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McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders

Friday, February 15th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — exploring the notion that liminality is the strangeness of borders ]
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Gadi Schwartz follows the border wall in the dunes where Trump’s prototypes have already failed the test

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The topic area this post will explorenis that of liminality — one of the more helpful concepts anthropology provides us with — and borders — of considerable interest in terms of our southern border at this time, and closely related to the concept of liminality.

In case you’re not familiar with liminality, my post Liminality II: the serious part, offers our best introduction to the concept. Trying to put it in brief: liminality is the strangeness of borders.

**

McCabe’s lines:

Let’s start with Andrew McCabe and his forthcoming book The Threat, as excerpted in The Atlantic under the title Every Day Is a New Low in Trump’s White House.

I’m starting here because McCabe mentions various types of lines — :

McCabe writes that the President calls him — “It’s Don Trump calling” — on a phone line, unclassified, insecure as it turns out — but although that’s a line connecting two places and two people, it’s not the kind of line I’m interested in.

He writes of a finish line, which he felt he’d crossed as he left the Capitol after briefing the Gang of Eight with Rod Rosenstein — in a secure SCIF — and that’s closer to my interest, with a quasi-geographical border-line, between the Capitol itself and the Capitol steps — as well as its mental component, a temporal border if you will, the completion of a significant task.

He writes about “drawing an indelible line around the cases we had opened” during that brief, and the phrase “indelible line” has a definite, even definitive quality to it that’s significantly closer to my interest.

And then he writes about the moral lines, the ones that really interest me because they’re so clear they’re called bright:

The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants.

There’s no mistaking lines of that sort, they are real moral borders: light is on one side, wrong on the other

**

Bright lines and grey areas:

There are, of course, what are known as grey areas, where the moral lines are not so bright.. and here’s where we can turn to Ari Melber and his special, Live at the Border, on MSNBC yesterday, which deals with a physical, geographical border-line that’s bright and definite — cannot be crossed — in some places, and far less distinct — an irritant in daily life, no more — in others.

Melber’s Border:

Some comments made by journos and interviewees in Melber‘s documentary stood out for me because they touched on this liminal nature of borders. It’s one thing to see lines on a map, and quite another to visit the varied landscapes and sociologies across two thousand miles of river, mountains, cities, desert..

We keep talking about this border like it’s one thing, like its one place, like it’s a national crisis..

The US southern border with Mexico is two thousand miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico: desert, mountains, farmland, cities, concrete, scrub grass, farmland, and a whole lot of sand, and one long river ..

Texas:

  • The debate over the border and a wall may seem loike politics in Washington DC, but here it’s a way of life ..

  • Here the landscape takes over ..

  • The natural barrier here makes it almost impossible to cross ..
  • New Mexico:

  • The southern border of New Mexico is one of the most [unintelligible] parts of the country ..

  • t stretches across roughly two hundred miles of rugged terrain and barren desert, making it hard to know where the US ends and Mexico begins ..

  • e city of Sunland Park is actually at the point where both the state of New Mexico and the state of Texas meet, but also with the state of Chihuahua which is in Mexico.

  • It’s one region with one culture here, because, you know, I have families that live here in Sunland Park during the week, and on the weekend they go back home to visit their mom, their parents, their aunts, in Mexico ..
  • Arizona:

  • .. the interconnectedness of both sides ..

  • he reality is, the people who live in El Paso are the people who live in Juarez, they’re the same people, a hundred thousand people commute back and forth every day to go to work, to go to school..

  • In the State of Arizona it has 353 miles of border .. so long and varied the stories there are as varied as the terrain

  • This administration is using the desert to kill people and they’re dying from lack of water ..

  • This is Nogales, Arizona, but that’s Nogales, Mexico ..

  • .. it’s the rhetoric behind the border ..
  • California:

  • A massive sea of sand dunes spans the desert ..

  • It would be really hard to build a full-blown wall here, because the sands are constantly shifting throughout the year, but a floating fence, that is a different story ..
  • The issue:

    The wall is not the issue. And the border, this very real stretch of land with people, and families, and businesses, and churches, on both sides of the line, is not the issue. The issue is what this country as a whole looks like, and who gets to call it theirs — which is why the wall will never be built, and always be needed, why the border will never actually be secured but always need to be secured.

    The border is not what we need to secure; what we want is for people to be secure; we want people to feel secure. And that, that’s heart [hard?], and getting there and all that it would mean is something that no amount fencing is ever going to provide..

    **

    Further readings:

    Here are some of the other Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders:

  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • King Canute, Imperial Beach, CA, and rising tides

    Monday, October 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a coastal California town has learned the lesson King Canute either taught his nobles or learned the hard way himself — but what can anyone do about it? ]
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    **

    Okay, here’s the first para of Can a California town move back from the sea? Imperial Beach considers the unthinkable: a retreat from nature:

    At the start of each year, Southern California gets a glimpse into a future of rising seas, through an annual event called the king tide. On that day, the sun, moon and Earth align to create a heavy gravitational pull, leading to the highest tides of the year. If “king tide” sounds ominous, that’s because it is, particularly for a city like Imperial Beach, a small coastal town near the Mexican border surrounded by water on three sides: San Diego Bay to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Tijuana River Delta to the south.

    It doesn’t hurt that there’s a king reference there either, from my POV — because?

    **

    Because King Canute.

    As a Brit, I was introduced to King Canute at an early age, along with every last one of the other Kings and Queens of England — and their dates — memorize them! Americans, however, have shaken off the dust of kings and queens, and may not know the tale of King Canute and the waves. Was he, as my gold-embossed, colour-plated richly patriotic children’s book had it, an imperious royal who set his chair in the sand before the incoming tide, and not about to lose one inch of English sovereign soil to the waves, dared the Atlantic to encroach on his royal prerogative?

    Or was he, as Henry of Huntingdon, the original chronicler of the tale has it, a humble and wise, one might say ecologically sound king, who set his chair in the sand to demonstrate to his fawning and flattering courtiers that look, not even my royal command can overrule the laws of God — or Nature?

    **

    So, back to the humbling question — rising tides?

    Currently an anomaly, the king tide is a portent of things to come. Researchers warn that, due to myriad factors including the Earth’s rotation, California will deal with even higher sea-level rise than other locations, as the atmosphere and oceans warm. The oceans are now rising at a faster rate than any time since the last Ice Age, about half an inch or more per decade. While much of this is understood by researchers and informed readers, very little has been done by coastal cities to confront this slow-moving catastrophe.

    And Imperial Beach in particular?

    That is what makes Imperial Beach so interesting. Here, at the southernmost beach town in California, in an obscure corner of the United States, one small city is asking: What if we just got out of nature’s way?

    **

    Sources and readings:

  • High Country News, Can a California town move back from the sea?
  • The Sun, You Canute be Serious

  • Wikipedia, King Canute and the tide
  • New York Times, Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040
  • ipcc, Global Warming of 1.5°C
  • A one-two punch for the president, and three

    Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Cohen and Manafort, drones & CBRN, and when wave fronts meet at Big Sur and elsewhere ]
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    NY Times email, Wednesday:

    A one-two punch, two wave fronts crashing / clashing, wave upon wave — but how to represent such things graphically, to model them, to open our too-literal minds to their complexity?

    **
    Here’s an example of two dangerous waves overlapping on the world stage, world scale:

    One:

    Bunker, Sullivan &c on the drone attack in Baja, Small Wars Journal:

    On Tuesday, 10 July 2018, an armed drone targeted the residence of Gerardo Sosa Olachea, the public safety secretary/Secretario de Seguridad Pública Estalal (SSPE) of Baja California, in colonia Los Laureles in Tecate—a border city in the San Diego-Tijuana etropolitan area. A second drone, which may have been utilized for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and C2 purposes, was seen over the incident scene. At least one of the drones was equipped with a video camera link and was armed with two IEDs that did not detonate. For a number of international security professionals tracking cartel and gang violence in Mexico—including the authors of this note—an incident like this has been expected for some time now, given the earlier I&W (Indications & Warnings) event that took place in Guanajunto state in October 2017 when a weaponized drone was seized from Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) operatives.

    Now think of ricin delivery by drone..

    Two:

    Daniel Koehler, Mapping Far-right Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism Efforts in the West:

    The threat of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism is widely attributed to collective actors based on a religious ideology, e.g. globally operating Salafi-jihadist groups like al-Qaeda or ISIL. Only limited attention has been given to the CBRN threat of violent domestic extremists in general or far-right terrorists specifically. Nevertheless, a number of incidents involving far-right activists and CBRN agents in Western countries are known to the public, even though these have had comparatively little impact on public threat perception. This study systematically collected public information about far-right CBRN incidents to identify their main characteristics. The authors were able to identify 31 incidents in Western countries since 1970, which display features contrary to generally assumed forms of CBRN terrorism. Far-right CBRN terrorism appears to be predominantly a lone-actor phenomenon oftentimes involving middle-aged and comparatively well-educated male perpetrators, mostly motivated by non-religious forms of far-right ideology (i.e. neo-Nazism, non-religious white supremacism) and indiscriminately targeting victims. Overall, far-right actors attempting to weaponize CBRN agents have been few and generally technically inept. However, the characteristics of the plots pose potential challenges for effective counter-measures and intervention, should the number of actors or the technical sophistication of plots increase in the future.

    Consider the overlap of those two very current waves — and there are others, at all scales, up and down the metaphorical coast of risk

    Then think Aum Shinrikyo, as an example of a non-state religious sect utilising sarin gas in an attack in Tokyo:

    The 1995 Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway system was a seminal event in the history of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. It marked the first major use of a Chemical weapon by a non-state actor that received widespread worldwide attention, and led to efforts to combat the threat of CBRN terrorism around the world.

    **

    Out there in Manafort > Cohen > Manafort wave land, there are two waves whose wavefronts met and clashed (“mutually reinforced”) yesterday, with a third wave following up behind the first, and more, wave upon wave, body blow upon body blow.. I don’t have the graphical skills to represent this, but multiple wave fronts intersecting would be a useful model to have depicted — and not unlike waves clashing at Big Sur.. where such things are multiplied and magnificent ..

    — not unlike clashing waves at Big Sur..

    For the Cohen and Manafort wavefronts and their possible combined implications, readings from this morning’s Washington DC post:

  • WaPo, After two convictions, pressure mounts on Trump
  • WaPo, Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others
  • WaPo, Michael Cohen: Trump’s greatest fear comes true
  • WaPo, Michael Cohen says he worked to silence two women ‘in coordination’ with Trump
  • WaPo, Cohen’s claim about Trump may spark calls for impeachment
  • WaPo, Manafort’s verdict and Cohen’s plea gave Trump his worst day so far
  • WaPo, ‘Doesn’t involve me’: Trump tries to distance himself from Cohen, Manafort cases
  • The Post’s View, Twin convictions are a stunning rebuke of Trump
  • Also, from the New York sister city and publication:

  • NY Times, Trump, Cohen and Manafort: What’s Next?
  • Oh, and btw:

  • The Atlantic, Christopher Steele’s Victory in a D.C. Court
  • The Hill, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders want Cohen to testify
  • **

    — not unlike clashing waves at Big Sur ..

    terrific photo from Teresa Espaniola Gallery

    .. up and down the metaphorical coast of risk ..

    Holy Fire, California and Jerusalem

    Monday, August 20th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — curiosity interest: high — actionable: negative ]
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    California fires, wild and holy:

    /a>

    **

    As a California resident, I keep a weather eye open on the terrible fores that have been and are ravaging the state this season. Among them, the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest has caught my attention by its name, which piques my theological curiosity.

    Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, first name Forrest [“rr”], stands accused of fire-starting the 22,986-acre Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest.

    Clark was arrested a day after the fire began and investigators said there is evidence suggesting he was the one who started it.

    His cabin in the Holy Jim area was the only one of 14 standing after the fire burned through the community, the Orange County Register reported the day after he was taken into custody.

    After conferring with Clark’s counsel, the judge made the decision to suspend the criminal proceedings until they assess whether the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.

    **

    In Jerusalem, meanwhile:

    Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Easter, in which a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ’s tomb (usually rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed by some to be where Jesus’ body was placed for burial) now in the Holy Sepulchre, which eventually forms a column containing a form of fire, from which candles are lit, which are then used to light the candles of the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims and clergy claim that the Holy Fire does not burn them.

    By Benoit Soubeyran from Montpellier, France – Holy Fire in Jerusalem 2018-04-07, CC BY 2.0:

    **

    But still, Holy Fire? Whence the “holy” in Orange County?

    Apparently, there’s a Holy Jim Canyon Trail with a waterfall, but then, who is Holy Jim?

    And it’s here that we meet one of those anthropological curiosities whereby the concept of the sacred unites the two ends of the spectrum. From Wallace Black Elk I learned that the Lakota word wakan, generally translated sacred, means something like the beware: high voltagee warnings you can see where high tension cables would be dangerous for the unaware, but powerfully useful for lighting whole cities..

    Here’s the explanation for Holy JIm:

    Nature was profaned here by the swear words flooding from the mouth of “Cussin’ Jim” Smith or “Holy Jim” as he was renamed by tightlaced government surveyors who mapped the canyon in the early 1900s.

    Cussin’ Jim! Tightlaced Holy!

    And Forrest Clark, too, was noted for his “outbursts” in court:

    For the third time, the state of California tried to formally charge Forrest Gordon Clark with arson – Clark is suspected of setting the Holy Fire in Orange County – and for the third time, Clark’s erratic behavior caused a judge to stop the normal proceedings, ending with a suspension of the charges so Clark’s mental health and competency can be examined.

    **

    In its own way, the Holy Fire in Jim’s canyon has as much place in the spectrum of sacredness as the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does, sliding in, so to speak, by the back door..

    And mightn’t that also be an example of enantiodromia?

    Solstice greetings

    Friday, June 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — season’s greetings on the northern hemisphere’s longest day .. ]
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    While the last rays of today’s sun are sinking off the coast of California to the west of me, here’s the crucial shot of that same sun’s dawn rays rising at Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain, UK:

    **

    Behind the thin crust of modernity our Neolithic past remains, and behind the Great Britain of Empire, the Industrial Revolution and Blake‘s Satanic Mills, stands Albion — the UK’s spiritual potential and true form. Stonehenge is thus the spiritual heart beating behind all the rubble that remains as Brexit crumbles both Britain and itself into nonsense, failure and ruin..

    On this auspicious, longest day, we wish Zenpundit readers and our world renewed good fortune this difficult year..


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