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Visiting with T. Greer and Lexington Green

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

 Reading Room, University of Chicago Library

Last Sunday I spent a very enjoyable afternoon meeting T. Greer of Scholar’s Stage blog and visiting with him and Lexington Green of the group blog Chicago Boyz ( where T. Greer and I both occasionally post).  Greer was in Chicago for The Midwest Political Science Association Conference at The Palmer House downtown.  It was good to finally meet T. Greer and see Lex after a long hiatus and our conversation in person took off from where they had been online without skipping a beat.

The weather was uncooperative, but Lex took us on a walking and driving tour of his alma mater, the University of Chicago.

 

We spent some time at Powell’s Books, a Lexington Green favorite, which is an absolutely fabulous bookstore for the serious bibliophile. We went through the stacks and reached the basement level.

 

  

I bought a few from the military history and strategy section

Next we spent some relaxing time and deep conversation about books, ideas and policy at  the legendary Jimmy’s Tap where Saul Bellow and a legion of intellectual luminaries, students, writers and workingmen just off their shift rubbed shoulders. We sat in the back room where it was quieter. The discussion was a rare pleasure.

Finally, we ate at another Chicago and Hyde Park landmark – the cafeteria style service Valois.  If you ever visit the University of Chicago, eat here. The food was outstanding (I had the prime rib with hash browns, which I strongly recommend) and the prices more than reasonable. We ate our fill and talked some more.

One of the nicest aspects of blogging has been the friendships forged in the broad circle of folks debating military and foreign policy, strategy, counterinsurgency, intelligence issues and (unavoidably) politics. From meetings like this to book and article projects to the Boyd Conferences, the interactions have all been positive and enriching.

Blog friend Cheryl Rofer on the Iranian nuke deal

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — and Furnish pwns Sowell — corrected version ]
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First there’s Cheryl Rofer‘s piece on Nuclear Diner, The Iran Framework Agreement: The Good, the Bad, and TBD. Then that gets quoted by Alexander Montgomery in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage for April 6. Note: I has originally quoted Montgomery but attributed the quote to Cheryl, see her comment below. I have now removed the quote in question. And now Cheryl has a piece in Mother Jones titled Never Mind the Doubters: The Iran Deal Is Good Enough:

The final deal remains to be negotiated. The fact sheet is only an outline, and some issues will be easier to solve than others. Still to be worked out: Sanctions, particularly the schedule on which they are to be lifted. A list of research and development activities that Iran is allowed to pursue may or may not have been drawn up in Lausanne. Details on how Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile will be reduced and the redesign of the Arak reactor are missing.

The extent of Iran’s past activity on nuclear weapons was relegated to the IAEA by the P5+1 throughout the negotiations, and is a lesser provision in the fact sheet. Do we have to know all Iran’s dirty secrets to police a future agreement? Probably not.

The Supreme Leader issued a tweet stream that seems to give his blessing for a deal to go forward, but his words were unclear enough that domestic hardliners could seize on them in an attempt to scuttle the deal. Iran’s President Rouhani has voiced his support. In Israel, even the general who bombed the Osirak reactor thinks it’s a good deal.

Methinks kudos are in order — and I personally am thankful for a voice of informed and informative nuance on so hotly contested and significant a topic.

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In other Iranian nuclear deal news, blog friend Tim Furnish has taken on his fellow-conservative Tom Sowell‘s NRO piece on the topic, There’s No Deterring an Apocalyptic Nuclear Iran:

That’s the extended analytic piece which Tim concludes with this paragraph:

While in Iran for the 2008 Mahdism Conference, I heard both President Ahmadinejad and Prime Minister Ali Larijani speak. Ahmadinejad said, regarding Israel and Shi`i eschatology, that “the problem of the+ false, fabricated Zionist regime” would not be solved “in the absence of the Perfect Man, the Mahdi” — effectively dousing the alarmist, and inaccurate, view that the IRI’s chief executive wishes to “hotwire the apocalypse.” Islamic fervor for lighting that eschatological detonation cord exists among certain Sunnis groups (including, quite possibly, al-Qa`idah) — but it is not characteristic of Twelver Shi`ism. Larijani, in the closing speech of that same conference, proclaimed that “Mahdism has three pillars: spirituality, rationalism and jihad.” It is admittedly possible, despite all the aforementioned reasoning, that “their own vitriolic rhetoric could conceivably run away with the leaders of the Islamic Republic, and an Iranian nuclear weapon find its way to Tel Aviv.” But the preponderance of evidence — Islamic history in general, specific Shi`i traditions and teachings as well as modern religio-political discourse in Iran — indicates, rather, that the rationality and spirituality of Iranian Mahdism is holding at bay its undeniable jihad aspect. Tehran thus, ironically, finds its potential nuclear policy fettered by Qom: mainstream Shi`i theology does not support violence (nuclear or conventional) in order to precipitate the return of the 12th Imam; furthermore, employing nuclear weapons is verboten in the Mahdi’s absence — except, perhaps, under the rubric of defensive jihad, were Iran itself to be attacked or invaded. Seen in this light, the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear weapons falls from the overly-alarmist apocalyptic register into a more mundane, and manageable, geopolitical one.

If that was so duing the presidency of Ahmadinejad, it is doubly so now, with Rouhani in his place.

Sunday surprise: Ernst Haas

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — beauty is in the viewfinder of this beholder ]
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Two bodies of water:

Ernst Haas, Tobago Wave
Tobago Wave, photograph by Ernst Hass, with permission of the Ernst Haas Estate

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The closest correlation to this image that comes to mind is from Genesis:

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

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I’d like us to explore this juxtaposition of two bodies of water a little farther. Here, for instance, is Terence Stamp, retelling The Tale of the Sands from Idries Shah‘s Tales of the Dervishes:

And to bring that tale, lyrical as it is, home to the realities of twenty-first century living — and indeed the context of national security — consider the matter of the Rios Voadores or Flying Rivers, as described in a National Geographic piece this February, Quirky Winds Fuel Brazil’s Devastating Drought, Amazon’s Flooding:

The loop starts in the Atlantic Ocean, where the winds carry moisture westward over the Amazon. Some falls as rain, but as the air passes, it also absorbs moisture from trees. When these “flying rivers” hit the Andes, they swing south, showering rain over crops and cities in eastern Bolivia and southeastern Brazil.

Beginning a year ago, however, a phenomenon called “atmospheric blocking” transformed that wind pattern. Marengo, a senior scientist at the Brazilian National Center for Early Warning and Monitoring of Natural Disasters (CEMADEN), likens this to a giant bubble that deflected the moisture-laden air, which instead dumped about twice the usual amount of rain over the state of Acre, in western Brazil, and the Bolivian Amazon, where Cartagena lives.

At the same time, cold fronts from the south, which cause precipitation over São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, were shunted aside, and as the system lingered, the drought took hold ..

Here’s a video to give you a glimpse..

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Did I mention national security? Here’s what Chuck Hagel said in the second paragraph of his Foreword to the Pentagon’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap:

Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.

I have an analytic post forthcoming on Lapido Media about Water shortages and violence in the Middle East. A hat tip to blog-friend Pundita, who has been blogging intensively on water shortages recently [1, 2, eg]. And my grateful thanks to Victoria Haas for her gracious permission to use her father’s superb photograph at the head of this post.

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The master’s eye — to catch the two-in-oneness of sky and sea, cloud and wave, water and water so exactly, in so balanced a form.. and then, within that massive, unmissable symmetry in blue and green, the milder asymmetries he captures of left and right — the billowing, the surging. Exquisite.

It is Sunday: treat yourself to a viewing of his portraits of Marilyn Munroe, of Jean Cocteau, of Albert Einstein, his extraordinary Sea Gun. Who has both the wanderlust to find and the eye to see such a thing?

Veri-Fire announcement

Friday, March 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the future of handgun safety? ]
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Blog-friend James Skylar Gerrond announced today: “Veri-Fire will launch Guardian, our biometric trigger guard for handguns on 13 April.”

What is it?

Guardian is the revolutionary solution in responsibly securing your handgun against unauthorized or accidental use while maintaining unprecedented readiness.

I can barely imagine wanting a handgun — I’m one of those — but if I had one, I’d want it fitted with the Veri-fire Guardian.

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Veri-fire locked:

VF_render_WhiteBG_GIF_v2

diagrammed:

Test_VFG-Drawing2

and unlocked:

VF_render_WhiteBG_open_GIF_v2

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I wrote a while back about AE Van Vogt‘s science fiction work, The Weapon Shops of Isher, which introduced the concept of “guns that could only be used in defense and only for their owners” — and the Armatix iP1 pistol / watch combo. Sadly, that piece is one of those we lost in the hack last year. This time, the science fiction ref — provided by Brett Fujioka — is from Psycho-Pass.

Chris Bateman and Cornelius Castoriadis

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — to Chris Bateman and all — concerning the hard problem in consciousness ]
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Chris Bateman is a game designer and philosopher whose sense of games informs his philosophy, while Cornelius Castoriadis was a philosopher influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis — for some reason, I have previously and it seems erroneously identified him as an architect. The first quote below is from Chris Bateman’s blog post a day or three ago, Voiding The Hard Problem of Consciousness on Only a Game:

SPEC DQ Bateman Castoriadis

The second quote is from Castoriadis’ book, World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination.

This post is offered as a coversational rejoinder to Chris’ post, in the spirit of the ‘Republic of Letters’.


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