Latest mixed game metaphor catch-all

December 1st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Kasparov on chess, dominoes ]

Dominoes falling, we all know, at least since Vietnam, are a choice metaphor for one thing leading to another, and chess, regular or played in 3 or 4 dimensions, is a common metaphor for the complexity of natsec issues.

Here’s Kasparov:

It’s tedious for ZP readers to see every mixed game entry individually, so I’ll make this a catch-all post, and collect them here. The classic instance remains Cakvinball, with Alasdair MacIntyre’s quote a close second. Since chess remains chess no matter how many dimensions the board has, it’s a piss poor analogy for reality: Calvinball is a far superior game metaphor. And what a game!

As you love life

December 1st, 2017

{ by Charles Cameron — the definitive CT DQ }

This isn’t particularly timely, but it does offer the definitive refutation from Deuteronomy of the jihadist slogan.-

Heaven and earth are witnesses — not the paper of record — heaven and earth. There’s a difference.

Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox End-Times Talk

November 30th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the US as seen through Russian eyes! ]

Under the headline I’ve made the title of this post, John Schindler, ex-NSA Kremlin-watcher gives us something invaluable — the US as viewed through Russian eyes.

Imagine that! The Russians don’t see us through Western eyes, the way we see ourselves! No, they see us through nationalistic political and religiously Orthodox eyes, yup, religiously Orthodox eyes.

The yawning gap between Russian and Western values can be partly explained by the fact that Communism shielded the former from the West’s vast cultural shifts since the 1960s. Living under the Old Left provided protection against the New Left. As a result, Russians are living in our past and find current Western ways incomprehensible and even contemptible.

Imagine the moon disk as a halo over Russia, do we see, do we understand things differently? KGB Putin the Orthodox believer?

Religion! Oh, noe! The Kremlin takes religious passion seriously: it’s got not just an ideology but a theology.

Schindler makes this clear — we need for this insight to jump from his page, not merely to be read but to be absorbed, to suffuse our thinkimg. But there’s more.

A religious Kremlin?

This means Orthodox theology deeply entangled with Russian political analysis — as explained by Putin‘s pal, the Patriarch Kirill:

Simply put, Kirill explained, America today is doing to itself what the Bolsheviks did to Russia: forcing a godless, secular ideology onto society. “Christian values are being destroyed… The West is abandoning God, but Russia is not abandoning God, like the majority of people in the world. That means the distance between our values is increasing,” he stated bluntly. Kirill’s insistence that America and the West are the outliers here, with Russia and most of the world on the side of traditional religion and values, is an important point that merits pondering.

The traditionalist nature of Putinism, always present, has grown more intense in recent years as the Kremlin has sought to enshrine an official ideology as confrontation with the West has grown. Whatever Vladimir Putin may actually believe, he has played the public role of an Orthodox believer quite effectively. He has cultivated senior ROC clerics, who provide regime-endorsing soundbites as needed, and the church gives Putin legitimacy in the eyes of average Russians, who aren’t especially religious in terms of church-going, yet they see an Orthodox identity as reassuring and plausible in Communism’s wake.

And Orthodox apocalyptic?

Every time I think end times thinking must have had its day, up it pops again.

Even the Mueller inquiry runs up against it – Gulen, the reclusive cleric Turkey wants to snatch from his Poconos compound, is believed by many of his followers to be the God-given, rightly guided Mahdi, Islam’s end timess Savior figure, roughly. That’s something Rachel Maddow should take note of.

Here we go again:

The notorious gadfly Aleksandr Dugin goes further: “Simply said, the Antichrist will not come before there will not be anymore supporters [of Orthodoxy]… What is the coming of Antichrist? It is secularism. It is modernization. Westernization. Materialism. Scientific development. The concept of progress.” He added that Putin is “exactly” the figure who is resisting the Antichrist on earth.

Dugin, it should be noted, isn’t some random flake or religious nut, he’s a Big Idea thinker who’s taken somewhat seriously in the Kremlin, although his real role seems to be Moscow’s ambassador-at-large to the Western far-right. He is close to the Russian security services and he runs a website that pushes his hardline Orthodox nationalist message in several languages, including English. Its name comes from the Greek word for “he who resists the Antichrist.”

Okay, that’s only Aleksandr Dugin — but then again, it’s Aleksandr Dugin. Watch out, this stuff is contagious!

Whoo-eee! Two new significant end times entries in one week. And nukes.

Giving Critical Thinking Some Critical Thought

November 29th, 2017

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

This is a useful, quick read…

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?: Intelligence is not the same as critical thinking and the difference matters

….The advantages of being intelligent are undeniable. Intelligent people are more likely to get better grades and go farther in school. They are more likely to be successful at work. And they are less likely to get into trouble (e.g., commit crimes) as adolescents. Given all the advantages of intelligence, though, you may be surprised to learn that it does not predict other life outcomes, such as well-being. You might imagine that doing well in school or at work might lead to greater life satisfaction, but several large-scale studies have failed to find evidence that IQ impacts life satisfaction or longevity. University of Waterloo psychologist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people, do “dumb” things.

The ability to think critically, on the other hand, has been associated with wellness and longevity. Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion, and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate. Critical thinkers are amiable skeptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all sorts of cognitive biases (e.g., hindsight bias, confirmation bias).

Read the rest here.

Most people will say (without critical thought) that critical thinking is a good thing but fail to define what they mean by that term. Usually right before they complain that schools and higher ed aren’t imparting the desired but undefined critical thinking skills to their students. While this stereotypical complaint is accurate as far as a generalization, it underestimates how much imparting such skills in students is generally opposed in practice by Left and Right. Argumentative peons who can think for themselves? Really, when in history has this ever been popular? Seldom with rulers and not often with the ruled; sheep do not enjoy the bark of the sheepdog even when the dog is defending the flock from the wolf.

There are idiotic factions on the Right, often socially conservative home schooler types who openly complain about “critical thinking” in the public schools as s kind of liberal conspiracy to replace content knowledge. It isn’t. Though the reverse idea, to minimize the idea of a canon of core content knowledge,  has appeared in ed fads, including aspects of the (deservedly) controversial Common Core Standards which was pushed by a cabal of billionaires, establishment GOP hacks, the Pearson corporation and the Obama administration in order to nationalize the school curriculum and vastly increase standardized testing. It is this recurring pattern of of political-academic-big business charlatanism in American education that gives this perennial right wing complaint traction. The public ed community in the past 40 years has pushed a lot of dubious programs and theories on students and the taxpayers. And still are; often in service of bureaucratic or political agendas like corporate ed reform.

The political  Left is no better and in some ways, worse. If ever there was a cultish, anti-critical thinking, movement for brain dead indoctrination, it’s the social justice/identity politics movement. Rarely have more intelligent people been made to say stupidly nonsensical things on a college campus than in the past two years. It’s play-acting Red Guardism  and vicious moral one-upmanship but as an ideology, SJW identity politics works socially as a self-referential, closed system to inoculate the believer from any need to consider contrary ideas and justify, if need be, violently suppressing them in others.

Critical thinking involves a capacity to use logical reasoning, the skills at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, probabilistic reasoning and several other important intellectual skills in pursuit of rational, skeptical inquiry. It’s powerful.  So powerful that it has been an engine of mankind’s progress whenever it has been given enough freedom to flourish. The flip side is that critical thinking in essence and outcome is also ultimately subversive of all ideologies and regimes. Without exception – and there is the rub. There’s a reason in other words, that Athens put Socrates to death. And we are no better. We do it daily on Twitter, albeit metaphorically because millions of Americans today can neither think critically nor stand to see others do it if it calls their cherished sacred cows to account.

We can teach critical thinking skills along with content. It’s not hard, assuming you can think critically yourself. We don’t systemically do this because we create ed systems designed to prevent it (public ed) or hire an army of people opposed to critical thinking on principle (university diversity bureaucracy). I’ll end my rant on this thought: immediately improving American education across the board at all levels could be done without costing one additional cent, but it means getting a lot of self-serving, politicized, rubbish out of the way.

Pecking, not typing

November 27th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron [


I’d like to thank all who greet my birthday or otherwise interact with neFx, but as I currently make 80% typos, hold my puter up to my nose, and peck, letter by letter, all my posts have been wrestled out of silence, and many more I’ve felt in my heart and never posted.

Please keep writing!

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