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AQAP, the Trolley Problem — and child mind..

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a new terror-tactic from the terrorists ]
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We’ve dealt with the trolley problem before here on ZP, in Trolleys come to Terror and A real-life situation not unlike the trolley problem, but with the recent online oublication of AQAP’s Inspire magazine #17, the jihadists have at last made their own view on the topic known — and if the illustration, bottom panel above, is anything to go by, this time they’re in favor of saving lives, not taking them.

**

Oops — when you read the whole article, you’ll see that they’re actually recommending train derailment as a tactic, in much the same way they recommended pressure-cooker bombs and “mowing truck” assaults in earlier issues.

Damn.

**

And then again, ICYMI..

Never trust anyone under the age of three..

Fire and Fury — a fair or unfair borrowing?

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — how can anyone accurately judge the rage of another — and what happens if we simply can’t, but need to take precautions against it? ]
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President Trump certainly spoke of visiting “fire and fury” on the DPNK as quoted by the Economist in its DeafCon page (upper panel):

The question is whether the use of the phrase to headline a piece on the Alt-Right torchlight protest at UVa (lower panel) is appropriate or not?

  • Does it trivialize the serious matter of potential nuclear war by applying Trump’s phrase to a mere few hundred protesters,
  • or does it rightly intuit that the fury and fire of the Trump-Bannon platform — as applied to the DPNK nuclear program — is of the same cloth as the fury and fire of the protesters, and thus entirely applicable and appropriate?
  • **

    For the second time today:

    Metaphors, analogies, parallelisms, paradoxes — my stock in trade — are delicate matters, and should be treated with care.

    China as the balance between DPNK and the US

    Saturday, August 12th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — once again, it’s the formal properties that interest me here ]
    .

    You may agree or disagreee, but in two-party negotiation I’d say, speaking as a moderator, bridge-builder, peace-maker, there’s a natural parity between the two parties

    — this parity will be there, somehow, even if not immediately apparent, or something is seriously amiss.

    **

    Here, then, are two of countless ways in which China must handle disparities between the parties, if she is to maintain a balance between the US and Korth Korea:

    The population balance — or imbalance — is pretty extreme, and the nuclear arenal imbalance even moreso:

    **

    I’ve included the moderator (China) along with the two parties in my weightings above, pondering whether it makes a difference when the moderator is “heavier” than either party, or when one party “heavily” outweighs the moderator.

    I don’t know, I’m feeling my way towards an intuitive grasp of something here, not presenting a certainty of some kind.

    The WaPo article that brought me to these considerations is full of “balance” and “imbalance” imagery..

    At issue is “a series of threats and counterthreats by the U.S. and North Korean governments.”

    Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said there had been an “overwhelming amount” of “belligerent rhetoric” from Washington and Pyongyang.

    Even-handedly:

    China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and it strongly reiterated that message Friday.

    In an editorial, the Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides that “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

    And considering how things can get worse:

    China hopes that all relevant parties will be cautious in their words and actions, and do things that help to alleviate tensions and enhance mutual trust, rather than walk on the old pathway of taking turns in shows of strength, and upgrading the tensions.

    And better:

    “The side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions..

    **

    All this is, on the one hand, obvious, and barely needs saying — and on the other hand, fascinating and instructive in its abstract formalism. Of course, there are details that I’m omitting to bring that formalism front and center, but you have the WPo article to give you those.

    Most interesting, perhaps, is that final observation:

    “The side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions..

    It reminds me of another quote I included in a post here on ZP recently:

    the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.

    Paradox, too, is a matter of form, and thus of particular interest when it occurs in an analytic context.

    Metaphors, analogies, parallelisms, paradoxes — my stock in trade — are delicate matters, and should be treated with care.

    **

    Okay, now how do you diagram the balance mentioned in the WaPo article, In dealing with North Korea, Trump needs allies — not bombast?

    Tillerson’s impossible job: Balancing North Korea, China and Trump

    **

    Sources:

  • Business Insider, Where the World’s 14,995 Nuclear Weapons Are
  • Worldometers, Countries in the world by population (2017)

  • Washington Post, Beijing warns Pyongyang: You’re on your own if you go after the US
  • Hat-tip, btw, to xkcd for painstakingly providing the number graphics via the xkcd Radiation page.

    Similarity in graphical mechanism?

    Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a matter of visual rhetoric, NYT’s Trump and Magritte ]
    .

    I’m intuiting that these two graphical representations somehow use the same visual logic to achieve their ends:

    **

    If I was more alert in some semi-defined sense, I’d be able to diagram them in a manner similar to that which Douglas Hofstadter uses to diagram the conceptual working of MC Escher‘s hands drawing hands —

    — another brilliant ouroboros, for those who are keeping count!

    **

    How does “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:” fit into this (Escher) picture?

    Trolleys come to Terror

    Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a western koan makes it onto German TV? ]
    .

    What Hala Jaber calls a supermarket trolley in this tweet is not what this post is about — but it sure does connect trolley and terror!

    **

    Here’s the terror side of things, in a tweet from John Horgan:

    The BBC halls it an “interactive courtroom drama interactive courtroom drama centred on a fictional act of terror” and notes:

    The public was asked to judge whether a military pilot who downs a hijacked passenger jet due to be crashed into a football stadium is guilty of murder.

    Viewers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria gave their verdict online or by phone. The programme was also aired in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

    The vast majority called for the pilot, Lars Koch, to be acquitted.

    Here’s the setup:

    In the fictional plot, militants from an al-Qaeda offshoot hijack a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 164 people on board and aim to crash it into a stadium packed with 70,000 people during a football match between Germany and England.

    “If I don’t shoot, tens of thousands will die,” German air force Major Lars Koch says as he flouts the orders of his superiors and takes aim at an engine of the plane.

    The jet crashes into a field, killing everyone on board.

    So, is the pilot guilty, or not guilty?

    **

    At the very least, he has our sympathy — but how does that play out in legal proceedings?

    What’s so fascinating here is the pilot’s dilemma, which resembles nothing so much as a zen koan.

    Except for the Trolley Problem:

    trolley_problem
    Image from Wikimedia by McGeddon under license CC-BY-SA-4.0

    **

    Substitute an Airbus for the trolley, 164 people for the lone individual on the trolley line, and 70,000 people for the cluster of five — and the pilot for the guy who can make a decision and switch the tracks.

    There you have it: terror plot and trolley problem running in parallel.

    To be honest, I think the full hour-plus movie is far more immersive, to use a term from game design, than the Trolley Problem stated verbally as a problem in logic — meaning that the viewer is in some sense projected, catapulted into the fighter-pilot’s hot seat — in his cockpit, facing a high speed, high risk emergency, and in court, on trial for murder.

    It’s my guess that more people would vote for the deaths of 164 under this scenario than for the death of one in the case of the trolley — but that’s a guess.

    **

    The German film scenario — adapted from a play by Ferdinand von Schirach — is indeed a courtroom drama, a “case” in the sense of “case law”. And it’s suggestive that koans, too, are considered “cases” in a similar vein. Here, for instance, is a classic definition of koans :

    Kung-an may be compared to the case records of the public law court. Kung, or “public”, is the single track followed by all sages and worthy men alike, the highest principle which serves as a road for the whole world. An, or “records”, are the orthodox writings which record what the sages and worthy men regard as principles [..]

    This principle accords with the spiritual source, tallies with the mysterious meaning, destroys birth-and-death, and transcends the passions. It cannot be understood by logic; it cannot be transmitted in words; it cannot be explained in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. It is like a poisoned drum that kills all who hear it, or like a great fire that consumes all who come near it. [..]

    The so-called venerable masters of Zen are the chief officials of the public law courts of the monastic community, as it were, and their collections of sayings are the case records of points that have been vigorously advocated.

    **

    Relevant texts:

  • John Daido Loori, Sitting with Koans
  • John Daido Loori, The True Dharma Eye

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