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Two new sports metaphor articles, or make that three

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — with my salutations to John Wilson, Garry Kasparov, Mike Sellers ]
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I asked the innocent-seeming question, Can one play chess on a checkers board? on FaceBook today, and the conversation veered to the topic of hierarchies of games — is chess inherently superior to checkers, for example, so that playing chess on a checkers board seems ok, but the idea of playing checkers on a chess board is mildly offensive?

And that led to the question of a hierarchy of games, which in turn sent me scurrying for ideas of the form x is playing tic tac toe while y is playing chess and similar. In the course of my research:

I’ve seen tweets that say “Mueller is playing chess; Trump is playing tic tac toe.” and “Putin is playing Chess. Trump is playing Hungry Hungry Hippo.” I’ve seen “Cruz is playing chess and Trump is playing tic tac toe”. I’ve seen “Trump is playing tic tac toe Kim playing chess.” I’ve seen “Trump is playing tic-tac-toe while his opponents are playing four-dimensional chess, and tic-tac-toe is what wins elections.” — I’ll have to come back to that. I’ve seen “What if Kim Jong-Un is the one playing chess while Trump is playing Chinese checkers?” I’ve even seen Ann Coulter saying “Just hang on to your hats, because while you’re all playing checkers, Trump is playing 3-D chess.”

Ouch!!

And the cake-topper — Garry Kasparov, world chess chamption and Russian opposition leader:

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I’ve also come across a popularity-based hierarchy of games, in a National Review article titled The Dominant-Sport Theory of American Politics:

I’ve seen a few cultural shifts in my day, and the first one came via early-1970s headlines proclaiming “Baseball No Longer the National Pastime,” after polls showed that football had become America’s most popular sport.

Then:

After brushing off the 1980s soccer scare, football remained unchallenged for decades.

Then:

But now football is losing fans for a number of reasons, and David French has written a splendid summary of why basketball, specifically the NBA, continues to rise in popularity.

Here’s where sports as a metaphor for politics clicks in:

A while back, Nelson George glorified basketball’s taunt-and-flaunt style as the “black athletic aesthetic,” and while Donald Trump is one of the whitest men on earth, he has clearly absorbed the essentials of this climate of thought. The chief factors of the black athletic aesthetic have been summarized as intimidation, humiliation, and improvisation, which together give a pretty good description of Trump’s style of governance.

The kicker

:I’ve said before that Trump is playing tic-tac-toe while his opponents are playing four-dimensional chess, and tic-tac-toe is what wins elections.

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There’s plenty more of you to enjoy, but I want to bring in another article with a strong sports correlation. It’s Ann Coulter‘s piece from 28 March this year, titled 3-D Chess — It Only *Looks* Like Trump Is Throwing Away His Presidency!. It starts off with her picture, here reduced yet still large —

— and under it a subhead:

I can’t wait to see Trump’s next move in his game of “3-D chess”!

Then, expanding:

He has now signed a spending bill that, if it actually did what it claims to do, prohibits him from building the wall, hiring any new ICE agents capable of making arrests, and building any new detention facilities for illegal aliens.

The strange thing is, as commander in chief, he doesn’t need congressional authority to do any of these things. But he obviously doesn’t know that.

Why? BECAUSE HE’S PLAYING 3-D CHESS!

There’s some irony involved — or isn’t there? I am unfaamiliar with Ms Coulter’s style. Then:

It’s all part of the act, you fools! Trump is making the Democrats think that, even though they don’t have the House, the Senate or the White House, he needs Chuck Schumer’s permission before moving a muscle.

Carefully observe the master. He gives up everything and — in exchange — gets NOTHING. See?

Yup, Irony:

This shows what a master strategist Trump is. He throws out the rulebook! You know what else, suckers? Now he can put out a paperback edition with a new chapter, How to Give Up Everything in Return for Nothing.

The wins are already rolling in. Guess who’s suddenly dying to negotiate with Trump? That’s right: Kim Jong Un. One look at how Trump negotiates and Kim couldn’t wait to sit down with him.

I can’t give you all the details, but:

Thanks to Trump’s 3-D chess, he may well be in line for an endorsement not only from Boeing, but also from the powerhouse Bush family. [ ..] 3-D chess, baby! Trump has lured Republicans right into his trap.

And finally:

I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Just hang on to your hats, because while you’re all playing checkers, Trump is playing 3-D chess.

**

At which point I need something of a palate cleanser, so I’ll introduce you to a third article I stumbled on while getting this far.. in the National Review again — Donald Hall and the Nature of Time in Baseball Country. This in turn references a George Plimpton piece from the NYT titled The Smaller the Ball, the Better the Book: A Game Theory of Literature. Aha, a hierarchy afoot! Here’s Plimpton’s opening salvo:

SOME years ago I evolved what I called the Small Ball Theory to assess the quality of literature about sports. This stated that there seems to be a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes — that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature. There are superb books about golf, very good books about baseball, not many good books about football or soccer, very few good books about basketball and no good books at all about beach balls. I capped off the Small Ball Theory by citing Mark Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” perhaps the most universally known of sports stories, in which bird shot (very small balls indeed!) is an important element in the plot.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t respresent my friends John Wilson and the late Bill Tunilla by suggesting that Roger Angell on baseball is as fine as anything written about golf.

ANyway, it’s the Plimpton piece I wanted to get you to, and that splendid opening paragraph. Birdshot, indeed!

Until next time..

GeoPol, the White House & Game Theory in the New Yorker

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — popularizing game theory as a means of understanding significant currents in world affairs ]
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You may pick up a few details about the origins of game theory and Prisoners Dilemma, but apart from that, the basic outlines offered by two Bew Yorker articles won’t contain too many surprises. What’s interesting is the role the New Yorker plays as a disseminator of knowledge: game theory, if I may put it this way, is joining the wider conversation.

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In May this year, the New Yorker carried John Cassidy‘s piece, How Game Theory Explains the Leaks in the Trump White House.

Here’s the game theoretical background:

In 1950, Albert Tucker, a mathematician at Princeton, gave a talk to a group of Stanford psychologists about the rapidly developing science known as game theory. To illustrate one of his arguments, he invented a story about two criminals who had been arrested for a crime they had committed jointly.

In the story, the police interrogate the two prisoners separately. The prisoners have no means of communicating with each other, but they both understand that, if they each deny the crime, they will be charged with a much less serious offense, which carries a short prison sentence (one year, say). If they both confess, they will get a heavier punishment (five years). If one confesses to the crime and the other insists that he is innocent, the one who confesses will be let off, and his accomplice will get an even heavier punishment (ten years). Tucker posed the question: Should the men confess or deny?

When first confronted with this story, many people think that both criminals should insist on their innocence and escape with a minor conviction. The problem is that mutual denial isn’t consistent with individual self-interest. Take the first prisoner. If he believes that his accomplice is going to deny the crime, he can confess and get off scot-free. If he believes that his accomplice is going to confess, he should certainly confess, too, or he will end up receiving the heaviest punishment of all. In the language of game theory, confessing is a “dominant strategy.” Regardless of which strategy the other players adopt, it is the most rational option to choose. But it ends up producing a bad outcome for both players: five years in prison. If they had both stuck to mutual denial, they would have got just one year.

Then, the political application:

What does all this have to do with the Trump White House? Quite a lot, it turns out.

The issue is White House leaks, and game theory can explain the why of them:

Ever since Trump became President, the White House has leaked like a sieve. “The leaks come in all shapes and sizes: small leaks, real-time leaks, weaponized leaks, historical leaks,” Jonathan Swan, Axios’s White House correspondent, wrote this week. “Sensitive Oval Office conversations have leaked, and so have talks in cabinet meetings and the Situation Room. You name it, they leak it.” Mike Allen, Swan’s colleague at Axios, says, “we learn more about what’s going on inside the Trump White House in a week than we did in a year of the George W. Bush presidency.”

That may well be true, and game theory provides one explanation. By deliberately creating a factionalized, dog-eat-dog culture inside the White House, one that mimics how he ran his business and the premise of his reality-television show, Trump has turned the people who work for him into White House versions of the prisoners in Tucker’s story. With this in mind, it is to be expected that so many White House staffers would take actions that are damaging to the Administration, such as leaking explosive information.

One description of the internal conflicts in the WHite House:

“You have to realize that working here is kind of like being in a never-ending ‘Mexican Standoff,’ ” a White House official explained to Swan. “Everyone has guns (leaks) pointed at each other and it’s only a matter of time before someone shoots. There’s rarely a peaceful conclusion so you might as well shoot first.”

The questionably named Mexican standoff, in which several bandits with guns confront each other at close quarters, is just another version of the prisoners’ dilemma. Imagine yourself in the unfortunate position of being a White House official. If you believe your rivals are about to leak some damaging information, getting it out first is a rational form of self-defense. But, even if you don’t think a rival leak is coming, there is an incentive to spread damaging information about your opponents. Just like confessing, leaking is a dominant strategy.

So, Mexican Standoff, Prisoners Dilemma. The impossible solution?

In terms of game theory, you need to alter the rewards and punishments that individual staffers perceive to be attached to their actions, so that coöperation, rather than backstabbing, emerges as an equilibrium strategy.

And Cassidy’s conclusiom:

The prisoners’ dilemma illustrates how the process works. But, in this case, it could be renamed the Trump dilemma. He created it.

**

Okay, the second New Yorker piece, by Adam Davidson, Is Michael Cohen Turning on Donald Trump? — dated July 2nd, which triggered this post:

Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen appears to be playing out the Prisoner’s Dilemma with the President in the most public and consequential way possible.

The most famous game-theory formula was developed in 1950, by two mathematicians, Melvin Dresher and Merrill Flood. But it was only later that another mathematician gave it the catchy name that made it famous: the Prisoner’s Dilemma. The idea is simple: two accused criminals have been arrested and are being interrogated separately. If they both stay silent, they’ll both get a year in jail. But, if one rats out the other, he could get away scot-free while his accomplice would spend three years in jail. The optimal outcome, in terms of total time served, is for both to remain silent. But, as Drescher and Flood posited, there is enormous likelihood that each will rat out the other. There are endless variations of the formula, tweaking the costs and benefits of silence and confession, but the core insight remains: if two people whose interests are mutually dependent on the actions of the other don’t fully trust each other, and don’t have the opportunity to secretly coördinate, they will end up behaving in ways that hurt both of them.

President Donald Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen are currently playing out the Prisoner’s Dilemma in the most public and consequential way possible

That’s enough to get you started.

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And my motive for writing this post? As I said in On two, one, seven plus or minus, and ten – towards infinity:

When I worked as senior analyst in a tiny think-shop, my boss would often ask me for an early indicator of some trend. My brain couldn’t handle that — I always needed two data points to see a pattern, and so I coined the mantra for myself, two is the first number.

These twin New Yorker articles mark a tidal level in the dissemination of knowledge: political scientists andd strategists already know this stuff, but the New Yorker now feels that bright orchestral musicians, humanities teachers, and media mavens, charity workers and foreign affairs correspondents — a few quick guesses at their readership, which must be large and various — are ready and thirsty to add it to their cconceptual vocabulary. That’s a quietly interesting marker in itself.

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Oh ah, the New Yorker on July 2 also had a piece titled Will North Korea Play Nuclear Hide-and-Seek with Trump?. I suppose I’d best be on the loookout for other hide-and-seek references. Irony, n’dst ce pas?.

Role-playing elections, Rebekah Mercer, Cambridge Analytica, &c

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — the “politics as game” metaphor comes in towards the end of this post — I think it’s a rich one ]
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Totally irrelevant mega-foosball game was the best illustration, understandably, Gizmodo could come up with for a sophisticated role-player with strong political implications. Photo: Hector Viva (Getty Images)

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This is a particularly juicy topic — Bryan Alexander pointed me to it. It seems there are a couple of RPGs, and I don’t mean rocket propelled grenades, in which role-players can play out elections — 2016 and 2020 — with an added emphasis on “an influential technology accelerator.”

First, then, Jane Mayer‘s New Yorker piece, which lit things up:

A Parlor Game at Rebekah Mercer’s Has No Get Out of Jail Free Card
Members of the right-wing family that helped put Trump in the White House can relive the campaign in an elaborate dinner-party game.

I mean, how cool is that? Jane Mayer, whose book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, prompted reporter Joby Warrick to write that a CIA analyst had warned the Bush administration that “up to a third of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have been imprisoned by mistake,” while NYT reporter Scott Shane noted:

Mayer’s book disclosed that International Committee of the Red Cross officials had concluded in a secret report in 2007, that “the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes.”

**

Okay, Jane Mayer is someone I geerally read with respect — and in her recent piece she delivered her goods on the megadonors and algorithms that plausibly gave Trump the 2016 election:

Robert Mercer, the New York hedge-fund magnate whose huge donations to pro-Trump groups in 2016 have been credited with putting Donald Trump in the White House, has kept a low profile since the election. But his daughter Rebekah, who runs the family’s foundation, now has a way to relive the thrill of the campaign with friends around her dinner table.

This, then, is entertainment, and good, clean fun — unless you happen to have a bias against hedge fund managers and the like.

In March, on a ski vacation at a rented house near Vail, Colorado, she brought a batch of copies of the “Rules of Play” for an elaborate parlor game called the Machine Learning President. Essentially, it is a race to the Oval Office in three fifteen-minute rounds. It’s a role-playing game, more like Assassin than like Monopoly, although players of this game do start out with an allotment of “cash” to spend on pushing their agendas, which can include “algorithmic policing” and “mass deportation.”

“Tonight, the name of the game is power,” reads the first page of the “Rules of Play.” Each player, it goes on, “will assume a new political identity.” Instead of becoming Colonel Mustard or Mrs. Peacock, as in the board game Clue, each player takes on the role of a political candidate or a “faction,” in the game’s parlance. Among the possible roles are Mike Pence, Elizabeth Warren, Black Lives Matter, Russia, Y Combinator, Tom Steyer, Wall Street, Evangelicals, the Koch Network, and Robert Mercer himself.

Colonel Mustard and Mrs. Peacock? or Rich Uncle PennyBags, the moustached logo from Monopoly? From a games perspective, Mayer’s piece is a rich trove — and of course, there’s more I could quote..

**

Now turn to Buzzfeed for a corrective, which is where Bryan landed me:

Rebekah Mercer Says She Isn’t Reliving The 2016 Election Through A Role-Playing Game
“I know nothing about that game, nothing about who created it or who plays it.”

And again, there are details aplenty:

Republican megadonor Rebekah Mercer strongly disputed on Monday a New Yorker report that she “has a way to relive the thrill” of the 2016 presidential campaign via a role-playing game that includes her father as a character.

The story, by journalist Jane Mayer, found that Mercer brought with her on a recent Colorado ski vacation the rules for “Machine Learning President,” a party game in which players assume the roles of politicians, interest groups, an influential technology accelerator, and billionaire donors involved in a hypothetical presidential election. Among the game’s characters is Robert Mercer, Rebekah’s father, a hedge fund billionaire whose donations to the Trump campaign and stakes in Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica have brought him intense public scrutiny. Other characters include Elizabeth Warren and Mike Pence as presidential hopefuls.

In the three round game — Super Tuesday, the Primary, and the General Election — players split into factions that include the candidates themselves, Wall Street, and Russia. According to a Gizmodo story, the goal of the game “is to get players thinking about ways tech and money could be manipulated to influence the 2020 election.”

“I know nothing about that game, nothing about who created it or who plays it and, unlike Ms. Mayer, I didn’t even really read those pages and I shredded them when I got home,” Mercer wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News. Mercer did not explain why she shredded the game rules.

Ooh, shredded the game rules. And then there’s a nanny, who may have leaked the story.

**

Fast forward (by which I mean, click through) to Gizmodo‘s piece:‘Machine Learning President’ Designers Have No Idea How the Mercers Got Their Game

When a group of about 40 players first tested out a live game called the Machine Learning President at a private event in San Francisco this February, they were unaware that the game would end up memorialized in the pages of The New Yorker.

But during a ski vacation in March, the Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer gathered her friends together to play several rounds of the game, which pits special interest groups, political candidates, and activist organizations against each other in a simulated presidential election, aided by cash and artificial intelligence. A lawyer for Mercer told The New Yorker that she owned a copy of the Machine Learning President but had not created it and that it did not reflect her family’s views.

Indeed, the game was in fact designed by an outfit that was less than friendly to the Mercer’s position:

It’s not hard to draw comparisons between the rules of the game, with its reliance on big cash and tech capabilities, and the actions of the Mercer-backed Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But, as Mercer’s lawyer stated, she had nothing to do with creating the game -— in fact, it was conceptualized by one of her vocal critics.

**

Here we go:

Brett Horvath and Berit Anderson are the co-founders of Scout AI and the creators of the Machine Learning President. In 2017, the pair published a scathing critique of Cambridge Analytica, the now-shuttered political consultancy that misused the data of tens of millions of Facebook users and sat at the center of the social network’s largest scandal in years. “By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion,” the duo wrote.

Wrote, in fact, in a piece titled The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine — and here we’re getting into more serious, “Alert, ICYMI” waters — subtitled:

There’s a new automated propaganda machine driving global politics. How it works and what it will mean for the future of democracy.

The 20-page piece begins:

“This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go,” said professor Jonathan Albright.

Albright, an assistant professor and data scientist at Elon University, started digging into fake news sites after Donald Trump was elected president. Through extensive research and interviews with Albright and other key experts in the field, including Samuel Woolley, Head of Research at Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project, and Martin Moore, Director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at Kings College, it became clear to Scout that this phenomenon was about much more than just a few fake news stories. It was a piece of a much bigger and darker puzzle?—?a Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine being used to manipulate our opinions and behavior to advance specific political agendas.

**

So Reberkah Mercer was sent a copy of a game whose progenitors were seriously opposed to Cambridge Analytica style “weaponization” of US presidential politics, and had created a game to get others thinking along similar lines.. she then played it, or didn’t.. then, either way, shredded it.

Back to Gizmodo:

That invisible machine—and the lack of preparedness for it in the 2016 election—provided inspiration for the Machine Learning President. The goal of the game is to get players thinking about ways tech and money could be manipulated to influence the 2020 election. (It also inspired Scout AI to spin out another group, Guardians AI, that’s focused on protecting pro-democracy groups from information warfare and cyber attacks.)

“This is an experience we created to help pro-democracy groups and strengthen democracy against some of the ways technology might interfere with fair elections,” explained Randy Lubin, one of the game’s designers and the leader of a design studio called Diegetic Games. “We knew that some sort of game or simulation or exercise was a really great way to understand the incentives and systems at play.”

I think there’s plenty of eccentric and wonky games and wargames stuff in here, and would have posted this anyway — but if I need a rationale within my own “system”, I’ve been collecting game metaphors as you know, and this one has the game metaphor in those last words:

We knew that some sort of game or simulation or exercise was a really great way to understand the incentives and systems at play.

Yes, politics itself can be viewed as a game, modeled in a game, learned from in a game, wargamed — or simply “played” in a game for dinner party entertainment. The possibility of red-teaming 2020 is where this gets cutting-edge interesting.

Boom!

Metaphors, more

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing collecting.. with David Ronfeldt in mind ]
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Let’s start with soem double-barreled good news

and:

**

Okay, Game metaphors:

Ari Melber, The Beat:

Donald Trump is circling

Chris Mathews on Hardball:

You know, it has an aspect of, you know, Connections to Kevin Bacon, how many degrees of separation — how many people go to the Seychelles? Does Mueller believe it’s a coincidence?

re the Summit:

It feels more like a teenage romance, on again, off again

Ashley Parker, In the Trump administration, the truth comes out after vigorous denials:

The admission that Trump dictated his son’s statement is the latest example of where on a number of key issues — especially pegged to Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe and Trump’s legal woes — the White House and the president’s lawyers have offered contradicting stories and whipsaw about-faces, often revealing the truth only weeks later, when confronted with their inconsistencies.

Katie, The Lid: a lot of post-game analysis ..
it’s like a marathon, it’s a spring ..
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Giuliani: pardoning himself woudld be unthinkable ..Trump: I have the absolute right to pardon myself ..
Nemo iudex in causa sua ..
or in the words of James Madison often found don our masthead:

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.

Prettt much the definitive example of why the ouroboros form is one we should be on the alert for — everybody sees this one.
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Macron Is French for Obama — an interesting way to describe a complex equivalence..
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lawyers: we can talk out of both sides of our mouths ..
trump: i cn kill this (investigation) ant time, this is my game..
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I think they went 0 for 6

Is he playing checkers, I think he’s playing chess..

Your family (?) had a pitch- shot — something that appeals to all bases — Sen Flake

[ attorneys on opposing sides being chummy ]:

.. when the bell goes off and they return to their corners ..

Ari, meta-metaphors:

There’s a lot of metaphors in Rap and Law.

And sheer fun:

I don’t know quite what form of ouroboros this is, from WaPo’s No, Canada didn’t burn down the White House, but there’s something more troubling about Trump’s claim — but I semse one there, dom’t you?

In fact, the burning of the White House may be the worst possible example to justify a trade dispute — one of the reasons the White House burned was because of a trade dispute.

And here’s an ourosbouros, close kin to the serpent-bites-tail kind, brought to my attention by Karlie “New and Improved” Ann (many thanks):

Orient yourself: The map is an Ourosbouros

Here’s what I take to be the ouroboric part:

But what does it mean for a machine to draw and follow its own map of the world? Would the result be, eventually, a map that is impervious to inaccuracies and bias? Or is that pure “technochauvinism”? After all, the computer still has to match its map to the world, similar to the way that humans do. The artificial intelligence that “learns” the map could still be confused by minor changes, like a sparkly sticker on a stop sign. That could easily cause an accident or pedestrian injury—more easily, in that instance, than it would with a human driver.

In that case, what’s the purpose of a map that reads itself? And what potential subjectivities could still work their way in?

Here’s a military and linguisttic one. From Anger Flares Up as Group of 7 Heads to Quebec:

as he engaged in a contentious war of words over trade

Soccer and the World Cup:

From How Russian Meddling Gave Us This Year’s World Cup:

In the spring of 2010, Christopher Steele, a former British spy with a shock of graying hair and a quiet, understated manner, received some alarming news: Vladimir Putin, a lifelong ice hockey fan, had taken a sudden interest in soccer.

Putin, then serving a four-year term as prime minister, saw hosting the World Cup as a vital way to project his country’s power, and his own, around the world.

Few, if any, will wonder whether Russia can actually take home the glittering trophy when the tournament ends on July 15. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter what happens on the field.

Russia already won.

it’s really a self-goal .. [if US gets out of G7]
[Stavridis] there are no winners in a trade war ..
i’ll bet my retirement ..

Something to the effect that Trump walked into a room where people were playing poker and wanted to play ?half-and-half, tthrew all the cards up in the air ..
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Nicolle Wallace:

What do you think of that as the way to ?make a rodeo .. foreign policy?

Donald Trump, conclusion of his press conference after Singapore Summit:

Congratulations, everybody. This is, to me, an important event in world history and to be really true to myself, I have to add I want to get it completed. Mike and our team has to get to work and get it completed because otherwise we have done a good job. If you don’t get the ball over the goal line, it doesn’t mean enough.

Thank you. Congratulations to everybody in the room. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

oh, and btw:

We will stop the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money. Unless and until we see the future negotiations is not going along like it should. We will be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus. It is very provocative.

Sports analogy:

The Goal That Sealed Russia’s Latest Victory on the World Stage

A goal in the forty-third minute of the match, from Russia’s Denis Cheryshev, was a real and undeniable beauty, no matter how lacklustre the opposition.Video Courtesy Fox
Watching the first game of the World Cup, an entirely lopsided affair between Russia and Saudi Arabia, burdened with the knowledge that the U.S. national team had not qualified for the tournament, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a sports-world reiteration of our country’s broader failures on the international stage.

Danve metaphor, a striking one from a striking article:

Artificial concern for people in pain won’t stop suicide. Radical empathy might.

We perform empathy like a child learning to box-step for a school dance, one-two-three, one-two-three. It’s a performance we don’t really care about.

War, metaphor?

Mr. Trump goes to war [Korea, Gogre Will]
‘Prepared for war’: As Mueller moves to finalize obstruction report, Trump’s allies ready for political battle

Bannon:

Bannon: ‘I couldn’t be prouder’ of Trump

“Donald Trump is accomplishing everything he committed to the American people on the campaign that I stepped in as CEO. I couldn’t be prouder of the guy,” Bannon said. “All he has to do is continue to hit those marks on that whiteboard and he’s going to run the tables.”

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I am adding new materials as I find them, thus saving you from an endless stream of comment notifications.

The new bad boy in girls’ lives, & other complex natsec issues

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Trump hits Iran-ball hoping to put N-Korea-ball in the pocket? ]
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Bad boy?

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Consider this:

The drivers of various significant natsec behaviors from a natsec perspective, can be pretty hard to characterize, pin down, and model. To take just today’s example (well, yesterday’s):

  • WaPo, MS-13 is the new bad boy in girls’ lives
  • Think about it, just skim the surface, and it’s obvious. Of course, MS-13 would be the new bad boy in girls’ lives. But what does that mean? Who has mapped the way in which girl’s lives might require or enjoy bad boys, and how gang identity, and thus by entension the game itself, might fulfill that requirement, that need.

    How true was it that ISIS or AQ was in its day the bad boy in girls’ lives?

    It seems pretty obvious Mick Jagger was bad boy in girls’ lives, back when Paul McCartney was the boy those same girls could bring home to meet the parents.

    Is extremism always the bad boy in girls’ lives?

    And once we’ve wondered about a few exmples, we need to reflect on the ornery nature of individual human psychology.

    **

    God says, “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” — and what’s the very next thing the fledgling humans do?

    Or as Wallace Black Elk said to me, “stolen watermelon tastes best.”

    Those two are fairly straightforward, the message is simply “humans are liable to do the exact opposite of what might be intended or predicted. But then there’s this, anecdotal to be sure, but I can voich for it myself:

    In my early thirties, I made my way cross-country to Inia along the hippie trail, and in the midst of majestic mountains in Iran, I got out of the van, did a headstand, and made a vow to give up smoking. I climbed back into the van, and ten minutes later had another cigarette. Ah, but I didn’t bite my nails — up to that time a long-established habit — for almost a decade..

    Go figure. There’s a logic there, but it involves a sidestep. Or, as they say, some wires got crossed.

    And it gets worse.

    **

    Blaise Pascal‘s observation in his Pensées (1623-1662) opens the possibility that any number of undertows may suddenly erupt and sweep us off in unforeseen directions:

    Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing

    **

    Or to give you a vivid example of the same pattern of process torn from this day’s news — and threatening thousands of Hawaiian householdsL

    On April 30, the floor of a crater on top of the Kilauea volcano collapsed, sending its pool of lava back underground and causing small earthquakes. Scientists predicted the magma would travel elsewhere and push its way back to the surface somewhere in the East Rift Zone.

    They were correct.

    Days later, the ground split open on the east end of Leilani Estates, exposing an angry red beneath the lush landscape. From the widening gash, molten rock burbled and splashed, then shot dozens of feet in the air.

    The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency called it “active volcanic fountaining.” Some residents said it was Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, coming to reclaim her land. About 1,700 Leilani Estates residents were ordered to evacuate amid threats of fires and “extremely high levels of dangerous” sulfur dioxide gas.

    Soon, another such fissure had formed a few streets to the west. Then another, and another. For days, hot steam and noxious gases rose from the vents, before magma broke through, with some lava fountains shooting as high as 330 feet into the air — taller than the tip of the Statue of Liberty torch.

    At least 12 fissures have been reported in and around Leilani Estates, according to the county civil defense agency. Lava spouted along the vents and oozed through the neighborhood, leaving lines of smoldering trees in its wake and igniting cars and buildings.

    So far, lava has destroyed at least 35 structures, 26 of which were homes, the agency said Monday night.

    The world, like the min, is full of surprises.

    **

    King Canute, I was taught as a young boy, set his throne on the beach at low tide and forbade the waters to come in. This Hawaii resident had much the same idea..

    **

    And we would like to know how Iran will respond to Trump withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. And China. what Admiral Stavdridis calls “the knock-on effect with North Korea”. Saudi Arabia.The game is one of recriprocal Nuclear Dominoes, and exactly how they’ll fall is..

    Well, here are a few headlines to chew on:

  • Ha’aretz, From Doomsday to Delay: 5 Scenarios Ahead of Trump’s Decision on the Iran Nuclear Deal
  • Independent, Donald Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal could have a disastrous ripple effect on the fight against terrorism
  • Atlantic, The Three Crises Sparked by Trump’s Withdrawal From the Iran Deal
  • Toss a coin, Roll the dice. Or maybe pray to Pele for a favorable outcome for you and yours, no guarantees..


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