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It’s snowing metaphoric chyrons, ignore unless interested 15

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — a bit of a hodge-podge, also known as an olla podrida — i hope you’ll find it tasty! ]
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Headlines, no chyrons:

You know, I think this is the first bazooka metaphor I’ve seen since I started looking:

**

Game, war-game and game theoretical references, as you know, are always of interest to me, but the addition of a nuclear component makes such references irresistible:

Sample paragraph:

As Trump sought to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons, enticing his young “friend” with visions of a disarmed North Korea as an “Economic Powerhouse,” India and Pakistan were trading blows in a case study of what conflict looks like when countries successfully obtain nuclear weapons despite international opposition.

Latest on that:

  • BBC, Abhinandan: Crowds gather for Indian pilot’s release
  • Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot would be released as a “peace gesture” on Friday. India’s military welcomed the move.

    Ali Minai comments on FB:

    Not only the right and mature thing to do, but also a great tactical move. The Pakistan government- the PM, the opposition, and the military – have handled the situation with great skill – a benefit of “unified command and control”. Even the media in Pakistan has not gone completely nuts – though the same can’t be said for some of the Indian media. Both sides seem to have de-escalated, but it is too early to breathe a sigh of relief given Pakistan’s fragile economic state and the temptation of the electoral benefits of belligerence on the Indian side.

    **

    And then there’s this:

  • Small Wars Journal, US offers $1 million reward for information on Hamza bin Laden
  • There’s an obvious DQ there with his father’s wanted listing with a bounty on his head.

    **

    I thought this was an eye-catching description of doctrine, used as an epigraph to the UK Doctrine of War:

    I cam by it via a War on the Rocks piece, Mal Craghill‘s Thinking about thinking in the Royal Air Force, which pointed me to the UK Doctrine document. I syuspect that document may be worth a post exploring the conceptual and moral components of war (the physical component is not in my bailiwick), and in particular how the moral component and morale are related. TBD.

    **

    Back to politics, US:

  • WaPo, House Democrats exploded in recriminations

  • Fighting words, if that ain’t a contradiction in terms:

    House Democrats exploded in recriminations Thursday over moderates bucking the party, with liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threatening to put those voting with Republicans “on a list” for a primary challenge.

    In a closed-door session, a frustrated Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lashed out at about two dozen moderates and pressured them to get on board. “We are either a team or we’re not, and we have to make that decision,” Pelosi said, according to two people present but not authorized to discuss the remarks publicly.

    But Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the unquestioned media superstar of the freshman class, upped the ante, admonishing the moderates and indicating she would help liberal activists unseat them in the 2020 election.

    **

    That’s enough for now. I’ve a blizzard coming..

    Role-playing elections, Rebekah Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, &c

    Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — the “politics as game” metaphor comes in towards the end of this post — I think it’s a rich one ]
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    Totally irrelevant mega-foosball game was the best illustration, understandably, Gizmodo could come up with for a sophisticated role-player with strong political implications. Photo: Hector Viva (Getty Images)

    **

    This is a particularly juicy topic — Bryan Alexander pointed me to it. It seems there are a couple of RPGs, and I don’t mean rocket propelled grenades, in which role-players can play out elections — 2016 and 2020 — with an added emphasis on “an influential technology accelerator.”

    First, then, Jane Mayer‘s New Yorker piece, which lit things up:

    A Parlor Game at Rebekah Mercer’s Has No Get Out of Jail Free Card
    Members of the right-wing family that helped put Trump in the White House can relive the campaign in an elaborate dinner-party game.

    I mean, how cool is that? Jane Mayer, whose book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, prompted reporter Joby Warrick to write that a CIA analyst had warned the Bush administration that “up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake,” while NYT reporter Scott Shane noted:

    Mayer’s book disclosed that International Committee of the Red Cross officials had concluded in a secret report in 2007, that “the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes.”

    **

    Okay, Jane Mayer is someone I geerally read with respect — and in her recent piece she delivered her goods on the megadonors and algorithms that plausibly gave Trump the 2016 election:

    Robert Mercer, the New York hedge-fund magnate whose huge donations to pro-Trump groups in 2016 have been credited with putting Donald Trump in the White House, has kept a low profile since the election. But his daughter Rebekah, who runs the family’s foundation, now has a way to relive the thrill of the campaign with friends around her dinner table.

    This, then, is entertainment, and good, clean fun — unless you happen to have a bias against hedge fund managers and the like.

    In March, on a ski vacation at a rented house near Vail, Colorado, she brought a batch of copies of the “Rules of Play” for an elaborate parlor game called the Machine Learning President. Essentially, it is a race to the Oval Office in three fifteen-minute rounds. It’s a role-playing game, more like Assassin than like Monopoly, although players of this game do start out with an allotment of “cash” to spend on pushing their agendas, which can include “algorithmic policing” and “mass deportation.”

    “Tonight, the name of the game is power,” reads the first page of the “Rules of Play.” Each player, it goes on, “will assume a new political identity.” Instead of becoming Colonel Mustard or Mrs. Peacock, as in the board game Clue, each player takes on the role of a political candidate or a “faction,” in the game’s parlance. Among the possible roles are Mike Pence, Elizabeth Warren, Black Lives Matter, Russia, Y Combinator, Tom Steyer, Wall Street, Evangelicals, the Koch Network, and Robert Mercer himself.

    Colonel Mustard and Mrs. Peacock? or Rich Uncle PennyBags, the moustached logo from Monopoly? From a games perspective, Mayer’s piece is a rich trove — and of course, there’s more I could quote..

    **

    Now turn to Buzzfeed for a corrective, which is where Bryan landed me:

    Rebekah Mercer Says She Isn’t Reliving The 2016 Election Through A Role-Playing Game
    “I know nothing about that game, nothing about who created it or who plays it.”

    And again, there are details aplenty:

    Republican megadonor Rebekah Mercer strongly disputed on Monday a New Yorker report that she “has a way to relive the thrill” of the 2016 presidential campaign via a role-playing game that includes her father as a character.

    The story, by journalist Jane Mayer, found that Mercer brought with her on a recent Colorado ski vacation the rules for “Machine Learning President,” a party game in which players assume the roles of politicians, interest groups, an influential technology accelerator, and billionaire donors involved in a hypothetical presidential election. Among the game’s characters is Robert Mercer, Rebekah’s father, a hedge fund billionaire whose donations to the Trump campaign and stakes in Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica have brought him intense public scrutiny. Other characters include Elizabeth Warren and Mike Pence as presidential hopefuls.

    In the three round game — Super Tuesday, the Primary, and the General Election — players split into factions that include the candidates themselves, Wall Street, and Russia. According to a Gizmodo story, the goal of the game “is to get players thinking about ways tech and money could be manipulated to influence the 2020 election.”

    “I know nothing about that game, nothing about who created it or who plays it and, unlike Ms. Mayer, I didn’t even really read those pages and I shredded them when I got home,” Mercer wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News. Mercer did not explain why she shredded the game rules.

    Ooh, shredded the game rules. And then there’s a nanny, who may have leaked the story.

    **

    Fast forward (by which I mean, click through) to Gizmodo‘s piece:‘Machine Learning President’ Designers Have No Idea How the Mercers Got Their Game

    When a group of about 40 players first tested out a live game called the Machine Learning President at a private event in San Francisco this February, they were unaware that the game would end up memorialized in the pages of The New Yorker.

    But during a ski vacation in March, the Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer gathered her friends together to play several rounds of the game, which pits special interest groups, political candidates, and activist organizations against each other in a simulated presidential election, aided by cash and artificial intelligence. A lawyer for Mercer told The New Yorker that she owned a copy of the Machine Learning President but had not created it and that it did not reflect her family’s views.

    Indeed, the game was in fact designed by an outfit that was less than friendly to the Mercer’s position:

    It’s not hard to draw comparisons between the rules of the game, with its reliance on big cash and tech capabilities, and the actions of the Mercer-backed Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But, as Mercer’s lawyer stated, she had nothing to do with creating the game -— in fact, it was conceptualized by one of her vocal critics.

    **

    Here we go:

    Brett Horvath and Berit Anderson are the co-founders of Scout AI and the creators of the Machine Learning President. In 2017, the pair published a scathing critique of Cambridge Analytica, the now-shuttered political consultancy that misused the data of tens of millions of Facebook users and sat at the center of the social network’s largest scandal in years. “By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion,” the duo wrote.

    Wrote, in fact, in a piece titled The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine — and here we’re getting into more serious, “Alert, ICYMI” waters — subtitled:

    There’s a new automated propaganda machine driving global politics. How it works and what it will mean for the future of democracy.

    The 20-page piece begins:

    “This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go,” said professor Jonathan Albright.

    Albright, an assistant professor and data scientist at Elon University, started digging into fake news sites after Donald Trump was elected president. Through extensive research and interviews with Albright and other key experts in the field, including Samuel Woolley, Head of Research at Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project, and Martin Moore, Director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at Kings College, it became clear to Scout that this phenomenon was about much more than just a few fake news stories. It was a piece of a much bigger and darker puzzle?—?a Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine being used to manipulate our opinions and behavior to advance specific political agendas.

    **

    So Reberkah Mercer was sent a copy of a game whose progenitors were seriously opposed to Cambridge Analytica style “weaponization” of US presidential politics, and had created a game to get others thinking along similar lines.. she then played it, or didn’t.. then, either way, shredded it.

    Back to Gizmodo:

    That invisible machine—and the lack of preparedness for it in the 2016 election—provided inspiration for the Machine Learning President. The goal of the game is to get players thinking about ways tech and money could be manipulated to influence the 2020 election. (It also inspired Scout AI to spin out another group, Guardians AI, that’s focused on protecting pro-democracy groups from information warfare and cyber attacks.)

    “This is an experience we created to help pro-democracy groups and strengthen democracy against some of the ways technology might interfere with fair elections,” explained Randy Lubin, one of the game’s designers and the leader of a design studio called Diegetic Games. “We knew that some sort of game or simulation or exercise was a really great way to understand the incentives and systems at play.”

    I think there’s plenty of eccentric and wonky games and wargames stuff in here, and would have posted this anyway — but if I need a rationale within my own “system”, I’ve been collecting game metaphors as you know, and this one has the game metaphor in those last words:

    We knew that some sort of game or simulation or exercise was a really great way to understand the incentives and systems at play.

    Yes, politics itself can be viewed as a game, modeled in a game, learned from in a game, wargamed — or simply “played” in a game for dinner party entertainment. The possibility of red-teaming 2020 is where this gets cutting-edge interesting.

    Boom!

    How the hell can Un trump Trump

    Saturday, March 10th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a face-off between two impulsives, and thoughtful planning at a tabletop exercise ]
    .

    How the hell can Un, with one star and no stripes, hope to trump Trump, with fifty stars and thirteen stripes backing him up?

    **

    Or:

    How the hell can Un, with maybe a dozen nukes, one of which might be a hydrogen bomb, and some untested missiles designed to reach anywhere in the continental US, hope to trump Trump, with a stockpile of 1,411 nuclear warheads deployed on 673 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers [Wikipedis] and an impressive array of generals, admirals and such, one of whom — Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs — is positively pushing his way out of the photo-frame into at least simulated warfare with North Korea:

    **

    The simulation in question was described, as far as is visible under a cloak of secrecy, in a recent NYT article titled U.S. Banks on Diplomacy With North Korea, but Moves Ahead on Military Plans:

    A classified military exercise last week examined how American troops would mobilize and strike if ordered into a potential war on the Korean Peninsula, even as diplomatic overtures between the North and the Trump administration continue.

    The war planning, known as a “tabletop exercise,” was held over several days in Hawaii. It included Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, and Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command.

    Anything that occupies two generals “over several days” plus planning and debriefing is serious business — especially those two generals.

    War with North Korea — Hawaii their nuclear targets.

    **

    Oops, the NYT article also features some awkward questions commanders of the US battleforce would face:

  • How many conventional and Special Operations forces could be deployed, in phases, to target North Korean nuclear sites.
  • Whether the Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions could be charged with fighting in tunnels
  • Exhaustive plans to take down North Korea’s integrated air defenses, allowing American manned and unmanned aircraft into the reclusive country.
  • Plans for the morbid but necessary details of personnel recovery plans, such as if pilots are shot down, and the evacuation of the dead and wounded.
  • **

    And Un considers the very fact of the US President agreeing to meet with the dictator of N Korea, ie Donald Trump with himself, to be a clear and unequivocal demonstration of parity. As CNN puts it:

    with the simple fact of the meeting, Kim has already achieved his objective: he’s at the table on the world stage, being taken seriously.

    Or MSNBC, in a piece titled On North Korea, Trump gambles from a position of weakness:

    Trump has agreed to give Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants. North Korean leaders have sought this kind of meeting for decades because it would necessarily elevate the rogue state: it would show the world that North Korea’s leader is being treated as an equal by the Leader of the Free World.

    Equal? Mirror image?

    **

    Nota bene:

    China, Japan and Russia have cheered an impending meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “significant first step” towards the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

    China, Japan and Russia, India, and obviously South Korea, are all actors with significant interesta in any US – North-Korean diplomacy — giving us a seven-node tug-of-war for our planners to map — and Donald Trump to intuitively grok.

    Shorts 2: Princess Ivanka, War Games, Trump President for Life, &c

    Sunday, March 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — if Paula White is Christian, must be the season of the witch ]
    .

    Princess (Jared’s) Bride:

    It seems that beauty allied with power can add up to (almost) royalty. Consider Princess Ivanka. From the LA Times, Ivanka Trump: Born to legitimize corruption and make the shoddy look cute:

    She has the same magic touch with the multitudes of flesh-and-blood rogues who flock to her for redemption. It’s Ivanka who first brought Gen. Michael “Lied to the FBI” Flynn into the administration, according to the New Yorker; she praised him for his “amazing loyalty” and offered him his choice of positions at a transition-team meeting. One person present said, “It was like Princess Ivanka had laid the sword on Flynn’s shoulders and said, ‘Rise and go forth.'”

    The laying on of that princess sword seems to be Ivanka’s favorite pastime. In 2006, when she was 25, she toured Moscow with Felix Sater, who in 1998 pleaded guilty to a $40-million stock fraud scheme run by the Russian mafia. She also collaborated with the Soviet-born businessman Tamir Sapir, whose top aide in 2004 pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy with the Gambino crime family.

    Redemption, did you get that?

    And what a relief to get back to the Gambinos!

    **

    War Games:

    Sources:

  • NYT, U.S. Banks on Diplomacy With North Korea, but Moves Ahead on Military Plans
  • Twitter, Wargames with @avantgame – at Jewish Community Center
  • Comment:

    Wow, I’m impressed. I’m not quite sure what Dr Jane McGonigal is up to with her war games, but the generals who participated in the table-top exercise in Hawaii simulating a war with North Korea might like to try them.. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, and Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command.

    **

    Immortal Trump?

    Trump on China’s Xi consolidating power: ‘Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day’

    In the closed-door remarks, a recording of which was obtained by CNN, Trump also praised China’s President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn’t mind making such a maneuver himself.
    “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

    The remarks, delivered inside the ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate during a lunch and fundraiser, were upbeat, lengthy, and peppered with jokes and laughter

    That’s all fun and games. Wait till Xi Jinping goes full Mao:

    Oh, ah — the immortality’s not just for Mao, it’s for all of us. ANd Lifton’s thesis is a meditation on the one and the many!

    Lifton undertook his book to supply an ingredient which he felt was lacking in current accounts of the Cultural Revolution: namely the link between psychological phenomena and historical framework, between the feeling of individuals and the events taking place around them.

    Briefly, Lifton argues that individuals relate to history and to other men by means of symbols. The symbols themselves vary in response to the historical context–different events make different symbols relevant. But their ultimate purpose is to give men a sense of connection with their past and future: to provide a sense of unity with other men and with history–a sense of immortality.

    **

    Christian Today:

    Trump adviser Paula White says send money to her for blessings – or face divine consequences

    >onald Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White has told people to send her money – ideally their January salary – in order to receive blessings, or face divine consequences. [ .. ]

    ‘Right now I want you to click on that button, and I want you to honour God with his first fruits offering,’ she said in the video.

    ‘If God doesn’t divinely step in and intervene, I don’t know what you’re going to face – he does,’ she said. [ .. ]

    Explaining the theory behind her appeal for cash, she said: ‘January is the beginning of a new year for us in the Western world. Let us give to God what belongs to him: the first hours of our day, the first month of the year, the first of our increase, the first in every area of our life. It’s devoted…The principle of first fruits is that when you give God the first, he governs the rest and redeems in.’

    !!

    **

    By way of explanation?

    When I look over my shoulder What do you think I see?
    Some other cat looking over His shoulder at me
    And he’s strange, very very very strange

    Must be the season of the Witch!

    Wargames, anyone?

    Thursday, January 11th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — i haven’t been keeping up, but it seems the membrane between game and reality is stretching to breaking point ]
    .

    RT, the Russian propaganda organ, declared:

    Trump ‘invents’ F-52 fighter jet during joint press conference with Norwegian PM

    Well, not exactly — that’s technically false (“faux”) news: Call of Duty got there first. Consider:

    **

    **

    Under the title ‘Game transfer phenomena’ and the problem of perception — hey, I’m nothing if not serious — the Guardian reported (Sept 2011):

    Nottingham Trent University has revealed some early research into what it calls Game Transfer Phenomena – the habit of taking game experiences into the real world.

    Is President Trump suffering from Game Transfer Phenomena?

    If he is, he’s not exactly alone. GamesRadar reported (2014) 6 times news outlets used video game images by mistake. More to my point, according to the Guardian (UK, 2016), RAF urged to recruit video game players to operate Reaper drones — but the USAF goes further:

    Recruiting Air Force pilots with the Airman Challenge

    Do you think most of our potential military recruits can be found playing Call of Duty of right now instead of serving our country? The Air Force seems to think so and has created the Airman Challenge game to teach prospective recruits more about the Air Force and its available positions.

    That was back in 2012. I haven’t been tracking developments, but the day can’t be far off when Orson Scott Card‘s prophecy in Ender’s Game is realized, and someone who believes he is simply playing a video game finds to his surprise and potential horror that he’s been fighting a “real life” flesh-and-blood, suffering-and-soul, war.

    I know it sounds a bit grim, but: Limbs ahoy!


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