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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a smattering of thoughts about the most recent shooting ]
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Wednesday, 14 February, 2018:

It was Valentine’s Day, among the family members grieving at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, in Broward County, Florida (upper panel, below):

— and it was Ash Wednesday, when ashes from palm crosses representing Christ’s hosannah-filled entrance into Jerusalem are smeared on the foreheads of believers (lower panel, above)..

Sources:

  • Daily Herald, Sheriff: 17 killed in Florida high school shooting, image 2
  • Daily Herald, Sheriff: 17 killed in Florida high school shooting, image 1
  • A day set apart for love, a day for mourning. And each in turn could provide a potential shooter with an added impulse to act on this particular day.

    **

    Control is the issue:

    But where? Should we be figuring out how to control youthful impulses, somewhere in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex and the amygdala (upper panel, below) —

    — or how to control the access to semi-automatic weapons of people who are slipping dangerously into forms of mental distress, while respecting both the right to privacy and the right to bear arms (lower panel, above).

    Sources:

  • Daily News, Florida gunman accused of killing 17 in high school massacre
  • Daily News, These are the victims of the Florida high school shooting
  • Impulse control, or gun control?

    **

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is too much of a mouthful: Parkland will be the name etched in memory, alongside Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. Such names are invoked, not spoken.

    **

    Is there perhaps a connection between the school shooter issue and the national conversation on sexual harassment, such that a major shift in attitudes towards sexual harassment would naturally translate to, or facilitate, a similar shift regarding gun control?

    Are these in fact two conversations — waves on the same wave-front — “whose time (for change) has come”?

    Would each benefit from their being discussed together?

    Far more severe than the Israeli occupation?

    Thursday, February 15th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — an invitation to explore some suggested comparisons — Afghanistan, too ]
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    ben wittes, lawfare blog

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    I generally find Ben Wittes’ Lawfare blog worth reading, and was accordingly struck when I read The Methodology of Historical Misrepresentation and came across this paragraph:

    There is a widespread tendency amongst scholars, journalists, and legal experts to app double standard when relating to Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is often singled out for prejudicial treatment in comparison to cases far more severe than its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, such as the killing in Syria of over half a million people, the hanging of hundreds of dissidents in Iran every year, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Russian behavior in Chechnya, Syria, and Ukraine, and countless other human rights infringements infinitely worse than the Israeli occupation and settlement movement.

    That wasn’t, I’ll admit, what I expected when I read the post’s title: in the context of the Israeli/Paalestinian issue, I could iagune the misrepresentation might be found in Israeli hasbara as easily as in Mahmoud Abbas‘ tendency to say things about the “occupied territories” that only include the West Bank and Gaza when addressing English-speaking audiences, and the whole shebang including Tel Aviv when speaking in Arabic — as repeatedly shown by Itamar Marcus of Palestinial Media Watch

    **

    That said, I’d be interested in specific comparisons in detail, one at a time, between these levels of documented human rights infringements..

    For instance, the Israelis have established “facts on the rgound” in the form of both settlers and their sccompanying schools, synagogues, etc within the Palestinian und, with military enforcement, while the Chinese appear similarly to have established “facts on the ground” in Tibetan territor in the form of both settlers and their institutions, militarily enforced.

    Howw can one compare these two situations in greater detail, fairly?

    Israel separation wall in West Bank

    **

    The first problem any such attempt will encounter is that both sides will produced partisan accounts of history, law, populations, etc, and that accounts by “honest brokers” are desperately hard to find — I mean, educate me in the comments section.

    I’ve tried to propose a graphical/typographical system for conducting bilateral debates.. but maybe the Talmud is not ideal for these particular debates..


    Talmudic page

    Specifically, I took my early inspiration from the Talmud because it explicitly llows divergent viewpoints in its graphical format, as explained by Eliezer Segal on his interactive (ie clickable) Page from the Babylonian Talmud. But perhaps the Talmud is not the ideal basis for these particular debates, in which the Israelis (often deeply influenced by forms of Judaism) are one of the contending parties…

    In any case, how, with all the affordances of the web, can we provide a space in which written debates can be refined in light of written (and equally valued) responses, iteratively, so as to provide a record for ongoing dialogue, with both sides equitably represented, and able to respond point by point whwere they disagree or wich to provide additional material, and to agree where they agree.

    I am encouraged to know what such a format can eventually produce a document where twwo adversaary-friends collaborate, because of the collaboration of Mustafa Hamid and Leah Farrall, friend of Mullah Omar and OBL and Australian Federal Police AQ expert respectively, on their book, The Arabs at War in Afghanistan, in which some sections indicate that the two co-authors were agreed on theie contents, while some sections are attributed to Mustafa alone, and some to Leah likewise. Two adversaries first meet on the net, then in person in Alexandria, Egypt, then after months and months of collaboration, and no doubt much excellent coffee — this book!

    **

    PS & NB:

    Ben Wittes has notably and repeatedly challenged Vladimir Putin to a martial arts match: I’ll Fight Putin Any Time, Any Place He Can’t Have Me Arrested.

    That would be something to watch on both RT and MSNBC!

    Okay this re North Korea this morning from WotR

    Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — from Korea hands vs nuclear wonks ]
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    Okay, the title of this piece intrigued me: Korea hands vs nuclear wonksVan Jackson at War on the Rocks today.

    Okay, I mostly like wonks, but hands have on-the-ground awareness that beats the hell out of book-footnoted research and chat with like-mindedd others, so to my mind, Korea hands would naturally beat nuclear wonks (Cheryl Rofer and friends explicitly excepted), no contest. Anyway, neat, interest-grabbing title. I therefore clicked to see the piece, and while my own opinion was not affirmed, I found this:

    I ranted about this a bit on twitter over the weekend, but what we’re witnessing is an open split between the United States and South Korea over North Korea policy. It’s not the first time; this happened in the early years of the George W. Bush administration too. Both sides have an interest in papering over differences in public, but the rift is there. The question is why.

    Nuclear scholars see the emerging differences in the alliance as strategic “decoupling”—North Korea’s growing nuke threat is leading South Korea to search for security by other means because U.S. reliability shrinks as U.S. territory falls within range of North Korean missiles. South Korea would be hard-pressed to have faith that Trump would be willing to let Seattle eat a nuke in exchange for Seoul not eating one.

    But Korea scholars see a more familiar pattern in the current divergences between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and President Trump. The breakdown of the U.S.-Korea alliance in 2002 and 2003 was about as bad as it’s ever been, it was due entirely to the politics (on both sides) of North Korea policy, and it was years before North Korea had a functional nuke.

    So we all see a fissure opening up between allies, but what’s the best explanation for it? If the nuclear scholars are right, and the fissure is a function of North Korea’s growing nukes, then the alliance is in big trouble, because the nuke problem is on-trend to get worse not better.

    If the Korea scholars are right, then the alliance is in a bad place but the situation is recoverable. South Korea’s president is just being a political opportunist, in this interpretation, and once the domestic mood in the South shifts against him (or North Korea), then the alliance will be in a better place.

    Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.

    **

    Two points-of-view — the view from two points, two perspectives — distinct but not necessarily opposed, ie capable of binocular vision, if the balance between the two lenses is adjusted to the perceiver’s taste.

    Binocular vision, adjusted to balance the inputs from the two lenses, is — if nothing else — an opportunity for dialectic, or for the HipBone approach (stereophany — see Meditations for Game Players, vii).

    Binocular — stereoscopic — dialectic vision is a central aspect of my interest in polyphony, the capacity to hear twwo or more points of view at once. F Scott Fitzgerald once said, much to my delight:

    The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

    Then there’s Sir Lawrence Freedman, in The Meaning of Strategy, Part II: The Objectives:

    For Beaufre, strategy was the “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute.”

    Strategy! Dialectic! Stereophany!

    **

    And now, back to N Korea and Van Jackson with all that in mind..

    I’ve taken into account two viewpoints in my “binocular” discussion here — but Jackson offers a third possibility at the very end of his piece:

    Either way, we’re effectively out of the nuclear crisis from last year. It would take a major miscalculation or act of violence by someone to bring the crisis roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s entirely plausible.

    Ack!

    WHat do you think, Zen, Scott, Tanner, Cheryl, Michael??

    Patterns: knots in wood, eddies in river flow

    Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Gen Mattis gives Pres Trump pause ]
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    Reporting that Secretary Mattis influenced President Trump regarding the number of troops in Afghanistan, WaPo made a remarkable comment that caught my eye:

    In the end, Trump decided to nearly double the size of the force in Afghanistan to 15,000 troops. In announcing his decision, Trump said he was acting against his “original instinct.”

    That last remark, with President Trump admitting that he’s acted “against” his celebrated flow of instinctural utterances, struck me as pretty much unique in my reading — and as akin to a pattern I’ve long had an interest in: that of knots in wood and eddies in flowing water.

    **

    The point about eddies that interests me is that they represent a reversal of flow within a larger flow-stream. And the point about Trump is that if he goes against a previously unbroken (or seldom broken) flow of some particular behavior, that’s something we should take special note of.

    **

    From here on in this post, I’m exploring matters of pattern, with no necessary relationship to Trump or natsec.

    I’ve long thought of eddies as equivalent to knots in wood: now I’m not so sure — I’m learning, or at least I hope so. Eddies are commonly caused by some upstream perturbation — a rock in mid-stream, for instance, or the arrival of a flowing source in an otherwise calm body of water. It may be that the heart of a knot is some such “rock in mid-stream” in wood, in which case this “drag force” diagram may give us a better picture of the knot and eddy:

    Knots in wood commonly have a vertical (oblique) dimension, as when they represent the formation of a branch or twig that’s oblique to the main trunk or branch..

    **

    In all this, we are getting close to the Karman Vortex Street which may be familiar from the cover of Gary Snyder‘s (wonderful) poetry book, Regarding Wave (a study of Snyder’s book covers would be a study in a variety of natural patterns):

    or from my own favorite DoubleQuote, between the Karman Vortex Street (here represented diagrammatically) and Van Gogh’s night sky:

    Ah, from wood and flowing water to the sky.

    **

    Okay, as I said, this is my learning curve this am, and I am humbled to add one more DQ to this small collection, this one featuring a Vortex like Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud formation (upper image, below):

    and a lenticular cloud formation (lower image, above).

    Clouds.

    **

    And (liquid) water.

    Hey, in his far subtler and more complex way, Leonardo was a keen observer of these phenomena of flow and eddy too:

    From the great Atlantic ocean to the wide Pacific shore – Sunday surprise

    Monday, February 12th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — with an itch to ride the rails ]
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    For your evening entertainment..

    Easst to West, that the Wabash Cannonball, North to South, the City of New Orleans, sung by Johnny Cash and Arlo Guthrie respectively.


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