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Metaphors, more iii

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing from Metaphors, more ii — which has become seriously overloaded and is listing, seriously, to port ]
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Almost all of these are references to Trump’s press conference with Putin, which seems important enough to call for its own post — there may be a couple of earlier statements dropped in..

For example:

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jump to 17.10 in the video, answering “What was your view of Vladimir Putin today?” “Well, Ari, it’s All Star week here in Washington DC. HGe won the Home Run Derby of all Derbys, Vladimir Putin .. I think this was a big victory for Vladmimir Putin..”

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This too:

WILSON: “I do think, though, that a lot of people today saw the real Donald Trump. They saw the Donald Trump who comes out acting like he’s the swaggering alpha male and he sat there on the stage like a whipped dog. I mean, he wanted Vladimir Putin’s approval. He didn’t care about anything else. He wanted Vladimir Putin to pat him on the head and to tell him he’s a good boy and nothing else mattered. He was defending himself with these wild haymaker punches trying to bring Hillary Clinton back into the conversation, but it was very clear today who the boss was in that room and who wears the dog collar. And it’s Donald Trump.”

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And these:

not taking one on the chin..
i don’t know if they’d show up in his ofice and say, game’s up…
trump made a game-time decision to play things his way ..
he could have hit a home run, I’m ashamed he didn’t ..
it was a game-time decision that virtually no one in his white house approved of – ashley parker
was the white house awaree that they were likely gamed .. ?
trump has outgamed himself ..
the democrats are charlie brown, the republicans are lucy — sen chris murphy
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Trump & Putin took turns on the tire swing yesterday — rachel maddow
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British economists prove it: Sports destroy happiness

Sports make the world a sadder place. Seriously. We’ve got data.
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Armed with 3 million responses to a happiness monitoring app, plus the locations and times of several years worth of British soccer matches, University of Sussex economists Peter Dolton and George MacKerron calculated that the happiness that fans feel when their team wins is outweighed – by a factor of two – by the sadness that strikes when their team loses.
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Which means, assuming a roughly equal number of fans on both sides, Sunday’s World Cup final between France and Croatia made the world less happy than it was the day before. On net, soccer is a destroyer of happiness.

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GeoPol, the Kremlin & Putin’s Games in the New Yorker

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — see also GeoPol, the White House & Game Theory in the New Yorker ]
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Playing Hockey Against Vladimir Putin, By Ben McGrath,July 3, 2018:

In May, playing hockey in an annual charity exhibition alongside a half-dozen former N.H.L. stars, in Sochi, Vladimir Putin scored five goals and assisted on four more. In previous years, despite learning to skate only in his late fifties, he’d scored as many as eight. “Western journalists ask me how it’s possible,” Slava Fetisov, one of Putin’s teammates and a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings, told me recently. “Let’s say Pavel Bure or Sergei Fedorov”—Hall of Famers both—“score two goals, and the President scores five or six or seven. I say, ‘You have to be in the right time, in the right place.’ That’s what our President does. He’s got a good shot. He understands the game. This is unteachable. If it’s in your genes—your blood—you can play.” Fetisov, who serves as a senator in the Russian Duma, referred to Putin as “one of the most popular leaders in the world,” and added, “this is one of the most unique examples in the history of big politicians, to show they can play the hardest possible sport.” He meant this, he explained, in the sense of providing a healthy model for children, who might otherwise succumb to “street challenges,” like alcohol and drugs. He cited other examples of Putin’s “God-gifted” athleticism: “He can ride the horse, he can swim, he can skate, he can ski, he can do judo and sambo and karate.”

One can be plenty familiar with Putin-related propaganda—the pectoral flaunting on horseback, the black-belt demonstrations—and still be surprised to hear it reinforced so explicitly in conversation. Fetisov is revered by sports fans on two continents, not only for his grace on the ice but for his courage in standing up to the Soviet regime that sought to prevent him from playing in the United States—which, he told me, is the only country other than Russia where he can imagine wanting to live. “The people are so warm, so friendly, so patriotic,” he said of Americans. The fact that relations between the two countries have devolved almost to Cold War levels is a source of distress for Fetisov, he said, and so, two months ago, in the interest of diplomacy, he smuggled an American filmmaker onto the ice in Sochi as a player on Putin’s opposing team.

The undercover on-ice agent was Jon Alpert, a winner of sixteen Emmy Awards, and the career leader in penalty minutes—“No one is really close,” he says—for a New York- and New Jersey-based beer-league team called Gitler’s Gorillas. Alpert is sixty-nine and skates with the slightly bent ankles of a novice, although, as a hockey-besotted teen-ager, he tried, unsuccessfully, to walk onto the varsity team at Colgate. He has a more distinguished record when it comes to securing journalistic access, calling himself “a normal guy who has gotten into really unusual places.” He founded the Downtown Community Television Center, in 1972, with his wife, Keiko Tsuno; its Web site describes him as “the first American TV reporter to enter Cambodia after the Vietnam War,” “The only Western reporter to interview Saddam Hussein” between 1993 and 2002, and, in reference to Iran, “The last reporter to gain entry into the Embassy where the American hostages were being held.” In conversation, he is no less prone to pointing at the scoreboard. “I did the last interview with a guy before the Taliban cut his balls off,” he told me.

His presence in Sochi was a kind of audition for a would-be film project he is calling “Putin on Ice.” Alpert wants to face off against Putin, one on one. “I plan to use analogies,” he said. “Cheating on face-offs, keeping your head up, using violence to settle disputes. We can find a parallel in hockey for everything that’s going on between Russia and the United States.”

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Okay:

We can find a parallel in hockey for everything that’s going on between Russia and the United States.

How’s that for sports metaphors?

Shorts 5: Apocalypse to Almond blossoms

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — mostly about beauty — let’s start with apocalypse and end with the blossoms, eh? reverse engineering! ]
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Hey!

Putin’s apocalyptic blackmail

In the Orthodox tradition, the Book of Revelations has not been among the most important texts. Yet there is something positively apocalyptic about the recent speech of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most important convert, Russian President Vladimir Putin. A nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed cruise missile that could circumnavigate the planet avoiding US missile defenses! A nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarine drone! And, most of all, a hypersonic “meteorite” too fast for American interceptors, a mighty ognennyi shar, a great “ball of fire”! (Jerry Lee Lewis was not credited, but then Putin’s Russia is not known for overly scrupulous honoring of property rights.)

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Jerry Lee Lewis ? That’s a pop refeerence in an otherwise serious context. Let’s see..

Pop paradise:

Religion (Zen??) in games:

Following the massive initial success of Alto’s Adventure, the team released a major update that added a Zen Mode to the title in 2016, which removed obstacles to create a more relaxing experience for players who simply wanted to drift off into the game world. It was around that time that Cymet moved his family from Vancouver to Toronto to work more closely with the team at Snowman, and he said that the ordeal helped “give me a sense of groundedness in this emotion we’ve tried to capture with the game, of going outside your comfort zone and putting yourself somewhere completely new that’s beautiful and interesting, and trying to find the beauty there.”

IMO, and with ref to the above and to zen, seeking beauty leads to prettiness, whereas seeking truth leads to beauty.

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Placing that game art in a binary context:

Adorno:

Like many émigrés, Adorno was initially disoriented by US mass culture, which had not yet overrun Europe as it would after the war. This disorientation became a principled distrust. He claimed that capitalist popular culture – jazz, cinema, pop songs, and so on – manipulates us into living lives empty of true freedom, and serves only to distort our desires. Popular culture is not the spontaneous expression of the people, but a profit-driven industry – it robs us of our freedom and bends us to conform to its needs for profit.

Scruton:

When Metallica appeared at the 2014 Glastonbury festival there was a wake-up moment of this kind – the recognition that these guys, unlike so many who had performed there, actually had something to say. Yes, there are distinctions of quality, even in the realm of pop.

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Okay, and to close with authentic beauty, art, culture….

A brilliant DoubleQuote in a single tweet:

Encouragingly, there are just such blossoms outside my window.

Shorts 01: Holi festivities, omertà, and so forth

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

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

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Omertà:

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.

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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”?

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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.’

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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!

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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?

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Thomas à Becket, Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels ]
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Okay, let’s start with the movie version of “Who will rid me..?” Here’s the set up, the breaking of the long and deep friendship between King Henry II, his will driven by the power of the State, and his Archbishop, Thomas à Becket, driven to opposition by the honor of Mother Church

When the King determines at last to have his Archbishop removed, he utters those words which ring down the centuries — “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” — shown here in Anouilh‘s version of Becket at 3.32 in this clip or thereabouts:

Sigh.

Becket meanwhile offers his resignation unto death in surrender to the will of his God:

In Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral, a passage with which one must wrestle lays out the conflict and its resolution:

They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
They know and do not know, that acting is suffering
And suffering is action. Neither does the actor suffer
Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
In an eternal action, an eternal patience
To which all must consent that it may be willed
And which all must suffer that they may will it,
That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
Be forever still.

Becket was killed in his cathedral on 29 December 1170, by four knights acting on the spur of the moment utterance of their king, and their own certainty as to the wish their king intended to express.

Becket was canonized — named a saint and martyr — in 1173. And the King? Wiki summarizes:

The king performed a public act of penance on 12 July 1174 at Canterbury, when he publicly confessed his sins, and then allowed each bishop present, including Foliot, to give him five blows from a rod, then each of the 80 monks of Canterbury Cathedral gave the king three blows. The king then offered gifts to Becket’s shrine and spent a vigil at Becket’s tomb.

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So much for Becket.

President Trump, who had somewhat reluctantly fired Flynn, suggests to Jim Comey, head of the FBI, that he might want to close down the further investigation of the Russia business:

I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

Comey was later questioned by Sen. Angus King in an intelligence committee hearing:

KING: In terms of his comments to you — I think in response to Mr. Risch — to Senator Risch, you said he said, “I hope you will hold back on that.” But when you get a — when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like “I hope” or “I suggest” or — or “would you,” do you take that as a — as a — as a directive?

COMEY: Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

KING: I was just going to quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” and then, the next day, he was killed — Thomas Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. You’re — we’re thinking along the same lines.
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That’s the direct use of the Becket theme turned to a contemporary purpose. But there’s more..

Julia Ioffe on All In with Chris Hayes, speaking of Putin‘s plausible deniability using the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin as a cut-out:

IOFFE:It`s a very, very close relationship. In Russia, he`s known as Putin`s chef. And this is very much in keeping with how the Russians do things, right? There`s never going to be or probably not going to be any finger – any of Putin`s fingerprints on this, right? Probably what it looked like was Putin essentially saying, you know, who will rid me of this you know troublesome Hillary and everybody else kind of gets what that means and swings into action.

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You might think the Becket story was enough. You might take delight in its contemporary echo by Comey and King. Julia Ioffe using the same example of Vladimir Putin was an unexpected bonus — but there’s (sadly) more..

Consider this:

Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Stormy? The Michael Cohen Story:

Doing conspicuous favors and fixing things is in the nature of this bizarrely public toady-chieftain relationship. Read through Cohen’s interviews. You’ll find it’s replete with mixes of mafia tough guy talk and zany levels of conspicuous self-abnegation. It’s all theater at some level. But I think to a great degree it’s genuine. It’s the guy’s identity, like the way a top captain thinks about the mob boss he serves. Who will rid me of this meddlesome Stormy? Did I mention that Cohen and Trump’s mafia business partner Felix Sater were childhood friends long before they both ended up as top Trump business partners right around the same time? Well, that’s true too. In the scale of money both Trump and Cohen operate at, covering the $130,000 payment himself seems entirely plausible as something Cohen would do as part of the larger relationship. He probably did get paid back some way or another. But I think it’s totally plausible he didn’t. He’d love to be that guy who made the problem go away. Doing Trump a solid like that would be something he’d happily do. It’s the basis of their relationship. He’d get paid back in other ways.”

When Donald Trump, in one of his furies, makes an offhand comment about Mueller, does that then become an order in the ears of one of his loyal subordinates?

The Becket story has much to teach us.


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