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More metaphor &c

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — continuing the series, with a choice gobbet of Updike ]
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from Meet the Press, 10/21/2018

**

I continue to find the close reading of metaphors an invaluable analytic tool, and one that is also of interest to me personally, for writerly, poetic purposes. I’ve expanded my search from its original focus on games — specifically including sports, theater, war games &c as metaphors for politics — to cover something I’ll characterize as fine writing — giving me the ability to note and quote across a wider range of topics and usages.

My last post in the series ran to 18 comments, each one containing a couple of dozen or so instances of metaphor or fine writing, and I don’t expect my expanded search criteria to expand my actual collection — if anything I hope to cut back in favor of writing other things. But when MSNBC’s Meet the Press splashes a great End Game banner on my screen, as it did today, see above, I still won’t be able to resist.

**

On the subject of fine writing, though, how’s this?

Dorothy Dotto, thirty-eight, happily married for nineteen years, the mother of three, a member of the Methodist Church, the Grange, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary. She lives, and has lived all her life, in the town of Elm Corners, somewhere in the Corn Belt; as a child, she won seven consecutive pins for perfect Sunday school attendance, and she graduated with good grades from a public school where the remarkable truthfulness of George Washington and the durable axioms of Benjamin Franklin were often invoked. Her father, Jesse, who is retired but still alive (bless him), for forty years kept above his desk at the feed mill a sign declaring, “Honesty Is the Best Policy.”

That’s John Updike, describing “the unimaginably tactful and delicate process whereby the housewife next door was transmogrified into a paid cheat” in what in retrospect looks like a major turning point in the American psyche — the loss of innocence that occurred when it was revealed that many hundreds of Dorothy Dottos had been suborned into a grand cheating system in what’s now known as the 1950s quiz show scandals:

The American quiz show scandals of the 1950s were a series of revelations that contestants of several popular television quiz shows were secretly given assistance by the show’s producers to arrange the outcome of an ostensibly fair competition. The quiz show scandals were driven by a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons included the drive for financial gain, the willingness of contestants to “play along” with the assistance, and the lack of then-current regulations prohibiting the rigging of game shows.

Back to Updike:

Now, as we remember the flavor and ethos of that innocent era, we realize that the contestants, aside from their freakish passion for Hittite history or skeet-shooting statistics, were meant to be us — you and me and the bright boy next door. This was America answering. This was the mental wealth behind the faces you saw in a walk around the block.

**

Okay, game shows, in addition to Updike’s undoubtedly fine writing, that’s a game reference. But a loss of American innocence? That’s not nothing. That’s something worth pondering..

In fact, a loss of innocence is fundamentally a loss of the default assumption of trust — and isn’t it precisely the loss of trust that leads to all those conspiracist theories of a mysterious “They” who run “our” world, Skull and Bones, the Bohemian Club, No Such Agency, whoever — and the ensuing distrust of and between political paetiues, leading us eventually to today’s:

**

And how’s that for a delicious paradox? The United States are now Divided as to whether they’re divided or united — with divided in the majority..

Okay, loss of innocence, let alone loss of virginity, may be strong language to describe the impact of those 1950s quiz show scandals on the American psyche — but something broke, a ratchet slipped, and perhaps we haven’t been quite the same since.

In any case, I’ll be collecting my usual snippets and gobbets of this and that — often sports, politics, war or strategy related, but also just plain curious or fine stuff — here in the comments section. And oh, btw, I’ve been misspelling gobbet as gobbit for years hereabout: forgive me, it’s spelt (spelled?) with an e, and means a chunk, primarily of meat or writing — no Gandalfian echo intended.

Ad now, as my friend David Ronfeldt would say, Onwards!

Sports metaphor & politics, and much else besides, 1, pre-Flake

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

[ By Charles Cameron — the crisis builds — everything up to but not including Sen Flake’s elevator epiphany ]
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**

**

Sen Graham acc BuzzFeed:

“Here’s what I’m more convinced of, my friends on the other side set it up to be just the way it is. I feel ambushed,” Graham told reporters, after Ford finished testifying…

Graham also dismissed the need for an FBI investigation, saying Ford had not provided enough detail to justify a search warrant or an arrest warrant. He also said an FBI investigation would take too long and he did not want to “reward” political gamesmanship.

**

Getting back to symmetry:

The symmetry with her own parentage was uncannily exact, for Catherine and Seymour were themselves in an incestuous match, Catherine being Henry VIII’s widow while Seymour was his brother-in-law (the king had married Seymour’s sister Jane). ..

and just a little earlier:

What could have induced the normally modest queen dowager to have become an actor in these strange games?

both from p 36 of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, by Charles Beauclerk

**

**

Sen Hirono to CNN re re asterisk:

I don’t know, but what I really want to hear from this administration, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is, there will be an FBI investigation. That is what we need. And I think most people who look at this process, and want some monochrome (ph) of fairness, would agree that we should have an FBI investigation.

But they continue to stonewall. And I think that they’re doing a tremendous disservice to the public – American people, as well as, should he get on the court, there will always be an asterisk, and a cloud, over his name, and on his name. And I think that is not what we want to do to the Supreme Court.

**

0/28/2018:

Sen. Whitehouse:

You do the basic blocking and tackling of investigation ..
The sand is running through Kavanaugh’s hourglass ..

Sen Cruz:

These aren’t pawns on a chessboard, they are real people..
We are living in a divided time. This country is divided right down the middle. In this polarized society we live in today, it’s almost tribalized. Where half of us wear one team’s jersey and the other half wear the other team’s jersey, and whatever we see, we see through the lens of our jersey ..

Sen Booker:

I’ve learned that, heck, from being a football player: between the whistles, you fight as hard as you can for that you believe, and if you want to call that partisanship, fine ..

This is not a partisan moment, this is a amoral moment ..

a time when the comedy {transcript} / comity [my guess} was deeper and greater

Sen Kennedy:

this is no country for creepy old men ..

Sen Klobuchar:

It’s not being run by we the people, it’s being run by we the ruling party ..

Sen Graham:

Somebody’s got to explain this to Trump, and I guess that’s my job.

**

a note — I’ll tend to add “tribal” and “tribalizing” to my list of items to note since tribalism is a major issue for David Ronfeldt, even though it has recently become mainstreamed and is therefore now frequently mentioned. I shall be looking in particular for original or extended usages.

**

Pres. Trump on Dr Ford:

**

Jon Meacham acc Breitbart:

Stephanie was calling it quite rightly the other land. The lane here, instead of Yes or No, was Let’s find out more — and that’s the lane that Flake has opened up.

the thing about tribalism .. level of hardball.. churchill.. off the cliff .. [details when transcript available]

Stephanie Ruhle:

the third lane is not a No or a Yes, it’s simply leaving the door open..

Adam Serwer, The Confirmation of Trumpism
The accusations against Brett Kavanaugh — and his angry, defiant response — have made him a fitting champion for the party of Trump.:

The most important lie that Kavanaugh told, however, was in his initial testimony. Echoing Thomas’s broken promise to avoid ideology as a judge, Kavanaugh initially proclaimed that “as Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent, not swayed by public pressure … The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices on the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms. If confirmed to the Court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player on the team of nine.”

Sports metaphor & politics, and much else besides, 2, post-Flake

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — after Sen Jeff Flake’s elevator epiphany and meet-up with his friend Chris Coons ]
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**

Jeff Flake’s Deal With Democrats Puts Kavanaugh’s Nomination in Limbo

A deeply divided Senate Judiciary Committee advanced President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, but final confirmation will depend on a reopened FBI inquiry.

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was all set to move unimpeded through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday morning.

Then Jeff Flake had a sudden change of heart.

Hours after declaring his support for Kavanaugh, the Arizona Republican simultaneously voted to advance the nomination in committee while warning party leadership that he would oppose President Trump’s nominee in a crucial floor vote unless and until the FBI conducts a further investigation into Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high-school party in 1982.

**

MTP Daily, 9/28/2018:

This is a Republican who’s retiring, this is a Republican who’s more free of the political calculus ..

In the political calculus of the moment ..

“We respect her” is the new “thoughts and prayers” ..

**

The Beat, with Ari Melber:

Within hours of that confrontation, Senator Flake did something we rarely see in this choreographed, partisanship era ..

Barbara Boxer:

Time is a friend of Justice ..

Margaret Judson:

How Do You Play a Porn Star in the #MeToo Era? With Help from an ‘Intimacy Director’

In this moment, we are watching Hollywood take the high ground over the United States government. That’s a huge red flag. That’s not how this should work.The government should be holding the higher moral standard, and Hollywood it.

This guy shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car.

Ari:

That was the Twilight Zone A Few Good Men. It’s like, he thought he had the closing speech in A Few Good Men, but for a lot of the country he was in a different movie ..

Hardball:

Tell me how the sequence worked that led to this overtime in the game, so to speak ..
It does seem they’ve got the fire power, the candle power ..
what kind of pandora’s box ..
You get two supreme court nominees in the ideology of your liking, that’s sort of like a pitcher in the major leagues winning over 20 games, i mean that’as a hell of a season, and now that season’s in real jeopardy ..
the tip box is big, and it’s open ..
next up, a hairline fracture in the partisanship that has come to define American politics ..
he’s not intimidated by the 9 out of 10 republicans who back trump in every single thing; the others are hog-tied ..
i was struck by a profile in democracy — here was a guy who held an elevator door. senators have their own elevators in order to keep those people out..
battle of the genders looks like a draw ..
sen klobuchar: the constitution does not say, We the ruling party, she constitution says, We the people..

All In with Chris Hayes 9/28/2018:

Sen Hirono: the FBI investigation has to be complete. It can’t be some cursory kind of investigation that gives cover to some wavering senators. It’s got to be real ..
a lot of people felt like something was wrong and breaking, i mean, wrong in that it felt like there was a kind of torture being imposed on dr blasey ford .. profound legitimacy crisis that we’re watching happen in slow motion ..
it does feel as though something is fundamentally breaking, and I almost appreciate the fact that in the end the republicans took the mask off, and stopped allowing their prosecutor to ask questions, they decided to turn it into a big political show you saw what their endgame was, not really getting to the truth, but doing whatever was necessary to try to jam him through ..

**

Maya Wiley:

like inside baseball with no fans ..

A bit obvious, but the title is worth noting:

The Hidden Moral Lessons in Your Favorite Childhood Games

They should have started with hide & seek, which is the topic of the Krishna Lila, love in separation & union..

Elon Musk vs. the SEC: The Tesla billionaire gears up for the fight of his career

He has fought back viciously by calling his opponents names like “saboteur,” “idiot” and “pedophile.” Now, Tesla chief Elon Musk is embracing the same kind of combative approach to wage the fight of his career against the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Musk is as close to sainthood as one can get in Silicon Valley, a sci-fi virtuoso who has captured imaginations with gambles on soaring rockets, electric supercars and brain-computer links. A critical element of his cult of personality: He rarely backs down from a fight.

That last paragraph has an interesting four-part evaluation of Musk: close to sainthood .. sci-f- virtuoso .. cult of personality — fight. If I was setting that para to music, it would definitely be on a descending arpeggio..

hit man .. sabotage

History doesn’t rhyme, it DoubleQuotes?

Shady Watergate Reporters Target Trump

Imagine a replay of Watergate –only worse.

In both the original and the replay, the same Washington D.C. reporter, whose parents were Communist Party members connected to Soviet atomic spies and who were under FBI surveillance for decades, teamed up with the same second D.C. reporter, who was outed as an “FBI asset,” to take down a sitting Republican President of the United States.

In both instances the “unnamed source” leaking information to these two reporters turned out to be the Deputy Director of the FBI.

This is a remake.

Some of the players have even reprised their old roles.

[ .. ]

This is stunning – decades apart in time two separate FBI Deputy Directors leaked information about the then-sitting President of the United States to a pair of reporters, one of whom hails from a family intertwined with the Soviet spy ring that handed America’s nuclear secrets to Joseph Stalin and the other of whom was an “FBI asset.”

Both of these FBI Deputy Directors had to know with whom they were dealing.

**

A brace of interesting articles, both by John Seabrook:

  • New Yorker, Don’t Shoot: A radical approach to the problem of gang violence [2009]
  • New Yorker, Operation Ceasefire and the Unlikely Advent of Precision Policing [2018]
  • Some high spots from the former:

    Captain Daniel Gerard, who took over Vortex in the fall of 2007, didn’t put much stock in their ideas. As he said, “Academia and law enforcement are at opposite ends of the spectrum. They like theories, we like results.”

    Kennedy was tall and slim, and in the dark clothes he favored there was something about him of the High Plains Drifter -— the mysterious stranger who blows into town one day and makes the bad guys go away. He wore a grizzled beard and had thick, unbound hair that cascaded halfway down his back. “What’s some guy who looks like Jesus got to tell us about crime in Cincinnati?” was the line around police headquarters.

    Kennedy had been approached by Dr. Victor Garcia, the head of the trauma unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, who was seeing almost daily the effects of the city’s violent gangs: the stabbings, shootings, and beatings, and the injuries to innocent children caught in the crossfire. “Children with their eyes shot out, children paralyzed,” Garcia told me. “I started to wonder, instead of treating injuries, how can we prevent them from happening in the first place?”

    Often, much of the violence is caused by gang dynamics: score settling, vendettas, and turf issues, all played out according to the law of the streets.

    Whalen explained to me the C.P.D.’s distinction between social workers and cops: “Social people hug thugs. We kick their butts.”

    I particularly appreciate the echo of ““Academia and law enforcement are at opposite ends of the spectrum. They like theories, we like results” in “Whalen explained to me the C.P.D.’s distinction between social workers and cops: “Social people hug thugs. We kick their butts.””

    **

    Movie correlates:

    High Plains Drifter – A Shave and a Shootout:

    You Can’t Handle the Truth! – A Few Good Men:

    .. and including any and all interesting game language & stories ..

    Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a 75-year old poker club in DC, more ]
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    It seems I’m moving from collecting only sport and game metaphors for politics, via sport and game metaphors more generally to sport and game language and stories — whatever catches my fancy. The paragraphs from William Finnegan, Off Diamond Head which I quoted in Storm special, surf’s up would have fit here nicely, and were my first signal, or perhaps one of my first, that my search interests might be widening.

    Lets start with A club of their own: The story of a secret poker society started by pioneering African Americans. It’s a great story of a poker club that’s been going 76 years now:

    In 1942, a group of university professors, doctors, lawyers and other black professionals in Washington wanted to get together on weekends and play poker. But they had a problem. Not only did segregation in the District bar them from joining country clubs or other social organizations where men could gather, but the president of Howard University, where many of them taught, was a religious man who did not approve of card-playing.

    So they started a monthly gathering in their homes and came up with a name to mask its true nature — the Brookland Literary and Hunting Club.

    The founding members of the club included a College president and consultant on Brown v. Board of Education, and the first black chief judge of DC’s federal court, and one of the the oldest current members at 96 — none of the founders are still with us — was a Tuskegee Airman. Over the last seventy-five years, these men have seen, and shaped, history. Their club is named the Brookland Literary and Hunting Club as code rather than abstract camouflage — “literary” because they’ve always discussed the topics of the day, from WWII via the Civil Rights movement to the present, and “hunting” because players are always hunting for a good hand when playing cards..

    Play..

    There were two tables — the big table, where hundreds of dollars exchanged hands over five-card stud, and the little table, whose participants played for coins or dollar bills and peppered the games with wild cards. Men would start at the little table and sometimes move up to the big one. As they got older and went on fixed incomes, some would move back to the little table.

    And the spirit of play:

    We’ve had great games and there’s never anybody who ran out of money, because somebody says: ‘Here, take some more. Just take it. Give it to me when you can,’

    **

    And it looks as though I can’t evade the sports and social parallelism business either. How can I resist What Serena Williams’s defeat tells us about the criminal-justice system? And how better to get at its essential than via another of today’s WaPo pieces, Yes, get consent. But be human, too.?

    After describing the two opinion camps around the kerfuffle between Serena Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, the WaPo opinion writer Marc Howard, a professor of government and law at Georgetown, indicates the closeness of the parallel between tennis and social justice:

    This disagreement is about more than tennis, or even sports. It connects with a much deeper American divide about policing and criminal justice, with strong undertones connecting to race and racism.

    and later:

    Just like the criminal-justice system, tennis and many other sports depend on the subjective discretion of neutral arbiters to apply a set of supposedly objective “rules.”

    Ramos did indeed follow the code, and each of the three sanctions had some justification, thus satisfying the “rules” camp. But for two of the three violations (the racket smashing was unambiguous), he used his discretion to punish Williams for acts — coaching and heated exchanges with an umpire — that occur routinely in tennis but are seldom punished.

    So one “deeper .. divide” is about “policing and criminal justice” — but another deep divide exists between “rules” and what I’ll call “fairness” camps, following this paragraph:

    In all of these instances, one can always say, “Well, this person didn’t follow the rules,” and on an individual basis that may seem sufficient to justify the consequences. What gets lost, however, is that rules are rarely applied regularly, consistently or fairly..

    You’ll have to read the whole article to get many of the details, but the analogy between a sport and the judicial and penal systems is clear.

    How does this relate to the WaPo piece on consent in potential sexual aggression situations?

    The question there is whether, in the pithy words of a feminist writer quoted by WaPo:

    consent is just a hurdle you have to clear in order to Get The Sex

    Consent is the rulebook, and the missing ingredient when consent is the only consideration, is the human context, in the words of the same writer, the need to see our sexual partners:

    not simply as instrumental to our own pleasure but as co-equal collaborators, equally human and important, equally harmable, equally free and equally sovereign.

    I’m not sure that even that doesn’t smack a bit of the “rules” camp, but it’s certainly a strong step beyond the bare=bones “consent” rule towards an understanding of human circumstances. But the parallelism between that and the Serena Williams piece wouldn’t have struck me so forcefully without this exchange:

    “Yeah,” one, a junior, agreed. “The logic is sort of Cartesian.” (Oh, college!) “Do this, not that. Don’t break the rules ..

    That really nails it — as Lao Tzu would say:

    The rules can be codified in a rulebook aren’t the subtle rules of wisdom.

    That’s my Tao Te Ching translation #207 I know, but I think it’s apt for this occasion.

    Comments?

    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 ]
    .

    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

    **

    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..

    **

    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..


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