhaps help shift our awareness — comparing London, for instance, with Barcelona:

The climate in Barcelona (right) isn’t always a good thing – the city suffered a severe drought in 2008

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The thing is, Barcelona’s weather isn’t exactly desirable in all respects:

London could suffer from the type of extreme drought that hit Barcelona in 2008 – when it was forced to import drinking water from France at a cost of £20 million.

And London in 2050 experiencing weather conditions analogous to those of Barcelona today is a projection based on a 2? rise in temperatures globally: that’s considered “actually quite optimistic, imagining a future where action has been taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ouch.

Here’s one professor’s comment on the report:

The University of Reading’s Professor Mike Lockwood warned about the damage that could be done to infrastructure.

“Bringing Barcelona’s climate to London sounds like it could be a good thing – if you don’t suffer from asthma or have a heart condition, that is – except London clay shrinks and is brittle if it gets too dry and then swells and expands when very wet.

“As ever, there is destructive and unforeseen devil in the details of climate change.”

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The study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests summers and winters in Europe will get warmer, with average increases of 3.5C and 4.7C respectively.

It’s the equivalent to a city shifting 620 miles (1,000km) further south – with those furthest away from the equator being most affected.

Southern California weather moves to Northern CA, Northern CA weather becomes the weather inj Northern Oregon and Washington, and on up to Canada and the once frozen north..

And real estate values will shift accordingly.

And transnational, climate driven migration patterns will emerge: US into Canada, and oh boy, Mexico into the US?

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Well, analogues are pretty close cousins to what I’ve called DoubleQuotes, and the visual example above of London and Barcelona is joined in the BBC article I’ve been quoting from by twoi more examples:

Edinburgh could look very different by 2050

and:

People say Melbourne can experience four seasons in one day – something people in Leeds might be used to

— and since the authors of the study, Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues, “found that 77% of future cities are very likely to experience a climate that is closer to that of another existing city than to its own current climate.”

Since they examined “520 major cities of the world,” roughly 400 cities would have analogue cities, climate-wise, which I suspect means 200 would experience shifts to 200 other cities, though heaven knows, the Venn diagram might show quite a few overlaps, giving us strings like “Edinburgh will be like Paris will be like Marrakesh will be like nothing we’ve ever seen”

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DoubleQuotes all. Analogues. duels and duets, climate-counter-climate, city-counter-city, point-counter-point..

But see climate predictions, and how black swans will almost certainly distort them, and my related poem about Mecca in 2050, Mourning the lost Ka’aba

A DoubleTweet in which two religious icons confront urban decay

August 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — I spend a fair amount of time showing the ways in which religious extremism across many religions results in violence — it’s my pleasure here to show how simple religious devotion can have a positive impact ]
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This is a very simple example of one positive aspect of religions, plural:

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BTW, anyone who wonders whether Twitter can be worthwhile might take a look at this exchange between scholars of religion, as an example of the simple notion that two minds are better than one.

In this case, I’m grateful both to Judy Silber, who posted How a Buddhist shrine transformed a neighborhood in Oakland, and to Andrew Chesnut, aka Dr. Death & Divinity, for his quick and profound reponse to my original tweet.

Danger: Japanese Defense Ministry maps illustrate Korzybski

August 16th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — tempted by a typo to misquote Korzybski “The map is knot the territory” — where the knot is in the paradox of simulacra and simulation, see Jean Baudrillard ]
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A total of at least 26 out of 48 maps in a Japanese white paper contained errors, according to an Asahi Shimbun article titled Maps in Defense Ministry white paper riddled with errors:


This Defense Ministry map identifying terrorist groups chiefly in Africa and the Middle East shows Qatar and Kuwait as parts of Saudi Arabia.

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Mapping errors can be dangerous, as we have all been warned:

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Some have not heeded the warning:

For instance, in a map showing the capability range of North Korea’s ballistic missiles, the hermetic nation’s capital, Pyongyang, is incorrectly located on the Sea of Japan side of the Korean Peninsula, not the Yellow Sea side. [ .. ]

In June, multiple errors were discovered in key data used for a report by the Defense Ministry on candidate sites for deploying a U.S.-made Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Japan.

The experts said that some of the diagrams in the latest white paper were also inaccurate.

In a map showing the flight range of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft deployed by the U.S. military in Okinawa, concentric circles are used, centering on Okinawa’s main island. However, according to Tashiro, the ministry should have used an azimuthal equidistant projection map to properly show the distance and direction from the center.

As the expert quoted said:

Maps require accuracy, so we have common standards .. The ministry’s white paper in particular, because of its nature, needs to be treated carefully. If they don’t follow the standards, or make compromises, when drawing maps, it could lead to international issues and a loss of trust.

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I do believe “international issues” refers to diplomatic tussles, certainly, and the possibility of war..

Consider this, from 10 Map Mistakes With Momentous Consequences:

Napoleon Bonaparte lost the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, in part because of a map error. According to documentarian Franck Ferrand, Napoleon aimed his artillery in the wrong direction, far short of the British, Dutch, and Prussian lines. Napoleon relied on an inaccurate map when planning his strategy for the battle, which explains why he didn’t know the lay of the land and became disoriented on the battlefield. According to Ferrand, “It is certainly one of the factors that led to his defeat.”

Due to a printing error, the map showed a strategic site, the Mont-Saint-Jean farm, 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) from its true position, which was the range of Napoleon’s misdirected guns. It also showed a nonexistent bend in a road, according to Belgian illustrator and historian Bernard Coppens, who found the bloodstained map at a Brussels military museum.

As an Old Wellingtonian (OW, Blucher dorm), that’s evidence enough for me.

Reactions to the Reactionary – The New Scholarship on Fascism, 1

August 14th, 2019

Emlyn Cameron returns to the pages of Zenpundit with the first in a series of reviews of books on Fascism, the entire series forming an essay on the topic — Charles Cameron
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How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them
by Jason Stanley
Random House, 240 pp (2018)
ISBN 978-0-525-51183-0
$26.00

Inheritors of a world we did not build, we are now
witnesses to a decline we did not foresee.

• Timothy Snyder, Road to Unfreedom

We had conceded the entire political landscape, my millennial friends and I, as terrain too treacherous to travel. But the truth was that the territory it covered was simply so staggeringly vast that we felt powerless to navigate it, let alone work it for a future yield. It intimidated us into cynicism: Politicians were serial liars, news sources couldn’t be verified without recourse to other news sources we had to verify, and even if we believed what we were told, we were simply told too much to know what deserved our attention. We needed some initial map that would help us find our way.

Like the narrator of A. E. Housman’s poem, The laws of God, the laws of man, we knew we wanted to reject the authority of leaders who “will be master, right or wrong”, or laws imposed by the foolish based on strength, but we were “stranger[s] and afraid, in a world [we] never made”. Further, in addition to being paralyzed by the scope of politics, we saw no way to escape the results of a system in which we felt incapable of participating. As we were – as with Housman’s narrator – that left only one practicable response: submission.

Luckily, just as Donald Trump raised the stakes of political participation, he inspired a body of popular scholarship on our worst apprehensions for the future.

Jason Stanley, a Yale philosophy professor, has provided a book that helps to complete this project: How Fascism Works lays bare the purpose and mechanism of much of the fascist’s intellectual shell-game.
Hanna Arendt (to whom Stanley pays tribute), Leon Trotsky, and Umberto Eco amongst others have likewise attempted to write an anatomy of fascist thought, but Stanley’s effort, in addition to being explicitly contemporary, achieves a balance of brevity, justification, and application to real world events that makes it a worthy addition to the others.

Though Eco’s 1995 essay Ur-Fascism is structurally similar to Stanley’s book and shares some of the same insights, Eco’s essay was primarily descriptive, while Stanley’s book presents the principles of fascist politics and goes on to dissect their utility to the fascist politician, in a way that Eco doesn’t manage. In essence, where Eco wrote a bird spotters guide to fascism, Stanley offers a concise ornithological textbook.

Take, for instance, the notion of traditionalism: While Eco makes the same observation as Stanley, that fascist movements sanctify the status quo and the past, Stanley drills down into a specific instance – the patriarchal family structure – and outlines why this traditional structure is a handy one for the would-be dictator: it normalizes inequality and makes commonplace a command structure analogous to the one the fascist proposes for the state – a group of people all sharing a blood bond, subservient to a single figure who acts unilaterally to guide and provide for them.

Lacking is only a greater examination of how this androcentric tendency in fascist politics does not exclude the occasional female far-right leader, such as Marie Le Pen. Stanley has said, in a New York Times opinion video, that the leader is “always a he,” which makes this outlier still more worthy of consideration. Perhaps his phrasing is meant to be taken as reflecting the truth to a first approximation, but what enables a woman to take command of a traditionally male focused cult-of-personality would add an interesting dimension to the analysis.

In addition to this, his book articulates some common fascist tendencies that go unrecorded in Eco’s essay, and which enable the reader to more effectively detect the tremors of oncoming totalitarianism. Stanley’s proposal, for instance, that sexual anxiety is central to fascist politics, seems especially salient in modern America (where gender identity is a high-profile point of division between conservatives and liberals) and with reference to contemporary Russia (where Putin’s public addresses make use of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric).

Stanley argues that singling out minorities who challenge traditional sexual and gender norms is efficacious for the fascist, as it both moves to eliminate archetypes for social relationships alternative to the patriarchal model favored by fascists, and enables the first of many oblique attacks on the principle of free expression without directly assailing democratic platitudes. Stanley also manages to tie this to the fascist tendency to decry cities, usually hubs of the attacked minorities, as dens of iniquity, and the rhetorical correlation of the out group with rape and the destruction of mythical purity. Having done this, Stanley is able to identify attacks on sexual minorities as “perhaps the most vivid” of the canaries to eye as leaders draw us further and further into the proverbial coal mine.

The book also offers some interesting discussion of the fascist relationship to truth. In addition to the commonplace insight that fascists lie about the past to create a triumphant nationalist mythology, Stanley argues that the fascist, having spread lies about the laziness and treacherousness of their chosen enemy, also seeks to use policy to so brutalize their victims that the malnourished and abused minority population comes to resemble the abject figures of fascist propaganda, reducing reality to the “truth” that fascists had all along maintained; that the fascist first produces lies to debase the certainty of anything, and then manufactures their “truths”.

It is a book at once enlightening and useful to those looking for some through-line to the news of the day. Learning, per the BBC, that Citizenship and Immigration Services’ acting head has defended an administration move to cut public aid to legal migrants by saying “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American” unless they can “be self-sufficient […] as in the American tradition”, a reader of Stanley’s book might take pause and recall a passage that runs “In fascism, the state is an enemy; it is to be replaced by the nation, which consists of self-sufficient individuals who collectively choose to sacrifice for a common goal of ethnic or religious glorification.”

Having seen such an article, and taken such a moment of reflection, the reader may decide they see nothing ominous in this correlation. Even so, how salutary many such reflective pauses could prove to be to the national character, and how much easier they become when so able a teacher has given us an idea of when to take them. And in providing ways of recognizing and describing fascist politics, Stanley’s book sharpens the usefulness of other books tackling similar projects.

It might be said that the interplay of those tactics Stanley has described in his book, and the effective responses Stanley’s Yale colleague Timothy Snyder enumerated in his book, On Tyranny, are the two forces that animate the events in perhaps the most ambitious of these other recent works: Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom (to which I will to return). But, even if not taken as a mandatory supplement to either of Snyder’s works, Stanley’s book substantially enhances and reinforces the lessons of the other two, and vice versa.

Together, they may provide the confidence necessary to uncertain voters, especially among the young, to discard what Mark Fisher called “reflexive impotence” (and the cynicism that guards it) and become educated participants in our politics. If these authors manage it, they will deserve credit and status alongside those offered to the analysts and thinkers to whom they refer in their own work, and those of us so armed may just find ourselves alive to solutions beyond simple concession.

An observation for David Ronfeldt

August 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting that the “how do we know when a radicalized thinker shifts into violent action mode?” question is frankly a koan ]
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stern task-master image borrowed from The Zen Priest’s Koan

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We’d been discussing on FB The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism, and in particular this observation:

This movement is often called white nationalist, but too many people misunderstand that moniker as simply overzealous patriotism, or as promoting whiteness within the nation. But the nation at the heart of white nationalism is not the United States. It is the Aryan nation, imagined as a transnational white polity with interests fundamentally opposed to the United States and, for many activists, bent on the overthrow of the federal government.

and an idea occurred to me that seemed interesting enough for me to re-post it here on Zenpundit and Brownpundits:

We’re seeing a lot of discussion of how to foresee the switch from a terror-propensity thought into a terrorist act. Even in retrospect this is very difficult to manage, although lots of people elide the difference or feel constrained to separate the two, and managing an effective strategy to accomplish forewarning seems close to impossible.

I’d like to observe that the great leap between thought and act is in fact a leap across the mind > brain distinction, ie the “hard problem in consciousness”. > It’ds called the “hard problem” because it’s a question so basic that our best reaches of thought can’t stretch across the inherent paradox, a koan in effect.

Perhaps if we started with that koan, we could at least understand the “size” of the problem that predicting terrorist violence poses.

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I think that’s, technically, an audacious idea.

What the hell do I mean by that? It doesn’t threaten my physical well-being, nor, I’d suspect, national security. It’s “just a thought” — so what’s the big deal?

Well, it concerns a matter of immediate strategic and tactical concern, for one thing. And for another, it takes that strategic and tactical issue way past its present discursive parameters, and analyzes it to a level of fundamental abstraction — so much so that it invokes one of the few most basic unresolved issues in scientific thought, a veritable western koan.

That’s quite a reach, but I believe it’s a reach that illuminates the difficulty of the “strategic and tactical issue” from a fresh point of view that’s frustratingly so deep as to be virtually impenetrable.

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In Chalmers‘ words, the “hard” problem is:

how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience … the way things feel for the subject. When we see for example, we experience visual sensations, such as that of vivid blue. Or think of the ineffable sound of a distant oboe, the agony of an intense pain, the sparkle of happiness or the meditative quality of a moment lost in thought

You remember the kids’ mathematical saying, “three into two won’t go”? Well here’s a case of “mind into brain won’t go” in the sense of Chalmers‘ hard problem.

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Leonard koan, yes, yes — from Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)


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