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Danger: Japanese Defense Ministry maps illustrate Korzybski

Friday, August 16th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — tempted by a typo to misquote Korzybski “The map is knot the territory” — where the knot is in the paradox of simulacra and simulation, see Jean Baudrillard ]
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A total of at least 26 out of 48 maps in a Japanese white paper contained errors, according to an Asahi Shimbun article titled Maps in Defense Ministry white paper riddled with errors:


This Defense Ministry map identifying terrorist groups chiefly in Africa and the Middle East shows Qatar and Kuwait as parts of Saudi Arabia.

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Mapping errors can be dangerous, as we have all been warned:

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Some have not heeded the warning:

For instance, in a map showing the capability range of North Korea’s ballistic missiles, the hermetic nation’s capital, Pyongyang, is incorrectly located on the Sea of Japan side of the Korean Peninsula, not the Yellow Sea side. [ .. ]

In June, multiple errors were discovered in key data used for a report by the Defense Ministry on candidate sites for deploying a U.S.-made Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Japan.

The experts said that some of the diagrams in the latest white paper were also inaccurate.

In a map showing the flight range of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft deployed by the U.S. military in Okinawa, concentric circles are used, centering on Okinawa’s main island. However, according to Tashiro, the ministry should have used an azimuthal equidistant projection map to properly show the distance and direction from the center.

As the expert quoted said:

Maps require accuracy, so we have common standards .. The ministry’s white paper in particular, because of its nature, needs to be treated carefully. If they don’t follow the standards, or make compromises, when drawing maps, it could lead to international issues and a loss of trust.

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I do believe “international issues” refers to diplomatic tussles, certainly, and the possibility of war..

Consider this, from 10 Map Mistakes With Momentous Consequences:

Napoleon Bonaparte lost the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, in part because of a map error. According to documentarian Franck Ferrand, Napoleon aimed his artillery in the wrong direction, far short of the British, Dutch, and Prussian lines. Napoleon relied on an inaccurate map when planning his strategy for the battle, which explains why he didn’t know the lay of the land and became disoriented on the battlefield. According to Ferrand, “It is certainly one of the factors that led to his defeat.”

Due to a printing error, the map showed a strategic site, the Mont-Saint-Jean farm, 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) from its true position, which was the range of Napoleon’s misdirected guns. It also showed a nonexistent bend in a road, according to Belgian illustrator and historian Bernard Coppens, who found the bloodstained map at a Brussels military museum.

As an Old Wellingtonian (OW, Blucher dorm), that’s evidence enough for me.

Reactions to the Reactionary – The New Scholarship on Fascism, 1

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Emlyn Cameron returns to the pages of Zenpundit with the first in a series of reviews of books on Fascism, the entire series forming an essay on the topic — Charles Cameron
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How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them
by Jason Stanley
Random House, 240 pp (2018)
ISBN 978-0-525-51183-0
$26.00

Inheritors of a world we did not build, we are now
witnesses to a decline we did not foresee.

• Timothy Snyder, Road to Unfreedom

We had conceded the entire political landscape, my millennial friends and I, as terrain too treacherous to travel. But the truth was that the territory it covered was simply so staggeringly vast that we felt powerless to navigate it, let alone work it for a future yield. It intimidated us into cynicism: Politicians were serial liars, news sources couldn’t be verified without recourse to other news sources we had to verify, and even if we believed what we were told, we were simply told too much to know what deserved our attention. We needed some initial map that would help us find our way.

Like the narrator of A. E. Housman’s poem, The laws of God, the laws of man, we knew we wanted to reject the authority of leaders who “will be master, right or wrong”, or laws imposed by the foolish based on strength, but we were “stranger[s] and afraid, in a world [we] never made”. Further, in addition to being paralyzed by the scope of politics, we saw no way to escape the results of a system in which we felt incapable of participating. As we were – as with Housman’s narrator – that left only one practicable response: submission.

Luckily, just as Donald Trump raised the stakes of political participation, he inspired a body of popular scholarship on our worst apprehensions for the future.

Jason Stanley, a Yale philosophy professor, has provided a book that helps to complete this project: How Fascism Works lays bare the purpose and mechanism of much of the fascist’s intellectual shell-game.
Hanna Arendt (to whom Stanley pays tribute), Leon Trotsky, and Umberto Eco amongst others have likewise attempted to write an anatomy of fascist thought, but Stanley’s effort, in addition to being explicitly contemporary, achieves a balance of brevity, justification, and application to real world events that makes it a worthy addition to the others.

Though Eco’s 1995 essay Ur-Fascism is structurally similar to Stanley’s book and shares some of the same insights, Eco’s essay was primarily descriptive, while Stanley’s book presents the principles of fascist politics and goes on to dissect their utility to the fascist politician, in a way that Eco doesn’t manage. In essence, where Eco wrote a bird spotters guide to fascism, Stanley offers a concise ornithological textbook.

Take, for instance, the notion of traditionalism: While Eco makes the same observation as Stanley, that fascist movements sanctify the status quo and the past, Stanley drills down into a specific instance – the patriarchal family structure – and outlines why this traditional structure is a handy one for the would-be dictator: it normalizes inequality and makes commonplace a command structure analogous to the one the fascist proposes for the state – a group of people all sharing a blood bond, subservient to a single figure who acts unilaterally to guide and provide for them.

Lacking is only a greater examination of how this androcentric tendency in fascist politics does not exclude the occasional female far-right leader, such as Marie Le Pen. Stanley has said, in a New York Times opinion video, that the leader is “always a he,” which makes this outlier still more worthy of consideration. Perhaps his phrasing is meant to be taken as reflecting the truth to a first approximation, but what enables a woman to take command of a traditionally male focused cult-of-personality would add an interesting dimension to the analysis.

In addition to this, his book articulates some common fascist tendencies that go unrecorded in Eco’s essay, and which enable the reader to more effectively detect the tremors of oncoming totalitarianism. Stanley’s proposal, for instance, that sexual anxiety is central to fascist politics, seems especially salient in modern America (where gender identity is a high-profile point of division between conservatives and liberals) and with reference to contemporary Russia (where Putin’s public addresses make use of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric).

Stanley argues that singling out minorities who challenge traditional sexual and gender norms is efficacious for the fascist, as it both moves to eliminate archetypes for social relationships alternative to the patriarchal model favored by fascists, and enables the first of many oblique attacks on the principle of free expression without directly assailing democratic platitudes. Stanley also manages to tie this to the fascist tendency to decry cities, usually hubs of the attacked minorities, as dens of iniquity, and the rhetorical correlation of the out group with rape and the destruction of mythical purity. Having done this, Stanley is able to identify attacks on sexual minorities as “perhaps the most vivid” of the canaries to eye as leaders draw us further and further into the proverbial coal mine.

The book also offers some interesting discussion of the fascist relationship to truth. In addition to the commonplace insight that fascists lie about the past to create a triumphant nationalist mythology, Stanley argues that the fascist, having spread lies about the laziness and treacherousness of their chosen enemy, also seeks to use policy to so brutalize their victims that the malnourished and abused minority population comes to resemble the abject figures of fascist propaganda, reducing reality to the “truth” that fascists had all along maintained; that the fascist first produces lies to debase the certainty of anything, and then manufactures their “truths”.

It is a book at once enlightening and useful to those looking for some through-line to the news of the day. Learning, per the BBC, that Citizenship and Immigration Services’ acting head has defended an administration move to cut public aid to legal migrants by saying “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American” unless they can “be self-sufficient […] as in the American tradition”, a reader of Stanley’s book might take pause and recall a passage that runs “In fascism, the state is an enemy; it is to be replaced by the nation, which consists of self-sufficient individuals who collectively choose to sacrifice for a common goal of ethnic or religious glorification.”

Having seen such an article, and taken such a moment of reflection, the reader may decide they see nothing ominous in this correlation. Even so, how salutary many such reflective pauses could prove to be to the national character, and how much easier they become when so able a teacher has given us an idea of when to take them. And in providing ways of recognizing and describing fascist politics, Stanley’s book sharpens the usefulness of other books tackling similar projects.

It might be said that the interplay of those tactics Stanley has described in his book, and the effective responses Stanley’s Yale colleague Timothy Snyder enumerated in his book, On Tyranny, are the two forces that animate the events in perhaps the most ambitious of these other recent works: Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom (to which I will to return). But, even if not taken as a mandatory supplement to either of Snyder’s works, Stanley’s book substantially enhances and reinforces the lessons of the other two, and vice versa.

Together, they may provide the confidence necessary to uncertain voters, especially among the young, to discard what Mark Fisher called “reflexive impotence” (and the cynicism that guards it) and become educated participants in our politics. If these authors manage it, they will deserve credit and status alongside those offered to the analysts and thinkers to whom they refer in their own work, and those of us so armed may just find ourselves alive to solutions beyond simple concession.

An observation for David Ronfeldt

Friday, August 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting that the “how do we know when a radicalized thinker shifts into violent action mode?” question is frankly a koan ]
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stern task-master image borrowed from The Zen Priest’s Koan

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We’d been discussing on FB The Right Way to Understand White Nationalist Terrorism, and in particular this observation:

This movement is often called white nationalist, but too many people misunderstand that moniker as simply overzealous patriotism, or as promoting whiteness within the nation. But the nation at the heart of white nationalism is not the United States. It is the Aryan nation, imagined as a transnational white polity with interests fundamentally opposed to the United States and, for many activists, bent on the overthrow of the federal government.

and an idea occurred to me that seemed interesting enough for me to re-post it here on Zenpundit and Brownpundits:

We’re seeing a lot of discussion of how to foresee the switch from a terror-propensity thought into a terrorist act. Even in retrospect this is very difficult to manage, although lots of people elide the difference or feel constrained to separate the two, and managing an effective strategy to accomplish forewarning seems close to impossible.

I’d like to observe that the great leap between thought and act is in fact a leap across the mind > brain distinction, ie the “hard problem in consciousness”. > It’ds called the “hard problem” because it’s a question so basic that our best reaches of thought can’t stretch across the inherent paradox, a koan in effect.

Perhaps if we started with that koan, we could at least understand the “size” of the problem that predicting terrorist violence poses.

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I think that’s, technically, an audacious idea.

What the hell do I mean by that? It doesn’t threaten my physical well-being, nor, I’d suspect, national security. It’s “just a thought” — so what’s the big deal?

Well, it concerns a matter of immediate strategic and tactical concern, for one thing. And for another, it takes that strategic and tactical issue way past its present discursive parameters, and analyzes it to a level of fundamental abstraction — so much so that it invokes one of the few most basic unresolved issues in scientific thought, a veritable western koan.

That’s quite a reach, but I believe it’s a reach that illuminates the difficulty of the “strategic and tactical issue” from a fresh point of view that’s frustratingly so deep as to be virtually impenetrable.

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In Chalmers‘ words, the “hard” problem is:

how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience … the way things feel for the subject. When we see for example, we experience visual sensations, such as that of vivid blue. Or think of the ineffable sound of a distant oboe, the agony of an intense pain, the sparkle of happiness or the meditative quality of a moment lost in thought

You remember the kids’ mathematical saying, “three into two won’t go”? Well here’s a case of “mind into brain won’t go” in the sense of Chalmers‘ hard problem.

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Leonard koan, yes, yes — from Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Tardigrades on the Moon?

Friday, August 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — nothing much, just noting that all membranes are permeable, and that we leave our disgusting litter everywhere we go — me too, I suppose ]
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via CNN: tardigrade, water bear or yes, that’s it, moss piglet — just look at it

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According to Wired, the Israeli private lunar lander somewhat arrogantly named Bereshith (Bereshith, In the beginning, the first word of Torah and expressive of HaShem’s creation of HaOlam, the entire cosmos, also en arche (In the beginning), the opening of words of John’s Gospel)..

..crash-landed on the moon, presumably losing thousands of half-millimeter tardigrades, ugly little beasties that have an extraordinary capacity to endure difficult environments

I mnean:

When will we learn, eh?

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Luckily for those of us who are interested, there’s a Scientific American piece on the topic of the tardigrades, headlined and sub-headed thus:

Tardigrades Were Already on the Moon
It may not be smart to add more, but nature probably beat us to it anyway

It contains this charming fact, which will presumably haunt all those who know it, myself included, as we regard the lunar beauty:

On the Moon there are already about 100 baggies of, well, astronaut poop, from the Apollo landings.

Note that even SciAm is embarrassed: that shit should have been cleaned up.

But read the whole thing..

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Sources:

  • Scientific American, Tardigrades Were Already on the Moon
  • CNN, Crashed spacecraft may have left tiny but tough creatures on the moon
  • Wired, A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon

  • My poem, Don’t you mess with my mother the moon
  • Also, Don’t you mess with the night sky, superb and sacred
  • Really, that poem of mine is both angry (unusual for me) and fine — recommended reading!

    Did Escher know Fludd?

    Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — I was looking for Ramon Llull’s wheels of knowledge, and found Robert Fludd instead ]
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    I am wondering whether MC Escher, whose Waterfall dates to 1961, knew of the work of Robert Fludd, and his water screw perpetual motion machine, which was invented in 1618, though the image below dates from 1660 — the year in which King Charles II was recognized and the and the tyrranous Interregnum under the vicious Oliver Cromwell finally laid to rest.

    MC Escher, Waterfall:

    Robert Fludd, Water Screw:

    DoubleQuote!

    The image of Fludd‘s water screw is accompanied by this note:

    Robert Fludd’s 1618 “water screw” perpetual motion machine from a 1660 wood engraving. This device is widely credited as the first recorded attempt to describe such a device in order to produce useful work, that of driving millstones. Although the machine would not work, the idea was that water from the top tank turns a water wheel (bottom-left), which drives a complicated series of gears and shafts that ultimately rotate the Archimedes’ screw (bottom-center to top-right) to pump water to refill the tank. The rotary motion of the water wheel also drives two grinding wheels (bottom-right) and is shown as providing sufficient excess water to lubricate them.

    Hmm, I wonder.


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