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To the Panda Software article plant effort: this is not the article that you were hoping for

  #

Panda Software's SEARCH FOR EXCELLENCE apparently has not reached its its plant program attempting to seed articles favorable to its Infected or Not campaign to Highlight the Prevalence of Malware. Today I received an email to our blog info address from an e.erica.brown@gmail.com that is worthly of being reproduced in full as it is a very straight forward request to plant an article favorable to Panda, and even offering sample texts from which to adapt.

The fact that Panda Software is based in Bilbao and Madrid, Spain, with substantial Latin and other subsidiaries, will gain pertinence as the reader proceeds.

 I am not the only recipient as Daniel Davenport's think d2c received a comment note from the same gmail Erika to his Mobile TV advances on 18 April:

Erika said...

Hi! Sorry for trying to contact you through the comments section of your blog but I have an offer that might interest you. Please, contact me in e.erika.brown@gmail.com

Here is the email item that I received from this same Erika at 4/20/2007 8:59:32 AM (and all of Erika's emails have been retained for our records):

From: Erika Email: e.erika.brown@gmail.com Subject: 70% of the computers are infected! And you can be part of the solution Message: Hi,

My name is Erika Brown and I am currently working on an awareness campaign called Infected Or Not.

Let me tell you a little bit about it. The whole story of this campaign began with a report from a Panda Software project. On that report, PandaLabs stated that in 2006 more malware was received than in the previous 15 years combined.

The spread of malware infections was huge and it is now getting worse and worse. And that’s why Panda Software decided to launch their Infected Or Not campaign.

The campaign is based on the www.infectedornot.com web site. On that site, people can quickly check if their computers are infected by any form of malware and, at the same time, they are providing useful information that is collected and used to present prevalence statistics.

So the real value of the campaign is not in the test drive of the upcoming Panda detection tools, but in the stats collected by these tests (stats that are also displayed daily on the web site). So far, the numbers have beenereally impressive: almost 70% of the scanned computers are infected. That is precisely why we need awareness.

Now, This is what I want to ask you: I would like you to publish an article in your web site about this campaign. I can even send you one of several different articles written by other people working on this campaign. Any mention about "Infected Or Not" from any web site is, subsequently, commented and seen by hundreds of thousands of people in our own web site. I guess the free publicity couldn’t hurt you.

I know it doesn’t sound like a great deal for you but, if you think about it, we would provide you with relevant (and rich in keywords) content, and you would be taking part on this awareness effort.

If you want to collaborate with me, just write back and let me know. I will send you the article ASAP.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards

Switching into honeypot mode, I invited items for review at 20 April, 2007 11:55 with the comment "Have looked at IoN site. Please send items for review."

Almost by return, I received Erika's response at 20 April, 2007 12:00:

Thank you very much for your collaboration to this awareness campaign, I really appreciate it.

Here I send you an article about www.InfectedOrNot.com You won't be disappointed.

Please feel free to tell me if there is any way I can help you adapt the content to your web site or if you have any other question or suggestion.

One last favor, could you please send me the article's URL?

Cheers!

Erika

Attached was a short derivative document, infected1, whose properties page states its authorship at "Pablo Diaz" from "SX Networks." There is an SX Networks in Montevideo, Uruguay, and a Pablo Díaz Rigby in Montevideo whose CV states that he is a "Media Executive" devoted to "Online advertising campaigns management" and that he is a "Spanish Native speaker" that is "Fluent in written and Spoken English."

I think it sad that a nominally respected firm in a very necessary field would stoop to this, even using the sham plausibility of denial by a separate address. Other readers may share my opinion of "Shields Up!" and suspicion of all further Panda missives until it repudiates the plant effort and zero times its initiative.

UPDATE: 23 April

Coincident to the original posting, I reported "Erika" to Gmail. Their reply arrived 23 April. "Erika" had spoofed a gmail address:

From: mail-support@google.com [mailto:mail-support@google.com]
Sent: Monday, 23 April, 2007 19:30
To: Gordon Housworth
Subject: Re: [#139428718] Account Status

Hello,

Thank you for your report. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

The message you refer to did not originate from Google. Instead, it appears to have been sent by someone who has faked the address so that it falsely appears to be from Gmail. This practice is commonly called 'spoofing.'

We are very concerned about this conduct. We have forwarded the information you provided to the appropriate team for investigation.

Please note that Google will never send unsolicited mass messages asking for your password or personal information, or messages containing executable attachments.

You can also help stop these individuals by sending a copy of such unlawful messages to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.

We appreciate your understanding.

Sincerely,

The Google Team

Mobile TV advances
Daniel Davenport
think d2c
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Panda Launches ‘Infected or Not?’ Campaign to Highlight the Prevalence of Malware
Onrec.com
13/04/2007

Gordon Housworth



Cybersecurity Public  InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  

discussion

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Intelligence analysis needs a chief disruption officer and an infusion of Media 2.0 thinking and technology

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The thought of a Chief Disruption Officer at the top of the intel community's analysis arm with a brief offering the capacity to innovate and the authority to roll over a fiefdom or two is almost too heady a thought, akin to the hope that open source analysis might actually gain a peer place at the intel table. (Open source does work; example: against the context of Chinese hiring Daewoo staff (also here) during a tableau of unrest at Daewoo, it took only three pieces of data for this analyst to deduce that the Chevy Spark mathdata was stolen in Korea and not in China as so many assumed. Knowing where narrowed our search, securing more documentation was easy.)

David Berlind coined "Chief Disruption Officer" as a better title for eBay's new position of Senior Director of Disruptive Innovation designed to both disrupt current eBay assumptions that have seen its user experience atrophy and innovate eBay into a new "buyer experience and social commerce" that goes beyond UI and into overall user capacity to interact with eBay and other users.

As Berlind described how eBay had already seen "the Web trend away from experiences based on Web flows (fill out form, submit, fill out another form, submit, etc.) and more towards a rich experience," and was intent on extending the LinkedIn trust model to get information to a consumer/recipient that the creator may not even know:

[Defining Social Commerce] as "sharing information to create new trust models" [eBay wants to] apply the "Kevin Bacon rule" as it's known to commerce [to use] the same chain of mutual acquaintances [to] automate the introduction to a seller [who] is trusted by someone I know (or by someone else that someone I know knows).

What an execellent capacity for the intel environment I thought, but realized that these are all examples of Web 2.0 technology, technology that the intel community has yet to apply in any meaningful, systemic manner. Worse, Web 2.0 technology is now considered sufficiently mature in the public sector that clients "preferred delivery for these Web 2.0 technologies [through] integrated product suites [because] these corporations are concerned with integrating new tools with the software from their existing suppliers." But even mainline 2007 commercial users are behind the curve as:

CIOs were most likely to view social networking and blogs as unnecessary, with a little more than half of respondents reporting as such," according to Forrester. "The Web 2.0 technologies that had relatively clear user benefits, RSS, wikis, and tagging, were less likely to be viewed as unnecessary.

Not yet grasping Media 2.0, these CIOs are still attempting to implement Web 2.0 whose notable characteristics are "mashups, communities and setting up neat little feeds [in a] plug and play functionality" in a mostly unidirectional one-to-many conversation instead of reaping the benefits of a rich, polydirectional many-to-many conversation. This is being done even as the venture capital community sees Web 2.0 as passe for significant investment. (Beyond this citation, Peter Rip's EarlyStageVC is worth the read.)

Appalling state of current intel analyst tools

Now read Clive Thompson's Open-Source Spying which is largely built from two items in Studies in Intelligence, September 2005: The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community and How the Web Can Relieve Our Information Glut and Get Us Talking to Each Other. As a former analyst, it pains me to see how little the concepts of blogs and wikis have penetrated the intel community, yet they could provide a massive boost to speed, contextuality, and interpretation - and that applies to the commercial sector as well as the intel community.

Yes, there is a missing link to this process that I am surprised more practitioners have yet to tumble - the addition of a superavatar. We and our colleagues were early integrators of blogs and wikis but we had solved the problem of ""culling the daily tips":

The whole reason the [system] works [is] that experts have a top-down view that is essential to picking the important information out of the surrounding chatter. The grass roots, they’ve found, are good at collecting threats but not necessarily at analyzing them. If a lot of low-level analysts are pointing to the same inaccurate posting, that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

The key is to have very smart people culling the daily tips… "The terrorist problem has the worst signal-to-noise ratio"… Without the knowledge that comes from long experience, he added, a fledgling analyst or spy cannot know what is important or not. The counterterrorism center, he said, should decide which threats warrant attention. "That’s our job"...

Leaving aside middle management fears of a "freewheeling, smart-mobbing intelligence community," resistance centered around the limited number of 'skilled individuals' to cull wheat from chaff. There are not enough good, fast humans to 'cull' all the overlapping subject areas, especially under highly perishable timeframes. Often it is the odd outlier datum that is an emerging flag that top-down cullers would snuff.

So who said these skilled individuals had to be human? A number of us saw that the active integration and synthesis of the superavatar (an application that gathers and examines a broad range of information) which inserts its distillations back into the blogosphere as one more commentator could greatly improve analysis. The avatar can cull, can look for links (analyst to document, analyst to analyst, analyst to null (not looking at what they should be)). Add the superavatar and wikis and blogs bulk up immediately.

Changes in culture, youth culture, as great as technology

If you are over 25, perhaps even over 20, you need to read Emily Nussbaum's Say Everything as you are undoubtedly clueless as to how your children communicate, their ability to shape their online persona in a multimedia manner out of reach even a few years ago, their expectations for what I might call hyper-rich media environments, even their culture itself. (I had to be tipped to it by Xeni Jardin at one of the reconstructor sites that I track, Boing Boing.)

 If you care nothing about intel matters, you should still read this item as you will, at a minimum, be shortly hiring them - and that includes the intel community which is still dragging bottom is trying to insert the likes of blogs into its environment. (And while there were 50+ million blogs, two created every second, in August 2006 and 70 million in March 2007, that medium is now getting long in the tooth for many of its producer/consumers.) Say Everything cites three changes in this demographic that may be hardwired, i.e., it is imprinted and will not be surrendered:

  1. THEY THINK OF THEMSELVES AS HAVING AN AUDIENCE
  2. THEY HAVE ARCHIVED THEIR ADOLESCENCE
  3. THEIR SKIN IS THICKER THAN YOURS

If I've not yet temped you to read Say Everything, then jump to its inset item called MEET CAITLIN OPPERMANN where you will "Read one teen's MySpace page, view her Facebook, scan her IM messages, visit her personal website, and more." Now if you are an intel officer, think that this was created by a teenager who shares it widely. Now think how little you as an analyst can create, visualize, disseminate and gain feedback. Think what happens when these young adults become your entry level analysts in just a few years. Worse, think how fast your domestic and foreign terrorist opponents will adapt these tools to their widening command & control (C2/C3) networks (examples here, here and here). Apply Boyd's OODA loop with its implication of successively faster decision cycles by your opponent and you have them on your tail instead of in your sights.

We don't have sufficient tools for today's analysts and we certainly don't have them for new entrants that already expect to be heard, expect to take a position and are more willing to confront and question. (TheGORB.com already generates blunt rating and assessing of professional character.)

Implications of Media 2.0

Tim O'Reilly's What Is Web 2.0 remains the one-stop-shop definition of two generations of internet apps; written in Sept 2005 it is still vibrant and underpins Media 2.0. Move to Troy Young's short This is Media 2.0. To keep abreast of Media 2.0, you need to be reading Richard MacManus' Read/Write Web, Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine, John Hagel's Edge Perspectives with John Hagel and Umair Haque's Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab.

Ben Hunt's The future web2.0 social experience is a vision of a "next-generation web that is just as simple and flexible as web 1.0, but more interconnected and powerful [incorporating] a universe of connections that reflects the real-life links between people, organisations, services, products, web sites, and other entities."

While Jeff Jarvis flagged some essential Umair Haque items in late 2005, one has scrolled off, a replacement has appeared and some new have appeared. As a non-expert in the field, here is my essential reading from Umair (at least read Media 2.0):

With those under your belt, you should read these two PPT presentations:

Umair Haque's Bubblegeneration made seminal contributions to Media 2.0 and micromedia in The New Economics of Media, yet there are too many as yet unfamiliar with his work. In Media 2.0, he asks readers to answer these questions to "get started thinking about Media 2.0":

To what extent are microplatforms, micromedia, and aggregators and reconstructors a substitute or a complement for production, publishing/marketing, and distribution in my value chain?

How can I use micromedia platforms strategically, to build resources and capabilities which drive a sustained competitive advantage across my products, services, or businesses?

To what extent is increased micromedia penetration likely to erode the power of publishers, distributors, and marketers in my value chain, and shift value to the edges?

If the questions seem strange, you have some remedial work to do. My fear is that few to none inside the intel community are posing, worse, even aware of, these questions. I'd like to be wrong but based on prior history, it is likely that I am not. This opens the door to our more nimble opponents - some of whom we still stupidly diminish as "rag heads" - who can use open source tools for Web 2.0 and emerging Media 2.0 applications to develop their intel capacities.

A work in progress

Social networking has already moved to its next phase; Andreessen's Ning offers customers customization, control and flexibility:

Andreessen predicts that people will want to create more niche sites for people with similar pursuits and interests, and the MySpaces of the world will be too big to meet their special needs. MySpace and similar sites allow users to post their profiles on individual pages. Such sites control the advertising on those pages, as well as much of the technological functions of the pages.

MySpace has moved into conventional news while Salesforce is taking "the concepts behind the highly successful social networking site MySpace [to] apply them to the business world."

Umair Haque points out Media 2.0 is still in its early stages. I have great sympathy with his comments on reconstructors as I read a great number of them in order to cover a wide variety of topics in the shortest time. Speaking of meme sites such as Memeorandum (politics) and Techmeme (technical), Umair noted:

I luv Memeorandum and all it's reconstructor cousins. It's one of the first things of my reading list. It's hugely slashed my search costs in finding new stuff. But there's a problem. Ever since I've started using it to the point where it replaces many of my other sources, I have gotten stupider. I can feel it - I don't think as fast, flexibly, or freely.

This is a well-known phenomenon in psych and econ - I've been locking myself into a diet of reinforcing information. Nothing really challenges my beliefs, and so I get hyperpolarized, or echo-chambered, sure - but the deeper effect is that I also get stupid, fast.

Part of the reason is that all the attention markets, reconstructors, etc push all the same stuff to the top - they all converge to the same equilbirum. Paradoxically, it's an environment of incredible diversity, but incredible sameness at the same time.

But the larger reason is that none of these reconstructors are really broad enough yet, and so reconstructing microchunks into coherent wholes is still pretty shabby. This is the where discontinuous value will be created - and surprisingly, the market gap is still open.

I have to fight this battle daily, balancing the desire to cover many topics while still looking for the outlier data, the funny data that points to something new, something not yet floated to the top.

I can't wait for Media 2.0 tools; the upside is that I am in the commercial sector and thus have a chance to see them emerge from a competitive market. I fear that my colleagues still in the community will have to wait far, far longer - and many of the new entrants may leave because they cannot tolerate the gap.

Companies like Web 2.0 tech--but from big vendors
Forrester Research study finds businesses are hungry for tools like blogs, wikis and podcasts, but want them integrated into suites
By Martin LaMonica
CNET
March 22, 2007, 9:48 AM PDT

In search of the creator of the first blog
Blogging has been around for a decade now--depending on how you define it and whom you ask.
By Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache
CNET
March 20, 2007, 4:00 AM PDT

Web 3.0: When Web Sites Become Web Services
Written by Alex Iskold
Read/WriteWeb
March 19, 2007

Salesforce.com readies its take on MySpace
AppSpace hosted portal will be part of the Spring 07 release of Salesforce's hosted CRM software
By China Martens, IDG News Service
March 19, 2007

Me vs NYT at OPA re WWGD
Jeff Jarvis
BuzzMachine
posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2007 at 6:46 am

Nisenholtz vs Jarvis: The Middle Ground of Journalists vs Bloggers
Posted by Rafat Ali
Paid Content
17 Mar 2007 05:18 PM PST

If others think poorly or well of you (personally or professionally), TheGORB.com will tell you
Posted by David Berlind @ 3:35 pm
Berlind's Testbed
March 9, 2007

News as a social play: Here comes MySpace News!
Terry Heaton
Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog
posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2007 at 6:54 am

Video: eBay’s Chief Disruption Officer: UI to eBay’s "commerce operating system" could be left to others
Posted by David Berlind @ 1:15 pm
Berlind's Testbed
March 5, 2007

Social Networking’s Next Phase
By BRAD STONE
New York Times
March 3, 2007

Andreessen's Ning.com takes on MySpace
By Greg Sandoval
February 27, 2007, 5:08 PM PST

Say Everything
As younger people reveal their private lives on the Internet, the older generation looks on with alarm and misapprehension not seen since the early days of rock and roll. The future belongs to the uninhibited.
By Emily Nussbaum
New York Magazine
February 12, 2007 issue

Open-Source Spying
By CLIVE THOMPSON
New York Times
December 3, 2006

Up to the job? How India and China risk being stifled by a skills squeeze
By Richard McGregor
FT
July 20 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 20 2006 03:00

China Carmakers' Global Talent Hunt
By Dexter Roberts
Business Week
June 19, 2006

STANDARDS, PARTICLES, and the age of INSIDIOUS MICROMEDIA
Dan Klyn
Information Architect
SES CANADA
April 25, 2006

Media Futures: on rebundling and intermediaries
Richard MacManus
Read/Write Web
April 12, 2006

ABC and the Future of Media
Posted by John Hagel
Edge Perspectives with John Hagel
April 11, 2006

How Not to Think Strategically About the Future of Media, pt 193941
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
April 10, 2006

This is Media 2.0
Troy Young
UX Magazine
10 Mar 2006

The Problems With 2.0, pt 345314
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
January 26, 2006

Media 2.0 101
Jeff Jarvis
Buzz Machine
November 26th, 2005

Media 1.0 vs Media 2.0
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
November 06, 2005

Media 2.0
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Peer Production
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
November 08, 2005

Edge Competences and the Post-Network Economy
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
November 18, 2005

Edge Competencies
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
January 12, 2006

Network Economics & Web 2.0
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
November 08, 2005

The Attention Economy
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
November 08, 2005

Edge Competences and Media 2.0: Newspapers Mini Case Study
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
November 17, 2005

What Is Web 2.0
Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software
by Tim O'Reilly
O'Reilly
09/30/2005

The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community
D. CALVIN ANDRUS
Studies in Intelligence, Vol 49, No 3
Central Intelligence Agency
September 2005

How the Web Can Relieve Our Information Glut and Get Us Talking to Each Other
Matthew S. Burton
Studies in Intelligence, Vol 49, No 3
Central Intelligence Agency
September 2005

The New Economics of Media
Micromedia, Connected Consumption, and the Snowball Effect
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
Spring 2005

The Age of Plasticity
Edge Competences and Network Economics 2.0
Umair Haque
Bubbleggeneration Strategy Lab
Summer 2005

Making Cars by Making Nice
By MICHAEL SCHUMAN/BUPYEONG
TIME
Monday, Sep. 09, 2002

Gordon Housworth



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Ali Reza Asghari: an Iranian defection of extraordinary sweep and US advantage

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An extraordinary February defection by an Iranian Major General, Ali Reza Asghari (also Asgari and Askari) must restructure the state of US-Iranian relationship in all its aspects. Asghari was a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) and its Quds Force (also here), a deputy defense minister and an inspector general. He is credited with building Hezbollah in its current form in Lebanon. Asghari is so important that his impact on unraveling Hezbollah in Lebanon, possibly saving Israel from a second drubbing; his illuminating the Iranian nuclear program (and its chemical and biological efforts), possibly laying it transparent to the point that Russia and China would find it difficult to protect; and his very possible resuscitation of the US position in Iraq, at least reducing back to an internal affair (still no prize but better than an Iraq with sustained Iranian intervention), are only parts of a greater whole.

Until proved to the contrary, I rank Asghari as worthy of Iranian "panic" above and beyond the scope of his access to Iran's nuclear weapons program:

  • Supreme "Follow the Money" architect for anything and everything to the point of rendering Iran transparent
  • Global supply chain and logistics for Iranian acquisitions, nuclear and non, with all the political implications thereof
  • Strategic architecture of global Iranian overt and covert operations, not just Lebanon
  • Operationally useful political portrait of the Iranian government and individuals

An extremely honest man who, as the Defense Ministry's Inspector General, revealed corruption and embezzlement only to be paid with arrest and a fall from power, Asghari makes a formidable spurned lover. Said to be an adversary of the current Iranian government, his eventual rehabilitation and assignment to offshore arms deals only provided the opportunity to orchestrate his escape. Required to secure permission to leave the country, Asghari was sent to Syria to supervise a Farsi-Syrian arms deal (his family shortly went out after his arrival in Damascus). While there, he advised Tehran that one of his arms dealers was in Turkey and wanted to meet. Permission was granted and soon Alice went through the glass.

What was claimed by the Iranains as a kidnapping has now uniformly turned to a defection, and one in the old school by which the entire family was brought out as well. (The departure of Asghari's family coupled with the fact that Asghari "sold his house in the Narmak area of Tehran in December [2006]" makes defection all the more plausible.) Although the Iranians began to spin Asghari as a harmless old retiree, the Turks were saying from the onset that Asghari had broad access to nuclear information. Not only will it be months, perhaps longer, before the Iranians build a picture of what has gone missing, there will be both a pull-back of assets and operations and a diversion of externally focused assets to evaluating Asghari's impact.

Steve Clemons is closer to my thinking in his comment that Asghari's strategic value is his "understanding decision-making in Iran's political system, the general intentions of Iran's Supreme Leader, and a better understanding of the structure and activities of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds force [which] probably outweighs what he can establish on real or illusory nuclear weapons programs." Again, Asghari's disclosures likely affect the full sweep of Iranian efforts, not just its nuclear efforts.

The note by MideastWire's Nicholas Noe to Joshua Landis at Syria Comment is the best and most detailed item on Asghari, but even that does reach the enormity of the breach. (As an aside, the annual subscription fees of MideastWire are modest, forming one of the better translation summaries for Arabic and Farsi media feeds. Recommended.) For starters, Noe snips from Arabic/Farsi texts to describe Asghari as:

[Asghari] was the IRGC liaison [in] Lebanon prior to the 2000 withdrawal and, as a principle of the armaments industry going forward, would have detailed knowledge of Hezbollah capabilities even after he left Lebanon:

Ali Reda Askari or Asghari:

* He holds rank in the Iranian Revolutionary guard equivalent to that of a Major-General.

* He succeeded Ahmad Kana’ni and Hussein Muslih in the command of the Revolutionary Guard units in Lebanon where he stayed for two years in the 90s. He frequented Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

* He was one of the top officials in the logistics department in the defense department during the Iranian-Iraqi war in the 80s.

* He headed the general committee responsible for running the largest weapons production facility in Iran.

* He was appointed an aide to the defense minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani responsible for logistics affairs and military purchases during the reign of President Ahmad Khatami.

* He was known for his financial integrity and gained fame after he uncovered a corrupt network inside the ministry headed by one of the top commanders of the Revolutionary Guide. This network had managed to swindle more than 160 million dollars in commission as well as 60 million dollars from bogus weapons’ deals.

* He was responsible for acquiring spare parts and equipment used in producing the Shehab 3 ballistic missiles.

* Turkish newspapers report that he was opposed to the Iranian government and that he possessed knowledge of the Iranian nuclear secrets.

Kenneth Timmerman's piece in NewsMax adds details to these points. English language articles early in the publicizing of Asghari's gone missing were largely a regurgitation of two items, one from Haaretz and the second from Ynet. A later Haaretz piece offers more data from the initial source, al-Sharq al-Awsat, which stated that Asghari defected to the US "along with the secrets he carried." CSM's Tom Regan offered a nice round-up of sources.

While most sources are channeling the idea that either the US or Israel are responsible, it is possible that the Iranian dissident group, Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), was responsible (also here). (The MEK has a checkered past, is listed as a terrorist group by the US yet resides or is held captive - take you pick - on a US facility in Iraq, operates in Turkey and interrogated the Iranian diplomats captured by the US in Irbil. Nothing is free of secondary effects; one of the bargaining chips that the US had in a potential negotiation with Iran was the ejection of the MEK from Iraq. If true, given the impact of Asghari's defection, one should expect Iranian efforts against the MEK as well as the MEK being a rising point of contention between the US and Iran.

While the Iran-initiated state visit of Ahmadinejad to Saudi Arabia for a summit meeting with King Abdullah went ahead, it is likely that Asghari's defection figured into Tehran's opening position to Riyadh. One wonders if the US can, and will, feed Riyadh in advance of the summit. Asghari can touch every interest of Iran, domestic, regional and global:

King Abdullah and Mr. Ahmadinejad are expected to discuss ways of ending the political standoff in Lebanon between the American-backed government of Fouad Siniora and Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran. Both countries are also concerned that growing sectarian tensions in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere in the region could fuel further instability. "The last visit by an Iranian official to Riyadh was by national security chief Ali Larijani last month, but the Iranians were left feeling quite unsatisfied," said Adel al-Toraifi, a Riyadh-based Saudi analyst with close ties to the government.

Experts said talks had broken down when the Iranians balked at a deal that would increase Hezbollah’s representation in the government, but would also start an international tribunal to try suspects connected to the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005, a Saudi priority. Hezbollah took to the streets of Beirut in December demanding a greater role in the government, and threatening to continue its protest until Mr. Siniora resigns or gives its allies more seats in the cabinet.

"The Iranians want to come to an understanding with the Saudis," said Khaled Dakhil, professor of political sociology at King Saud University in Riyadh. "The Iranians want the help of the Saudis on the nuclear front, and they do want to improve relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia."

For a deeper structural look, see Nasser's The regional implications for the Saudi-Iranian dialogue. In any case, Ahmadinejad's one-day visit did not go swimmingly, at least for Tehran.

One wonders if the knowledge of Asghari's defection made the one day international security conference in Baghdad (10 March) slightly less contentious and how it influenced the one-on-one US-Iranian conversations. In the wake of IAEA punitive sanctions suspending a series of nuclear aid programs to Iran, Ahmadinejad has signaled his desire to attend a UN Security Council meeting to defend Iran's nuclear program. One wonders how the Asghari data will deflect his desire. Perhaps it is too early to see any Iranian deflection, nor might the US immediately be interested in showing its hand. Expect to see sparks eventually as Asghari is simply too powerful a source.

I do wonder about the extent of discontent within Iranian military and possibly some paramilitary cadres. In addition to the external aspects of Asghari's defection, the Iranian government has to concern itself with internal resistance:

Such an act would be interpreted as a major sign of discontent within senior Iranian military figures against his aggressive policies. With increasing dissatisfaction against Ahmadinejad emanating from Iran’s population; such a blow is something which Ahmadinejad can currently ill afford, and something that those who view him as a danger have been hoping for.

I am not the first to think that Asghari's defection reverses US failures vis-à-vis Iran noted in James Risen's State of War in which the CIA inadvertently released enough identifying information to a double agent that allowed Iran to roll up the agency's network in Iran (forcing the US to depend upon "European, Israeli and Saudi intelligence capabilities") and Operation Merlin, a disinformation effort to mislead the Iranians in warhead trigger designs that boomeranged, handing a working design to Tehran. The Guardian has a good excerpt from the book describing these events, and also a note of interest.

While CIA chastised Risen for the "serious inaccuracies" in "every chapter of 'State of War'" and his "reliance on anonymous sources [that] begs the reader to trust that these are knowledgeable people," the agency then puts forth "knowledgeable current and former officials" to confirm that the leak occurred but that the "allegations that agents were lost as a result are not true." (See also Daniel Benjamin's comments.) But then what else can the agency say to domestic political ears and potential agents abroad.

Ahmadinejad intends to visit UNSC
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jerusalem Post
Mar. 11, 2007 10:18 | Updated Mar. 11, 2007 10:24

Iran Calls Baghdad Talks Constructive
By NASSER KARIMI
The Associated Press
March 11, 2007; 8:12 PM

U.S., Iran Trade Barbs in Direct Talks
Associated Press
March 11, 2007, 5:23 a.m. ET

The regional implications for the Saudi-Iranian dialogue
Shehata M. Nasser
The Arab Washingtonian
Saturday, March 10, 2007

Former Iranian Defense Official Talks to Western Intelligence
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post
March 8, 2007

Defection or abduction? Speculation grows after Iranian general goes awol in Turkey
· Former minister vanished from Istanbul hotel
· Fingers pointed at Mossad and anti-Tehran rebels
Julian Borger
The Guardian
March 8, 2007

Did top Iranian general defect?
Reports say 'missing' former deputy defense minister may seek asylum and offer intelligence to the West.
By Tom Regan
CSMonitor.com
posted March 08, 2007 at 12:00 p.m. EST

Iran: Ex-Defense Official's Whereabouts Remain A Mystery
By Golnaz Esfandiari
RFE/RL
March 8, 2007

U.S. Denies defection of Iran’s deputy defense minister
Ya Libnan
Thursday, 8 March, 2007 @ 2:39 AM

Key Iranian General and former Deputy Defense Minister May Haved Defected to United States
Steve Clemons
Washington Note
March 07, 2007

Report: Missing Iranian official being questioned in N. Europe
By Yoav Stern, and Haaretz Service
Haaretz
Last update - 16:33 07/03/2007

Panic in Tehran
PJM in Tel Aviv
Pajamas Media
March 7, 2007 12:30 AM

Saudi visit of Iranian president fails to lessen tensions
By Peter Symonds
Ya Libnan
7 March, 2007 @ 5:13 PM

"Iranian General Defects with Hizbullah’s Secrets," by Nicholas Noe
Joshua Landis
Syria Comment
March 7th, 2007

INTERVIEW WITH MENASHE AMIR, ISRAELI EXPERT ON IRANIAN AFFAIRS, DISCUSSING THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A HIGH RANKING IRANIAN OFFICIAL IN TURKEY (ISRAEL 103FM RADIO, 08:30 (GMT+2) MARCH 07, 2007)
Federal News Service Moscow Bureau
7 March 2007

Iranian General Reportedly Defects
Kenneth R. Timmerman
NewsMax
March 7, 2007

Iran: West May Have Kidnapped Missing Official
FARS
News numbre: 8512160287
13:49 | 2007-03-07

Iran: Retired Defense Minister Missing
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
The Associated Press
March 6, 2007; 6:45 AM

Missing Iranian official may have information on Ron Arad
By Yoav Stern, and Haaretz Service
Haaretz
March 06, 2007 Adar 16, 5767

No U.S. Backup Strategy For Iraq
Outside Experts, Not White House, Discuss Options
By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post
March 5, 2007

Israel involved in Iranian general's disappearance?
Former Iranian deputy defense minister vanished about a month ago on his way from Damascus to Turkey. Iranian officials say Mossad, CIA may have been involved in his disappearance
Dudi Cohen
YNet
Published: 03.04.07, 22:24 / Israel News

Iranian President & Saudi King plan summit talks on ME crises
By : HASSAN M. FATTAH and NAZILA FATHI
Ya Libnan
2 March, 2007 @ 5:46 AM

Iran Says Its Leader Will Join the Saudi King for Talks on the Region's Conflicts
By HASSAN M. FATTAH AND NAZILA FATHI; HASSAN M. FATTAH REPORTED FROM DUBAI, AND NAZILA FATHI FROM TEHRAN. NADA BAKRI CONTRIBUTED REPORTING FROM BEIRUT, LEBANON; RASHEED ABOU-ALSAMH FROM JIDDA, SAUDI ARABIA; AND HELENE COOPER FROM WASHINGTON.
New York Times
March 2, 2007

The Elusive Quds Force
By Christopher Dickey and John Barry
Newsweek
Feb. 26, 2007 issue

The New Enemy?
Bush blames Iran’s Quds Force for a spike in anti-American violence in Iraq. Who are they, and how tight are their ties with Tehran?
By Michael Hirsh, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek
Updated: 6:46 p.m. ET Feb 15, 2007

After the Mecca Accord, Clouded Horizons
By HELENE COOPER
New York Times
February 21, 2007

The Relationship Between Hizbullah & the United States In Light of the Current Situation in the Middle East
By Nicholas Noe
MPhil Thesis, Cambridge University Centre for International Studies
(N.B. - Modified October 10, 2006 after submission and approval)
July 2006

US blunder aided Iran's atomic aims, book claims
Julian Borger in Washington
The Guardian
January 5, 2006

George Bush insists that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. So why, six years ago, did the CIA give the Iranians blueprints to build a bomb?
The Guardian
January 5, 2006

Officials: Error tipped Iran to CIA agents
CNN
January 3, 2006; Posted: 8:43 p.m. EST (01:43 GMT)

The Scoop from 'State of War'
By Jan Frel
AlterNet
Posted January 5, 2006

Risen vs. Risen
Or, book standards vs. newspaper standards.
By Jack Shafer
Slate
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006, at 10:05 PM ET

Underestimating Intelligence: Why it's not fair to give the CIA a failing grade.
By Daniel Benjamin
Slate
Posted Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, at 12:44 PM ET

Where Spying Starts and Stops: Tracking an Embattled C.I.A. and a President at War
By JAMES BAMFORD
Books of the Times | 'State of War'
January 9, 2006

State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration
by James Risen
ISBN-10: 0743270665
Free Press (January 3, 2006)

Iran: Defending The Islamic Revolution -- The Corps Of The Matter
By Houchang Hassan-Yari
RFE/RL
Friday, August 5, 2005

Gordon Housworth



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Chlorine is only the beginning of a spectrum of instant asymmetrical chemical weapons

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A chemical weapon (CW) in the hands of an asymmetrical attacker or terrorist will generally not be 'WMD-scale,' certainly not in the context used in connection with Iraq under Saddam Hussein and OIF, but it will be a chemical weapon nonetheless. (Under current (but not future) means of delivery, the most likely "WMD chemical event" will be the placing of conventional explosives in an existing chemical plant.)

We must recalibrate our definition of a chemical weapon in order to understand how a terrorist can add chemical leverage to their attacks, likely using one or more items (mixtures greatly complicate defensive responses) drawn from local industrial chemical and pesticide stocks. In conflict situations where hazmat protection greatly complicates combat operations and/or local infrastructure is inept or unprepared to deal with chemical events, a simple chemical additive (even a benign additive if the defenders momentarily believe it to be a chemical additive) can be a significant force multiplier - directly against combat formations and indirectly against domestic public opinion.

The increasing use of industrial chlorine in Iraq is very good technique, so long in coming but so quickly emulated. There are many industrial chemicals that are far more toxic than chlorine. The plastics, fire retardant and semiconductor industries are examples of industrial production containing highly toxic, generally commercially available and invariably unprotected, either at the industrial supplier or on the consumers' facility.

Many common toxic industrial chemicals could be used as weapons. What they lack in toxicity is made up by the large quantities commonly available and accessible. During WWI, the Germans used common chlorine gas as a weapon by simply opening containers and allowing the chemical to drift downwind into enemy forces. Chlorine and phosgene gases are industrial chemicals that are regularly transported in bulk road and rail shipments. Saboteurs could easily target commercial containers and rupture them to release the gases. The effects of chlorine and phosgene are similar to those of mustard agent. Chlorine and other chemical spills from trucks and railcars are not uncommon; terrorists would simply need to select targets and timing to maximize the effects on the public. Trucks and railcars are notoriously vulnerable targets to which little attention has been directed.

How to Handle a Chlorine Bomb is a good introduction to addressing a chlorine release, although its pertinent recommendations will be harder to implement in a combat environment. Copies of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG2004), a first responder guide to "(1) quickly identifying the specific or generic classification of the material(s) involved in the incident, and (2) protecting themselves and the general public during this initial response phase of the incident" should be on their way to Iraq along with the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.

Many retardants are precursors to organophosphates - nerve agents. It is only a matter of time before asymmetricals talk to an industrial hazardous materials specialist, consult the standard industrial toxicology handbooks (many in the end list), leaf through MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) listings, or remember Bhopal where an accidental release of methyl isocyanate, a key ingredient to resins, killed thousands and incapacitated thousands more, often critically. Methyl isocyanate is often sold in 55 gallon drums as an industrial staple. From Plastics: Overview, a warning note to artists likely to handle unfamiliar compounds:

Isocyanates are extremely toxic by inhalation, causing bronchitis, bronchospasm, chemical pneumonia, and severe acute and chronic asthma at very low concentrations, even in people without a prior history of allergies.  They also cause severe eye irritation.  Methyl isocyanate was the chemical that killed over 2500 people in Bhopal, India when released into the atmosphere several years ago.

The degree of hazard depends on the volatility of the diisocyanate and its physical form.  TDI (toluene diisocyanate) is the most volatile and the most hazardous.  MDI (diphenyl methane diisocyanate) is less volatile and, less hazardous than TDI.  Polymeric isocyanates usually contain about 50% MDI.  If heated or sprayed, any isocyanate is extremely hazardous.  Note that isocyanates cannot be detected by odor until the concentration is many times higher than recommended levels.

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards contains a datum for Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH) that defines a "threat of exposure to airborne contaminants when that exposure is likely to cause death or immediate or delayed permanent adverse health effects or prevent escape from such an environment." While its original purpose was to "ensure that the worker can escape from a given contaminated environment in the event of failure of the respiratory protection equipment," it can be used by an attacker as a selection criteria.

The semiconductor industry has for decades been accorded a free ride by the lay populace as a green industry far removed from rustbelt smokestacks. Nothing could be farther from the truth as the industry is swollen with toxic processing agents, notably gases. To show how easy this is to find, search on "gases in processing semiconductors." One click will get you to Database of the Thermophysical Properties of Gases Used in the Semiconductor Industry, and one more will get you to the Index of Semiconductor Process Gases. While not an issue in Iraq, the semiconductor sector is a good example of a WMD-class event in place that only needs conventional explosives to release. Any reasonably industrialized state has materials in situ that are at risk of exploitation by terrorists.

It can get worse. There are many chemicals and formulations that share the ability of organophosphate nerve agents to kill by inhibiting the enzyme that controls the nervous system's ability to communicate. From NERVE AGENTS, PESTICIDES, AND CHOLINESTERASE INHIBITION, which I recommend as a readable introduction to a usually technical subject:

What is Cholinesterase Inhibition?

Let's take a look inside the human body. The human body, as well as other animals, contain electrical switching centers called 'synapses'. The body manufactures a chemical called 'acetylcholine' which turns on the switches and another enzyme called 'acetylcholinesterase' which breaks down the acetylcholine and turns off the switches. All this happens very fast. This is how the brain signals information throughout the body, to control respiration, muscle action, digestion, and other life functions.

Certain chemicals can throw this out of balance. A cholinesterase inhibiting chemical (nerve agents and some pesticides) interferes with the enzyme that breaks down the acetylcholine and excessive acetylcholine builds up at the synapses. There is nothing to switch off the synapses as acetylcholine builds up. Electrical impulses fire away continuously. Repeated and unchecked firing of electrical signals causes uncontrolled and rapid twitching of muscles, paralyzed breathing, convulsions, and in extreme cases, death.

Any chemical that can bind, or inhibit, cholinesterase (e.g. acetylcholinesterase) making it unable to breakdown acetylcholine is called a "cholinesterase inhibitor", or an "anticholinesterase agent". The nerve agents (chemical warfare agents) are the most potent. Certain pesticides can also show some degree of cholinesterase inhibition. The pesticides that can result in cholinesterase inhibition fall into broad classifications of either (1) organophosphates or organophorphorous pesticides, (2) carbamate pesticides, or (3) pesticides based on chlorinated derivatives of nicotine. There are also many pesticides on the market that do not inhibit cholinesterase.

The offending chemical can be ingested, absorbed through the skin or eyes, or inhaled. The amount of chemical required to kill a human being can be as little as one drop of agent VX applied on the skin. On the other hand, some of the pesticides, which possess cholinesterase inhibition are of low enough toxicity that it would be difficult for a person to poison himself.

Look, for example, at the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) (also here) for SEVIN 80WSP CARBARYL INSECTICIDE and its nerve agent capacities if misused. Contrast that to Chlorine or Methyl isocyanate.

Regardless of the source or scale of attack, chemical weapon attributes can be described as:

  • Chemical weapons (CW) are relatively inexpensive to produce.
  • CW can affect opposing forces without damaging infrastructure.
  • CW can be psychologically devastating.
  • Blister agents create casualties requiring attention and inhibiting force efficiency.
  • Defensive measures can be taken to negate the effect of CW.
  • Donning of protective gear reduces combat efficiency of troops.
  • Key to employment is dissemination and dispersion of agents.
  • CW are highly susceptible to environmental effects (temperature, winds).
  • Offensive use of CW complicates command and control and logistics problems.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is clearly inclusive in its interpretation of what constitutes a chemical weapon. It certainly includes any agent or combination of agents that an asymmetrical attacker would employ:

[All] toxic chemicals and their precursors, except when used for purposes permitted by the CWC in specified quantities, are chemical weapons. Toxic chemicals are defined as "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals." Precursors are chemicals involved in production stages for toxic chemicals.

Determining whether genuinely dual-use chemicals are chemical weapons is more difficult. For example, chemicals such as chlorine, phosgene and hydrogen cyanide (AC) - all of which were used during World War I as chemical weapons - are also key ingredients in numerous commercial products. To make the determination, toxic dual-use chemicals are subjected to the so-called general purpose criterion...

According to the general purpose criterion, a toxic or precursor chemical may be defined as a chemical weapon depending on its intended purpose. [A] toxic or precursor chemical is defined as a chemical weapon unless it has been developed, produced, stockpiled or used for purposes not prohibited by the Convention. The definition thus includes any chemical intended for chemical weapons purposes, regardless of whether it is specifically listed in the [CWC]...

Chemicals intended for purposes other than these are considered chemical weapons. A basic component of the general purpose criterion is the principle of consistency. A toxic chemical held by a State Party and in agreement with this principle will not only be produced, stockpiled or used for a legitimate purpose, but also will be of a type and quantity appropriate for that purpose.

Terrorists will be able to overcome the historical limitations of employing chemical weapons, in the near term, doing so by incorporating 'found' industrial materials:

Chemical weapons have a relatively small area of influence and quickly disperse into the air or settle to the ground. When combined with explosives to increase dispersion the active chemicals are often destroyed or degraded by the explosive blast. Terrorist groups have extensive experience with conventional explosives and gain little advantage from chemical weaponry... It's simply impractical for terrorists to secretly obtain, transport and disperse the large quantities of chemicals required to attain a significant result...

As soon as the asymmetricals talk to a blasting expert, as opposed to a demolition expert, they will be taught about low brisance explosives (where brisance is a measurement of the rapidity that an explosive achieves its maximum overpressure and velocity) for bursting chemical stocks; Low brisance explosives are used to heave and fracture rock strata rather than pulverize the strata as would a high brisance explosive (C4, Semtex and other military explosives).

In the near to medium term, terrorists will not have to start from ground zero, building, weaponizing and deploying CW on a WMD scale. They will learn to include industrial chemicals, pesticides and some herbicides in pointed tactical engagements combined with other attack vectors that will complicate defensive response.

Iraq Rebels Expected to Use More Chlorine Gas in Attacks
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
New York Times
February 23, 2007

How to Handle a Chlorine Bomb
Kris Alexander
Danger Room
Friday, February 23, 2007

Militants Using Chemical Bombs in Iraq
By DAMIEN CAVE and AHMAD FADAM
New York Times
February 21, 2007

Plastics: Overview
by Michael McCann, Ph.D, C.I.H and Angela Babin, M.S.

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
NIOSH Publication No. 2005-149
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
September 2005

Deriving Toxicity Values for Organophosphate Nerve Agents: A Position Paper in Support of the Procedures and Rationale for Deriving Oral RfDs for Chemical Warfare Nerve Agents
Young, Robert A.; Opresko, Dennis M.; Watson, Annetta P.; Ross, Robert H.; King, Joe; Choudhury, Harlal
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment
Volume 5, Number 3, June 1999, pp. 589-634(46)

EXPLOSIVE FORCES OF IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICES
Jeff Slotnick
Security Driver

Terrorists, WMD, and the US Army Reserve
CHARLES L. MERCIER, JR.
Parameters, Autumn 1997, pp. 98-118

Creating an explosion: The theory and practice of detonation and solid chemical explosives
J A Burgess and G Hooper
Physics in Technology 8 257-265
doi:10.1088/0305-4624/8/6/305
1977

Toxic Substances
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
US Department of Health and Human Services

Database of the Thermophysical Properties of Gases Used in the Semiconductor Industry
NIST Standard Reference Database 134
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Index of Semiconductor Process Gases
NIST Standard Reference Database 134
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Thermophysical Properties of Gases Used in Semiconductor Processing
J.J. Hurly, K.A. Gillis, and M.R. Moldover
NIST - Physical and Chemical Properties Division

NERVE AGENTS, PESTICIDES, AND CHOLINESTERASE INHIBITION
by John S. Nordin, Ph.D.
The First Responder
VOLUME 2 ISSUE 2
Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Handbook of Chemicals and Gases for the Semiconductor Industry
Wiley InterScience
March 2002

Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG2004)
US Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico (SCT)
2004
PDF

ChemFinder

ChemINDEX (ChemFinder professional)

Expert Consulting and Expert Witness Services

Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics
written and designed by Carl Hepburn, post-grad student, at University of Essex

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Weapons
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Global Focus
Open Source Intelligence

What Is A Chemical Weapon?
FactSheet 4
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
Last revised: 25 July 2000

Monitoring Chemicals With Possible Chemical Weapons Applications
FactSheet 7
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
Last revised: 25 July 2000

Gordon Housworth



InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  

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Aaron Sorkin's "West Wing" versus Joel Surnow's "24": a palpable slide in US public diplomacy

  #

Few Americans understand the impact that West Wing made abroad as well as at home, that it was nothing short of a diplomatic minister without portfolio, retrieving a glimmer of Augustine's "shining city on a hill" in the minds of many Europeans that were otherwise immediately disposed to criticize the US and the Bush43 administration. Distilling the comments of my English colleagues, I will go so far as to say that West Wing painted a weekly picture of an idealized, desirable US, taught many foreign nationals (and some US citizens) how our government functioned, set administration actions in a historical context and invisibly eased the rising pressure against cooperation with the US in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq.

Its successor, 24, has inverted this vision by a rising, now continuously applied, level of torture that cements in the minds of many foreign nationals, that Abu Ghraib was commonplace rather than the exception we claim it to be. The level of mayhem, as idealized as was the workings of government in West Wing, has become so great that the US military has taken steps to call for a reduction in its violence and an accurate rendering of the interrogation process.

West Wing and 24 are polar opposites. This two-part note speaks to their impacts here and abroad. The diplomatic minister without portfolio has morphed into a ruthless inquisitor worthy of Torquemada. The message is not lost on foreign viewers or, for that matter, US troops in combat areas.

Ignorance of public diplomacy as a general rule

Far too many US nationals are unaware of the value of public diplomacy or of the impact their actions, or the perceptions of those actions, have on those beyond our borders. I am consistently saddened that the content of John Brown's excellent survey of public diplomacy, notably his PUBLIC DIPLOMACY PRESS AND BLOG REVIEW (PDPBR), seem to largely pass without notice in the popular press and too much of the high street press. (I am pleased to say that I made it into 23-28 December PDPBR for The ventriloquist, the ventriloquist's dummy and SecState Rice.)

Film and TV entertainment form an important part of that public diplomacy, often influencing the belief systems of foreign nationals far more strongly than does our formal diplomacy. A start on the pros and cons is Hollywood and the Spread of Anti-Americanism. See Some Countries Remain Resistant to American Cultural Exports for macro themes in cultural and entertainment transfer. West Wing and 24 are squarely in that entertainment sector and have had, in the case of West Wing, and will have, in the case of 24, significant impact on perceived US actions and intent.

West Wing's break from political parody to assumed reality

Sarah Cavendish's The West Wing: President as Symbol addressed West Wing's unique transitional characteristics:

The West Wing is in uncharted territory for its positive portrayal of the political system. According to Jackson (2000), "Before The West Wing, presidential parody was the best television could offer," (p. 3). The implication of this statement is that The West Wing is much closer to reality than it is to parody. The tone of this show is undoubtedly liberal, yet the interactions between the President and his staff are symbolic of presidencies both Republican and Democrat (Auster, 2000). This show functions as the common man’s way of seeing inside the White House. Lehmann (2001) and Wolff (2000) each explore the growing significance of The West Wing in American life.

Lehmann (2001) notes the appearance of "Bartlet for President" bumper stickers in southern California during campaign 2000. Bartlet for President? What is it about this fictional Presidency that people find so attractive? Lehmann describes The West Wing’s purpose as two-fold. First, it functions as a television program to entertain viewers. However, according to Lehmann, that function is secondary in nature. In reality, " The West Wing sets out, week after week, to restore public faith in the institutions of our government, to shore up the bulwarks of American patriotism, and to supply a vision of executive liberalism—at once principled and pragmatic; mandating both estimable political vision and serious personal sacrifice; plying an understanding of the nation’s common good that is heroically heedless of focus groups, opposition research, small-bore compromise, and re-election prospects—that exists nowhere else in our recent history," (Lehmann, 2001, p. 2).

Wolff (2000) dubs Martin Sheen as President Bartlet " our remote-control president." Even this title implies the impact The West Wing is having in American culture. He contends that The West Wing functions as a parallel world, one in which many Americans would prefer to live. As Wolff states, " it’s a television set piece, something entirely formulaic, earnest, goody-goody, proud of itself, overproduced. And exactly for these reasons it many be on its way to being the most important political document of the age," (p. 3). Finally, Wolff (2000) articulates the symbolic role President Bartlet is assuming in American life. He is, "…an actor who just plays the president [who] is becoming as potent a symbol as the actual presidency…President Bartlet is fully idealized. And yet, it is an oddly or beguilingly, credible portrait. We seem to want it to be, anyway," (p. 7). Drawing upon current research concerning rhetoric in popular culture and presidential research defining essential characteristics of a president, this study will explore how President Josiah " Jed" Bartlet is constructed as a fictional president...

The decision-making processes enacted for policy decisions allow the President to seek advice from others before making a final decision. A sense of history affects President Bartlet’ s decision-making by allowing him to learn from the past. In addition to learning from the past, President Bartlet also transmits his knowledge of history to the next generation… History, then, as portrayed on The West Wing, is cyclical because it influences both the President’ s decisions and symbolically, offers perspective to future generations… [The] attention to history portrayed on The West Wing is another way the creators of this show strengthen this fictional president as embodying roles of real presidents...

The behind the scenes processes portrayed on The West Wing can be as simple as the President talking to Leo about a domestic policy issue or as complex as a situation room briefing on a submarine that is lost in North Korea. The use of these processes allows viewers to be on the inside of decisions. At the end of an episode, viewers are able to understand why and how a decision was reached and more importantly, appreciate the strength and resolve of the President who made it...

[The] audience [sees] the balance of humanness and strength that are key to this construction of President. Previous portrayals of politicians and presidents on television and in film have generally possessed one quality or the other, both not both. The West Wing overcomes this dichotomy by encompassing both humanness and strength. In doing so, the creators of this television show construct a portrait of President that is realistic. Normal people have strengths and weaknesses, and by extension, the leader of our country does as well. President Bartlet, then, is " a president we can all agree on" because he is simultaneously someone who we could imagine having a cup of coffee with and someone who we could be comfortable leading us into war.

West Wing as "subversive competitor" to government

Rollins and O'Connor's The West Wing: The American Presidency as Television Drama goes far in explaining the effect and reach of West Wing here and abroad. Two of its more interesting items are available here. Recommended:

The West Wing is not completely accurate in its portrayal of the actual West Wing because of the certain amount of melodrama that must be added to each episode to captivate viewers. However, former White House staffers agree that the show "captures the feel [of the West Wing], shorn of a thousand undramatic details."

Former White House aide Matthew Miller noted that West Wing's original script writer, Sorkin"

"captivates viewers by making the human side of politics more real than life or at least more real than the picture we get from the news." Miller also noted that by portraying politicians with empathy, the show created a "subversive competitor" to the cynical views of politics in media. In the essay "The West Wing and the West Wing", author Myron Levine agreed, stating that the series "presents an essentially positive view of public service and a healthy corrective to anti-Washington stereotypes and public cynicism."

Staci Beavers' The West Wing as a Pedagogical Tool spoke of the West Wing's viability "as a teaching tool":

"While the series’ purpose is for-profit entertainment, The West Wing presents great pedagogical potential." The West Wing [gave] greater depth to the political process usually espoused only in stilted talking points on shows like Face the Nation and Meet the Press.

"Across the pond" affection for West Wing

The UK's attention to West Wing started at the top:

The staffers at Number 10, Downing Street, the heart of British government, are addicted to West Wing. They are fascinated by the insight into the political plumbing, and enjoy vicariously the experience of real power.

Speaking for many in the UK, the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland spoke of the dread of the passing of West Wing: in End of the alt oval office:

We've known this moment was coming, but it doesn't mean we're prepared. Sure, the video is set, primed to record, all social engagements have been cancelled and the phones will be switched off. But such technical preparations are not the point. What I'm speaking about is emotional readiness. Are we emotionally equipped for the end of The West Wing?

The last ever episodes air tonight on More4 and, for a small band of devotees, today's page in the diary is edged in black. This is the show that has gripped us for six years; the Bartlet presidency it depicts has endured longer than the Bush one. For the last few months, watching this seventh series, we have followed the Santos v Vinick presidential contest as closely as we would any real election. And now we shall have to live without it.

With typically adroit timing, these final episodes coincide with a prime ministerial visit to Washington: tonight you'll be able to flick between More4 and the news channels and see the White House on all of them. What's more, you'll have a chance to compare the diplomatic style of the fictional administration with the real thing.

The BBC noted the cancellation of West Wing thusly:

Set in the West Wing of the White House, it follows the administration of fictional Democratic president Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, played by Hollywood veteran Martin Sheen. Touching on issues such as anti-terror legislation and presidential scandal, its view of White House life earned the series an unprecedented 24 Emmy awards and two Golden Globes. "It didn't insult you and it was supremely clever at it,"… "You might not know the finer points of US law but you got it and - much more - you got why it was so important to these characters."...

Attracting 17.6 million US viewers and winning a record nine Emmy awards for its first season, The West Wing was soon broadcast in countries including Japan and the UK. Programme-makers endeavoured to keep the show relevant by basing plots around ongoing or current political issues… The show had developed a loyal following by [2001] - even in the UK, where it lacked a permanent timeslot and moved from Channel 4 to E4 then More4.

West Wing was very favorably compared to the UK's wickedly funny Yes, Minister and its follow-on Yes Prime Minister (summary of both here) which dealt with inept ministerial appointees squired out of disaster by their White Hall bureaucrats in So farewell then, President Bartlet:

The West Wing, which will expire in May at the end of its seventh season, adopted the ginned-up patter of William Powell and Myrna Loy in the Thin Man pictures and brought that staccato rhythm to the sky-lit halls around the Oval Office. [The] West Wing was as earnest and high-minded as Yes, Minister was wickedly cynical. Decent, hard-working, noble, highly educated senior staffers walked the corridors at impossible speeds - "pedaconferencing" - clutching briefing books and deadpanning their way through the occasional nuclear bio-weapons attack.

In Yes, Minister, the conceit was that the civil service assistants recognised their superiors as hopeless twits and covered for them. In The West Wing, the young staffers, supervised by a wizened, indulgent chief of staff, serve a president who is a thatch-haired New England aristo, Nobel prize-winning economist, devoted father to three brilliant and beautiful daughters and equal partner to his wife (a doctor of wit and sophistication), devout Catholic, ace Latinist, student of American history and, above all, Good Decent Liberal, yet not damp-palmed. He could make the tough decisions (ie, drop a bomb when needed) but had the humanity to look sternly into the middle-distance - an expression signifying moral vexation - when lives were lost. In other words, he was Bill Clinton or John Kennedy without the personal issues. He was Truman with a finer mind and more polish. He was certainly not George W Bush - not one bit.

In between the riffs of snappy repartee, Bartlet's noble satraps would step to centre stage and unburden themselves of some of the most mind-bendingly un-ironic speeches about virtue and public life since Tacitus carried a briefcase…

Apparently, affection for the fantastical goodness of the Bartlet White House was not limited to American shores. During the last campaign season in England, I was in London to write a profile of Tony Blair for the New Yorker and asked the prime minister's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, whether it was true that many of the same people at No 10 who had been influenced by the Clinton White House also had a thing for the Bartlet White House. Powell denied it. A day or two later, I was tagging along with the Blair campaign in Gravesend, when one of his press aides, Hillary Coffman, and I fell behind and nearly lost the prime minister. As she raced after her boss, Coffman said: "Do you remember that episode of West Wing when Josh and Toby miss the motorcade and they're left behind in Indiana? We can relate."

UK Reader responses to their choice of The best ever West Wing lamenting that "soon there will be nothing new to look forward to from the best president America never had" shows a remarkable attention to, and affection for, the US West Wing.

A UK blogger's comment was typical:

It is rare for television drama to be this sophisticated and this good even if it does suffer from the typical American moralising that infects all of their television output. The West Wing set the bar far higher than most US and indeed British television dramas… There is, however, a problem - and that’s credibility. I would love to believe that the people who staff the White House - and indeed the equivalent people here in the UK - are really that intelligent, thoughtful, fair-minded, devoted, hard working and just plain nice! Somehow, especially in the case of the current incumbents, I can’t help thinking that they fall short of that ideal by a seriously long way.

This English blogger spoke to West Wing's educational benefit on both sides of the Atlantic:

I love The West Wing - one of the few intelligent dramas to come from the US in years. Yes it is hopelessly naive (an intelligent, liberal, cultured US President - don't be daft!) and often went too "God Bless America!" for me, but it was sharp, witty and probably did more to educate the US about their political process than their school system and government combined.

While it is understandable that commercial issues foreclosed on what was conceived as an entertainment program, we should remember that we lost that diplomatic minister without portfolio who so tirelessly and quietly worked on America's behalf in distant lands.

Part 2 to follow: 24, the ruthless inquisitor

The West Wing Episode Guide

West Wing Transcripts
West Wing Searchable Episode Transcripts

The West Wing
Television Without Pity (TWOP)
Fan episode summaries continuing
here, here, here, here and here

Some Countries Remain Resistant to American Cultural Exports
By TYLER COWEN
New York Times
February 22, 2007

'24' gets a lesson in torture from the experts
Their advice: Make the scenes more realistic, not bloodier. And don't rely on tidy conclusions.
By Martin Miller
LA Times
February 13, 2007

Hollywood and the Spread of Anti-Americanism
by Jonathan Wellemeyer
Intelligence Squared U.S., NPR.org
December 20, 2006

The West Wing
Yellow Swordfish
July 2006

The best ever West Wing
By Steve Busfield / Television 11:39am
Organ Grinder
Guardian Unlimited
Monday January 23 2006

The West Wing (TV series)
Wikipedia
page was last modified 09:23, 22 February 2007

WHATEVER IT TAKES
by JANE MAYER
The politics of the man behind "24."
Issue of 2007-02-19
Posted 2007-02-12

End of the alt oval office
The West Wing offered a shadow presidency that was even-handed in the Middle East. It will be missed.
Jonathan Freedland
Guardian
July 28, 2006 12:38 PM | Printable version

Fans say goodbye to The West Wing
By Jonathan Beale
BBC News, Hollywood
Last Updated: Saturday, 13 May 2006, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK

So farewell then, President Bartlet
The West Wing has been axed; its fans are devastated. The truth is, writes David Remnick, the world doesn't need Josiah Bartlet like it used to
The Guardian
Wednesday January 25, 2006

Final closure of The West Wing
BBC News
Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 15:03 GMT

The dark arts of good people: How popular culture negotiates 'spin' in NBC's The West Wing
by Kay Richardson
Journal of Sociolinguistics
Vol.10, Issue #1, p 52, 2006

The Roots of Torture
The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war. A NEWSWEEK investigation
By John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff
Newsweek International
May 24, 2004

The West Wing: The American Presidency as Television Drama [REVIEW]
by Peter C. Rollins, John E. O'Connor, editors
Syracuse
Ink 19

The West Wing: The American Presidency as Television Drama
Edited by Peter C. Rollins and John E. O'Connor
Syracuse University Press
2003

What would Jed Bartlet do?
Paul Hirst
Open Democracy
19 - 2 - 2003

The West Wing as a Pedagogical Tool
Staci L. Beavers
PS: Political Science & Politics
American Political Science Association
Vol 35, pp 213-216
Jun. 2002

The West Wing: President as Symbol
By Sarah E. Cavendish
Thesis Submitted to the Graduate College of Marshall University
Marshall University, Huntington, WV
2002

The Real White House
Can a smart TV show inspire interest in public life in ways that real politics — brought to us by the real press corps — can’t? Absolutely. NBC’s The West Wing presents a truer, more human picture of the people behind the issues than most of today’s White House journalists.
by MATTHEW MILLER
Brill’s Content
Mirror
Bartlet4America
March 01, 2000

Gordon Housworth



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Prediction Markets move into the forecasting mainstream

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Prediction Markets move into the forecasting mainstream as a "specialists’ market [that] is smarter than the broader and more turbulence susceptible big markets," thereby "attracting significant event risk monitoring attention and that it will tend to reflect presumptions driving some of the ‘smart’ money at play in broader markets."

Prediction Markets have been of interest to me ever since DARPA's excellent, but politically tone deaf, Policy Analysis Market (PAM) was pulled down in less than a day due to misplaced Congressional criticism. (A future's contract on the assassination of Jordan's King Abdullah was one of PAM's launching examples; very pertinent but very tone deaf - typical of Poindexter, resulting in his resignation.) See: Avian Flu emerges as the new lighting rod for predictive futures markets, Dec 2005.

Speculation over Poindexter's departure spawned its own prediction market:

Ironically, the aftermath of the DARPA controversy provided a vivid illustration of the power of markets to provide information about probabilities of future events. An offshore betting exchange, Tradesports.com, listed a new security that would pay $100 if the head of DARPA, Admiral John Poindexter, was ousted by the end of August 2003. Early trading suggested a likelihood of resignation by the end of August of 40 percent, and price fluctuations reflected ongoing news developments. Around lunchtime on July 31, reports started citing credible Pentagon insiders who claimed knowledge of an impending resignation. Within minutes of this news first surfacing (and hours before it became widely known), the price spiked to around 80. These reports left the date of Poindexter’s proposed departure uncertain, which explains the remaining risk. As August dragged on, the price slowly fell back toward 50. On August 12, Poindexter then issued a letter of resignation suggesting that he would resign on August 29. On the 12th, the market rose sharply, closing at a price of 96.

Intrade's futures contracts on the date of the first Avian Flu infection in the US struck me as an excellent bit of informed prediction that could better the received wisdom of pundits and self-styled experts. See Prediction without accountability: calling the expertise and honesty of expert predictors into question, January, 2006

I agree with a colleague's assessment of Intrade (private note):

INTRADE is functioning like a window into one of the better informed layers of a global commodity market where there are in effect tiered levels of insight into events that will drive global pricing. (Metal traders know more than screen traders, metal producers know most of all especially in getting ahead of LME inventory relevant events.) We’ve seen political events play out in crude pricing, LA government policy affect sovereign credit spreads or Chinese tax changes affect metal pricing.

Wolfers and Zitzewitz describe this form of Prediction Market as:

markets where participants trade in contracts whose payoff depends on unknown future events. Much of the enthusiasm for prediction markets derives from the efficient markets hypothesis. In a truly efficient prediction market, the market price will be the best predictor of the event, and no combination of available polls or other information can be used to improve on the market-generated forecasts. This statement does not require that all individuals in a market be rational, as long as the marginal trade in the market is motivated by rational traders. Of course, it is unlikely that prediction markets are literally efficient, but a number of successes in these markets, both with regard to public events like presidential elections and within firms, have generated substantial interest...

The basic forms of these relevant contracts will reveal the market’s expectation of a specific parameter: a probability, mean or median, respectively. But in addition, prediction markets can also be used to evaluate uncertainty about these expectations.

These probability, mean or median type contracts are differentiated:

  1. Probability: "winner-takeall" contract, the contract costs some amount $p and pays off, say, $1 if and only if a specific event occurs, like a particular candidate winning an election. The price on a winner-take-all market represents the market’s expectation of the probability that an event will occur (assuming risk neutrality)...
  2. Mean: "index" contract, the amount that the contract pays varies in a continuous way based on a number that rises or falls, like the percentage of the vote received by a candidate. The price for such a contract represents the mean value that the market assigns to the outcome...
  3. Median: "spread" betting, traders differentiate themselves by bidding on the cutoff that determines whether an event occurs, like whether a candidate receives more than a certain percentage of the popular vote.

Corporate forecasting, dodgy in all but the best of cases, should be able to benefit from internal Prediction Markets that tap the incipient organization (how work gets done) within a firm as opposed to its organizational chart (how work is theoretically done):

Spengler’s state birth stage is the organizational incipient stage, when a nucleus of highly competent/motivated individuals join to perform a task, each knowing and depending upon the other. High performance teams are incipient organizations within larger, often sclerotic, organizations. I maintain that incipients reform out of desperation, if nothing else, than to build the "Go-to" network where timely, accurate answers can be found. Incipient organizations that reside within larger networks maintain contact with, and relationship to, the larger group, but are often invisible and many of its members do not even recognize that they are seen as a key node by others. (I have seen instances where a less competent external party recognizes an incipient member and leaches off their knowledge without recompense or recognition.)

My colleague was on the same ground (private note):

[The] application of expert insight capture to Mittal’s internal price planning, [which when combined with] internal web logs seems to me to be very interesting uses of IT to radically flatten senior management’s access to real in-house expertise that is otherwise usually out of reach. It is not necessarily high value insight but it is probably better to have it than forego it. It is probably not enough to satisfy a reputation risk objective, such as a Know Your [X] due diligence requirement.

Used wisely, the combination of internal prediction markets and other tools has the potential of revealing potent social networks that could (should) become the basis for employee elevation. (See the Krebs social networking items in Globally dispersed, indigenously sited communities of terrorists upgrading to locally produced chembio agents, Nov 2006.)

I am not alone in predicting that this 'wisdom of specialized crowds' will be closely watched. With regards to its use as predictor of 2008 presidental and Congressional seats, I immediately wondered to colleagues:

how it can be spoofed so as to skew the results, thereby possibly influencing the pundits, who might then influence the electorate. If one is willing to 'lose money' on the trade, there is the possibility of gaining the 'greater good' of your candidate's victory. The first comment in the readers reply to Leonhardt's article speaks to the same idea.

Reader Responses to the Column
By DAVID LEONHARDT
New York Times

Published: February 14, 2007

Odds Are, They’ll Know ’08 Winner
By DAVID LEONHARDT
New York Times
February 14, 2007

Prediction Markets
Justin Wolfers and Eric Zitzewitz
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 18, Number 2, Pages 107
126
Spring 2004

The Furor Over 'Terrorism Futures'
By Justin Wolfers and Eric Zitzewitz
Washington Post
Thursday, July 31, 2003

If This Is Harebrained, Bet on the Hare
Michael Schrage and Sam Savage
Washington Post
August 3, 2003
Original scrolled to archive
Mirror

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Jews on Spengler and Toynbee on Jews

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Part 2: Cycles of culture, civilization and organizations

As part 1 cited Wald's 'historian review', seeking more creative solutions for Jewish and Israeli survival than diplomatic obstruction, and part 2 dwelt on the long cultural cycles of Spengler and Toynbee, it seemed useful to round out the series with Wald's synopsis of the opinions of Spengler and Toynbee towards Jews:

[NOTE: As of this writing, the Wald document cited below has no extension. Should your PC ask, instruct it to open as a PDF.]

Spengler and the Jews [pages 17, 18]

Spengler was greatly interested in and sympathetic to the Jews, notwithstanding his right-wing political ideas. His knowledge of Jewish scriptures was vast. The Jew of whom he speaks with the deepest affection is the Baal Shem-Tov, the founder of Chassidism. He calls the Jewish people a “magic consensus”, which explains their “silent and self-evident cohesion”. The magic consensus is without a land and free of geographic limitations. It is magic because it is deeply believed but not based on rational or measurable criteria: “a completely unconscious metaphysical drive”. “This silent cohesion contained the idea of a magic nation; it was state, church and people at the same time”.

But the Enlightenment corroded and poisoned this magic consensus. Spengler’s predictions for the Jewish people are grim. The Jews will disappear; this is historically inevitable. He asserts that Western Judaism, which dominates all of Judaism, got entangled with Western civilization and will die with it. “The fate of Judaism is completed”. Spengler did not believe in Zionism and saw no future for it.

Toynbee and the Jews [pages 19, 20]

No other non-Jewish historian of civilizations of modern times was as interested in the Jews and the Bible as Toynbee. Chapters and paragraphs on Jewish history are spread across his work and could fill several hundred pages. Toynbee denied during most of his life that Jews had a genuine civilization. He argued with his Jewish detractors that Judaism was a “fossil”, comparable to the Parsees in India. Even in Biblical times, their civilization was not truly authentic and independent, but part of an over-arching “Syriac” civilization. After the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, they became “debris”, “drifting about in the world down to this day”. He mentions with admiration Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai who transformed Judaism after this catastrophe and helped it to survive. But he refuses to see that Judaism, which survived so many catastrophes, provides one of the most convincing examples for his “challenge-and-response” theory. He deplored the Shoah in more severe terms than most others before the Eichmann trial and promised the Occident “lasting infamy” for having allowed this crime to happen. But he also condemned Israel for the injustices allegedly committed against the Palestinians. His anti-Zionist statements of the 1950s and 1960s, often associated with attacks against America and the Jewish lobby there, are almost identical to the hostile statements that were made again, particularly in Europe, during the 2000 – 2005 period.

But in parallel, and prior to 1961 when the last volume of his Study of History appeared, something happened that made him overturn many of his old convictions, except for his anti-Zionism. There is no explanation for his radical reappraisal of the Jewish people. No longer are the Jews a “fossil”, they are now commended for having created an alternative model for civilizations that is no less important then the Chinese and Hellenic models. The Jews were the first to show how a people could maintain themselves after being uprooted. The world needs the Jewish Diaspora model: “this pioneer achievement has proved to be the wave of the future”. But there was more to come. Toynbee now calls on the Jewish people to seek converts, to address itself to the entire world and make it Jewish. This would be “Judaism’s achievement of its destiny”. Toynbee hopes a Jewish prophet will appear to convince his people of their universal mission: “The world has been waiting for this prophet for 2500 years” – which can only mean that Jesus was not the right prophet. By then, the Jews had stopped reading Toynbee.

Part 4 to follow

Jewish Civilization between Rise, Thriving and Decline
Project Head: Dr. Shalom Solomon Wald
Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI)
2006
[NOTE: File name is Wald-Wye without an extension. Save it to disk and open it as a PDF]

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Cycles of culture, civilization and organizations

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Part 1: No nation has a "right" to exist, be it Israel or the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Drivers for cycles of culture and civilization

It was decades ago when I concluded that a latter day offspring of Edward Gibbons would write The Decline and Fall of the United States; I have touched on the transience of Pax Americana in these pages. See:

Kaplan speaks to Gibbons' grasp of nation state drivers:

The Decline and Fall instructs that human nature never changes, and that mankind's predilection for faction, augmented by environmental and cultural differences, is what determines history. In this Gibbon was influenced by the Baron de Montesquieu, who saw history not as mere politics and ideas but as a complex of cultural, social, and climatic forces. [Despite] individual agency and the surprises of history [only] patterns, rather than individuals, endure at the end of the three volumes.

For Gibbon the real changes were not so much the dramatic, "newsworthy" events as the insidious transformations: Rome moving from democracy to the trappings of democracy to military rule; Milan in Italy and Nicomedia in Asia Minor functioning as capital cities decades before the formal division of the empire into western and eastern halves, and almost two centuries before Rome officially ceased to be an imperial capital; the fact that the first fifteen "Christian" bishops of Jerusalem were circumcised Jews subscribing to a not yet formalized religion. It seems that the more gradual and hidden the change, the more historically important it turned out to be.

Oswald Spengler

I lean to life cycles as a prism though which societies and organizations can be viewed, my favorites being Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West or you prefer the original un-soundbite-able German, Der Untergang des Abendlandes. and Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History (here and here). It was widely assumed among the Entente powers (the winners) that Spenger's Decline was an apologia written after WWI; the reality was that volume I of Decline, Form and Actuality (Gestalt und Wirklichkeit), was completed in 1914 when Imperial Germany was at its zenith.

Spengler was observing the rising contests among European states. We forget that African disputes among European powers were among the central factors giving rise to WWI. The 1905-1906 Tangier Crisis, aka the First Moroccan Crisis, saw Germany question France's colonial suzerain of Morocco, the situation becoming so serious that both France and Germany mobilized their armies with the upshot that the UK began to drift away from Germany and towards its historical enemy, France. Dissatisfied with the Tangier outcome, Germany attempted gunboat diplomacy in Morocco in 1911, culminating in the Agadir Crisis that compelled Spengler to contemplate the future of European culture. See The Morocco Crisis of 1911. The 1905-1914 period was diplomacy and brinkmanship as severe as we experienced with the Soviets, more so as it ultimately led to war in 1914. Wilson covers the period nicely in THE MAKING AND PUTATIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF A BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY OF GESTURE, DECEMBER 1905 TO AUGUST 1914: THE ANGLO-FRENCH ENTENTE REVISITED.

Spengler proposed a biotic analog to nation states in that they pass through stages of birth, development, fulfillment, decay, and death (although states can be stillborn or die at any time from fatal disease). Spengler felt that as all previous cultures had passed through these distinct stages that Western culture would be no exception. The apogee is fulfillment, which he called the culture phase, after which the transition to civilization begins the period of decline and decay:

Each Culture has its own possibilities of self-expression which arise, ripen, decay, and never return. There is not one sculpture, one painting, one mathematics, but many. Each is in its deepest essence different from the others, each limited in duration and self-contained…

Every Culture has its own Civilization. In this work, for the first time, the two words are used in a periodic sense, to express a strict and necessary organic succession. The Civilization is the inevitable destiny of the Culture. Civilizations are the most external and artificial states which a species of developed humanity is capable. They are a conclusion, the thing-become succeeding the thing-becoming. They are an end, irrevocable, yet by inward necessity reached again and again...

[W]ithout exception all great creations and forms in religion, art, politics, social life, economy and science appear, fulfill themselves, and die down contemporaneously in all the cultures...

McNaughton described Spengler's stages:

Just as a human being reaches puberty during the second, and full adulthood in the third decade of life, a culture also passes through phases of predetermined sequence whose durations do not vary greatly from one higher organism to another. Its "springtime" is characterised by strong religious faith, which slowly gives way to increasing intellectuality and materialism. A culture's "summer" is an era of great creativity...

During "autumn", life becomes dominated by materialism and by purely rational thought. Warfare between the culture's constituent nations increases in intensity, with tensions between various strata of society also reaching breaking point. Eventually, one state becomes vigorous enough to conquer and absorb all others, imposing an authoritarian "Imperium".

During the Imperium, people realise the limitations of a purely intellectual view of the universe, so there is a return to religion - based on that of earlier centuries, but differently experienced through having emerged from a more advanced way of life.

The alternative to this trajectory is "sickness followed by premature death of the cultural organism." Of the "nine higher organisms" or civilizations that Spengler identified, only two cultures had yet to complete their "life-cycle" - "Western Civilisation" which he classed as "well into late adulthood" and Russia, whose Bolsheviks were attempting to graft "alien ideas" atop a "much older Western organism."

The greatest Chechen insurgent, Shamil Basayev, studied Spengler's Decline as well as the Bible. "He wanted to know how the world was ordered."

Duke University hosts an online copy of the abridged The Decline of the West by Werner, Helps and Atkinson. Most readers need go no further for original content and context. Were I to recommend a small book on Spengler, it would be H. Stuart Hughes' Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate. Less satisfying but more easily accessible are three short articles that span the view of Spengler:

Spengler had been called racist by some but he was more oblivious to race as a causal condition. Spengler's later works caused his initial adoption by the National Socialists as a theoretical precursor, but Spengler's criticisms of biological determination and persecutions culminating in his conclusion that National Socialism was fatal to Germany led to his ostracism in 1933.

Arnold Toynbee

Drawing upon trends from Goethe, Nietzsche, Hegel and others, Spengler went on to influence Arnold Toynbee's comparative study of civilizations, A Study of History, a fairer, more logical and better researched effort than Decline, although History suffered its criticism from Geyl and Trevor-Roper. Loved more by his readers than fellow historians, Toynbee:

"describes the rise and decline of 23 civilisations. His over-arching analysis was the place of moral and religious challenge, and response to such challenge, as the reason for the robustness or decline of a civilisation. He described parallel life cycles of growth, dissolution, a "time of troubles," a universal state, and a final collapse leading to a new genesis. Although he found the uniformity of the patterns, particularly of disintegration, sufficiently regular to reduce to graphs, and even though he formulated definite laws of development such as "challenge and response," Toynbee insisted that the cyclical pattern could, and should, be broken."

Samuel Francis' brief reprise of Toynbee helps to restore the essence of his approach. And as Islam has been much in our news of late, Toynbee's view of Islam is here.

Other life cycles, religious and secular

David Moberg used a life cycle analogy to understand church structure in The Church as a Social Institution much as Spengler did some sixty years earlier for states. Moberg uses five stages: incipient organization, formal organization, maximum efficiency, institutionalization, and disintegration:

Moberg's theoretical model proposes a curvilinear relationship between church age and effectiveness. For many years effectiveness and growth increase as age increases, however, midway in the life of the institution the reverse begins to be true.

In the beginning of the ascending curve there is a phase of incipient organization characterized by a negative reaction to existing churches, emotional enthusiasm for the new church, and diffused leadership. As the age and effectiveness of the organization increase, there is a phase of formal organization characterized by the membership commitments, specification of goals, symbolic separation from the larger society, and a gradual move from charismatic leaders to rational or bureaucratic leaders. As the curve rises to a crest, there is a phase of maximum efficiency characterized by decisions based on research, increased tolerance of other groups and society, rapid expansion of the formal organizational structure, and rapid growth.

In the descending curve there is a phase of institutionalization characterized by an expanded bureaucracy which has become an end in itself, declining intimacy, passive members, and leaders who are remote from followers. Finally, the curve declines to nothingness in a phase of disintegration characterized by loss of members' confidence in the institution and its leaders, formalism, indifference, obsolence, absolutism, red tape, patronage, and corruption. If reform takes place at this final stage, efficiency may be regained.

The death or disintegration phase can also be a rejuvenation or more frequently a restructuring, whereupon the cycle begins anew. The institutional phase, the period when the entity sees itself exultant, is the stage of both maximum efficiency and least flexibility. I call it sclerotic. (In a manufacturing environment, there is an effort to blend efficiency with flexibility over batch sizes and/or multiple products.)

Spengler’s state birth stage is the organizational incipient stage, when a nucleus of highly competent/motivated individuals join to perform a task, each knowing and depending upon the other. High performance teams are incipient organizations within larger, often sclerotic, organizations. I maintain that incipients reform out of desperation, if nothing else, than to build the "Go-to" network where timely, accurate answers can be found. Incipient organizations that reside within larger networks maintain contact with, and relationship to, the larger group, but are often invisible and many of its members do not even recognize that they are seen as a key node by others. (I have seen instances where a less competent external party recognizes an incipient member and leaches off their knowledge without recompense or recognition.)

Many commercial practitioners are familiar with the progression of the generic Product Life Cycle that cycles through introduction, growth, maturity and decline, but never think to apply it to nation states.

Conclusion

Neither Spengler or Toynbee are perfect but I find them directionally correct, enough to be useful in positioning a culture or organization and describing macro operating characteristics. Remember Box and Draper's admonition, "Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful."

Part 3: Jews on Spengler and Toynbee on Jews

How Russia's Chechen Quagmire Became Front for Radical Islam
Aligning With Arab Militants Gained Money, Fighters For Rebel Leader Basayev
Swapping 'Che' for Allah
By ANDREW HIGGINS in London, GUY CHAZAN in Nalchik, Russia, and GREGORY L. WHITE in Moscow
Wall Street Journal
September 16, 2004

Oswald Spengler's Uneven Legacy
by Donald L. Stockton
2001

Oswald Spengler: Criticism and Tribute
Oliver, Revilo P.
The Journal for Historical Review

Volume 17 number 2
ISSN: 0195-6752
March/April 1998

The great doomsayer. (Oswald Spengler's 'The Decline of the West')
Neil McInnes
The National Interest
6/22/1997

Islam's Place in History in A Study of History
Arnold J. Toynbee
Courtesy: A Study of History, Vol. XII (Oxford University Press, 1961), pp.461-476

The disturbing freshness of Gibbon's Decline and Fall
by Robert D. Kaplan
Atlantic Monthly
March 1997

THE MAKING AND PUTATIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF A BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY OF GESTURE, DECEMBER 1905 TO AUGUST 1914: THE ANGLO-FRENCH ENTENTE REVISITED
K.M. Wilson
Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d'histoire XXXI, August/août 1996, pp. 227-255, ISSN 0008-4107

The Life Cycle of Nazarene Churches
Kenneth E. Crow, Ph.D.
Church of the Nazarene
1988

The Church as a Social Institution: The Sociology of American Religion
by David O. Moberg
ISBN-10: 0801061687, ISBN-13: 978-0801061684
Baker Book House, 1984

Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate
By H. Stuart Hughes
Charles Scribner's Sons
ISBN 0-8371-8214-X, 1952

Oswald Spengler and the Theory of Historical Cycles
R. G. Collingwood
Antiquity
Volume: 1 Number: 3 Page: 311–325, 1927

Oswald Spengler. The Decline of the West. [Abridged on Web]
Abridged edition by Helmut Werner. English abridged edition prepared by Arthur Helps from the translation by Charles Francis Atkinson.
New York: Oxford University Press c199 [1926, 1928, 1932]. xxxx,415, xvix

The Decline of the West
Abridged Edition
Oswald Spengler
Edited by Helmut Werner with a New Introduction by H. Stuart Hughes
English Abridged Edition Prepared by Arthur Helps
from the Translation by Charles Francis Atkinson
ISBN13: 9780195066340ISBN10: 0195066340 paper, 492 pages
OUP, Feb 1991

The Decline of the West
by Oswald Spengler
Knopf (Jun 12 1945)
ISBN-10: 0394421760, ISBN-13: 978-0394421766

Der Untergang Des Abendlandes: Umrisse Einer Morphologie Der Weltgeschichte
Oswald Spengler
Publication Date: January 1980
ISBN-10: 3406025315

Gordon Housworth



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No nation has a "right" to exist, be it Israel or the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

  #

The concept of any nation's "right to exist" is a curious construct, false on its face. Nation states may win recognition, even diplomatic legitimacy, in various ways (time and accumulated precedent being useful contributors) but even transient recognition never confers a "right to exist." If the constructs upon which the state is founded are imperiled or dissolved, its existence, at least in its current geographical boundaries, is in doubt.

I find it odd that only the State of Israel is accorded this "right to exist" defense in some quarters, primarily the US, yet its adjoining confrontation states are not. This asymmetry needs to be challenged as I think that it is ultimately injurious to the State of Israel and its citizens as it is an attempt to arbitrarily freeze the development process of an entire region. Xerxes would have better luck holding back the sea.

Observers would laugh if, say, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands declared their "right to exist" in the face of overpopulation and inappropriate development that has exceeded its carrying capacity, and recent geologic shifts that have seen these low lying islands sink by as much as a vertical meter. Only a US guarantee prevents those same observers from laughing at Israel, and that guarantee could be laid low in a stroke if the US blunders further in the Persian Gulf, forcing Saudi Arabia to make a regional compact with Iran. We forget that we failed to listen to Riyadh once before and paid dearly for our deafness.

In the face of US requests to KSA to increase its oil production in the early 1970s, Saudi Oil Minister Ahmad Zaki Yamani replied, "We'll go out of our way to help you. We expect you to reciprocate." We didn't listen. King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz granted his first US TV interview to state, "America's complete support of Zionism against the Arabs makes it extremely difficult for us to continue to supply U.S. petroleum needs and even to maintain friendly relations with America" We didn't listen. Faisal summoned leading US oilmen, telling them that Arab resentment was rising to the point that, "You may lose everything. Time is running out." The administration would not listen to them.

Neither the White House, State or DoD took the Saudis seriously. US support to Israel in the October 1973 War, Yom Kippur War to Israelis and the Ramadan War to Arabs, was the last straw. Saudi Arabia's imposition of a total oil embargo against the US in October 1973 had in Kissinger's words, "the most drastic consequences" for the US, contributing "to the deepest recession we have had in the postwar period." A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would, I think, make the 1973 embargo look like a cakewalk. It is that serious, yet the Bush43 administration seems to be equally tone deaf as was Nixon. Should the US blunder into such a default judgment by Muslim adjudicators, Israel's position immediately deteriorates.

I regard Yitzhak Rabin as one of Israel's most gifted soldiers and diplomats. His assassination by the Israeli extreme right in 1995 is a body blow from which Israeli politics has yet to recover. While serving as Minister of Defense in the National Unity Government, 1984 to 1990, Rabin spoke of a 1975 memorandum of agreement that "committed the U.S., and only the U.S., to formulations which [Rabin] did not believe the PLO was capable of accepting":

The first issue, and the central one, is recognition of the State of Israel's right to exist. I remember that many Israelis were offended by this formulation. The idea was Kissinger's: He said that anyone who in any way believes in the PLO's stages program cannot recognize, from an ideological standpoint, the State of Israel's right to exist. This contradicts the main pivot of the Palestinian covenant. It was almost completely clear to me that the PLO could not do this.

Yet we continue to render diplomatic progess moot by playing with phrases such as "recognize Israel," "recognize Israel's existence," or "recognize Israel's right to exist" that are no better than counting the angels on a pin head. The KSA is again on the move, visibly so, with regards to Palestine, and less so, but no less forcefully, on Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf.

The conditions for Palestinians in what I call Paltustan (also here) are so serious that were I a Palestinian, I would be out for vengeance as was Abu Nidal. (In addition to being a very useful introduction to Arab-Israeli issues, Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem is pointed in stating that democracy in Israel is for Jews and not for Arabs, and that the disparity remains unresolved and growing. Nothing has changed in the decades since the book was released.)

Refreshingly, Shmuel Rosner's The rise and fall of the Jewish people alerted me to an Israeli group, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), that was taking the long view, a pan-civilization view, of history and the survival of Jews in that historical progression, the goal of finding possible lessons learned for Jewish and Israeli proaction. Wald's JEWISH CIVILIZATION BETWEEN RISE, THRIVING AND DECLINE analyzes fifteen historians (two of whom are my favorites for cultural cycles, Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee), summarizing the Drivers of Rise, Thriving and Decline, commencing with the Lessons of History:

  1. Decline has multiple reasons. No single mono-causal reason can explain the decline and fall of a wide-spread and multi-facetted civilization. The Jewish people were saved more than once by its global spread and fragmentation. This means that a monolithic Judaism concentrated in one place will have a smaller chance of survival than a multifaceted Judaism present in different parts of the world.
  2. The reasons of decline are internal
  3. with exceptions. Virtually all authors assert that civilizations are declining and falling for internal, not external reasons. This is not true for all of them. Scores of civilizations have been wiped out by genocide since ancient times. The Jewish people escaped extinction several times. In addition to geographic dispersion, the thriving of the Jewish people will for a long time require military strength.
  4. Challenge and response. Jewish history knows at least three periods of major transformation that are responses to severe external challenges. These responses have assured Jewish survival until today: the transformations that both followed the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and that began with the Enlightenment, culminated in the Shoah and led to the creation of Israel. A fundamental, long-term policy aim is to strengthen the Jewish people’s capacity to respond to new challenges.

I recommend continuing through the Strengthening Drivers of Thriving, Coping with Challenges and Threats and Contentious Factors. More than one reader flagged these two drill downs that, taken together, imply that Jews and Israel cannot expect to depend on American Jews and, more broadly, the US for continued protection, and that Herzl's Zionism has placed too many Jewish eggs in an increasingly vulnerable basket:

Many authors warn of a decline of the West or an end to our industrial civilization. Jews have watched and survived the end of many civilizations, but a real decline of the West, particularly the United States, would have dramatic consequences for the Jewish people. Jews can do little to affect the mega-trends of Western civilization, but they should strengthen cultural links with non-Western civilizations, particularly China and India. The Chinese and Hindu cultures know no antagonism to Judaism based on holy books. Jews have done much too little to create more links with these civilizations...

Unless one assumes that the world is about to enter an era of eternal peace, history teaches us that a monolithic Judaism concentrated in one place will have a smaller chance of long-term survival than a multifaceted Judaism present in different parts of the world. The policy recommendations to be drawn from Jewish history are obvious: getting all Jews into the same shape and country, even if it is Israel as recently advocated by an Israeli poet, is not the best survival strategy.

Given the floundering US diplomacy and a rising number of 4GW opponents such as Hezbollah able to counter IDF conventional military assets, those forecasts were never more current. Heeding them will take far more that hiding behind a "right to exist."

Part 2: Cycles of culture, civilization and organizations

As Saudis Fill the Void, America Loses Control of the Game
Steve Clemons
Washington Note
February 10, 2007

What 'Israel's right to exist' means to Palestinians
Recognition would imply acceptance that they deserve to be treated as subhumans.
By John V. Whitbeck
CSM
February 02, 2007 edition

The rise and fall of the Jewish people
Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent
Rosner's Blog
June 16, 2006

Jewish Civilization between Rise, Thriving and Decline
Project Head: Dr. Shalom Solomon Wald
Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI)
2006
[NOTE: File name is Wald-Wye without an extension. Save it to disk and open it as a PDF]

They made a democracy and called it peace
By Spengler [Author's pseudonym, no relationship to Oswald Spengler]
Asia Times
Mar 8, 2005

The Scarred Earth: Tsunami-Spawning Quake Leaves Geophysical Changes
MADHUSREE MUKERJEE
Scientific American v.292, n.3, 1mar2005

The Overloaded Archipelago
By M. Rajshekhar
In Vogue
1/26/2005 11:18 PM

HTML

The Full Story of Resolution 242: How the US Sold Out the Palestinians
by Kathleen Christison
CounterPunch
June 28/30, 2002

Nixon Administration Ignores Saudi Warnings, Bringing On Oil Boycott
Donald Neff
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
October/November 1997, Pages 70-72

From Beirut to Jerusalem
Thomas Friedman
ISBN-10: 0385413726
Anchor; Updated with a New Chapter edition (July 15, 1990)

PLO Commitments Compliance Act of 1989 (Introduced in Senate), S 763 IS
Library of Congress
1989

418 Interview with Defense Minister Rabin on IDF Radio- 14 December 1988
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
VOLUME 9-10: 1984-1988, 14 Dec 1988

Israel-United States Memorandum of Understanding
September 1, 1975

January 1974: Unprecedented U.S. Aid to Israel Began Under the Sinai Agreements
Donald Neff
The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
January/February 1997, pp. 74

Gordon Housworth



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Seeking a fully fleshed psychological profile of Bush43

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A partial psychological analysis of Bush43 originally published in Truthout, Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions, has been flying about the web as received wisdom without further analysis among sites critical of POTUS, while encountering 'dead air' among sympathetic conservative sites. The result is a lack of critical assessment of the analysis from either side.

This note looks at the perils of antagonistic titles, the Truthout authors, general personality surveys, unantagonistic personality typing of Bush43, and a longing for a Gittinger-based Personality Assessment System (PAS) of POTUS. I can only imagine that a PAS, or its equivalent, has been done in various foreign capitals. Given the presence, even dominance, of PAS at CIA, I would have to surmise that it has also been done at Langley, if nothing else as a defensive measure, and, to some limited distribution, for insertion into war gaming scenarios.

[At CIA] in Langley, Virginia, psychoanalysts are currently reviewing audio recordings, videotapes, and biographical information on dozens of contemporary world leaders, using the principles of applied psychoanalysis to develop detailed profiles for use by the CIA and the U.S. government and military. According to political psychiatrist Jerrold M. Post, M.D., who has chronicled the history of "at-a-distance leader personality assessment in support of policy," the marriage of psychoanalysis and U.S. intelligence dates back to the early 1940s, when the Office of Strategic Services commissioned two studies of Adolf Hitler. The effort was regarded as enough of a success that it was institutionalized in the 1960s, Post writes, first under the aegis of the Psychiatric Staff of the CIA's Office of Medical Services, which "led to the establishment of the Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior" (CAPPB), which Post founded within the Directorate of Intelligence.

As Post reveals, CIA psychological profiles of Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin played an important role in Jimmy Carter's handling of the 1978 Camp David negotiations. And applied psychoanalysis continues to enjoy a privileged place in the intelligence universe.

I would like to see a full PAS done on POTUS, VPOTUS and all principle candidates for those two offices. Obviously, few to none of the holders or contenders would wish it, but I take it as a certainty that our major adversaries have done so and are now using the information in shaping their approach to the administration and potential incumbents.

Perils of antagonistic titles

Having long had an interest of personality profiling, I am one of many that would like to see an unambiguous, fully fleshed psychological profile of POTUS. While the Truthout item has some quite useful observations, it's title, Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions, telegraphs its intellectual position, robbing it of a presumption of fairness if not legitimacy. I submit my Dec 1, 2005, Leaching away of inside-the-beltway economic expertise, as a more even handed model:

As it is difficult to discuss the contribution of the White House to this current air of divisiveness without immediately gaining a partisan label or drawing a partisan attack, I recommend Karen Hult's The Bush White House in Comparative Perspective as she offers a sound underpinning of comparison to previous White Houses as she looks at three primary tasks of contemporary White Houses:

  • Coordination and supervision of the activities and people that comprise the modern presidency
  • Policy formulation and deliberation or "policy processing"
  • Outreach to external interests and the general public

Hult goes on to describe how the Bush43 White House responded to each, drawing similarities and differences with previous administrations. Worthwhile to get a sound basis for comparison as opposed to polemics from either the left or right.

Beyond that, there is personality which can shape performance of the administration and the White House. One could move to NYT Ron Suskind's Without a Doubt. After that, one could look for underpinnings of those actions in Justin Frank's Bush on the Couch, an unauthorized applied psychoanalysis of the president which created a tiff when released. The profile is not attractive and a new edition contains an "expanded epilogue that reviews the 2004 election and the start of Bush's second term" in which Frank concludes that the 2004 election "may have only made things worse." Frank is not easy to dismiss as two other unrelated profiles offer a similar analysis. The WP's Dan Froomkin held a public Q&A with Frank that is interesting.

The Truthout authors

As one interested in what has been written as well as who wrote it, the apparent father-son duo that wrote Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions comprise one psychotherapist (the elder) and one author (the younger), although errors abound in presumed education. For example, one blogger mistakenly wrote that "There's a very good article on Truthout by a pair of doctors about the psychological state of President Bush…"

John P. Briggs, MD (also found under John Briggs, MD) is the psychotherapist trained at William Alanson White Institute, later at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, but an initial sweep shows that there is little in the way of scholarly citations by which to gage the writings of the elder Briggs other than:

  • Member of a group of "former members who assisted in [the] formulation of The American Psychiatric Association's "Principles Underlying Interdisciplinary Relations between the Professions of Psychiatry and Psychology" in 1964.
  • Chairman, Committee on Public Information, of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis in 1968.
  • Wrote a foreward to Montague Ullman' Appreciating Dreams: A Group Approach.
  • Alum of Wayne State University School of Medicine, class of 1948.

J.P. Briggs II, PhD, is more an author of contemporary work, and whose likely contribution to the piece was prose and editing. I would like to know more about the authors, more so given their title, content notwithstanding. With so little professional citation extant, I was disheartened to see an absence of inquiry but then we habitually read what we are predisposed to believe. That is a potentially fatal condition for a good intel analyst.

General personality survey classifications

In The Mysterious Mr. Bush, Deepak Chopra, no less, has noted of Bush43:

[No] one since Richard Nixon has been such a mysterious personality. We've all had a chance to observe Bush closely, and insofar as the private person can be assessed, he displays a set of strange characteristics.

Chopra proceeds to provide "a long list of them, offered in a sense of genuine bafflement." Worth reviewing as they offer a glimpse into the difficulty of resolving complex, often contradictory issues of personalities.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test and its modifications by David Keirsey in the Keirsey Temperament Sorter are two procedures designed to identify significant personal preferences and temperaments, searching among four primary dichotomies: extraversion-introversion, sensing-intuitive, thinking-feeling and judging-perceiving.

Myers-Briggs, later Keirsey, became more useful for me once my initial black and white introduction was corrected and I learned that individuals had primary and secondary preferences, that preferences changed over time and under stress, that predictions needed careful nuance and that directional indicators may be the best the ordinary observer can get:

Virtually all personality systems employ some form of scaled interpretations of key characteristics.

Unantagonistic personality typing of Bush43

Whereas Bush41 was an ISFJ, Bush43 is generally considered an ESTJ. While both in Keirsey's terms "belong to the temperament of the Guardians," Bush41 is in the category called Protectors and Bush41 in the category called Supervisors.

While Myers-Briggs would cascade Type ESTJ as:

  • Dominant or first: Extraverted Thinking
  • Auxiliary or second: Introverted Sensing
  • Tertiary or third: Extraverted Intuition
  • Inferior or fourth: Introverted Feeling

I suggest Keirsey's Portrait of the Supervisor (eStJ) is more immediately useful. Read Laura Miller's The inner W. which properly comments on a lack of precision in Frank's Bush on the Couchbut does not contest his diagnosis of POTUS as "an untreated alcoholic with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies." Miller also draws our attention to Singer's The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush and Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents by Rubenzer and Faschingbauer. Weisberg's The Misunderestimated Man describes the compensations that Bush43 adopted that make him appear stupid when he is not. And in another of those poorly titled works, look at the analysis of Bush43's ESTJ in The Wrong Stuff: Why is Bush So Incompetent? Read the opening pages of Bush on the Couch describing his mother's direct parenting. It does not paint an attractive picture. You can now go back and read Briggs & Briggs' Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions as you will have better context to evaluate it.

Still, they all fall short of the desired precision, of the capacity for refined prediction.

Gittinger's Personality Assessment System (PAS)

The gold standard in personality evaluation and behavioral prediction is the Personality Assessment System (PAS) developed by John W. Gittinger. (First read the 'about' from the PAS foundation and then the article on Gittinger by John Marks from The Search for the Manchurian Candidate. While PASF cites the Marks' item and properly flags it as anti-CIA, it does contain quite a bit of relevant background and clinical application within the agency.). Then jump to the Summary of the Theory of the PAS:

The Personality Assessment System (PAS) [was] developed originally as a clinical method for describing the dynamics and adjustments of mental disfunction. It has since had wide application as a technique for general psychological assessment… There is nothing unique about the assessment process for it is something that each person, in his own way, carries on almost continuously. The purpose of assessment is to make possible predictions about another's future behavior so that one's own behavior can be appropriate… The PAS has an advantage in that the information required for prediction of future behavior can be obtained with an easily administered psychological test

Conversely, where test results cannot be obtained, the PAS provides a framework for "reconstructing" the personality that underlies the observed behavior (York, 1964). The reconstructed personality pattern can then be the basis for useful behavior prediction. This process can be applied analytically by clinicians skilled in the use of the PAS model or the process can be made more rigorous with any of the indirect assessment instruments that have been developed within the context of PAS methodology. Also important is the fact that the PAS methodology provides a way of communicating the particulars of a subject's position in PAS "space" with less equivocation than possible with a less descriptively and objectively oriented system. This feature is the outcome of a notational system described below.

From the viewpoint of practical application, PAS contributes to the prediction of behavior in several ways:

  • It indicates the kinds of internal and external cues the individual is most likely to respond to overtly;
  • It suggests the types of stimuli most likely to produce behavior change;
  • It provides an understanding of the quality of environments in which the individual is most likely to behave efficiently;
  • It offers insight into situations that are stressful for the individual;
  • It permits prediction of the probable nature of maladjusted behavior, should maladjusted behavior occur.

The Personaility Assessment System thus contributes to individual assessment by providing practical insights into a highly personalized pattern of strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, the system allows objective comparisons among the personality features of different individuals, thereby offering a suitable framework for behavioral research and definitive investigations of personality structure and function...

The PAS was derived originally from the use of the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale, Form I (Wechsler, 1944). Experience has shown that the PAS can be used with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale or WAIS (Wechsler, 1955, 1958) and with all later adaptations… Finally, although the Wechsler Intelligence Test for Children (WISC) has not been used very much with PAS, there is some evidence (Saunders, 1961b) that the system is appropriate.

PAS derives an individual's pattern by comparing each of his Wechsler or WAIS weighted subtest scores to his own calculated norm. This norm, termed the person's Normal Level, is estimated by a theory-generated weighted system that is applied to ten subtests, excluding Vocabulary. While Normal Level can be considered an estimate of an individual's over-all capability, its importance to PAS, for the purpose of this introduction, is that it provides a baseline from which the influence of personality on test performance can be quantitatively measured. Note particularly that, in the PAS model, pattern analysis of sub-test scores is made upon deviations of a subject's scores from the subject's is own, unique, standard. The PAS does not use a normative baseline from which to assess subtest scatter. Subtest deviation scores are, in the PAS, ipsitive data, not normative data. The method of computing Normal Level is discussed in another section of this Web site.

If you've come this far, you might visit:

As noted in the opening, I'd like to see a PAS done on POTUS, VPOTUS and all principle candidates for those two offices. It is a near certainty that our major adversaries have done it, or purchased it, and are now using the information in shaping their approach to the administration and potential incumbents.

What a shame that we as an electorate must go without.

The Mysterious Mr. Bush
Posted by Deepak Chopra
intentBlog
January 22, 2007 07:35 AM

Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions
By John P. Briggs, MD, and J.P. Briggs II, PhD
Guest Contributors
Truthout
Thursday 18 January 2007

Rumbled!
Andrew Stephen
New Statesman
Published 13 November 2006

The Misunderestimated Man: How Bush chose stupidity
By Jacob Weisberg
Slate
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006, at 6:39 AM ET
[Originally published May 7, 2004]

Personality, Character, and Leadership in the White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents
by Steve Rubenzer, Ph.D. and Tom Faschingbauer, Ph.D.
Brassey's, Inc., ISBN: 1-57488-815-3, 2004
Google book preview (selected pages) Recommended as the preview explains the personality measurement. See below:

Foundation for the Study of Personality in History
The Long form test (more accurate, 300 items) which you can take of the IPIP-NEO (International Personality Item Pool Representation of the NEO PI-R™)

A presidential personality
Intelligence and achievement-striving--but not straightforwardness--may predict the newly elected president's effectiveness.
BY SADIE F. DINGFELDER
Monitor Staff
Volume 35, No. 10 November 2004

Bush’s 'cognitive functioning' worries observers
by Andrew Stephen
Observer (UK)
Oct. 17, 2004
Mirror

The inner W.
Three new psychological portraits of George W. Bush paint him as a control freak driven by rage, fear and an almost murderous Oedipal competition with his father. And that's before we get to Mom.
By Laura Miller
Salon
June 16, 2004

What's going on inside the White House?
Transcript
Interview with Justin Frank, Georgetown psychoanalyst and author of "Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President," an unauthorized "applied psychoanalysis" of the president.
Dan Froomkin
White House Briefing Columnist
White House Talk
June 16, 2004; 1:00 PM

Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President
By Justin A. Frank, M.D.
Harper Collins
2004

The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush
by Peter Singer
Dutton
ISBN-10: 0525948139
March 2004

Myers Briggs, XYZ Leadership, and Team Roles
by David M. Boje
January 21, 2001

Career Assessment With the Personality Assessment System
C.J. Krauskopf, Ohio State University; D.R. Saunders, MARS Measurement Associates Chapel Hill, NC
Journal of Career Assessment, Vol. 3, No. 4, 241-257 (1995)
DOI: 10.1177/106907279500300401

Personality and Ability: The Personality Assessment System
Krauskopf, Charles J.; Saunders, David R.
Rowman & Littlefield Pub Group
ISBN10: 0819192813, ISBN13: 97808191928110
4/1/1994

Presidential Personality: Biographical Use of the Gough Adjective Check List
Dean Keith Simonton
University of California, Davis
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Copyright 1986 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
1986, Vol. 5 I. No. I, 149-160
HTML

Chapter 10. The Gittinger Assessment System
The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
The CIA and Mind Control
John Marks
Times Books, ISBN 0-8129-0773-6, 1978

Gordon Housworth



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