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We’re a legacy industry in a world of start-up competitors

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]
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chautauqua haqqani daveed

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From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”

I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:
**

Amb. Haqqani:

None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.

You’ll see how neatly this fits with my recent post on borders, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream?

And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.

Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..

**

If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.

Daveed G-R:

In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.

Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.

**

The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us

a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities

— down to our own times.

Amb. Haqqani:

What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.

The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:

Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.

Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.

**

Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.

Daveed G-R:

The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.

And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being rea – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.

**

Amb. Haqqani:

The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.

This makes a nice DoubleQuote with Gabriel Marcel‘s more general aphorism:

Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.

**

Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..

Daveed G-R:

Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?

He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:

Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.

— and had the final, pointed word:

We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.

**

Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:

The Washington Post – can’t read, or can’t count?

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a grumpy grammatical plaint, plus Proclus for poet’s delight ]
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You know me, maybe — I’m not a quant, if anything I’m a qualit, but even so..

CEOs at the top 50 U.S. charities, including Samaritan’s Purse, earn in the $350,000 to $450,000 range, which makes Graham’s $622,000 salary from his aid organization alone about 40 percent to 50 percent higher than average, according to a Forbes story. He receives the rest of his $258,000 compensation as CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

That’s straight out of the Washington Post, who got it whole cloth from Religion News Service.

**

OK, we know what the writer means to say, but.

If top US charity CEOs including Franklin Graham earn between $350,000 to $450,000, and Graham earns $622,000 as his CEO’s salary, then — bzztzz — top US chatioty CEOs earn in the $350,000 to $622,000 range, , not “in the $350,000 to $450,000 range” period.

Further, if Graham earns $622,000 from Samaritan’s Purse — which purse it seems I shall not be filling any time soon, and which might want to change its name to Sadducee’s Purse — the “rest of his $258,000 compensation” doesn’t make any sense at all — bzztzz. How can $622,000 plus an additional fee possibly sum to $258,000?

There is a language, English, and a numerical method, Arithmetic, and this paragraph is lacking in one, the other, or both.

**

Or is Franklin Graham paid in irrational numbers?

Proclus, as quoted by Danziger:

It is told that those who first brought out the irrationals from concealment into the open perished in shipwreck, to a man. For the unutterable and the formless must needs be concealed. And those who uncovered and touched this image of life were instantly destroyed and shall remain forever exposed to the play of the eternal waves.

Play of the eternal waves?

Perhaps Graham’s expefrience is not unlike that of George Boole, who wrote a sonnet on the Trinity, and of whom Margaret Masterman wrote:

Towards mathematical truth he had indeed a consciously religious attitude, which he sometimes expressed to himself by the phrase, ‘For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.’ Boole’s behaviour during his last illness was characteristic of the man… When his mind had been wandering in fever, he told his wife that the whole universe seemed to be spread before him like a great black ocean, where there was nothing to see and nothing to hear, except that at intervals a silver trumpet seemed to sound across the waters, ‘For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.’ And as he lay in bed on the borders of delirium, all the little sounds of the house, such as the creaking of doors, resolved themselves into a chant of these words, which expressed for him the excellence of mathematical truth.

**

Ah, but I drift.

The quantity of mercy is not strain’d?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

[by Charles Cameron — some remedial philosophy at age 71 ]
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I seem to be doing remedial political philosophy this week. As it happens, I read a Chinese comedian in my youth and was admonished against “sitting down while running round in circles” and have been aerating my brain with too much conscious breathing ever since — neither leaving me much time or interest for what in Oxford in my day was known, somewhat dismissively, PPE — Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Which brings me today, and to grabbing lectures in just that sort of thing from Harvard’s Michael Sandel, courtesy of YouTube:

The video shows Sandel’s lectures, “Justice: Putting a Price Tag on Life”, and “How to Measure Pleasure” — salted with some dark humor:

Back in ancient Rome, they threw Christians to the lions in the Coliseum for sport. If you think how the utilitarian calculus would go, yes, the Christian thrown to the lion suffers enormous, excruciating pain, but look at the collective ecstasy of the Romans. .. you have to admit that if there were enough Romans delirious with happiness, it would outweigh even the most excruciating pain of a handful of Christians thrown to the lion.

I enjoyed the two lectures immensely — maybe I should rewind fifty years, and try PPE at Harcard?.

**

All of which caused me to wonder:

SPEC pinto and lincoln continental

Sources:

  • Mark Dowie, Pinto Madness
  • W Michael Hoffman, Case Study: The Ford Pinto
  • See also:

  • ES Grush and CS Saunby, Fatalities Associated with Crash-Induced Fuel Leakage and Fires
  • **

    I mean, all of which made me wonder about Jeremy Bentham, I suppose.

    We had Locke at Christ Church, staring disdainfully from his portrait during dinners in the Great Hall — but Bentham? I don’t think I saw any utility in utilitarianism.

    **

    But then I also wondered:

    SPEC trolley problem torture

    I wondered: how close is the analogy between the trolly problem and the ticking bomb torture questionn? Do we start from numbers of likely victims in each case and decide from there, or should we instead start by contemplating torture — and recognize the abyss staring back at us?

    Sources:

  • Wikipedia, Trolly problem
  • Michael Sandel, Justice: Putting a Price Tag on Life & How to Measure Pleasure
  • See also:

  • Kyle York, Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations
  • **

    What Shakespeare said, though — getting back to my title — was “The quality of mercy is not strain’d” — not the quantity, the quality — unquantifiable.

    The Holy Ghost & the Machine?

    Monday, December 8th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — because throwing holy water at a computer is foolish and beautiful, a combo I rather like ]
    .

    Arthur Koestler‘s book title, The Ghost in the Machine, came to mind a day or so ago when I saw this tweet:

    **

    A memory stirred: I had seen something similar before.

    Back in 1999 — when programmers were putting in overtime to remediate or work around the so-called Y2K bug, CEOs were concerned as to the potential ripple-through effects of Y2K computer failures on just-in-time acquisition and distribution channels, and I was monitoring the possible social impact if, for instance, fear of bank failures led to bank failures, or terrorists saw a massive vulnerability and ran with it — a curious document came across my desk.

    You might say, Mammon gave a sermon.

    **

    The sermon was actually written for and distributed by the American Bankers Association to its members, for them to pass along to their pastors, rabbis and imams as what we might call sermon-fodder — a seldom mentioned sub-category of the public relations genre that gives us that handy shortcut to avoid actual thought, the press release.

    The Washington Post highlighted this quote:

    “Prepare as best you can,” advises the sermon, written by an ABA speechwriter and made available to local bankers earlier this month. “Then trust God for the rest”

    Also known as “trust in God, but first tie your camel”.

    **

    Here’s a link to the suggested sermon, plus a paragraph or two of text, in case at this late date you are still worried about bank failure, or indeed are worried now for the first time — the fall of the rouble, too, I suppose, has potential ripple-through impact on the global economy, though I know less than nothing about such things myself.

    Sermon Title: Thinking about Y2K: Moses, Orson Welles and Bill Gates

    You’ve heard the dire warnings, the off-the-wall forecasts and the downright silly predictions. Life insurance companies, they say, could bill us for coverage for the past 100 years. Airplanes won’t get off the ground. And that could be the good news. Our bank accounts will show zero. Our mortgages will require another 100 years of payments. Hospital monitoring equipment will stop monitoring. The lights will go out. The phones will fail. We’ll be plunged into a deep, cold winter without heat, electricity, money or — worst of all, pizza delivery.

    And yes, some of us will report actually seeing a fire on the horizon.

    Grovers Mill all over again. Orson Welles would be pleased.

    Quite a few jokes have been made about Y2K as well. Perhaps you’ve heard that Bill Gates has just announced the official release date for the new Windows 2000 software.

    It’s to be the second quarter of 1901.

    [ .. ]

    Most important, we should understand what Y2K really means. It’s a computer headache that experts are working to fix right now, not an alien invasion of New Jersey. And not the end of the world. As members of God’s community, we can and should play a leadership role in helping our own families, friends and community prepare for Y2K. By understanding it. And by not being afraid. We want to go into the next Century as God intended, with hope, knowledge and the promise of a bright future.

    **

    I imagine it must have been quite fun writing that — and in the event, banks didn’t fail, and we went into the next century, and indeed millennium, pretty much as divinely intended.

    But forget Y2K, forget the rouble’s present troubles: what’s the proper relationship between God and Mammon, spirituality and survival, the Ghost and the Machine?

    I’m not convinced we’ve figured that one out as yet.

    Spirals, a quick revisit

    Thursday, November 14th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — spiraling costs — same pattern, different mechanism, closer to home ]
    .

    Back in Serpent logic and related, I featured this spiral from Louisa Lombard:

    Ha, funny.

    How’s this, in today’s opening salvo from Rosa Brooks at POLITICO Magazine?

    “If you believe the mission truly requires 50,000 troops and $50 billion, but you know that the White House is going to automatically cut every number in half, you’ll come in asking for 100,000 troops and $100 billion,” says the aforementioned former White House official. “The military eventually starts playing the very game the White House has always suspected them of playing.”

    Not for nothing does the phrase “spiraling out of control” garner 7,840,000 hits on Google.


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