[ by Charles Cameron — chyrons, headlines and quotes as before — including that damn elite schools admissions fraud — some moving in the direction of micro-essays with graphics toppings — in other words, don’t miss them! ]
What I’m after here is understanding how reading between the lines corresponds with knowing the known unknowns, and how those two mutually compatible metaphors triangulate with a more distant pair, following trails of breadcumbs and connecting dots.
Somehow our writer found all four necessary to outline — there’s another one — her insight.
So: what can we learn?
Perhaps the most curious detail comes elsewhere in the G.R.U. indictment, when Mueller notes how one particular spear-phishing attempt aimed at the Hillary Clinton campaign was both a “first time” effort, and conducted “after hours.” These may seem like bread crumbs to a popular audience, but they’re more significant Morse-code tappings to jurisprudential scholars, suggesting that the hackers’ strategy could have shifted at a crucial moment.
This investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up,” a source close to the White House observed in November 2017, as the probe was heating up. This approach has also created immense political uncertainty surrounding the outcome of his final report. In the G.R.U. indictment, for instance, prosecutors for the special counsel’s office wrote that Russian intelligence officers “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury” in order to interfere with the 2016 election. Does the fact that Mueller hasn’t charged those “known and unknown” people mean that he can’t make his case, or that he’s just been working his way up the food chain?
With the two-year anniversary of Mueller’s appointment this spring, some of the juiciest—and arguably most consequential—questions about Russian election interference and the Trump campaign remain unanswered. But every bizarre detail or curious omission from Mueller to date could be a bread crumb leading to what the special counsel is preparing next. The investigation’s known unknowns are an investigative road map.
Just for the tone / phrasing of the chyron:
Okay, let’s back off politics for a moment, and track just a few instances of Life Imitates Art from the New Yorker archive:
Hollywood has had character problems for years: a Shrek maced a group of female tourists, a Chewbacca head-butted a tour operator, a Batman kicked out the windows of a police car. “We’ve arrested Captain America, we’ve arrested Sponge Bob,” Captain Bea Girmala, the commanding officer of L.A.P.D.’s Hollywood Division, said. “Over the years, many of the costumed people we have arrested have had felony convictions, sex-crime-related convictions.” She went on, “We’ve seen characters walk off the boulevard, and hit the coke pipe or shoot up.” Intense competition for tips can turn the street into a crossover comic come to life. Batman vs. Kato: Chest kick—boom! Cartwheeling arms—pow! tight on: A puddle of blood congealing on the Walk of Fame.
In the snow-globe-like tourist zones of America’s cities, character crime is on the rise.
Also from the New Yorker, a different Life imitates Art angle, which also adds to our Sanctity of the unsavory collection:
David Grann, The Old Man and the Gun Forrest Tucker had a long career robbing banks, and he wasn’t willing to retire.
The outlaw, in the American imagination, is a subject of romance—a “good” bad man, he is typically a master of escape, a crack shot, a ladies’ man. In 1915, when the police asked the train robber Frank Ryan why he did it, he replied, “Bad companions and dime novels. Jesse James was my favorite hero.”
Headliners:Mueller MSNBC docu:
He led that charge, and it was like turning the Titanic .. [turning FBI to CT]
He has the ability to just raise everybody’s game ..
And a couple of spares:
Meacham, 11th Hour, date uncertain but close: Even Dante might be flummoxed by the number of [criminals] 23 have here [ie in the cabinet, around DJT]
I think he [Beto] runs and he kicks it out of the stadium in his first three weeks .[fundraising?]
He’s a different President than he was in the last two years, in that he’s not completely restricted but we’ve put an ankle-monitor on him; now when he does this outrageous conduct we can actually check and put balances against him ..
It depends a lot as to what the President’s game theory of what Mueller has and wants to do already is. I don’t know what that is ..
And if Mueller comes out and doesn’t have a smoking gun, or if he has a smoking gun and is not getting impeached, doesn’t he feel bullet-prooff?
Ari Melber, the Beat 3/11/2019:
We begin with Mueller grinding down two former Trump aides..
There’s other developments, though, that are also knocking up in the Mueller probe this week. This is part of why people, some people, say it’s like the ninth inning ..
I wonder if you would handicap both of these ruling this week ..
I think the hammer is going to fall, and it’s going to fall very severely ..
Do you expect Judge Jackson will hit Manafrt for what happened elsewhere, or is she going to stay laser-focused on these charges? ..
She’s going to call this one a foul tip ..
What jumps to you about the foul tip analogy is interesting? ..
How much of this could be the fault line of the Democratic primary? ..
It’s a warning shot ..
Hardball — Chris Matthews:
And they say you gotta play to win, unless you’re Donald Trump and you own the golf course..
Trophies for everyone ..
Anyway, how he won the gloves championship without even competing ..
And let’s close with..
Operation Varsity Blues:
This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud. There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, and I’ll add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of hard-working, talented students strive for admission to elite schools. As every parent knows, these students work harder and harder every year, in a system that appears to grow more and more competitive every year.
And that system is a zero-sum game. For every student admitted through fraud, one honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.
Bryan, lately of Vermont and now at Georgetown, is our keenest observer of the higher educational future. He coined the term peak higher education in 2013 — like peak oil, but for education, right? — and has been tracking it since then. At some point, he added the notion of queen sacrifice — “A queen sacrifice is when a college or university cuts faculty, especially full-time professors, usually as part of shrinking or ending certain academic programs” — and has made at least sixty posts in which queens are sacrificed, and one on a knight or rook sacrifice? (sports). Bryan‘s latest post is Casualties of the future. In it, he writes:
That academic phase hasn’t been clearly replaced yet. The new phase’s nature isn’t fully evident. Perhaps its outlines will become apparent after several years of change. I’ve speculated on what that next higher education phase might look like here and elsewhere. But for now, let’s consider the present as a moment in between those two phases. That’s our time, right in the midst of a switching period, a liminal space, marked by uncertainty and instability. We’re in a boundary zone.
Okay: a gentleman scholar as wise as he is bearded — and that’s a considerable double-barreled compliment — sees fit to emphasize the liminal in his latest broadside on higher education and its current obsession with cutting arts and humanities programs and various faculty members — ahem, bringing new and far broader meaning, in fact, to the concept of cutting classes. And why?
Why provide a graphic of brick wall(s) unless, somehow, the idea of breaks, gaps, thresholds, borders, leaps, in short the liminal, is of intrinsic importance?
Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?
We can consider the cases of women from the US, UK and elsewhere who volunteered for ISIS and now wish to return home.
Here’s a paragraph to transition us smoothly:
How easy should it be to give up your citizenship? In the era of Oswald, it could be difficult—like joining an especially selective monastic order that turns away aspirants until they kneel in the snow for a few days outside the monastery or consulate’s doors. Now a U.S. citizen can stop being American with a single visit to a consulate. (Most renounce not for ideological reasons but to avoid the complications of living as an American expatriate, subject to dual taxation and bureaucratic requirements far more onerous than for expatriates of almost any other country.)
That’s a liminalissue, questions of citizenship and borders are liminal. And Bryan is talking liminality when he talks education.
Here’s a quick liminal zing from Abigail Tracy, in the title and subtitle of here Atlantic piece:
I’d have been happy to include this in my chyrons and headers collection, but between the lines is too nicely liminal to miss.
A limen is a <threshold: it ‘s neither one thing nor the other, it’s in-between. And in-between is a time or state of transition, often tricky — think of the interregnum between the election of a President and his or her Inauguration — and often deeply human — we’re stuck with human nature, every one of us, which as Solzhenitsyn noted has a fault line in it more significant perhaps than even the fissure that separates our left and right cerebral hemispheres. Stunning us, he wrote:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
There’s liminality for you.
Here’s how Bryan ends his post:
There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.
The war we fight is not against powers and principalities — see my earlier post today on spiritual warfare. And The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation — the horror, the blessing of liminality.
SEAL training is the great equalizer: If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart — and that deep sense of being equalized by sand. tide, and fatigue, brings with it fine-grained humility and profound bonding with ones’ fellows.
Victor Turner was the anthropologist who made liminality the corner-stone of his great work, The Ritual Process — see how closely his ideas correspond with McRaven‘s SEAL training. Back in my early post on the topic here on ZP, I wrote:
Basing his own work on van Gennep‘s account of rites of passage, Turner sees such rites as involving three phases: before, liminal, and after.
Before, you’re a civilian, after, you’re a Marine — but during, there’s an extraordinary moment when you’ve lost your civilian privileges, not yet earned your Marine status, and are less than nothing — as the drill sergeant constantly reminds you — and yet feel an intense solidarity with your fellows.
Before, you’re a novice, not yet “professed”, after, you’re a monk — but during, you lie prostrate on the paving stones of the abbey nave as you transition into lifelong vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
There are two things to note here. One is that liminality is a *humility* device, the other is that is creates a strong sense of bonding which Turner calls *communitas*: in one case, the Marine’s esprit de corps, in the other quite literally a monastic community. Part of what is so fascinating here is the (otherwise not necessarily obvious) insight that humility and community are closely related.
earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:
[ by Charles Cameron — well, three — what I read on FB, and what Chinese AI can now deduce about me ]
Carla Cahill‘s catch, I think, speaks for itself — the super blood wolf moon caught at exactly the right moment:
Okay, I saw this jet coming, so I acted fast and got it along with the Blood, Wolf, Blue, Eclipse Moon!
The photographer’s gift is eternal alertness.
This DoubleQuote response to the #tenyearchallrnge showing a dying coral reef, via John Kellden and March for Science:
Friend Marshall Massey contributed this example:
I somehow suspect the photographer of the coral reef — the Great Barrier Reef? — didn’t mark the exact few “leaves” of coral he photographed ten years earlier, and then returned to those exact few leaves ten years later — I imagine he may have returned to the same rough spot where he — or she, why do I suppose a he? — had taken her first shot, and found a similar spot to take the second.
Or were there in fact two photographers? The similarity of the two photos almost convinces me of a single photographer with his eye on the same exact sport for years — his or her wife, lover or friends bringing sandwiches every day for ten years, sleepless nights under a cold moon..
Except both photos were presumably taken by a diver or divers, underwater..
Ah, the human mind!
And the forest / mine pair — were they taken at the same spot, roughly the same spot — or close enough to make a point, maybe a few miles apart, with the second shot positioned to include the truck..?
This was too rich to omit. Ali Minai wrote:
I don’t read or speak Urdu, so knowing Ali is an AI expert, I asked for translations from two AIs. FB’s in-house translator gave me:
It’s very short of the dead country.
The ironic is the same, yooo change.
Google Translate gave me:
History is very short of my country
Satyam is the same, the stars keep changing
Okay, those two give me state of the art, readily available AI capabilities. I then asked Ali how he would translate the couplet into English.. and gave my own best guess, sticking my neck out and working from similarities between the two AI versions:
History short-changes my native land —
ah, but truth’s the same, as changeable as the stars.
Here’s Ali’s very gracious response:
Aha! Sense at last — English sense, that is.
I think this entire episode is a living, breathing testament to the state of the art in intelligence — artificial and embodied. Way to go, Ali Minai
Chinese AI looking for vulnerabilities to exploit will now think I’m an Urdu speaker, because I commented on Ali Minai‘s Urdu post. And ZP’s version of WordPress couldn’t even render Ali’s couplet except as:
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.