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Moreau, Richter, I happen to think there’s a link

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — it’s one of the perennial fascinations — what’s the relationship between embodiment and abstraction? ]
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Do you see it?

**

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Minimally, Richter could weave cloth for Moreau‘s goddess-women..

A Dystopian Trilogy Worth Your Time

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

[by J. Scott Shipman]

Wool, by Hugh Howey

Shift, by Hugh Howey

Dust, by Hugh Howey

Friends, In 2013 I read Hugh Howey’s Wool after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal. Howey’s is a cinderella story; he wrote his novel in installments at his blog, and his story, Wool was picked up by a publisher. The response was so overwhelming, Howey wrote Shift, which is a very good prequel and Dust picks up the story to the conclusion.

I gave away my paper copy of Wool  a couple years ago, but was pleased to see a graphic novel of the same title by Jimmy Palmiotti (Author), Justin Gray (Author), Hugh Howey (Author), Jimmy Broxton (Illustrator), Darwyn Cooke (Illustrator). The graphic novel filled in the gaps of my memory and helped visualize Howey’s imaginative and frightening new world below ground.

This trilogy is summer reading at its best. Story has duplicitous politicians, brave idealists and truly clever on-the-fly tactics—and a bit of not-too-syrupy true love. Howey is a gifted storyteller and weaves a credible yarn of a future where humanity is consigned to silos buried within the earth and surrounded by a poisonous atmosphere.

Strong recommendation!

 

 

Jordan Peterson, ouroboroi, paradise, and so forth

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — oh damn, cameron’s on about the ouroboros again, when do we get to strategy? ]
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A slide from a youtubed lecture:

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I have found someone who gives emphasis to many of the things I give emphasis to, and which few other peple emphasize. And FWIW, the Jungians do this better than most, but then I’ve been reading and appreciating them for ages. This is new.

Okay, Jordan Peterson. He’s been thinking across a wide range of fundamental concepts for many years now, and considerable fame has accrued to him. How I managed not to notice him until now, I’ll never know. Here he is, anyhow —

— with that ouroboros slide faintly visible behind him. The limits of vision, faintness included, are among his many interests, FWIW.

**

I’ve read Tanner Greer‘s recent critique of Peterson, which was enough to catch my inner eye, and then today there was an invite from Zen —

Hell yes.

And I’m maybe ten minutes into that lecture, have skipped around a bit, and went back to lecture #7 for a clear shot of the ouroboros behind him, which I’ve now inserted at the top of this post.

**

Peterson’s ouroboros is a conflation of a bird, a cat and a snake — wings, claws and venom — birds, cats and snakes being the three classes of being that can kill you from a tree. A “winged, legged serpent” — the “dragon of chaos”. That’s not how I get to the ouroboros, and my equivalent interest is in its recursive nature.

I wrote the poem below, as far as memory serves, in the Anscombe-Geach living room, heart of Oxford’s superb logic team at the time, back in the mid nineteen-sixties, and published it, I think, in Micharel Horovitz‘ 1969 anthology of Britain’s equivalent of the USian beat poets, Childrenn of Albion — wow, of which you could have purchased Amazon’s sole remaining copy for $729.32 as I was writing this — now it’s only $32.57 — is that a difference that makes a difference?

Here’s the poem:

I formatted it more recently in a HipBone Games manner, as a single move with a recursive tail.

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Another significance of the ouroboros for Peterson is that the serpent (antagonistic to us) guards a treasure (to be desired)..

So along with recursion, we have predatory chaos, aka the unknown and indeed unknowable unknown, and the treasure trove or hoard. And as you might intuit, it’s a short leap from there to the word-hoard — poetry in the palm of your mind, with an early mention in Beowulf.

Here are a few gems from Peterson’s seemingly inexhaustible hoard:

  • there’s no place that’s so safe that there isn’t a snake in it..
  • even God himself can’t define the space so tightly and absolutely that the predator of the unknown can’t make its way in..
  • that’s the story of the garden
  • — and those are from maybe a three minute stretch of a two hour lecture — the word means “reading” — one of forty, is it, in the series?

    **

    Phew. I just received the book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, from Amazon —

    — the print is small — too small for me — stronger glasses coming soon..

    **

    Look, Stormy Daniels was just on 60 Minutes, offering prurient interest under cover of adversarial politics, how could I resist? I could have watched ten more minutes of Peterson video, and grabbed twice the number of notes I’ve made here — but that can wait.

    Stormy Daniels and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, can show you strategy..

    Ah, but Jordon Peterson can show you abstraction.

    **

    Consider the recent school shootings. I go back to Columbine.. Peterson goes back to abstraction, mapping, and time-space:

    For example, we’re all sitting in this room, and someone leaps in with a weapon.

    It’s like this was known territory a second ago, and now it’s not known territory at all. Even though you’d say, well many things have remained the same, it’s like, yeah, but all the relevant things have suddenly changed, right? And so part of the way of conceptualizing that is that you can manifest a geographic transformation by moving from genuine geographic explored territory into genuine unexplored geographic territory. But you can do that in time as well. Because we exist in time as well as space. And so a space that’s stable and unchanging can be transformed into something completely other than what it is, by the movement forward of time. So why am I telling you that? It’s because we’ve mapped the idea of the difference in space, between the known and the unknown, to the difference in time between a place that works now and a place that no longer works, even though it’s the same place, it’s just extended across time.

    Consider the recent election:

    That’s what an election does, right?

    It’s like, we have our leader, who’s the person at the top of the dominance hierarchy, and defined the nature of this particulatr structure. There’s an election, regulated chaos, noone knows what’s going to happen, it’s the death of the old king, bang! We go into a chaotic state, everyone argues for a while, and then out of that argument they produce a consensus, and poof, we’re in a new state, like that’s the meta-story, right, order > chaos > order, but it’s partial order, chaos, reconstituted and revivified order — that’s the thing, that this order is better than that order, so that there’s progress, and that’s partially why I think the idea of moral relativism is wrong – there’s progress in moral order.

    Note:

  • plenty of intelligence
  • no actionable intelligence
  • a high level of abstraction
  • following the logic of evolution
  • not the logic of logic
  • too paradoxical for that
  • **

    That’s more than enough.

    Au revoir, quite literally!

    Recommended Reading—Summer 2016

    Monday, July 11th, 2016

    [by J. Scott Shipman]

    Storm of Creativity2017

    wright-brothers-biographyserendipities

    Paradisejssundertow

    white horsewashington

     

    The Storm of Creativity, by Kyna Leski

    2017 War With Russia, by General Sir Richard Shirreff

    The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

    Serendipities, Language and Lunacy, by Umberto Eco

    Paradise, Dante Alighieri, translated by Mark Musa

    Undertow, by Stanton S. Coerr

    The White Horse Cometh, by Rich Parks

    Washington The Indispensable Man, by John Thomas Flexner

    This list starts the first week of May, so perhaps the title should be Spring/Summer. Most of these books are quick reads and all are recommended.

    I picked up Ms. Leski’s book at an MIT bookshop on a business trip in early May and read on the train ride home. Books on creativity are ubiquitous, but Ms. Leski takes an interesting approach by describing the creative process using the metaphor of a storm. Several ZP readers will find of interest.

    2017 was recommended by a friend. The author was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the book focuses on a Europe/NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. Written in a Tom Clancy-like style, the plot is fast-paced even though the good general provides sometimes provides detailed insights into the inner workings of NATA and the North Atlantic Council (this is one of the values of the book—bureaucracy writ-large).

    David McCullough’s Wright Brothers delivers an approachable and human accounting of the first men of powered flight. Some reviews on Amazon complain McCullough lifts and uses too many quotes to tell the story. At times the quotes were distracting, but not enough to prevent the enjoyment of the story of two brothers who changed the world. This book was a gift otherwise I probably would not have read.

    Serendipities is a short book, but was a long read for me. Eco explains how language and the pursuit of the perfect language has confounded thinkers since time immemorial. He refers to Marco Polo’s unicorn (also used in his Kant and the Platypus which is excellent) explaining how language is often twisted to meet a preconceived notion or idea. The first couple of chapters were quite good, chapters three and four did not hold my interest or were over my head. The closing chapter was good enough to convince me I’ll need to read this little book again. (My Eco anti-library has been growing of late.)

    Eco’s book led me to reread Musa’s excellent translation of Paradise. My son gave me the deluxe edition with parallel Italian and English, plus commentary. Eco referenced Canto 26 and 27, and I enjoyed the break so much I read the whole thing!

    Undertow is my good friend Stan Coerr’s second book of poetry.  His first book Rubicon was a moving collection of poetry of men at war. Undertow deals more with the heart and is quite good, too. You won’t be disappointed.

    White Horse is also a book by an old friend, Rich Parks (we’ve known each other since the mid-80’s). White Horse is self-published and in places it shows, but the overall story is quite good for a first book (I’ve already told him his book would make an excellent screenplay.). The plot is quick and entertaining even if a bit unbelievable, but the story is fiction. Rich is following up with a sequel in August in 2016 and I’ll be reading it, too.

    Mr. Flexner’s Washington was a gift, too. In this quick biography Washington is made approachable and human. And when I say “quick,” I mean quick…Trenton and Princeton took one chapter compared to David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing which took up a standalone book. If someone were looking for a first Washington biography, this would be a good place to start.

    This isn’t the conclusion of my summer reading, but a pretty good start.What are  you reading this summer?

    Pavers of Roads with Good Intentions: R2P Debate Rising Part II.

    Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

    As I mentioned previously, I needed to make a more substantive reply to Victor Allen’s claims for R2P.  I am very tardy in doing so, for which I apologize to Mr. Allen but better late than not at all. While addressing some of Victor’s specific points, I want to be very clear that in my view:

    1. R2P’s status in international law, despite grandiose claims by advocates, is weakly grounded, highly controversial and conflicts with accepted norms of state sovereignty

    2.  The concept of R2P is a covert revival of the pre-WWI sovereign right to  wage aggressive war, albeit (usually) under some kind of collective imprimatur

    3,  If regarded as a serious legal moral principle entailing an obligation to act, R2P is inherently anti-strategic, injurious to national interest and anti-democratic in nature

    I will tackle point #1 today and points # 2 and #3 in successive posts.

    In Victor’s original piece he argued that R2P is part and parcel of a (theoretical) “new sovereignty”:

    That R2P does not violate sovereignty stems from the evolution of sovereignty from its Westphalian form in the mid 17th century to the “sovereignty as responsibility” concept advanced by Deng, et al. Modern sovereignty can no longer be held to give states carte blanche in their internal affairs regardless of the level of suffering going on within their borders. This does not diminish state agency for internal affairs, but rather holds them responsible and accountable for their action and inaction regarding the welfare of their populations. 

    “Sovereignty as responsibility”  is a theory put forth by a Sudanese diplomat and minor UN bureaucrat and an American academic that proclaimed:

    The authors assert that sovereignty can no longer be seen as a protection against interference, but as a charge of responsibility where the state is accountable to both domestic and external constituencies.

    The “…and external constituencies” clause is an Orwellian negation of the traditional meaning of sovereignty where the state has sole de jure authority over such matters as their internal affairs, including the political character of their regime,  with very narrow exceptions mandated by treaty or customary international law ( ex. diplomatic immunity of heads of state).  The latter, is based on consent and derives from the history of the diplomatic norms adhered to, interpreted and practiced by sovereigns and such rulings of IGO to whose authority sovereigns have voluntarily submitted themselves through a binding covenant ( ex. World Court via the UN charter).

    Of course, being sovereign, states differ on how such rulings are to be interpreted or even whether they will accept jurisdiction of bodies  like the World Court, the ICC or special international  tribunals of justice in specific cases. Furthermore, in signing covenants, states often, quite legally, make reservations or exceptions to specific treaty clauses as part of their agreement to adhere to the rest of the treaty and consider it legally binding.  The United States in fact, does this regularly as do most other states having major interests at stake in negotiating an international agreement. Unless you have a granular knowledge of what country “x” formally agreed to accept as a signatory, or are willing to do your homework in this regard, you do not actually know what the law really is in many diplomatic disputes – especially when the conflict is complex and multilateral.  Broad and bombastic assertions by activists in the media that novel restrictions or obligations on states that they support are “international law” or that some act they condemn is “illegal” are almost invariably factually incorrect, at least to some degree ( barring obvious and clear violations of jus cogens, such as mass atrocities).

    Beyond international law based on formal covenants, custom and legal precedents generally accepted by sovereigns, other sources of authority in international law would include resolutions of the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, regional bodies like the OAS or EU, some institutions like the ICRC and even the opinions of scholars learned in international law. Unlike positive law within a state, international law in its various manifestations lacks a legitimate, overarching, coercive authority that could function as a global sovereign and impartial enforcer of consistently interpreted law and justice. Sovereign states are thus not subject to international law in the same relationship that their citizens are subject to sovereign authority; sovereign states are, at least legally, a community of equals able to draw upon and interpret overlapping and at times competing sources of legal authority in making claims – including precedents they intentionally created themselves!  This makes a quick redress of violations of international law difficult when the UN Security Council is empowered to make use of military force only in cases of ” international peace and security” (i.e. aggression) and the UN Charter also assures sovereigns of their “right to self defense”.

    “New Sovereignty”, in the title of Victor’s first piece, is a concept propagated by the late Harvard theorist and State Department official Abram Chayes and his wife, scholar Antonia Handler Chayes, that repudiates much of traditional sovereignty in order to aggressively re-define it as “ the capacity to participate in international institutions of all types“.  In other words, sovereignty in their view would mean a state’s membership in good standing in  a mutually interdependent ” international community” and not control over national territory free from external interference by other sovereigns. Under “New Sovereignty”, such external interference is assumed as “normal” and is a point of constant, cooperative, negotiation toward consensus on emerging and evolving legal norms. As such, if accepted, “New Sovereignty” would be a massive transfer of political power and legal authority from legitimate national governments to a transnational and international class of legal technocrats and bureaucrats, who would assume by default a managerial role over the substance of international affairs. In many ways this erosion of traditional state sovereignty would be analogous to the transfer of real power from the hands of crowned sovereigns in the early modern period to their embryonic state bureaucracies that in time rendered most monarchs mere ceremonial figureheads.

    In my view, while  Chayes had many laudable goals in mind,  “New Sovereignty” would be unworkable in practice and inherently is extremely reactionary in its anti-democratic repudiation of popular sovereignty as the basis for a state’s legitimacy. Citizens of states are effectively reduced to the position of wards under the protection of the international community as national leaders become responsive primarily to “external constituencies” in control of the eternal process of negotiation of international norms. While the problem is somewhat moot for repressive regimes whose citizens enjoy few freedoms anyway, in liberal states the “democratic deficit” produced by such a scheme runs contrary to the very foundations of their political legitimacy and independence.

    In this context, we have the claim put forth for the legal basis of R2P by Victor:

     ….Indeed, the UN Security Council, having enshrined R2P in UNSCR 1674, did not subsequently authorize action under the R2P banner in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Burma, with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General stating in his report that

    [i]t would be a misapplication of responsibility to protect principles to apply them at this point to the unfolding tragedy in Myanmar…the Outcome Document of the 2005 [World] Summit limited their application to four crimes and violations: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

    and in his second post:

    Here Safranski and I agree on the proper role of theorists, but it wasn’t theorists that adopted R2P as a norm; it was the UN Security Council, as set forth in UNSCR 1674 in 2005, which was later utilized in the Libya intervention authorization (UNSCR 1973). Currently there are no higher authorities on interventions, peacemaking, and peacekeeping than the Security Council, which is surely not composed of academic theorists, but rather high-level diplomats that make moves, and yes, establish law, only on the explicit authorization of their countries. That the Security Council adopted the principles of R2P speaks more to the usefulness and applicability of the concepts than to any academic theorizing thereof.

    First, while we should acknowledge that the UNSC resolutions that R2P advocates crow about are not nothing, their importance should not be exaggerated either. They are a precedent, but a very limited one that does not abrogate everything that has come before.

    Since the inception of the UN the Security Council has passed over 2200 resolutions, which would put those devoted to R2P at a whopping .0009 %.  Moreover, of the UNSC resolutions passed, many merely take note of an event, express concern or urge restraint; other, more forcefully worded resolutions, dealing with conflict were dead letters from the moment of adoption, being ignored by warring parties exercising their sovereign rights of self-defense. The number of UNSC resolutions that led to effective action of any kind, much less decisive humanitarian military intervention envisioned by more muscular interpretations of R2P, have been few with a mixed track record of success.  Resolutions 1674 and 1973 by the Security Council exist within the much larger context of international law precedents going back centuries, most of which directly contradict the operative assumptions of “New Sovereignty”.

    Furthermore, much of the text of Resolution 1674 itself is devoted to caveats reiterating traditional sovereign prerogatives and that protection for civilians occur under established conventions for the law of armed conflict before gingerly endorsing R2P provisions from the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document  of the World Health Organization. The legality of these qualifications and reservations are taken seriously by the member states of the Security Council because without them, 1674 would have never passed, nor 1973 after it ( likely to be the last of its kind for a long while in light of Russian and Chinese vetoes on Syria resolutions, which after Libya are certain to continue).  At best, in international law R2P has managed to secure only a toehold and its definition and application lack agreement (and even acceptance) among the world’s great powers.

    R2P is not a secure legal scaffold on which to construct a foreign policy or decide on matters of peace and war.


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