zenpundit.com » Uncategorized

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — my title is taken from the book of Job — known to Islam as the prophet Ayyub — chapter 38 verse 7 ]
.

Let’s begin with Qur’an 22. 40:

SPEC Quran 22.40

I can deeply appreciate a perspective as respectful as this.

**

Consequently, I am even more deeply saddened when the Islamic State tears down the crosses atop churches —

SPEC DQ china is

than I am when the Chinese do the same exact thing..

**

And I’d suggest that the phrase “were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques” as indicating that those who check / repel / drive back those others who demolish such places of worship, do so in accordance with the divine will..

Here, members of the Islamic State bulldoze a monastery..

bulldozing Mar Elian

Such acts, then, should be checked, prevented, surely, by those who honor the Qur’an.

The question that remains is how best to accomplish this.

**

Likewise, there is the phrase about “monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned”..

Apparently, the “name of Allah” was “much mentioned” in monasteries and churches at the time of the Prophet, and we may therefore wonder why Malaysian Muslims would wish to ban the use of that name by Christians —

SPEC malaysia

— when as KL Chan pointed out in his recent LapidoMedia post Do Muslims have a monopoly on the word Allah? — even if we ignore the clear evidence of the Qur’an itself,

One of the oldest evidences of Christian use of the word ‘Allah’ can be found in a Bible translation from 1514.

That’s two years after Michaelangelo finished painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and three years before Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral.

As Usama Hasan says, it’s a fiasco.

**

Sources:

  • BibleGateway, Job 38.7,
  • Qur’anic Arabic corpus, Qur’an 22.40
  • Legatum Institute, China arrests Christians
  • Christian Today, Isis militants desecrate Iraqi church
  • Daily Mirror, ISIS Jihadists using a bulldozer
  • Perry, Malaysia Top Court
  • Usama Hasan, #Malaysia #Allah fiasco

  • We’re a legacy industry in a world of start-up competitors

    Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]
    .

    chautauqua haqqani daveed

    **

    From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”

    I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:
    **

    Amb. Haqqani:

    None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.

    You’ll see how neatly this fits with my recent post on borders, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream?

    And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.

    Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..

    **

    If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.

    Daveed G-R:

    In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.

    Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.

    **

    The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us

    a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities

    — down to our own times.

    Amb. Haqqani:

    What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.

    The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:

    Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.

    Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.

    **

    Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.

    Daveed G-R:

    The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.

    And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being rea – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.

    **

    Amb. Haqqani:

    The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.

    This makes a nice DoubleQuote with Gabriel Marcel‘s more general aphorism:

    Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

    **

    Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..

    Daveed G-R:

    Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?

    He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:

    Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.

    — and had the final, pointed word:

    We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.

    **

    Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:

    Of a non-comparative use of the DoubleQuotes method

    Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — further thoughts on the advantages of seeing double ]
    .

    I’ve said before that when I was at The Arlington Institute, my boss used to ask me to watch out for “early indicators”, and joked that in my book, two is the first number — I don’t see an “indicator” until I see a pattern emerging.

    Putting it bluntly, one point is pointless — things could go anywhere from there. Two points suggest a line, a link, a connection — a possible, maybe even plausible, trend.

    And so it is with the two photos above. Here the point is not to compare and contrast the two images of surveillance cameras wearing party hats, but to see that they represent a class — the presence of two concrete instances strongly implies the higher level abstraction: hah! they’re watching us!

    It’s that sense I have of two being the beginning of thought that makes me so fond of the DoubleQuotes format — and of Arthur Koestler‘s insight, which I’m always quoting, about creation occurring at the intersection of two spheres..

    koestler-model

    If I’m a fundamentalist about anything, it’s the notion that it takes two to tango!

    Jihadi, Jedi

    Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — methinks there’s a disproportion here ]
    .

    SPEC DQ jihadi jedi

    **

    From Hurriyet, yesterday:

    After recently slamming the warped theology of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey’s top religious body may have another formidable enemy: The Jedi.

    In an article for the latest edition of the Directorate of Religious Affairs’ (Diyanet) monthly magazine, Marmara University Assistant Professor Bilal Yorulmaz has warned of the spreading new “religion” of Jediism – the religion of the Jedi warriors in the Star Wars series.

    Oh, and..

    buddhist too

    **

    Sources:

  • Daily Mail, The curly-haired, bearded hipster from a wealthy family who has become a sword-wielding ISIS poster boy
  • Hurriyet, Turkey’s top religious body slams ‘Jedi religion’
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three

    Monday, August 24th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Sembl ]
    Following up on two previous posts on graph-based design: Preliminaries and Two dazzlers

    **

    Here are two old HipBone boards that have the curious property of looking very different while being, in fact, topologically identical. Moves played on either board will feature the same set of links — although, given the visual impac ts of proximity and distance, they may “feel” very different to the players themselves:

    Petersen graph boards

    I call them the Pentagram and Mercedes boards, for what I trust are obvious reasons. They are both based on versions of the Petersen graph, and I’m grateful to Walter Logeman and Miles Thompson for introducing me to them.

    **

    One of the vivid differences between my childhood memories and present experience has to do woth the time when the table, the place where food or whatever was, was above my head.

    Of course, the table was flat — but it was flat above my head, and I had to reach up into that unknown flatland to grab what I could. Unless of course there was a tablecloth trailing over the edge of the flat, down towards eye-level, in which case.. voila!

    Hence my ongoing notion that something tasty might be literally above my head, and my associated excitement. Hence, too, my excitement at the prospect that tasty ideas might also be above my head, and that I might reach up into unknown intellectual flatlands — or pull them down to my own level with a tug of the intellectual tablecloth.

    **

    That may sound foolish, but it’s entirely in line with Eric Drexler’s advice — and Drexler published the first scientific paper on molecular nanotechnology [.pdf] in 1981.

    Here’s what Drexler has to say about reading scientific journals:

    Read and skim journals and textbooks that (at the moment) you only half understand. Include Science and Nature.

    Don’t avoid a subject because it seems beyond you – instead, read other half-understandable journals and textbooks to absorb more vocabulary, perspective, and context, then circle back.

    **

    Okay, I’m in over my head as they say.

    Here’s an artist’s rendering of something called, I guess, an amplituhedron, a (relatively) newly discovered mathematical object that has the world of physics all excited:

    amplutihedron_span

    Here’s another, titled for some reason “droplet”:

    droplet

    Neither of those is anything I could conceivably use to come up with a HipBone or Sembl board, is it?

    But get this:

    nima-permutation-grassmannian-final-picture

    This is another way of looking at the same corner of mathematical physics — one of over a hundred diagrams in the same paper— and here are the two “lesser” diagrams that caught my attention and made me think back to the Petersen graph boards earlier on today:

    twistor-diagrams- scientists discover a jewel

    Now my itch is to figure out what use the “filled” and “open” nodes in these two graphs might serve in game-playing terms, and how on earth to interpret in game terms the complex weavings of the colored lines in the larger image / board.

    **

    And hey, while we’re at it, Here are the Wolfram variants on the Petersen graph — striking, aren’t they?

    PetersenGraphEmbeddings wolfram

    Food for thought is food for play.

    **

    Sources:

  • N. Arkani-Hameda et al, Scattering Amplitudes and the Positive Grassmannian
  • Nima Arkani-Hameda and Jaroslav Trnkab, The Amplituhedron
  • Check out the stunning physics — deeper than time and space? — if you don’t already know it, and explain it if you do!

  • Natalie Wolchover, A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics
  • And for Wolfram on the Petersen Graph:

  • Eric W. Weisstein, Petersen Graph

  • Switch to our mobile site