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Whiplash [NKorea Yes No] and Double Vision [Jerusalem Gaza]

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

{ by Charles Cameron — sudden reversal in Korea, synchronicity in Israel ]
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Whiplash alert

Whiplash alert is a sharp, neat way to announce a sudden and powerful instance of boustrophedon — taking hairpin bends at racing speeds. Anna Fyfield nails it.,

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The swuitchback whiplash is between a Triumphalist Trump suggesting that North Korea is both willing and implicitly eager to come to the table to discuss the total abandonment of its entire nuclear program, and an adamant, almost adamantine N Korean regime response that such total abandonment is not even on the table.

In terms of goal posts:

Various Trump aides, including Bolton and Pompeo, have repeatedly said that that what they want from the summit is “complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.” Of course, Pyongyang would love it if they could move the goal posts before the meeting, making the U.S. back off on this demand.

then this:

North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting that the North “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear weapons program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.

The problem is:

Denuclearization’ may be the goal of U.S.-North Korean summit, but each side defines it differently

But the diplomatic buzzword can mean different things to different players on the world stage. The success of Trump’s gambit probably hangs on whether he and Kim can agree on what it means for them and whether it’s worthwhile to keep fudging the details of a term that U.S. and Asian diplomats have been fudging for years.

Different interpretations of a word, differing perceptions — what seems at one moment to be a problem in foreign affairs seems on another to be a linguistic or even a perceptual— at the very least, an internal, not an external, issue.

Internal maybe, but external in it’s implications:

If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in a statement published by the North’s state-run media.

Subtlety:

King Jung-Un may be under the imprression that “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” involves, gasp, the withdrawal of the American nuclear air umbrella protecting the SOuth..

So: a sudden 180° change, the opposites here being presented as sequential.

And the Nobel Peace Prize which Republican governors had wishes for President Trumo, sadly recedes..

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From my POV, the interesting difference here between the Korean situation and that in Israel is that the former is inherently sequential, while the latter is synchronic — the furious and grief-stricken rioting in Gaza happens as official Israel, with Trumpian support, joyously celebrates the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem; the Isreli Independence Day is naturally considered the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians — and hey, to add to the tensions, Ramadan is about to begin, with its intensification of fasting and spiritual intensity.

Synchrony, verbally presented:

The fact that riots in Gaza and rejoicing in Israel happen simultaneously is so stark that while Israel — and Trump — might prefer triumphalist headlines, news souces have played up the double-edged nature of the situiation:

and visually:

This title is accompaniedd by a verbal explanation:

The scenes were barely 40 miles apart: in Gaza, a chaotic panorama of smoke, fleeing figures and tear gas on the deadliest day since mass protests at the border fence with Israel began; in Jerusalem, Ivanka Trump and other American officials celebrating President Trump’s formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv.

and a visual double graphic (to see the images fully, click through to the original page):

Various TV stations offered similar double images — the effect is to undercut the apparent joyfulness of the Jerusalem celebrations with simultaneous disturbing images of the Gaza rioting.

If Trump, or Jared perhaps, or Ivanka, had made any slightest acknowledgement that the Palestinians, too, had hopes of an eventual capital of their own in the existing Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, the celebrations might have been more widely shared and less easiky discounted.

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If you come to your front door to conduct a press conference, it’s always wise to know what’s happening at the same time at the back door.

Oh, oh, but I have to leave for a medical proceduerre, and there is so much more to be said..

New category: Extremier than Extreme

Monday, May 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — possibly simple-minded, but offered to our mentor JM Berger — includes a horseshoe & a neat paradox, too ]
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Today’s example:

Trumpier than Trump. Okay..

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Let’s generalize from here, and diagam this:

Extremier than the Extreme.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. I’m pretty sure ISIS was AQier than AQ in the day, and that even earlier, there was a splinter group within AQ that was “more extrem”. Might have been Zarqawi, in which case our two examples collapse into one..

“Extremier than the Extreme” — within its own extreme context, it can be one helluva claim to make!

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While we’re on the subject..

There’s also the oft-noted Horseshoe effect, whereby opposite expremes come to resemble one another:

This one, Revolutionary > Dictator > Dictator is well known because of the frequency with which Revolutionaries come to resemble the Dictators they overthrew.

A concatenation of horseshoes of this sort would give you Revolution > Dictatorship > Dictatorship > Dictatorship ad nauseam, with a Dictatorship currently in power, and a Revolution constantly brewing.

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Oh, and by the way, an intriguing paradox:

Wittgenstein’s language games and the public sphere

Monday, May 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting a lessening of TV Trumpery and its critiques ]
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In a tweet earliee today, I suggested that the close reading of a text can be highly rewarding, a point I made most forcefully in Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns.

Key to a close reading is the “language” in which a given writer or speaker clothes their words.. “language” here being used both in the sense of their metaphors and forms (which is why I’ve been collecting sports and other metaphors, ouroboroi and other forms) and in the sense formulated by Witty Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations (PI).

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers us a list of regular language games as Wittgenstein uses the term in PI:

reporting an event, speculating about an event, forming and testing a hypothesis, making up a story, reading it, play-acting, singing catches, guessing riddles, making a joke, translating, asking, thanking

I want to suggest that we could usefully think of language games in terms of the philosophical, ideological, partisan, religious or psychological drivers that propel them.

Further, in the case of Trump, we might observe that the language game he is playing is not the one his critics on, say, MSNBC, are basing their own critiques on.

And here’s the great advantage: once we’ve analyzed the differences between Trump’s language game and aims and those of his critics, we could close shop. We wouldn’t need this constant barrage of Fox and MSNBC news on the topic — any new utterance of his or Giulianis of note could simply be indexed to the sub-para describing that particular disjunction in language game, and basta! — the rest of the news “oxygen” would be available for the discussion of other topics.

As a subset of that para — I don’t suppose Mueller xxwill want to take every piece of “off the cuff” Trumpery as intended as real “truth” — “all that is the case” –he’ll surely see it as entertainment and distraction — chuff and chaff — and zero in on the key statements of the President’s worldview, viewing them as exemplars not of “truth” but of a language game to be analyzed and evaluated as such. Having zeroed in on these relatively few key phrases, many of the many critiques offered by Trump’s accusers.

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Wittgenstein asks what all that we consider to be games have in common, and decides they share a family resemblance but — in my words, here — the cousins on one side of the family have little (a polite word for “nothing”) in common with the cousins at the other end of thr spectrum.

If the Olympic Games included language games in their list of sports, Giuliani‘s reference to FBI agents as stormtroopers wight win long jump gold.

Here’s Jonathan Chait in Giuliani’s FBI ‘Stormtroopers’ Smear Is the Key to Trump’s Authoritarian Mind-set”>:

In 1995, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre signed his name to a fundraising letter referring to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents as “tjack-booted government thugs.” The implicit association of American federal law enforcement with fascists provoked a furor. Former president George H. W. Bush publicly resigned his NRA membership in protest; LaPierre had to apologize.

Last night, in the midst of a long, deeply incriminating interview, Rudy Giuliani called FBI agents “stormtroopers.” Here was the president’s lawyer, not an outside lobbyist, comparing federal law enforcement to Nazis directly, rather than indirectly.

Stormtrooper vs jack-booted government thugs is an interesting comparison (& makes a fine DoubleQuote), and Chait’s “implicit association of American federal law enforcement with fascist” in hth cases exemplify just the kind of language extremism we should be avoiding in our policy debates.

Chait’s continuing half-paragraph illminates the arcane workings of the media machine in processing such things:

The Washington Post’s account of Giuliani’s interview noted the remark in a single sentence, in the 30th paragraph of its story. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Politico accounts of Giuliani’s interview did not even mention the stormtrooper remark at all.

There are times I wish for sanity.

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Okay, that was third and last in this series.. Previously:

  • On negative space in the painting..
  • On negative space, private morality in the public square
  • This:

  • Wittgenstein’s language games and the public sphere
  • The Wilderness of Mirrors

    Sunday, April 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — unequal sides of a coin spinning, methinks ]
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    Aw, c’mon, Friedman, c’mon now:

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    Sources:

  • Business Insider, Former DNI James Clapper: Putin is handling Trump like a Russian ‘asset’
  • New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, Is Putin a C.I.A. Agent?
  • **

    Supporting James Clapper, we have this from Barry McCaffrey:

    And this, by way of explanation, from Megyn Kelly:

    The host of “Megyn Kelly Today” recently sat down for an interview with Putin, and told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that she thinks the Russian president “knows some things” that Trump would not want out in public. In the interview, she confronted Putin about why Trump speaks so highly of him, and said she does not think the Russian president likes Trump. “I would not say that Putin likes Trump,” she said. “I did not glean that at all from him. I did glean that perhaps he has something on Donald Trump.”

    “I think there’s a very good chance Putin knows some things about Donald Trump that Mr. Trump does not want repeated publicly,” she added. Kelly said that she doesn’t think Putin’s information has to do with the infamous dossier linking Trump to Russian nationals. “My money’s not on the dossier,” she said. “I think it has to do with money and Trump’s early years dealing with the Russians back in the ’90s, his facilities here in the United States.”

    And from Brennan:

    John O. Brennan, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said Wednesday that he thought Russia may have some kind of compromising information on President Trump, setting off furious speculation about whether the former spy chief was basing that assertion on inside information.

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    Supporting Friedman?

    Bupkis.

    But anyway.The two quotes in the DoubleQuote — they make a nice tai-chich symbol — ☯ — an ouroboros of sorts: Trump is Putin’s asset; Putin is Trump’s asset; Trump is Putin’s asset; ad infinitum or nauseam, whichever comes first.

    Hence The Wilderness of Mirrors, via XX Committee. Tbis bears repeating:

    Greg Treverton, a brainy wonk who has worked on the high margins of the U.S. Intelligence Community, famously explained that puzzles and mysteries are fundamentally different: the former, with their pieces, can be solved, while the latter, with inexact pieces and no firm map, defy easy solution. And some mysteries will defy solution indefinitely.

    One of the best things about working in counterintelligence, if you’re comfy with imprecision, is that it’s all about mysteries (one of the worst things is that it can make you crazy), some so vexing and intellectually challenging that they elude agreed-upon solutions for decades, in some cases in perpetuity. James Angleton, the poet-turned-counterspy who became CIA’s genius/flake chief of CI for much of the Cold War, referred to this experience as “the wilderness of mirrors,” which captures the enduring mystery of never quite grasping up from down in a case, or knowing who’s really running the show, no matter how closely you look at it (the memorable phrase also happens to be the title of the best book about the CIA’s Angleton experience).

    Not a target, squared — plus one

    Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Putin, Mueller, Trump, and Nada Bakos ]
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    IMO it is a pure coincidence that these two barely related headlines popped up on the same day:

    That’s “not a target” squared. Not that I generally believe in coincidence — I favor synchronicity, but admittedly switch between magical and naturalistic worldviews as suits the moment.
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    Sources:

  • The Week, Report: Mueller named Trump a subject, not criminal target
  • NY Times, For Russia, Trump Was a Vehicle, Not a Target
  • **

    while we’re on the subject of targets, here’s the Targeter par excellence, Nada Bakos, whose can’t wait book is currently targeted for redaction by the relevant CIA publications review office::

    Hers is the definitive al-Zarqawi-ISIS story.


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