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November 27th, 2014

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Taylor Swift keeps on truckin’

November 26th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — Swift, Bach, sharia, semi-trailers, and a quick look at Ferguson / St Louis ]
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I offer you Ms Taylor Swift as captured in a very clever DoubleQuote in the wild which I discovered via a friend, Deborah Tobias:

Taylor Swift DQ via Deborah Tobias FB

By way of comparison, here — as seen in my earlier post Ms Swift, Sara Mingardo, JS Bach and a quiet WTF — is the remarkable Ms Swift’s mouthing of Bach‘s Chorale Prelude for organ BWV 732, Praise God, you Christians all together, as posted on YouTube by VoiceOfShariah:

Quite how sharia comes into the picture I don’t claim to know…

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You wanna nother DQ, nothing to do with Ms Swift this time? I took a fancy to this one:

Those two images coduld be polarizing — or they could serve as bridges: that’s one of the interesting things about some, if not all, DoubleQuotes. There’s a good commentary from Erik Wemple blogging at WaPo.

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Give me that Old Time Nuclear Fatwa

November 25th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — when is a tweet not quite a fatwa? when it’s a tweet! ]
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A day or two ago Tim Furnish pointed me to a recent MEMRI post titled:

Tehran Again Offers Khamenei’s Nonexistent Fatwa In Negotiations As A Guarantee That It Is Not Developing Nuclear Weapons

You can pretty much imagine the content by means of its title, but the piece also contains a lead to Khamenei‘s Twitter feed, and thus to the tweet with which I’ve opened this post.

What to make of it?

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It seems to me that there are two obvious possibilities —

  • the Ayatollah is lying, there is no such fatwa
  • the Ayatlloah is telling the truth, there is such a fatwa
  • Those who are prone to hope may well take the Ayatollah’s word for it — whether or not that trust is justified — while those who are prone to doubt are liable to distrust the Ayatollah…

    And so we’re at that old “trust but verify” business again.

    It seems to me that neither proposition — that a fatwa exists as claimed, but has not been made public, or that no fatwa exists, and claims to the contrary are simply incredible — is verifiable, or falsifiable for that matter. Hunh.

    The one thing that is clear from my POV is that the Ayatollah Khamenei is playing this close to his chest. He could very easily write out a fatwa and publish it, and he doesn’t. He could very easily not have issued a fatwa, which would explain its non-publication. But his refusal to publish a fatwa, while claiming to have issued it, presumably by word of mouth, is a clear indication that he is toying with his interlocutors in the west. And the game is:

    I claim to have given a fatwa — will you take my word for it?

    He’s asking for trust, we’re asking for verification: trust, but verify, it’s not a new idea. And it seems to me that neither axiomatic doubt nor axiomatic trust is the point, although we are mostly prone to one or the other.

    The point is that this is poker. Perhaps this is an obvious truism that others move quickly past on their way to reading the Ayatollah’s “tells” one way or the other. Or perhaps we are so quick to take sides that the idea that we face a formidable opponent in what is essentially a very high stakes game eludes us.

    I’m not a player, I don’t speak or read Farsi, the Shah was still in power when I visited Tehran, I haven’t studied for years in Qom or Najaf, I’m not inclined to make political assertions more than one or two levels above my pay grade, I’m mostly unpaid, and I’m left with this:

    We’re in a game.

    And if that’s the case, intelligence — human intelligence — is the way to read Khamenei’s poker face. And FWIW, Amir Taheri wouldn’t be my go to source for intel.

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    BTW, here’s Khamenei’s latest:

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    Obama & Ferguson: the split screen as DoubleQuote

    November 25th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — the favorite word used on twitter to describe tonights’s split screen show was “surreal” ]
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    Those of you who read me here regularly know that I believe juxtaposition is a key tool for both thinking and understanding. The split screen reporting of Obama‘s Ferguson speech, for instance…

    DQ Obama Ferguson Fox

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    I was watching the speech on the White House site, and they were giving Obama the full-screen treatment — so I was unaware that things were any different elsewhere.

    I feel the single screen-shot from Fox above does justice to the power of juxtaposition, but for good measure I’ll also post a screen-shot from CNN, where the “violence” is portrayed more crisply perhaps:

    DQ Obama Ferguson CNN

    although the “lower third” caption doesn’t quote Obama to such powerful effect.

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    For those who would like to see how the split screen treatment fared in its quieter moments as well as its more vivid ones, here’s the Fox report in full:

    I find it interesting that while splitting the screen in two halves adds to the power of the effect, the attempt at a three-way split fails miserably by comparison.

    ABC‘s coverage is also dramatic:

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    Finally, Tina Nguyen on Mediaite offered a smörgåsbord of split screen images, and closed with a tweet from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

    Good question: Obama clearly wasn’t in the loop about the loop he was in

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    WarCouncil’s “Zero to Clausewitz”

    November 24th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    The fine gents at WarCouncil.org have released the Cliff Notes of Strategy in their “WarCouncil.org 300 Word Strategic Education” . It is excellent:

    Can we educate a strategist in an hour?  Some would argue this task is impossible, that it takes a lifetime, or at least 10,000 hours

    But what if we had to?  Imagine it were possible – how would you do it?  How would you accelerate learning to strategic competency?  Note: I define competency as someone that would know, understand, and be able to apply a core set of strategic concepts to analyze and appraise modern war (see also “strategic understanding”).

    One scientifically validated path would be the Pareto Principle, which holds, across many systems, that 80% of output comes from 20% of input.  How does this help us rapidly educate strategic practitioners?  We would first identify the critical 20% knowledge base that produces these outsize gains.  We would then leverage this 20% (or “minimum effective dose”) by proving a simple framework for use in any war.

    Which is where the “WarCouncil.org 300 Word Strategic Education” comes in.

    Following the logic above, I’ve created a document that identifies what I consider the 50 most essential strategic concepts and whittled each to six words apiece (hence, 300 words, not including the actual term itself).  I’ve also presented Clausewitzian Critical Analysis as simply as possible in the header to present this all-weather framework. Lastly, I included an abbreviated footnotes section for those with further interest (and here’s the draft and outtakes).

    My claim is that using the “WarCouncil.org 300 Word Strategic Education,” you could educate a competent strategic practitioner in 60 minutes.  

    This is simply a neat idea. I don’t think you will get a competent strategist in sixty minutes but you will give a student or new practitioner a fast distillation of strategy’s greatest hits – a fast shared understanding of what they need to know and comprehend.

    Can someone send this to the NSC staff? They badly need it.

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