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Shorts 01: Holi festivities, omertà, and so forth

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — an olla podrida or highly spiced Spanish-style stew ]

Holi Festival:

Today is Holi Festival for those who celebrate it, the day on which we color each other in dyes in honor of Prahlad, a child devotee of the Supreme Beloved:

Accordingly, I wish that all may be drenched in the colors of devotion this Holi, most joyful of festivals!



For a taste of something very different — there has been considerable discussion recently of Paul Manafort‘s seemingly obstinate refusal to plead to Mueller’s charges and save (salvage) at least some of his skin by becoming a cooperating witness rather than an overwhelmingly indicted criminal in the Russian influence affair.

What I haven’t seen suggested is that the man may be following a code: specifically omerta:

a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities.

Particularly if his Mafia bosses happen to be rough and Russian.


Hope Hicks:

There’s an intense Vox piece on the sexism to be found in a plethora of press reports on Hope Hicks. The provocative title: When does Hope Hicks get to be a “wunderkind” instead of a “former model”? And the provocative fact:

None of this coverage mentioned the salient fact that Hicks’s modeling career spanned ages 10 to 16. She landed the Ralph Lauren deal at age 11. By 16 she had quit her part-time modeling job to focus on her true passion, lacrosse.

I nwon’t get into the sexism issue, but that “salient fact” does seem to put much of the “former model” language in its place.

Hick is, however, still model-style gorgeous at 29 — as seen in this photo in which she’s on her way to testify to the House Intelligence Committee:

Given Donald Trump‘s known eye for beautiful women, isn’t Hope Hicks‘ beauty too a “salient fact”?


Language lesson

Under the title McMaster Gives a Belated Russian Lesson, Foreign Policy introduces us to the words maskirovka — military arts by deception — and vranyo. The latter is best explained by the verbal spiral I commented on yesterday:

A Russian friend explained vranyo this way: ‘You know I’m lying, and I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, but I go ahead with a straight face, and you nod seriously and take notes.’


Bluff or threat?

That’s the question Putin’s recent claims sets before us, and an item in Australian BC’s Is Vladimir Putin bluffing or should we be worried about his new ‘miracle weapons’? caught my eye — a quote from our own Nuclear Posture Review:

its [Russia’s] “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine implies it might respond with nuclear weapons in any conventional war.

You know my preoccupation with pattern? Okay, “escalate to de-escalate” has ann exact opposite in French:

Now almost as familiar in English as in French, “reculer pour mieux sauter” — which I imagine is originally an equestrian show-jumping expression — means to step backwards, the better to leap (forwards).

A Pattern Language for Strategy, check!


Trump, Guns, and Golf

The entire text of Kevin Drum‘s Mother Jones article under that title reads:

Hey, did Donald Trump ever sign that executive order allowing guns at all his golf resorts, like he promised to do? Just wondering.

Well, did he?

Kayfabe is an analog for war and love maybe, not a model

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — hat-tip to Ferdinando Buscema, magician and therefore cognitive science specialist extraordinaire ]


Occasionally one reads a truly stunning article — stunning, I mean stunnng.

Eric R. Weinstein‘s 2011 Edge answer, WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY’S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT? is one such article, and as such I have retained the full caps in its title.

The theoretical background is :

Evolutionary biologists Richard Alexander and Robert Trivers have recently emphasized that it is deception rather than information that often plays the decisive role in systems of selective pressures. Yet most of our thinking continues to treat deception as something of a perturbation on the exchange of pure information, leaving us unprepared to contemplate a world in which fakery may reliably crowd out the genuine. In particular, humanity’s future selective pressures appear likely to remain tied to economic theory which currently uses as its central construct a market model based on assumptions of perfect information.

If we are to take selection more seriously within humans, we may fairly ask what rigorous system would be capable of tying together an altered reality of layered falsehoods in which absolutely nothing can be assumed to be as it appears. Such a system, in continuous development for more than a century, is known to exist and now supports an intricate multi-billion dollar business empire of pure hokum. It is known to wrestling’s insiders as “Kayfabe”.

Evolutionary biology, okay — I have other preferences for go-to model theory, but this one seems popular among non-magical realists on the cutting edge.. and the analog proposed in this article is kayfabe.


Which is?

What can be seen as “tying together an altered reality of layered falsehoods in which absolutely nothing can be assumed to be as it appears”? What, in other words, can model all these altered realities? And kayfabe cannot be the answer, since it is one of those altered realities itself. No — for sure, it may provide a superb analog for professional wrestling and those others — “war, finance, love, politics and science” — mentioned later in the piece:

Kayfabrication (the process of transition from reality towards Kayfabe) arises out of attempts to deliver a dependably engaging product for a mass audience while removing the unpredictable upheavals that imperil participants. As such Kayfabrication is a dependable feature of many of our most important systems which share the above two characteristics such as war, finance, love, politics and science.

— but it cannot model them.


Let’s take a closer look at the analogy, though:

What makes Kayfabe remarkable is that it gives us potentially the most complete example of the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.

That’s skirting the “model” concept again, but:

While most modern sports enthusiasts are aware of wrestling’s status as a pseudo sport, what few alive today remember is that it evolved out of a failed real sport (known as “catch” wrestling) which held its last honest title match early in the 20th century. Typical matches could last hours with no satisfying action, or end suddenly with crippling injuries to a promising athlete in whom much had been invested.


The idea was to avoid two “paradoxical risks”:

  • Occasional but Extreme Peril for the participants
  • General: Monotony for both audience and participants
  • Think about that in the context of war — extensive boredom punctuated by episodes of extreme risk? Try these descriptions from WWI:

    Since then we have been doing infantry work in the trenches. We have been out of work on our trenches; only shrapnel and snipers. Some one described this war as “Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” It is sad that it is such a bad country for cavalry.


    “Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror” : such is a description of life in the Navy which a naval lieutenant quotes as exactly fitting the facts.

    That covers army and navy, both from Where does the phrase of “boredom punctuated by moments of terror” come from? — but what about the air? It’s not from WWI, but anyway:

    In Barry Lopez’s essay “Flight” (published in About This Life and originally in Harper’s October 1995) he quotes pilots describing flying as “hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of terror.

    And what of love — after, as they say, the honeymoon is over?


    For that matter, and at an entirely different scale, what about the heartbeat?

    That’s “boredome punctuated by excitement” in a nutshell, iterated, and becoming a (mostly) relable rhythm..

    Iterated. Rhythm.


    I’m unconvinced that the heartbeat is an example of “the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery”.. And that’s a crucial element of the general process, eh? It has to do with the way in which “important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.”

    I’d read that as potentially covering the transition from failed Mueller to successful Fox, if things go that way. YMMV:

    But “general process” — again, what’s the mnodel? And more preciseluy, what would the model look like in “stocks and flows” system dynamic form, say in STELLA? See Donella Meadows, Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System?


    Or HipBone?

    I’m not convinced Mueller / Fox is a “boredom then excitement” example, much less that Mueller and Fox are allied in producing their result, whatever this may turn out to be — but Democrat and Republican, perhaps..

    And my search for the abstraction, the underlying model of the general process proposed continues..


    KAYFABE in Professional Wrestling tells us more:

    To lift the veil on the world of professional wrestling, we need to take a look at the term ‘kayfabe‘. Kayfabe is a wrestling word coming from the early carnival days of wrestling for the word “keep”, originally used as “keep quiet”, or “keep secret”. Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of the business, such as feuds, angles and wrestling gimmicks (or in layman terms, a wrestler’s on-screen persona from their personality down to their attire). In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera.

    In the past, it was common for wrestlers to adhere to maintaining kayfabe in public, even when outside the ring and off-camera, in order to preserve the illusion that the competition in pro wrestling was not staged.

    Kayfabe breaking as analogous to “an actor breaking character on camera”? And kayfabe transitioning from “virtual” to “real” — another of our favorite themes? Here we are again, from our first source:

    Importantly, Kayfabe also seems to have discovered the limits of how much disbelief the human mind is capable of successfully suspending before fantasy and reality become fully conflated. Wrestling’s system of lies has recently become so intricate that wrestlers have occasionally found themselves engaging in real life adultery following exactly behind the introduction of a fictitious adulterous plot twist in a Kayfabe back-story.

    So “wrestlers have occasionally found themselves” — wrestlers, plural, found themselves engaging, plural — in adultery? Our model needs to accomodatee this plurality along with all the rest.


Steve Bannon’s next gig

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — is the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ready for Steve Bannon? ]

Now that both the White House and Breitbart have ejected him, there’s a question as to what employment Steve Bannon will find next. Luckily for us he’s already provided a somewhwat gnomic answer a while back, in conversation with Charlie Rose — as this DoubleQuote illustrates:



For further details, listen to Mick Jagger, lower panel above — or read his lyrics:

Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
Well what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band…

Watch out — Steve Bannon is going to sing! Robert Mueller will be all ears..

Catchall post for comments with form

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — ouroboric and boustrophedonic news aggregated for yr edification ]

this is certainly tne essential Ouroboros, no?


Okay, first, several examples of serpent-bites-own-tail comments:

How a Liberal Scholar of Conspiracy Theories Became the Subject of a Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory

That’s pretty straightforward — and this:

A sample headline in the Netherlands: “The new Trump Ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, lies about his own lies.”


Then there are Mueller-specific ouroboroi:

One of Trump’s lawyers said the president’s legal team wants a second special counsel — one to investigate the investigators..


Trump’s lawyers want a special counsel to investigate special counsel Robert Mueller:

Donald Trump’s legal team has suggested appointing another special counsel to investigate the existing special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is probing the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

One commenter went a level farther, opining:

there should be a Special Counsel to investigate the Special Counsel which is investigating the Special Counsel. When concluded, the Special Counsel investigating the Special Counsel, which is investigating the Special Counsel should deliver their report to a newly formed unbiased Special Counsel, which in turn should be investigated to ensure that all the investigative legalities have been adhered to.



Okay, enough ouroboroi — let’s approach zen from the side, with this:

President Trump is quoted in a clip in Ari Melber‘s The Beat (MSNBC) at 2.34, “I don’t want to talk about pardon for Michael Flynn yet, we’ll see what happens.” This is followed by a Rachel Maddow clip, in which RM says, “I have a Tree Falls in the Forest question for you: “If the President issues a pardon, do we have to know about it?”

That’s about as close to an overt koan as we are liable to find on mainstream political TV.

Go, Rachel! But what exactly do you mean?


And ah! — we are so fotunate that Rachel is not alone in thinking thoughts of this kind.. Kaveh Akbar has a New Yorker poem, What Use Is Knowing Anything If No One Is Around:

What use is knowing anything if no one is around
to watch you know it? Plants reinvent sugar daily
and hardly anyone applauds. Once as a boy I sat
in a corner covering my ears, singing Quranic verse

after Quranic verse. Each syllable was perfect, but only
the lonely rumble in my head gave praise. This is why
we put mirrors in birdcages, why we turn on lamps

to double our shadows.

and so forth. Thank you, Kaveh Akbar, I hear you, I hear your silent, recited Quranic verses.


I’ll add further instances of posts and comments with the formal properties I’m so fond of in the comments section as they catch my eye..

Gingrich appraises Mueller

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — fwiw my first name, charles, translates to churl ]

I am far from the only one to have noticed this juxtaposition:

I read the first of these as a simple statement of the concensus as to Mueller‘s character, what is generally known of the man after years of pubic service. I think of it, in other words, as a statement of received opinion, which Newt Gingrich is presenting for the record. I imagine I could find similar endorsements of Mueller from the Democratic side of the aisle.

The second tweet strikes me as of a diFfferent sort altogether. This one I believe I could find echoed in other statements from aides to Trump — it’s a talking point.

I know politicians lie. I imagine I could find instances of Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton, making similarly opposed statekents. I take Bill Clinton‘s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” to be the Lie Direct in Jacques’ terms. But this —

I don’t believe Gingrich has changed opinions, I believe he has simply changed hats. I think, in short, that he still takes Mueller for a man with an impeccable reputation for honesty and integrity — but in his second tweet, he’s parroting a party line, not his actual opinion.

Dylan: But what’s the sense of changing horses in midstream?

Maybe Jacques would classify this as a Reply Churlish. Gingrich, you’re a Churl.

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