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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
  • Of Note: Tim Furnish, & Trump’s National CT Strategy

    Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — and a few ppl whose views on trump’s strategy document I’d also like to read ]
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  • Tim Furnish, Trump’s New Counter-terrorism Strategy: The One-Eyed Man is Still King
  • Trump, 2018, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Obama, 2011, National Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • Tim Furnish, Sectsploitation: How to Win Hearts and Minds in the Islamic World
  • **

    I wanted to draw your attention to our blog-friend and sometime contributor Tim Furnish‘s post, which offers a lucid introduction to the Trump administration’s National CT Strategy paper, situating it in contrast to the Obama admin’s version, and linking it to a very helpful breakdown of what we might call (remembering William James, but in mostly lower case) the varieties of Islamic experience.

    Let me just say that from my POV:

    1) Tim Furnish has a way superior understanding of the said varieties than John Bolton ever will have — plus he has a taste for pop culture asides!

    2) that the key issue to be further explored could be expressed in terms of the overlaps, Venn diagram-wise, between “literalist”, “mainstream” and “authentic” Islams.

    That’s a project I’ve been circling for more than a decade, and the closer I get, the more subtleties arise to be considered. Still circling in..

    Thomas Hegghammer, JM Berger, Leah Farrall, Adam Elkus, Will McCants and John Horgan are others whose varied voices and opinions regaarding the new CT Strategy text I’ll be watching for.

    **

    Tim’s essay and associated matters: Warmly recommended.

    Zen — pray chime in.

    Decapitation — Variations on a theme by Vollmann

    Monday, September 24th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — preliminary to a rave review, i suspect, with Helena Bonham Carter as Red Queen thrown in ]
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    **

    There’s an old English saying, presumably about the martyred King Charles I:

    The King walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off..

    Young boys, getting acquainted with rules and grammar, and somewhat literal minded as a result, find this statement a paradox, which, however, can easily be resolved by the addition of a comma or perhaps better, a semicolon:

    The King walked and talked; half an hour after his head was cut off..

    Older boys quickly learn the (semicolon) reason of the riddle, and eagerly apply the first version to younger boys, the better to perplex and torment them. And thus both versions, the beauty of the paradox, the ease of its resolution, and the cruelty thus made available are transmitted across the generations..

    **

    I have written this because the beheading of a king clearly marked my young soul, as I was yesterday reminded by three passages from an Atlantic review of Vollmann‘s latest Opus — Magnum III at least [I, II, and let us not forget, gods I would love to read this, Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater]..

    Summits chopped off:

  • In West Virginia, mountains do not have their summits chopped off but are granted “removal of overburden.”
  • Decapitation:

  • His insatiable appetite for detail yields both irrelevant trivia (“Embarking on the Super Limited Hitachi Express, which was also known as the Super Hitachi 23 Limited Express”) and magisterial portraits of landscapes befouled by poking and prodding and, in the case of West Virginia’s mountains, decapitating.
  • Headless:

  • Vollmann breathes a cool wind “whose degree of particulate contamination was of course unknown,” hears on a silent street at night the grunting of a radioactive wild boar, and walks on broken glass through an abandoned clothing store advertising a 50 percent–off sale and peopled by headless mannequins.
  • Headless mannequins and radioactive wild boars — vivid metaphors, no? — we the humans have been brain-dead, and in all likelihood will continue so.

    **

    We’re all too familiar with images of ISIS executioners with their orange jump-suited prisoners, just prior to and after solo and group beheadings — as a corrective to the “it’s all Islam” narrative, here’s a para from an article titled Inside the Minds of Cartel Hitmen: Hannibal Lecters for Hire (which includes an interview with Robert Bunker that I will be taking a more extended look at now my review of JM Berger‘s new book. Extremism, is in):

    And the tactics employed in all that killing have become more and more gruesome over time. Maybe the rush felt by some murderers is like a drug itself, and they are junkies needing ever greater doses to get the same high. But how is it that ordinary people get hooked on activities like beheading, acid baths, and cannibalism?

    **

    Quoth the Red Queen: Off with their heads!

    JM Berger’s Extremism, from MIT Press. Brilliant.

    Monday, September 24th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — my third JM Berger review, following reviews of Jihad Joe and ISIS: State of Terror ]
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    I ordered a copy of JM Berger‘s Extremism months early from Amazon, having followed many of the posts in which he was formulating the insights that led to the book, and expecting a volume full of the very detailed diagrams and network analyses they contained:

    Image sources:

  • ICCT, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis
  • Intelwire, EXTREMIST CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY
  • **

    These diagrams, and the research that underlies them — the work of JM and his colleague, Haroro J Ingram — attest to JM’s skill at the detailed drill-down level, the equivalent of rock-face drilling in a mine. The book couldn’t be further from my expectations: it attests to an entirely different set of skills, those of simplicity, grace, and a superb command of language.

    JM has the ability to communicate directly with a lay audience at their (our) level. He neither shies away from nuance nor adds needless complications — either of which would be a form of condescension to the reader.

    JM’s writing is direct and clean:

  • Terrorism is a tactic, whereas extremism is a belief system.
  • Extremism is a spectrum of beliefs, not necessarily a simple destination.
  • Group radicalization precedes individual radicalization
  • **

    Above are three of the pull-quotes, extracted from the book’s text, that state some of JM’s basic propositions on lucid, large-print, white on black pages, scattered as needed across the book’s 167 short pages (plus glossary, notes, bibliography, further reading, index)..

  • What extremism is, how extremist ideologies are constructed, and why extremism can escalate into violence
  • That’s the core proposition of the whole work, buttressed as it is with a wealth of detailed research and analysis. And radical…

    JM’s approach is already radical in its (his) refusal to treat only one ideological or religious frame for extremism. Studying both ISIS and home grown Identity groups, those who promote violence and those who arguably foreshadow it, led JM to see extremism itself as the most fruitful category to study — not terrorism, nor Islam, not the Citizen Sovereignty movement nor alt-right, but extremism tout court.

    That broadening of the frame allows Berger a set of analytic insights that were obscured by detail in earlier, more limited studies, and his book is the elegant formulation of those insights, simply, and with a forest of scholarship in support.

    **

    JM lists Impurity, Conspiracy, Dystopia, Existential threat, and Apocalypse as central “crisis narratives” utilized by in-groups as they view out-groups — but it is the in-group-out-group distinction which is central to his thinking, its wrongness characterized by the in-group’s paranoid conspiracist suspicions of the out-group’s impurity, dystopic being the nature of the world now ruled by the out-group, and to be abhorred or saved by the in-, with existential threat and apocalypse providing the sense of time-crunch, urgency.

    All this, I say, with a simplicity and elegance which belies the originality and scholarship that undergirds it.

    Above highly recommended.

    Rajneeshis backgrounding the Incels — for JM

    Friday, August 10th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — opposite extremists at opposite extremes — for JM, if he ever gets time to read / view / hear it — with a personal note to cleanse the palate at the end ]
    .

    An essay, expressed in musics.

    Indeed, a Janis Joplin-driven explanation of the bookRajneeshi and Incel passions, offered to JM Berger as he’s publishing what will no doubt be a powerfully argued and fascinating account of a wide range of extremisms, Extremism (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series):

    Quote:

    extremism arises from a perception of “us versus them,” intensified by the conviction that the success of “us” is inseparable from hostile acts against “them.”

    Buy this book, okay?

    **

    Sexuality, pure & full-throated.

    First, her voice torn raw:

    “Move Over” is the only song on the 1971 album “Pearl” that Janis wrote on her own. If the lyric doesn’t strike you as particularly suggestive, just listen to the way she sings it and you’ll see what we mean.

    Now multiply by this, drawn from Janis‘ letters:

    She fell in love at a heartbeat; her sexual appetites are perhaps best described as ravenous (she had female as well as male lovers), her judgment frequently awry.

    Sex, plenty of it — you’d think she’d move from jaggering via satisfaction to satiated.

    **

    And sex, the absence, the vacuum, the abyss,

    Second, her heart torn, shredded:

    This line is all I need:

    Well, the fevers of the night, they burn an unloved woman:

    and this brilliant comment I overheard:

    she would make love to 25,000 on stage, then go home alone..

    **

    Janis is a Rajneeshi at heart and in behavior, an Incel in blues and loneliness..

    Given that, that strength, that compulsive pull, that driven drive

    Zero Sex, the absence, involuntary

    The Incels — those who are involuntarily celibate — can’t get none — perceiving themselves shunned by those who attract them __

    final lyrics, one version:James Brown, It’s a Man’s World..:

    Oh how, how man needs a woman
    I sympathize with the man that don’t have a woman
    He’s lost in the wilderness
    He’s lost in bitterness
    He’s lost in loneliness

    That last stanza, with that line in it, could be an incel anthem.

  • I sympathize with the man that don’t have a woman..
  • Well, the fevers of the night, they burn an unloved woman..
  • The raw reality of it: a child’s wail — see how much you can bear to see —

    That’s the involuntary celibate, Incel, pieced together out of Janis and James Brown, the extreme in inward-twisting, self-pitying, child’s wail version of the blues ..

    **

    This boy, this young man, a day or so after making this video, went out and killed six people in Isla Vista, Calif., in an attempt as “the prefect gentleman” to get his revenge on the hottest blondes in UC Santa Barbara. And became, for some, a hero to be emulated.. And emulated he was.

    Readings follow suit:

  • Forbes, The Disturbing Internet Footprint Of Santa Barbara Shooter Elliot Rodger
  • Clarion Project, What is the ‘Incel Revolution’ and Why Should I Care?
  • NYTimes, Toronto Van Attack Suspect Expressed Anger at Women
  • NYTimes, What Is an Incel? A Term Used by the Toronto Van Attack Suspect, Explained
  • WaPo, Inside the online world of ‘incels,’
  • LRB, Does anyone have the right to sex?
  • It is this extreme I have greater difficuty understanding.

    This most recently, btw:

  • LATimes, Killer who committed massacre in Isla Vista was part of alt-righ
  • The SPLC report counts Rodger among 13 alleged alt-right killers whose actions left 43 people dead and more than 60 injured since 2014.

    Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six students in the college town of Isla Vista in 2014, was the first “alt-right killer” to strike in recent years..

    **

    Sex raised hopefully to the power of the infinite:

    And then I hear that howl against the backdrop of the recent documentary about the Rajneeshis, encouraged by their guru to explore their sexuality to the sacred, to satiation..:

    Wide-open their hope, shut-down their finale.

    **

    And finally, JM, Something Other and more personal

    A martini to cleanse the palate..

    Now I want to watch, intend to binge-watch Brideshead Revisited, the Jeremy Irons version, for some very un-American, upper-class-snobbish, public-school-boy, Roman-Catholic-gay historical-throwback art-level Britishness:

    Dropping you in at an odd, a very strange, indeed extreme in a dozen ways from Sunday, luncheon:

    I who have been beaten — four, with a bamboo cane, at Wellington College, (a sort of military academy slash prep school) — for doing the Times crossword in place of my math moework. Ah yes, and when I came up to Christ Church, Oxford, dunked in Mercury, that college’s Tom Quad pool, after exacting the price of a glass of port from my tormentors, almost twenty years before the film from which this excerpt was taken, was filmed.

    For I too am Anglo and Roman Catholic and Buddhist and Taoist and a snob — at least until I meet you or you, and humanity breaks in.

    And a creature of sexuality, defeated by sickness and old age..


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