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Trump blowback — not boustrophedon but enantiodroma?

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — with a stinger from Bucky Fuller in the tail ]
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Here’s boustrophedon

— since it’s harder to find a decent illustrations for enantiodromia.

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Boustrophedon is the motion of an ox ploughing a field, up to the top and then back down: it’s a motif of reversal, but the farmer’s volition is the same both going up and coming back down. Enantiodromia, o the other hand, is just straight reversal as I understand it, a sudden switch of direction not caused by continuing intent, but by balance restoring itself after excess.

Hence, Trump blowback as described in WaPo’s Behold the Trump boomerang effect would fall in the latter category of form.

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Fred Hiatt opens his piece under that title:

Did your head spin when Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a true conservative and the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, emerged last week as the most eloquent spokesman for transgender rights? Credit the Trump boomerang effect.

He carries on:

Much has been said about White House dysfunction and how little President Trump has accomplished in his first six months. But that’s not the whole story: In Washington and around the world, in some surprising ways, things are happening — but they are precisely the opposite of what Trump wanted and predicted when he was sworn in.

The boomerang struck first in Europe. Following his election last November, and the British vote last June to leave the European Union, anti-immigrant nationalists were poised to sweep to power across the continent. “In the wake of the electoral victories of the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump, right-wing populism in the rich world has appeared unstoppable,” the Economist wrote. Russian President Vladimir Putin would gain allies, the European Union would fracture.

But European voters, sobered by the spectacle on view in Washington, moved the other way. In March, the Netherlands rejected an anti-immigrant party in favor of a mainstream, conservative coalition. In May, French voters spurned the Putin-loving, immigrant-bashing Marine Le Pen in favor of centrist Emmanuel Macron, who went on to win an overwhelming majority in Parliament and began trying to strengthen, not weaken, the E.U.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Trump belittled for having allowed so many refugees into her country, has grown steadily more popular in advance of a September election.

There’s more, of course, but you get the picture.

Unintended consequences.

There’s a huge industry that advises us to shoot for the goal — but yachtsmen know that sometimes to get places, you need to tack with the wind. And Buckminster Fuller said [Critical Path, chapter titled “Self-Disciplines of Buckminster Fuller”] the most interesting effects occur in a manner that’s orthogonal to force applied:

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What a fascinating world we live in!

Not Checkers, not Chess, no Go, Gen Perkins — it’s Calvinball time

Friday, July 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — on changing our very notions of game and challenge — or unanticipating the unanticipated ]
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Reading David Perkins, Big picture, not details, key when eyeing future from last year, and thinking:

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It’s scary to read Gen. Perkins — the head of TRADOC — disagree with him, sometimes quite sharply along the way and particularly when he talks about games — and then wind up agreeing with the second half of this, his closing sentiment:

So now that we know what game we are playing and assumedly what is required to win it, we can employ these insights to lay out a path toward building the Army our country will need in 2025 and beyond. It is our duty, and our country depends on us to get it right.

We don’t know what game we are playing, nor — love that word “assumedly” — what is required to win it. And if I’m right about this, how can our potentially mistaken insights help us “lay out a path toward building the Army our country will need in 2025 and beyond” — when “getting it right” is liable to be an emergent property, only recognizable as such in retrospect?

Let me cut to my main objection, for which Gen. Perkins’ checkers and chess games are analogies. Of the two games, Perkins said:

Checkers and chess are played on the same style board, but the games are far from similar. For a long time, the Army has designed forces based on a “checkers-based” world outlook. Today, we’re switching to a “chess-based” appreciation of the world.

I’ll come back to this game metaphor in time, but the paragraph I first halted at, for which the games paragraph I just quoted is a metaphor, is this one:

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, we lived in a “complicated” world, but one with a single defining enemy for which we could plan against. In today’s “complex” world, there is no single defined future foe with relatively known capabilities, doctrines and intent. This is not a minor point, as designing and building the future Army rests upon what kind of world we expect to see.

I’m not at all sure jointness will mean anything at all like “cross-service cooperation in all stages of the military processes, from research, through procurement and into operations’ — whether the services be Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, or also include the National Guard, whether we think in terms of Land, Sea, Air, and Space, or throw in Cyber. What if jointness is better conceived of in terms of heart, mind and soul?

Our command structure isn’t structured along those lines, so we can’t put the Chief of Staff of the Heart, the Commandant of Minds, and the Chief of Soul Operations under the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and call them the Joint Chiefs — the very absurdity of the phrasing makes the whole idea almost ridiculous.

And yet heart, mind and soul — or for that matter, the Buddhist body, mind and speech — are the fundamental building blocks of a full and sane human personhood, and their social equivalents the equivalent bases of a full and sane human society.

Maybe heart, mind and soul are more basic than land, air and sea?

Did we ever think of that?

What I’m suggesting here, in fact, is that the challenges we face may differ from previous challenges in this: that they won’t fall into the expected mold, they won’t look to us like challenges at all, we won’t categorize or react to them as such — in short, that they will be oblique to our assumptions and expectations.

One other point of disagreement, briefly:

by 2005 we confronted a well-understood problem in Afghanistan and Iraq, and began optimizing much of the Army to meet that current threat

Oh really? You could have fooled Zarqawi!

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Getting back to games, we have some very nice comparisons and metamorphoses already “in play” in the strategic literature. Perkins’ “Checkers to Chess” is one, “Ghess to Go” is another and more sophisticated example — Scott Boorman‘s The Protracted Game: A Wei-Ch’i Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy is the classic here — “Chess to Star Trek’s 3-D chess” is another one worth considering, or “Chess to Mjolnir’s Game” for that matter, “Go to Buckminster Fuller‘s World Game” yet another, while “Go to the Glass Bead Game” is clearly one which would fascinate me personally..

But I’m convinced, as I’ve said before, that the game we need to understand is the one known as Calvinball:

Calvinball — Calvin and Hobbes‘ favourite game to play. There is only one main rule in the game — that you can’t play it the same way twice.

Now that game idea is an audacious one, rivaling and perhaps even surpassing Peter Suber‘s awesome game, Nomic:

in which the rules of the game include mechanisms for the players to change those rules, usually beginning through a system of democratic voting. Nomic is a game in which changing the rules is a move.

When I meantion Calvinball, I not infrequently quote the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre:

Not one game is being played, but several, and, if the game metaphor may be stretched further, the problem about real life is that moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to by a lob over the net.

Now that’s talking!

And Roland Barthes:

This public knows very well the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence. One can bet on the outcome of a boxing-match: with wrestling, it would make no sense. A boxing-match is a story which is constructed before the eyes of the spectator; in wrestling, on the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not the passage of time… The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling-fan, while on the contrary a boxing-match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result.

Switching games?

We’re blurring game-boards in real time, according to CTC Sentinel editor-in-chief Paul Cruikshank:

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Okay, here’s another mind in the Natsec arena, that switches the playing field from “game as cricket or chess” to “game as zero-sum or non-zero sum” — President Rouhani of Iran, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post — Iran, mark you, in WaPo — who says:

The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.

Rouhani is pretty conservative in Iranian terms, though we sometimes consider him a reformer — but very “other” in his thinking, compared to ours. And if we wish to game him, our Red Team must be able to think as ably and otherly as he does.

How would TRADOC suggest we adapt to a shift in games of that sort?

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H/t The Strategy Bridge.

Trolleys come to Terror

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

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

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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?

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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

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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.

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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.

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Relevant texts:

  • John Daido Loori, Sitting with Koans
  • John Daido Loori, The True Dharma Eye
  • Loading up for Survival, Church and State

    Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Merkel’s under attack for recommending Germans keep a two-week supply of food ]
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    Mormon faithful are exhorted by the First Presidency of their Church in a pamphlet titled All is safely gathered in “to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water and some money in savings.” Specific recommendations follow:

    THREE-MONTH SUPPLY

    Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items each week to build a one-week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient for three months. These items should be rotated regularly to avoid spoilage.

    DRINKING WATER

    Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply may be polluted or disrupted. If water comes directly from a good, pretreated source then no additional purification is needed; otherwise, pretreat water before use. Store water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for
    juices and soda. Keep water containers away from heat sources and direct sunlight.

    FINANCIAL RESERVE

    Establish a financial reserve by saving a little money each week and gradually increasing it to a reasonable amount (see All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances guide).

    LONGER-TERM SUPPLY

    For longer-term needs, and where permitted, gradually build a supply of food that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice, and beans. These items can last 30 years or more when properly packaged and stored in a cool, dry place. A portion of these items may be rotated in your three-month supply.

    That’s a pretty comprehensive survival plan, and while it allows for those who are just starting to prepare themselves to begin incrementally, it’s first real target is three months’ preparedness and longer-term vision extends out to thirty years.

    Note that the motivation here is to live in accordance with the divine will as it may be applicable to human circumstance.

    **

    Compare that with what the secular state of Germany is currently proposing. Deutsche Welle, under the heading What emergency supplies do you need? reports the following:

    Germany’s government is mulling a plan requiring citizens to stock up on food and supplies in case of a natural disaster or armed attack. So what should you have in your pantry? Here’s our comprehensive checklist.

    The stockpile plan outlined in the government’s “Concept for Civil Defense” paper obligates Germans to store 10 days’ worth of food and five days’ worth of drinking water. The idea is for people to have enough supplies – including cash and medicine – on hand to get them through an emergency situation before government assistance kicks in.

    The level of preparedness proposed in the paper hasn’t been seen since the end of the Cold War. The strategy was originally commissioned by a parliamentary committee in 2012, but its release now comes amid a raft of new security measures and heightened terror concerns. Still, its contents aren’t new – German authorities have long urged households to store two weeks’ worth of emergency supplies.

    The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, for example, has published a checklist online with recommended supplies for a 14-day period. The most important thing on the list is water – 28 liters per person for a fortnight, or around two liters per day. People can survive a few weeks without food, but only four days without liquid.

    The Ministry of Food even has an online “calculator” to help you work out what kind of food – and how much – to stock up on. It recommends 4.9 kilograms of cereal-based products like rice, bread and noodles per person per fortnight. It also suggests 5.6kg of veggies, 3.7kg each of milk products and fruit and nuts, and 2.1kg of fish and meat. All food should be able to last without refrigeration.

    The government also advises keeping a medicine cabinet stocked with supplies in case it’s not possible to get to a hospital. That means, among other things, a first aid kit, the necessary personal prescription drugs, cold medicine, painkillers, anti-diarrhea and nausea medicine, electrolytes, a thermometer and disinfectant.

    Here the anticipated survival time is two weeks, or fourteen days.

    **

    I don’t know what the prophets, seers, and revelators of the First Presidency have been shown, what ISIS may be plotting, what German intelligence suspects, nor what the future has in mind for us. I do know that Matthew 6.34 counsels:

    Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    and that this is generally considered sufficient precaution for the lilies of the field, but that readers of John Robb may well find it insufficiently flexible — if taken literally — to survive encounters with a succession of inbound black swans. And as is often the case with scripture, preparedness too has its place, as indicated by the “kingdom” parable of the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25.1-13.

    I note here that the spiritual claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affords the First Presidency the opportunity to call for far more extensive planning than the German Chancellor can ask of her citizens without considerable brouhaha.

    Hence:

    Three months (minimally) to two weeks (suggested) is the recommended preparedness ratio between the (Mormon) Church and (German) State.

    Whence does authority derive?

    McCants explains the Saudis, Quantico rebukes them

    Friday, August 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Saudi-sourced jihadism, the FBI, Baader-Meinhof — hey, it’s all about terrosism ]
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    Will McCants explains [upper panel, below] how the Saudis are and are not promoting terrorism —

    Tablet DQ 600 arsonist

    — while a screen-cap from episode 9 in the first season of Quantico explains just why such an approach is logically bound to be defective.

    **

    Oh well, not to worry. It’s just another example of the illusion colloquially known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. I wouldn’t want to go all irrational on you, so I’ll let RationalWiki explain:

    The frequency illusion (also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon) is the phenomenon in which people who just learn or notice something start seeing it everywhere.

    Except that — well, there it is again — Baader-Meinhof — it’s all terrorism!


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