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Not a target, squared — plus one

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Putin, Mueller, Trump, and Nada Bakos ]
.

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.
**

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.

    REVIEW: Commander of the Faithful by John Kiser

    Friday, March 30th, 2018

    [Mark Safranski / “zen‘]

    Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader by John Kiser  

    A while back, I received a copy of Commander of the Faithful from friend of ZP, Major Jim Gant who had been impressed with the book and urged me to read it. My antilibrary pile of books is substantial and it took a while to work my way towards it. I knew a little about Algerian colonial history from reading about the French Third Republic, the Foreign Legion and counterinsurgency literature but the name of Abd el-Kader was obscure to me.  The author, John W. Kiser, had also written a book on the martyred Monks of Tibhirine, a topic that had previously caught the eye of Charles Cameron and made a significant impression. Therefore, I settled in to read a biography of a long forgotten desert Arab chieftain.

    What a marvelous book!

    Kiser’s fast-moving tale is of a man who attempted to forge from unwieldy tribes and two unwilling empires, a new nation grounded in an enlightened Islam that transcended tribal customs ad corrupt legacies of Ottoman misrule while resisting encroachments of French imperial power. A Sufi marabout who was the son of a marabout, el Kader was the scholar who picked up the sword and whose call to jihad eschewed cruelty and held that piety and modernity were compatible aspirations for the feuding tribes of the Mahgreb. There are a number of themes or conflicts in Commander of the Faithful that will interest ZP readers;

    el-Kader’s political effort to build a durable, modernizing, Islamic state and Mahgreb nation from feuding desert tribes and clans

    Abd el-Kader struggled to unify disparate Arab tribes and subtribes through piety, generosity and coercion while integrating Turco-Arabs and Algerian Jews who had a place under the old Ottoman regime into his new order. Jews like the diplomat Judas Ben Duran and Christian French former military officers and priests became  el-Kader’s trusted advisers and intermediaries alongside Arab chieftains and Sufi marabouts.

    el-Kader the insurgent strategist and battlefield tactician

    As a military leader, Abd el-Kader demonstrated both a natural talent for cavalry tactics as well as the organizational skill to build a small, but well-disciplined regular infantry with modern rifles on the European model. It is noteworthy, that while Abd el-Kader suffered the occasional reverse (the worst at the hands of a wily Arab warlord loyal to the French) the French generals fighting him all came to grudgingly respect his bravery, honor and skill. Never defeated, Abd el-Kader made peace with the French and surrendered voluntarily; all of his former enemies, Generals Lamoriciere, Damaus, Bugeaud and Changarnier interceded on al-Kader’s behalf to prod the French government to keep its promises to the Amir, who had become a celebrity POW in a series of French chateaus.

    el-Kader the Islamic modernizer and moral figure

    The 19th century was a time of intellectual ferment in the Islamic world from Morocco to British India with the prime question being the repeated failures of Islamic authorities in the face of European imperialism of the modern West. El-Kader found different answers than did the Deobandis of India, the Wahhabis of Arabia, the later Mahdists of the Sudan, the followers of al-Afghani or the Young Turks who began turning toward secularism. Educated in the Sufi tradition, el-Kader’s vision of Islam, while devout and at times strict, encompassed a benevolent tolerance and respect for “the People of the Book” and general humanitarianism far in advance of the times that is absent in modern jihadism.

    It was Abd el-Kader, in retirement in Damascus, who rallied his men to protect thousands of Christians from being massacred in a bloody pogrom (the 1860 Riots) organized by the Ottoman governor, Ahmed Pasha, using as his instrument two local Druze warlords who were angry about their conflict with the Maronite Christians of Mount Lebanon and Sunni Arabs and Kurds enraged about the Ottoman reforms that had ended the dhimmi status of the Maronite Christians. It was the Emir who faced down and chastised a howling mob as bad Muslims and evildoers and by his actions thousands of lives were spared. Already honored for his chivalrous treatment of prisoners and his banning of customary decapitation as barbarous, the 1860 Riots cemented Abd El-Kader’s reputation for humanitarianism and made him an international figure known from the cornfields of Iowa to the canals of St. Petersburg.

    Kiser, who it must be said keeps the story moving throughout, is at pains to emphasize the exemplary moral character of Abd el-Kader. As Emir, he “walked the walk” and understood the connection between his personal asceticism, probity and generosity to his enemies and the poor and his political authority as Emir. When some Arab tribes betrayed Abd El-Kader in a battle against the French, consequently they were deeply shamed and ended up begging the Emir to be allowed to return to his service. On the occasions when harsh punishments had to be dealt out, Abd el-Kader meted them not as examples of his cruelty to be feared but as examples of justice to deter unacceptable crimes that he would swiftly punish.  This is operating at what the late strategist John Boyd called “the moral level of war”, allowing Abd el-Kader to attract the uncommitted, win over observers, rally his people and demoralize his opponents. Even in defeat, realizing the hopelessness of his position against the might of an industrializing great imperial power that was France. el-Kader retained the initiative, ending the war while he was still undefeated and on honorable terms.

    In Commander of the Faithful, Kiser paints el-Kader in a romantic light, one that fits the mid 19th century when concepts of honor and chivalry still retained their currency on the battlefield and society, among the Europeans as much as the Emir’s doughty desert tribesmen (if there is any group that comes off poorly, it is the Turks, the dying Ottoman regime’s pashas and beys providing a corrupt and decadent contrast to el-Kader’s nascent Islamic state). The nobility of Abd el-Kader shines from Kiser’s text, both humble and heroic in a manner that rarely sees a 21st century analogue. It is both refreshing and at times, moving to read of men who could strive for the highest ethical standards while engaged in the hardest and most dangerous enterprise.

    Strongly recommended.

     

    Jordan Peterson, ouroboroi, paradise, and so forth

    Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — oh damn, cameron’s on about the ouroboros again, when do we get to strategy? ]
    .

    A slide from a youtubed lecture:

    **

    I have found someone who gives emphasis to many of the things I give emphasis to, and which few other peple emphasize. And FWIW, the Jungians do this better than most, but then I’ve been reading and appreciating them for ages. This is new.

    Okay, Jordan Peterson. He’s been thinking across a wide range of fundamental concepts for many years now, and considerable fame has accrued to him. How I managed not to notice him until now, I’ll never know. Here he is, anyhow —

    — with that ouroboros slide faintly visible behind him. The limits of vision, faintness included, are among his many interests, FWIW.

    **

    I’ve read Tanner Greer‘s recent critique of Peterson, which was enough to catch my inner eye, and then today there was an invite from Zen —

    Hell yes.

    And I’m maybe ten minutes into that lecture, have skipped around a bit, and went back to lecture #7 for a clear shot of the ouroboros behind him, which I’ve now inserted at the top of this post.

    **

    Peterson’s ouroboros is a conflation of a bird, a cat and a snake — wings, claws and venom — birds, cats and snakes being the three classes of being that can kill you from a tree. A “winged, legged serpent” — the “dragon of chaos”. That’s not how I get to the ouroboros, and my equivalent interest is in its recursive nature.

    I wrote the poem below, as far as memory serves, in the Anscombe-Geach living room, heart of Oxford’s superb logic team at the time, back in the mid nineteen-sixties, and published it, I think, in Micharel Horovitz‘ 1969 anthology of Britain’s equivalent of the USian beat poets, Childrenn of Albion — wow, of which you could have purchased Amazon’s sole remaining copy for $729.32 as I was writing this — now it’s only $32.57 — is that a difference that makes a difference?

    Here’s the poem:

    I formatted it more recently in a HipBone Games manner, as a single move with a recursive tail.

    **

    Another significance of the ouroboros for Peterson is that the serpent (antagonistic to us) guards a treasure (to be desired)..

    So along with recursion, we have predatory chaos, aka the unknown and indeed unknowable unknown, and the treasure trove or hoard. And as you might intuit, it’s a short leap from there to the word-hoard — poetry in the palm of your mind, with an early mention in Beowulf.

    Here are a few gems from Peterson’s seemingly inexhaustible hoard:

  • there’s no place that’s so safe that there isn’t a snake in it..
  • even God himself can’t define the space so tightly and absolutely that the predator of the unknown can’t make its way in..
  • that’s the story of the garden
  • — and those are from maybe a three minute stretch of a two hour lecture — the word means “reading” — one of forty, is it, in the series?

    **

    Phew. I just received the book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, from Amazon —

    — the print is small — too small for me — stronger glasses coming soon..

    **

    Look, Stormy Daniels was just on 60 Minutes, offering prurient interest under cover of adversarial politics, how could I resist? I could have watched ten more minutes of Peterson video, and grabbed twice the number of notes I’ve made here — but that can wait.

    Stormy Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, can show you strategy..

    Ah, but Jordon Peterson can show you abstraction.

    **

    Consider the recent school shootings. I go back to Columbine.. Peterson goes back to abstraction, mapping, and time-space:

    For example, we’re all sitting in this room, and someone leaps in with a weapon.

    It’s like this was known territory a second ago, and now it’s not known territory at all. Even though you’d say, well many things have remained the same, it’s like, yeah, but all the relevant things have suddenly changed, right? And so part of the way of conceptualizing that is that you can manifest a geographic transformation by moving from genuine geographic explored territory into genuine unexplored geographic territory. But you can do that in time as well. Because we exist in time as well as space. And so a space that’s stable and unchanging can be transformed into something completely other than what it is, by the movement forward of time. So why am I telling you that? It’s because we’ve mapped the idea of the difference in space, between the known and the unknown, to the difference in time between a place that works now and a place that no longer works, even though it’s the same place, it’s just extended across time.

    Consider the recent election:

    That’s what an election does, right?

    It’s like, we have our leader, who’s the person at the top of the dominance hierarchy, and defined the nature of this particulatr structure. There’s an election, regulated chaos, noone knows what’s going to happen, it’s the death of the old king, bang! We go into a chaotic state, everyone argues for a while, and then out of that argument they produce a consensus, and poof, we’re in a new state, like that’s the meta-story, right, order > chaos > order, but it’s partial order, chaos, reconstituted and revivified order — that’s the thing, that this order is better than that order, so that there’s progress, and that’s partially why I think the idea of moral relativism is wrong – there’s progress in moral order.

    Note:

  • plenty of intelligence
  • no actionable intelligence
  • a high level of abstraction
  • following the logic of evolution
  • not the logic of logic
  • too paradoxical for that
  • **

    That’s more than enough.

    Au revoir, quite literally!

    The Leap

    Sunday, March 18th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — three or four steps out along stepping stones you have no idea where you’ll land next ]
    .

    You know that for me the basic unit is the duet / duel? And that what’s most interesting in the duel / duet — let’s just call it the dual — is the leap, the creative leap, at best the stereophany between them. Well, my bassic image for that leap is the DoubleQuote board:

    That’s a simple graph with two nodes and an edge between them:

    And beauty and depth — creativity — lies in the leap along the edge between them.

    **

    The rue, as I discussed with David Gelernter lo these many years ago, is that the greatest beauty is found — identified, by AI search; acheved, by artistry — when the two nodes are rich, the edge is rich in connections between themgreat:, and the distance between them is

    I don’t know how Theodor von Kármán came by his Vortex Street, and I’ve spent a decade in Pasadena wandering its streets and even picked up his four volume works — signed — at a CalTech book sale, but if he had the Van Gogh painting in the back of his mind, there’s the beginning, the seed of an awesome leap.

    And you might say van Gogh made a mighty leap, pre-intuiting the von Kármán pattern in the night ckouds..

    **

    Okay, here’s a terrific leap by Claude Shannon:

    There was this idea that you could connect the computer to a machine to turn the cranks on a milling machine and make aircraft parts. At the time, this was a huge leap. It was connecting two alien realms: this new computer thing and a milling machine. What it let you do was make aircraft parts you couldn’t make any other way.

    The key words here are “connecting two alien realms“.

    Roughly:

    Or as Milling Machine; The History puts it:

    Perhaps the milling machine’s greatest distinction is that in 1954 it became the first machine tool to be controlled numerically, thereby representing one of the greatest industrial advances of the twentieth century.

    And then there’s this leap too, earlier:

    In the 1930s and working independently, American electronic engineer Claude Shannon and Soviet logician Victor Shestakov[65] both showed a one-to-one correspondence between the concepts of Boolean logic and certain electrical circuits, now called logic gates, which are now ubiquitous in digital computers.

    **

    Play — play, I emphasize — is the connecting link or edge that leaps between theem:

    If there were an Olympic sport of mind leaps — why forever not? long leaps, high leaps, long high leaps, ski leaps — Claude Shannon would surely be a contender.

    **

    With a hat-tip to Monica Anderson, who set me off on this particular journey.

    Shorts 04: Books, and a personal pic

    Sunday, March 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a quick treasury of treasures, what else? ]
    .

    Robert Irwin, The Arabian Nights: A Companion

    Abbasid Baghdad did produce its own semi- legendary criminals. Many tales were told of the ingenious exploits of the ninth-century master-thief, al-Uqab (‘the Eagle’), among them the story of a bet he had with a certain doctor that within a set period of time alUqab could steal something from the doctor’s house. Although the house was closely guarded, alUqab drugged the guards. Then, posing as an apparition of Jesus and making use of hypnotism, he succeeded in stealing off with the dcotor himself.

    Robert Irwin was an Oxford contemporary & fellow-traveller.

    **

    Kim Wagner, The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857

    In 1963, a human skull was discovered in a pub in south-east England. The handwritten note found inside revealed it to be that of Alum Bheg, an Indian soldier in British service who had been blown from a cannon for his role in the 1857 Uprising, his head brought back as a grisly war-trophy by an Irish officer present at his execution. The skull is a troublesome relic of both anti-colonial violence and the brutality and spectacle of British retribution.

    Ooh, grue! Cf. the food of that served in the Arkansas penal system.

    ^^

    Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: an introduction

    We know next to nothing about the author of the poem which has come to be called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was probably written around 1400. In the early 17th century the manuscript was recorded as belonging to a Yorkshireman, Henry Saville of Bank. It was later acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, whose collection also included the Lindisfarne Gospels and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf . The poem then lay dormant for over 200 years, not coming to light until Queen Victoria was on the throne, thus leapfrogging the attentions of some of our greatest writers and critics. The manuscript, a small, unprepossessing thing, would fit comfortably into an average-size hand, were anyone actually allowed to touch it. Now referred to as Cotton Nero A X, it is considered not only a most brilliant example of Middle English poetry but also as one of the jewels in the crown of English Literature; it now sits in the British Library under conditions of high security and controlled humidity.

    Hat-tip: Hanne Elisabeth Storm Ofteland

    **

    Rennie Davis, The New Humanity: A Movement to Change the World (Volume 1 of 3)

    This first book returns to ‘Our Roots’ with a behind-the-scenes look straight from the eye of the social-change hurricane that swept North America during the turbulent times of the 1960s. Rennie Davis was the coordinator of the largest coalition of anti-war and civil rights organizations during that era. Now in vivid detail, he explains how the Sixties movement ignited and expanded, growing in strength and staying power. A compelling, riveting story, it was written to inspire today’s generation to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and arise again to change the world. Like a snowball tumbling down the mountain to become an avalanche that takes out the concrete wall of fear and divide, today’s movement will not be ignored or stopped.

    This book is today’s must-read gift to yourself and your friends to uplift humanity and change the world.

    Rennie is an old friend, story for another day. Hat-tip: Rennie Davis.

    **

    This just in:

    Bernard Faure, The Fluid Pantheon: Gods of Medieval Japan, Volume 1

    Written by one of the leading scholars of Japanese religion, The Fluid Pantheon is the first installment of a multivolume project that promises to be a milestone in our understanding of the mythico-ritual system of esoteric Buddhism—specifically the nature and roles of deities in the religious world of medieval Japan and beyond. Bernard Faure introduces readers to medieval Japanese religiosity and shows the centrality of the gods in religious discourse and ritual; in doing so he moves away from the usual textual, historical, and sociological approaches that constitute the “method” of current religious studies. The approach considers the gods (including buddhas and demons) as meaningful and powerful interlocutors and not merely as cyphers for social groups or projections of the human mind. Throughout he engages insights drawn from structuralism, post-structuralism, and Actor-network theory to retrieve the “implicit pantheon” (as opposed to the “explicit orthodox pantheon”) of esoteric Japanese Buddhism (Mikky?).

    Hat-tip: just in from friend Gilles Poitras.

    **

    Enough of books — heres a personal photo — friend Neil Ayer with a Rothka at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

    Au ‘voir!


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