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Extended chess and baseball metaphors

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a light-hearted look at Trump Chess, and an umpire explains millisecond decision-making ]
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The first of two pieces I’ll explore here is from the New Yorke, Rules for Trump Chess by Andrew Paul. It’s a humor piece, but not without its satirical effect, as you can tell from Rule #1:.

Each turn is referred to as a “news cycle.”

At times, the hunmor gets a bit sour, as with Rule #4:

A handful of new pieces will be introduced during game play, scattered haphazardly across the board. They include: two overcooked macaroni noodles (Kushners), a shrivelled white raisin with lint on it (Sessions), and a washcloth soaked in warm Johnnie Walker (Bannon). Their permitted moves are unclear, but every news cycle, players must select one to put in their mouths until they gag.

Links to an earlier (and more balanced) form of chess are not entirely absent, as exemplified by Rule #11:

Knights still move in that ridiculous two-squares-up, one-square-over path. They think they are being very clever. Their creepy horse faces must always be turned to face the king.

You can read the rest at the New Yorker site

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Of deeper interest, though with less immediate application to politics, is Jim Evans‘ WaPo piece, Sorry, judges, we umpires do more than call balls and strikes. Here’s the setup:

I don’t remember when I first heard the popular analogy comparing judges to umpires calling balls and strikes, but recently it’s been everywhere. When Brett Kavanaugh was first nominated to the Supreme Court, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council called him “a constitutionalist — someone who will call balls and strikes.” This past week, as Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings began, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) described him as “somebody who calls balls and strikes and doesn’t come up with his own strike zone.” Supposedly a judge is, and should be, as mechanical as an ump.

Mechanical, eh?

It’s true that there are similarities. Umpires have always been considered authority figures, like judges. Both are subject to a lot of scrutiny, and we do what we think is right by rule and tradition. Umpiring is a special calling and a learned skill that requires extraordinary mental toughness. When you put on your uniform, you are supposed to leave all your subjective feelings in that dressing room. Personal integrity and respect for the game are at stake.

I’ve seen similar said about judges when they put on their robes.. But even the simple “calling balls and strikes” level of analogy lacks subtlety:

Seeing the televised rectangle that allegedly represents the strike zone, you might surmise that any 3-year-old should be able to tell whether that little white sphere is in or out of that box. Replay has reinforced the feeling that it’s simple and obvious.

Yet there are many intangibles when it comes to calling balls and strikes. What the umpire’s actually doing is gauging a baseball’s relative position as it travels 95 miles an hour into a three-dimensional area. You’re judging a pitch as it leaves the pitcher’s hand and goes to the catcher’s mitt in less than half a second.

Getting into greater finesse:

For example, the rule book states that a runner must avoid a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball. If you collided with a shortstop who was bent over in the act of fielding a ground ball, you would be guilty of interference. But if the shortstop had completed the act of fielding and was attempting to tag you when the collision occurred, there would be no penalty. Among elite athletes, this all happens in milliseconds, and to the untrained eye, the plays look the same — both violent collisions with the ball on the ground. This requires an interpretation of when one act ended and another began, and whose rights are in effect. This is a judgment call.

Interesting final sentence, that.

Okay, it would be neat if an appellate or superior court judge could write a similar piece on the niceties of judicial judgment..

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Umpires and referees..

I’ve always tended to think of umpires as the cricket equivalents of referees, and referees as the soccer equivalents of umpires, but what do I know?

Chair Umpire Carlos Ramos arguably interfered in the match, bringing both repeated champion Serena Williams and first-time winner Naomi Osaka to tears.

Match Referee Brian Earley holds his fists in, exemplifying both the passion and restraint in play in the US Open final

In the Serena Williams objection to penalties allotted her during the second set of her finals match with Japan’s young winner Naomi Osaka, I’ve learned today that in tennis, the umpire, usually seated in a high chair at center court makes unassailable rulings of fact, while the referee can overrule him in matters of tennis law — effectively making the umpire analogous to the jury, and the referee to the judge, in a trial by jury.

And thus the analogical web widens..

A one-two punch for the president, and three

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Cohen and Manafort, drones & CBRN, and when wave fronts meet at Big Sur and elsewhere ]
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NY Times email, Wednesday:

A one-two punch, two wave fronts crashing / clashing, wave upon wave — but how to represent such things graphically, to model them, to open our too-literal minds to their complexity?

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Here’s an example of two dangerous waves overlapping on the world stage, world scale:

One:

Bunker, Sullivan &c on the drone attack in Baja, Small Wars Journal:

On Tuesday, 10 July 2018, an armed drone targeted the residence of Gerardo Sosa Olachea, the public safety secretary/Secretario de Seguridad Pública Estalal (SSPE) of Baja California, in colonia Los Laureles in Tecate—a border city in the San Diego-Tijuana etropolitan area. A second drone, which may have been utilized for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and C2 purposes, was seen over the incident scene. At least one of the drones was equipped with a video camera link and was armed with two IEDs that did not detonate. For a number of international security professionals tracking cartel and gang violence in Mexico—including the authors of this note—an incident like this has been expected for some time now, given the earlier I&W (Indications & Warnings) event that took place in Guanajunto state in October 2017 when a weaponized drone was seized from Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) operatives.

Now think of ricin delivery by drone..

Two:

Daniel Koehler, Mapping Far-right Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism Efforts in the West:

The threat of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism is widely attributed to collective actors based on a religious ideology, e.g. globally operating Salafi-jihadist groups like al-Qaeda or ISIL. Only limited attention has been given to the CBRN threat of violent domestic extremists in general or far-right terrorists specifically. Nevertheless, a number of incidents involving far-right activists and CBRN agents in Western countries are known to the public, even though these have had comparatively little impact on public threat perception. This study systematically collected public information about far-right CBRN incidents to identify their main characteristics. The authors were able to identify 31 incidents in Western countries since 1970, which display features contrary to generally assumed forms of CBRN terrorism. Far-right CBRN terrorism appears to be predominantly a lone-actor phenomenon oftentimes involving middle-aged and comparatively well-educated male perpetrators, mostly motivated by non-religious forms of far-right ideology (i.e. neo-Nazism, non-religious white supremacism) and indiscriminately targeting victims. Overall, far-right actors attempting to weaponize CBRN agents have been few and generally technically inept. However, the characteristics of the plots pose potential challenges for effective counter-measures and intervention, should the number of actors or the technical sophistication of plots increase in the future.

Consider the overlap of those two very current waves — and there are others, at all scales, up and down the metaphorical coast of risk

Then think Aum Shinrikyo, as an example of a non-state religious sect utilising sarin gas in an attack in Tokyo:

The 1995 Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway system was a seminal event in the history of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. It marked the first major use of a Chemical weapon by a non-state actor that received widespread worldwide attention, and led to efforts to combat the threat of CBRN terrorism around the world.

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Out there in Manafort > Cohen > Manafort wave land, there are two waves whose wavefronts met and clashed (“mutually reinforced”) yesterday, with a third wave following up behind the first, and more, wave upon wave, body blow upon body blow.. I don’t have the graphical skills to represent this, but multiple wave fronts intersecting would be a useful model to have depicted — and not unlike waves clashing at Big Sur.. where such things are multiplied and magnificent ..

— not unlike clashing waves at Big Sur..

For the Cohen and Manafort wavefronts and their possible combined implications, readings from this morning’s Washington DC post:

  • WaPo, After two convictions, pressure mounts on Trump
  • WaPo, Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 others
  • WaPo, Michael Cohen: Trump’s greatest fear comes true
  • WaPo, Michael Cohen says he worked to silence two women ‘in coordination’ with Trump
  • WaPo, Cohen’s claim about Trump may spark calls for impeachment
  • WaPo, Manafort’s verdict and Cohen’s plea gave Trump his worst day so far
  • WaPo, ‘Doesn’t involve me’: Trump tries to distance himself from Cohen, Manafort cases
  • The Post’s View, Twin convictions are a stunning rebuke of Trump
  • Also, from the New York sister city and publication:

  • NY Times, Trump, Cohen and Manafort: What’s Next?
  • Oh, and btw:

  • The Atlantic, Christopher Steele’s Victory in a D.C. Court
  • The Hill, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders want Cohen to testify
  • **

    — not unlike clashing waves at Big Sur ..

    terrific photo from Teresa Espaniola Gallery

    .. up and down the metaphorical coast of risk ..

    Pardon me, hint hint

    Friday, April 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — in which an unforgivable lapse may nonetheless be forgiven? ]
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    Scooter scot free?

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    I believe this is called reading between the paragraphs. The piece begins:

    President Trump is expected to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, according to a senior administration official, giving an olive branch to a George W. Bush administration staffer that the former president declined to grant.

    It is unclear why Trump is making the move, but the pardon has been under consideration for several months, two people familiar with the president’s thinking said.

    *
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    *
    *
    *
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    Twelve paragraphs later, we read the closing para:

    John Dowd, a former Trump lawyer, floated pardons to former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, The Washington Post has reported. Manafort has since been charged with more than a dozen offenses, while Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

    **

    Is that, perhaps, a hint of a reason — and an analogical one at that?

    Whether, weather or not you believe in climate change

    Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — in thunder, lightning; in darkness, light; in the eye of the hurricane.. ]
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    Weather or weather:

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    Sources:

  • CNBC, Powerful nor’easter ‘bomb cyclone’
  • WaPo, D.C. lawmaker says recent snowfall caused
  • **

    We don’t need the details of the two articles, or of other coverage such as the New Yorker’s Bomb Cyclones, Nor’easters, and the Messy Relationship Between Weather and Climate — the top panel headline deals with the weather-weather, the regular day to day no need to look further weather, but the lower panel headline lets in alternate, nay Biblical, spiritual explanations — and with that freedom I’ll fly to a consideration of atmosphere and atmosphere — the one measured by the barometer, the other an intangible presence in a room —

    For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

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    That’s Bibical, too — but it may apply, probably does indeed, to those of other and various flocks.. the joyful givers of any denomination, belief or disbelief.

    YMMV, of course. But read this:

    In his correspondence with Suzuki (the two finally met in New York in 1964), Merton refers to the doctrine of analogy in Aquinas by which it was just as legitimate , in one sense, to say of God that he is non-being as to affirm God is being, since God so transcends being as we know it that any attribution of being as we know it would mislead. Merton was quite taken by the mystical tradition of a kind of un-knowing in our contemplation of God. He said to Suzuki: “I have my own way to walk and for some reason Zen is right in the middle of wherever I go. If I could not breathe Zen, I would probably die of asphyxiation.” He also told Suzuki: “Speaking as a monk and not a writer, I am much happier with ’emptiness’ when I do not have to talk about it.” Merton and Suzuki exchanged manuscripts and books and eventually engaged in a written dialogue which appears in Merton’s posthumously published book, Zen and the Birds of Appetite.

    I cannot believe that between Merton the Trappist monk and Suzuki the man most responsible for introducing zen to the west, the I am was not resonant in the air between them.

    Heartless? What’s heart? Since when did that have anything to do with anything?

    Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — and to think I thought that little red heart was just an emoticon! ]
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    The Washington Post, supposedly a paper which takes political matters seriously, featured this caption in its email to me today:

    Is this heart thing something to be taken seriously? Just on occasion, as with the impact of cancelling DACA on people who were, at least recently, children? Or in matters of economics, too? And the deployment, threat and use of nuclear weapons? In diplomacy?

    I mean, the number of situations in which this somewhat vague “heart” entity might be invoked and prioritized is hard to estimate. What was it Pascal said?

    The heart has reasons reason knows not of..

    That in itself is a somewhat confusing statement. Is it a paradox?

    Ah well, I’ll retire to poetry: poets, after all, think themselves the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” — and as one of them legislated not so very long ago:

    My heart rouses
              thinking to bring you news
                        of something
    that concerns you
              and concerns many men. Look at
                        what passes for the new.
    You will not find it there but in
              despised poems.
                        It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
              yet men die miserably every day
                        for lack
    of what is found there.

    What is found there? This heart thing, perhaps? Heart’s the second word in that poetry bit — it could be worth a try.


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