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Sports metaphor & politics, and much else besides, 1, pre-Flake

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

[ By Charles Cameron — the crisis builds — everything up to but not including Sen Flake’s elevator epiphany ]
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Sen Graham acc BuzzFeed:

“Here’s what I’m more convinced of, my friends on the other side set it up to be just the way it is. I feel ambushed,” Graham told reporters, after Ford finished testifying…

Graham also dismissed the need for an FBI investigation, saying Ford had not provided enough detail to justify a search warrant or an arrest warrant. He also said an FBI investigation would take too long and he did not want to “reward” political gamesmanship.

**

Getting back to symmetry:

The symmetry with her own parentage was uncannily exact, for Catherine and Seymour were themselves in an incestuous match, Catherine being Henry VIII’s widow while Seymour was his brother-in-law (the king had married Seymour’s sister Jane). ..

and just a little earlier:

What could have induced the normally modest queen dowager to have become an actor in these strange games?

both from p 36 of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, by Charles Beauclerk

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**

Sen Hirono to CNN re re asterisk:

I don’t know, but what I really want to hear from this administration, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, there will be an FBI investigation. That is what we need. And I think most people who look at this process, and want some monochrome (ph) of fairness, would agree that we should have an FBI investigation.

But they continue to stonewall. And I think that they’re doing a tremendous disservice to the public – American people, as well as, should he get on the court, there will always be an asterisk, and a cloud, over his name, and on his name. And I think that is not what we want to do to the Supreme Court.

**

0/28/2018:

Sen. Whitehouse:

You do the basic blocking and tackling of investigation ..
The sand is running through Kavanaugh’s hourglass ..

Sen Cruz:

These aren’t pawns on a chessboard, they are real people..
We are living in a divided time. This country is divided right down the middle. In this polarized society we live in today, it’s almost tribalized. Where half of us wear one team’s jersey and the other half wear the other team’s jersey, and whatever we see, we see through the lens of our jersey ..

Sen Booker:

I’ve learned that, heck, from being a football player: between the whistles, you fight as hard as you can for that you believe, and if you want to call that partisanship, fine ..

This is not a partisan moment, this is a amoral moment ..

a time when the comedy {transcript} / comity [my guess} was deeper and greater

Sen Kennedy:

this is no country for creepy old men ..

Sen Klobuchar:

It’s not being run by we the people, it’s being run by we the ruling party ..

Sen Graham:

Somebody’s got to explain this to Trump, and I guess that’s my job.

**

a note — I’ll tend to add “tribal” and “tribalizing” to my list of items to note since tribalism is a major issue for David Ronfeldt, even though it has recently become mainstreamed and is therefore now frequently mentioned. I shall be looking in particular for original or extended usages.

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Pres. Trump on Dr Ford:

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Jon Meacham acc Breitbart:

Stephanie was calling it quite rightly the other land. The lane here, instead of Yes or No, was Let’s find out more — and that’s the lane that Flake has opened up.

the thing about tribalism .. level of hardball.. churchill.. off the cliff .. [details when transcript available]

Stephanie Ruhle:

the third lane is not a No or a Yes, it’s simply leaving the door open..

Adam Serwer, The Confirmation of Trumpism
The accusations against Brett Kavanaugh — and his angry, defiant response — have made him a fitting champion for the party of Trump.:

The most important lie that Kavanaugh told, however, was in his initial testimony. Echoing Thomas’s broken promise to avoid ideology as a judge, Kavanaugh initially proclaimed that “as Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent, not swayed by public pressure … The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices on the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms. If confirmed to the Court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player on the team of nine.”

.. and including any and all interesting game language & stories ..

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a 75-year old poker club in DC, more ]
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It seems I’m moving from collecting only sport and game metaphors for politics, via sport and game metaphors more generally to sport and game language and stories — whatever catches my fancy. The paragraphs from William Finnegan, Off Diamond Head which I quoted in Storm special, surf’s up would have fit here nicely, and were my first signal, or perhaps one of my first, that my search interests might be widening.

Lets start with A club of their own: The story of a secret poker society started by pioneering African Americans. It’s a great story of a poker club that’s been going 76 years now:

In 1942, a group of university professors, doctors, lawyers and other black professionals in Washington wanted to get together on weekends and play poker. But they had a problem. Not only did segregation in the District bar them from joining country clubs or other social organizations where men could gather, but the president of Howard University, where many of them taught, was a religious man who did not approve of card-playing.

So they started a monthly gathering in their homes and came up with a name to mask its true nature — the Brookland Literary and Hunting Club.

The founding members of the club included a College president and consultant on Brown v. Board of Education, and the first black chief judge of DC’s federal court, and one of the the oldest current members at 96 — none of the founders are still with us — was a Tuskegee Airman. Over the last seventy-five years, these men have seen, and shaped, history. Their club is named the Brookland Literary and Hunting Club as code rather than abstract camouflage — “literary” because they’ve always discussed the topics of the day, from WWII via the Civil Rights movement to the present, and “hunting” because players are always hunting for a good hand when playing cards..

Play..

There were two tables — the big table, where hundreds of dollars exchanged hands over five-card stud, and the little table, whose participants played for coins or dollar bills and peppered the games with wild cards. Men would start at the little table and sometimes move up to the big one. As they got older and went on fixed incomes, some would move back to the little table.

And the spirit of play:

We’ve had great games and there’s never anybody who ran out of money, because somebody says: ‘Here, take some more. Just take it. Give it to me when you can,’

**

And it looks as though I can’t evade the sports and social parallelism business either. How can I resist What Serena Williams’s defeat tells us about the criminal-justice system? And how better to get at its essential than via another of today’s WaPo pieces, Yes, get consent. But be human, too.?

After describing the two opinion camps around the kerfuffle between Serena Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, the WaPo opinion writer Marc Howard, a professor of government and law at Georgetown, indicates the closeness of the parallel between tennis and social justice:

This disagreement is about more than tennis, or even sports. It connects with a much deeper American divide about policing and criminal justice, with strong undertones connecting to race and racism.

and later:

Just like the criminal-justice system, tennis and many other sports depend on the subjective discretion of neutral arbiters to apply a set of supposedly objective “rules.”

Ramos did indeed follow the code, and each of the three sanctions had some justification, thus satisfying the “rules” camp. But for two of the three violations (the racket smashing was unambiguous), he used his discretion to punish Williams for acts — coaching and heated exchanges with an umpire — that occur routinely in tennis but are seldom punished.

So one “deeper .. divide” is about “policing and criminal justice” — but another deep divide exists between “rules” and what I’ll call “fairness” camps, following this paragraph:

In all of these instances, one can always say, “Well, this person didn’t follow the rules,” and on an individual basis that may seem sufficient to justify the consequences. What gets lost, however, is that rules are rarely applied regularly, consistently or fairly..

You’ll have to read the whole article to get many of the details, but the analogy between a sport and the judicial and penal systems is clear.

How does this relate to the WaPo piece on consent in potential sexual aggression situations?

The question there is whether, in the pithy words of a feminist writer quoted by WaPo:

consent is just a hurdle you have to clear in order to Get The Sex

Consent is the rulebook, and the missing ingredient when consent is the only consideration, is the human context, in the words of the same writer, the need to see our sexual partners:

not simply as instrumental to our own pleasure but as co-equal collaborators, equally human and important, equally harmable, equally free and equally sovereign.

I’m not sure that even that doesn’t smack a bit of the “rules” camp, but it’s certainly a strong step beyond the bare=bones “consent” rule towards an understanding of human circumstances. But the parallelism between that and the Serena Williams piece wouldn’t have struck me so forcefully without this exchange:

“Yeah,” one, a junior, agreed. “The logic is sort of Cartesian.” (Oh, college!) “Do this, not that. Don’t break the rules ..

That really nails it — as Lao Tzu would say:

The rules can be codified in a rulebook aren’t the subtle rules of wisdom.

That’s my Tao Te Ching translation #207 I know, but I think it’s apt for this occasion.

Comments?

Metaphors, more iv, featuring Oliver Roeder & Chris Cillizza

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — others besides david ronfeldt who find game & sports metaphors valuable — or should that be invaluable? ]
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I’m making this post a “special” because Ron Hale-Evans pointed me to a trove of articles variously about or touching on game metaphors for politics, geo or otherwise.

**

This was the start:

What game is President Trump playing? By that I mean what actual game is he playing?

Trump’s political performance, in seriousness and in jest, has often been likened to chess. Even to three-, four-, eight-, 10- and 12-dimensional chess. His proponents argue he’s a grandmaster,1 and his detractors argue he’s a patzer. CNN’s Chris Cillizza has written two different articles accusing Trump of playing “zero-dimensional chess,” whatever that means. Even Garry Kasparov, probably the greatest actual chess player of all time, has weighed in, inveighing against the use of this gaming cliche via Politico.

In my job here at FiveThirtyEight, I spend a lot of time thinking about games — board games, video games, chess tournaments, math puzzles, the game theory of international affairs. So I understand that “playing chess” is easy shorthand for “doing strategy” or “being smart” or whatever. But I think we can do better. I humbly propose to you that Trump is not playing chess (of any dimension), but rather something called “ultimate tic-tac-toe.” It’s time to update your tropes.

It’s a good day when I find an entire article dedicated to game or sports metaphors for politics, but this one had some great links..

Instances:

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The second thing this Corker episode makes clear is that, strategically speaking, Trump is playing zero-dimensional chess. As in, the only strategy is that there is no strategy.

In the wake of Trump’s absolutely stunning 2016 victory, the conventional wisdom — in political circles — was that Trump was a strategic genius, always seeing five moves ahead. He was playing three-dimensional chess while the media was still trying to figure out which way pawns could move. The reason no one thought Trump could win was because “we” didn’t see the whole board the way he did. No one else saw it that way. Trump was a genius. An unconventional genius but a genius nonetheless.

There, incidentally, is the definition of zero-dimensional chess:

Trump is playing zero-dimensional chess. As in, the only strategy is that there is no strategy.

And:

**

The key part is when he concludes Flake will be a “no” on the tax reform package in the Senate because, well, his political career is “toast” — or something.

I submit this as yet another piece of evidence that Trump is playing zero-dimensional chess.

What do I mean? Simply this: When Trump won the White House — against all odds — the working assumption was that he had executed a plan so brilliant and so complex that only he (and the few advisers he let in on the plan) could see it. He was playing three-dimensional chess while the media, the Clinton campaign and virtually everyone else was still playing checkers.

But as his first year in the White House has progressed, there’s mounting evidence that Trump may not be playing three-dimensional chess. In fact, he might just be playing zero-dimensional chess. As in, the only strategy Trump is pursuing is no strategy at all.

From a game-policy metaphor angle, this doesn’t take us much further, although you can read the whole post for details of the Trump-Flake business..

And..

**

Chess? That’s not what Garry Kasparov sees Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin playing—three-dimensional or any other kind. But if they did sit down for a game, the former grandmaster believes the Russian president would obviously win.

“Both of them despise playing by the rules, so it’s who will cheat first,” Kasparov told me in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “But in any game of wits, I would bet on Putin, unfortunately.”

Kasparov gets into some interesting details, not entirely uncritical of Obama, and even GW Bush, but flicking Trump off the board with a flick of his cultivated fingernail..

I think I’vetheis referenced the Kasparov article once before, but hey, this is a rich harvest..

Next:

**

Shall we play a game?

Imagine that a crisp $100 bill lies on a table between us. We both want it, of course, but there’s no chance of splitting it — our wallets are empty. So we vie for it according to a few simple rules. We’ll each write down a secret number — between 0 and 100 — and stick that number in an envelope. When we’re both done, we’ll open the envelopes. Whichever of us wrote down the higher number pockets the $100. But here’s the catch: There’s a percentage chance that we’ll each have to burn $10,000 of our own money, and that chance is equal to the lower of the two numbers.

So, for example, if you wrote down 10 and I wrote down 20, I’d win the $100 … but then we’d both run a 10 percent risk of losing $10,000. This is a competition in which, no matter what, we both end up paying a price — the risk of disaster.

What number would you write down?

In the 538 post, the game’s available for interactive play.. And later in the same piece, too..

Now imagine that you’re playing the same game, but for much more than $100. You’re a head of state facing off against another, and the risk you run is a small chance of nuclear war

That was instructive, I think, though my mind is artificially dimmed at present..

And finally:

**

This one revolved around a tweet in which Trump had said

:When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!

How easy? was this post’s response:

But how easy? And how exactly do you win them? (Also, what’s a trade war?)

Let’s find out. You (Yes, you!) have just been elected president of your very own country. Congratulations! Now it’s time to get to work. There is another country out there that has goods you can buy, and you have goods it may want to buy. Your job is to choose your foreign economic policy — which you’ll do in the little game we’ve prepared for you below.

The rules go like this: You can cooperate with the other country, allowing the free flow of its goods into your country. Or you can defect, imposing tariffs on the foreign goods. And because you will trade with the same country over and over again, you have to decide whether to stick with a single strategy no matter what or whether to change course in response to your opponent. The other country faces the same choice, but you can’t know in advance what plan they’ve chosen. Free trade helps both countries, generating big windfalls for both sides. But it’s possible for a single country to improve its own situation at the other’s expense — you both have a selfish incentive to defect, taxing the imports from the other country and helping only yourself. However, if you both defect, you both wind up isolated, cutting yourselves off from the market and reducing earnings on both sides.

Again, the game is available for interactive play.

We’ve simplified trade dramatically: You’re engaging in 100 rounds of trade with a randomly chosen FiveThirtyEight reader. In each round, you and your trade partner can either cooperate (allow free trade) or defect (impose a tariff). Your goal is to pick a strategy that earns you as much as possible.

The game mechanics here were interesting (and “gave the game away” where the game is game theory a la Prisoners Dilemma):

Well..

Was there a trade war? Was it good? Did you win it?

Tariffs are the weapons of a trade war

The game you just played took a little game theory — the formal, mathematical study of strategy — and retrofitted it to the world of international relations. (Of course, our simulation is extremely simplified, and it runs in a very controlled little world that ignores alliances, trade deals, political histories, other countries, and hundreds of other factors.)

**

Memory slippage — lest we forget, there was one last game ref today:

It’s the NYorker‘s film criticism of the latest impossible Mission, and the game sentence in the piece itself reads:

Despite the deft coherence of the plot’s mirror games of alliance and betrayal, which provide the illusion of a developed drama, the movie almost totally deprives its characters of inner life or complex motives.

Mirroring’s one of the patterns I love to collect, and game thinking here might note the Kierkegaardian note:

In his 1846 essay “The Present Age,” Søren Kierkegaard decried the widespread tendency of the time -— which he summed up as an age “without passion” —- to “transform daring and enthusiasm into a feat of skill.”

The continuum from “daring and enthusiasm to “feat of skill” is an interesting one for game designers to place their games on — before and after design, and when player feedback is in.

A rich day indeed.

**

Sources:

  • FiveThirtyEight, Trump Isn’t Playing 3D Chess
  • CNN Politics, Donald Trump is playing zero-dimensional chess
  • CNN POlitics, Donald Trump is playing zero-dimensional chess (again)
  • Politico, Garry Kasparov Would Like You to Stop Saying ‘Trump Is Playing 4-D Chess’
  • FiveThirtyEight, How To Win A Nuclear Standoff
  • FiveThirtyEight, How To Win A Trade War
  • Trump on Twitter, trade wars are good, and easy to win
  • New Yorker, Mission: Impossible -— Fallout
  • **

    Some other posts in this series

    And I emphasize Some, previous posts in the game & sports metaphor series, as somewhat randomly collected, and Likelky not in sequential order:

  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=57435
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=59988
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=59082
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=58644
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=57908
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=59678
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=57493
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=59496
  • ZP post, http://zenpundit.com/?p=60193
  • With any luck, some of these will have links to yet others in the series..

    **

    And dammit, pwned by another one before my head hit the pillow..

    Pawn, yes. Pwn?

    A soccer tactic and its parliamentary analog

    Friday, July 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a Croatian filibuster on the football field ]
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    In extra time, Croatia’s Mario Mandžuki? had a nine-minute, operatic breakdown, a syncopated series of stops, starts, and seizures, which defined the match and took it away from England.

    I jeep looking for sports metaphors in political reportage, and now, in a New Yorker article titled World Cup 2018: The Tragicomic Opera of Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic I find out all about players feigning cramps as a delaying tactic when games go into overtime —

    — and it’s a clear analog of the Senate’s filibuster tactic. Either one could be a metaphor for the other, soccer for politics or vide versa.

    **

    Sources:

  • New Yorker, The Tragicomic Opera of Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic
  • US Senate, Filibuster and Cloture
  • **

    Oh, and, The England vs. Croatia World Cup Match Made for Some Awkward Television:

    One segment of the pre-game show was given over to a National Geographic Channel report on Russian Buddhism. If this was intended as outreach to soccer fans so ardent that they always burn in suffering, then perhaps it did some spiritual good. But, as an effort at a culture-enriching sideshow, it was unsuccessful, so out of sync with the analysis and hype surrounding it as to be charming. The correspondent said to the monk, “O.K., so, if everything is an illusion, what’s truth, then?”

    I couldn’t exactly miss that, given my interests, could I?

    Two new sports metaphor articles, or make that three

    Sunday, July 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — with my salutations to John Wilson, Garry Kasparov, Mike Sellers ]
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    I asked the innocent-seeming question, Can one play chess on a checkers board? on FaceBook today, and the conversation veered to the topic of hierarchies of games — is chess inherently superior to checkers, for example, so that playing chess on a checkers board seems ok, but the idea of playing checkers on a chess board is mildly offensive?

    And that led to the question of a hierarchy of games, which in turn sent me scurrying for ideas of the form x is playing tic tac toe while y is playing chess and similar. In the course of my research:

    I’ve seen tweets that say “Mueller is playing chess; Trump is playing tic tac toe.” and “Putin is playing Chess. Trump is playing Hungry Hungry Hippo.” I’ve seen “Cruz is playing chess and Trump is playing tic tac toe”. I’ve seen “Trump is playing tic tac toe Kim playing chess.” I’ve seen “Trump is playing tic-tac-toe while his opponents are playing four-dimensional chess, and tic-tac-toe is what wins elections.” — I’ll have to come back to that. I’ve seen “What if Kim Jong-Un is the one playing chess while Trump is playing Chinese checkers?” I’ve even seen Ann Coulter saying “Just hang on to your hats, because while you’re all playing checkers, Trump is playing 3-D chess.”

    Ouch!!

    And the cake-topper — Garry Kasparov, world chess chamption and Russian opposition leader:

    **

    I’ve also come across a popularity-based hierarchy of games, in a National Review article titled The Dominant-Sport Theory of American Politics:

    I’ve seen a few cultural shifts in my day, and the first one came via early-1970s headlines proclaiming “Baseball No Longer the National Pastime,” after polls showed that football had become America’s most popular sport.

    Then:

    After brushing off the 1980s soccer scare, football remained unchallenged for decades.

    Then:

    But now football is losing fans for a number of reasons, and David French has written a splendid summary of why basketball, specifically the NBA, continues to rise in popularity.

    Here’s where sports as a metaphor for politics clicks in:

    A while back, Nelson George glorified basketball’s taunt-and-flaunt style as the “black athletic aesthetic,” and while Donald Trump is one of the whitest men on earth, he has clearly absorbed the essentials of this climate of thought. The chief factors of the black athletic aesthetic have been summarized as intimidation, humiliation, and improvisation, which together give a pretty good description of Trump’s style of governance.

    The kicker

    :I’ve said before that Trump is playing tic-tac-toe while his opponents are playing four-dimensional chess, and tic-tac-toe is what wins elections.

    **

    There’s plenty more of you to enjoy, but I want to bring in another article with a strong sports correlation. It’s Ann Coulter‘s piece from 28 March this year, titled 3-D Chess — It Only *Looks* Like Trump Is Throwing Away His Presidency!. It starts off with her picture, here reduced yet still large —

    — and under it a subhead:

    I can’t wait to see Trump’s next move in his game of “3-D chess”!

    Then, expanding:

    He has now signed a spending bill that, if it actually did what it claims to do, prohibits him from building the wall, hiring any new ICE agents capable of making arrests, and building any new detention facilities for illegal aliens.

    The strange thing is, as commander in chief, he doesn’t need congressional authority to do any of these things. But he obviously doesn’t know that.

    Why? BECAUSE HE’S PLAYING 3-D CHESS!

    There’s some irony involved — or isn’t there? I am unfaamiliar with Ms Coulter’s style. Then:

    It’s all part of the act, you fools! Trump is making the Democrats think that, even though they don’t have the House, the Senate or the White House, he needs Chuck Schumer’s permission before moving a muscle.

    Carefully observe the master. He gives up everything and — in exchange — gets NOTHING. See?

    Yup, Irony:

    This shows what a master strategist Trump is. He throws out the rulebook! You know what else, suckers? Now he can put out a paperback edition with a new chapter, How to Give Up Everything in Return for Nothing.

    The wins are already rolling in. Guess who’s suddenly dying to negotiate with Trump? That’s right: Kim Jong Un. One look at how Trump negotiates and Kim couldn’t wait to sit down with him.

    I can’t give you all the details, but:

    Thanks to Trump’s 3-D chess, he may well be in line for an endorsement not only from Boeing, but also from the powerhouse Bush family. [ ..] 3-D chess, baby! Trump has lured Republicans right into his trap.

    And finally:

    I can’t wait to see what comes next!

    Just hang on to your hats, because while you’re all playing checkers, Trump is playing 3-D chess.

    **

    At which point I need something of a palate cleanser, so I’ll introduce you to a third article I stumbled on while getting this far.. in the National Review again — Donald Hall and the Nature of Time in Baseball Country. This in turn references a George Plimpton piece from the NYT titled The Smaller the Ball, the Better the Book: A Game Theory of Literature. Aha, a hierarchy afoot! Here’s Plimpton’s opening salvo:

    SOME years ago I evolved what I called the Small Ball Theory to assess the quality of literature about sports. This stated that there seems to be a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes — that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature. There are superb books about golf, very good books about baseball, not many good books about football or soccer, very few good books about basketball and no good books at all about beach balls. I capped off the Small Ball Theory by citing Mark Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” perhaps the most universally known of sports stories, in which bird shot (very small balls indeed!) is an important element in the plot.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t respresent my friends John Wilson and the late Bill Tunilla by suggesting that Roger Angell on baseball is as fine as anything written about golf.

    ANyway, it’s the Plimpton piece I wanted to get you to, and that splendid opening paragraph. Birdshot, indeed!

    Until next time..


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