Tag Archives: decision making

Geek out with the Architecture of Legislative Bodies.

Of course the UN General Assembly Hall is recognizable, but what does its semi-circle shape mean? Apparently, its one of the oldest–and a neoclassical go to for fostering consensus and democratic engagement.

The architecture of a legislative body tells a lot about how governance works in each respective body. A new book by Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder van der Vegt explains, including their methodology:

To answer that question, we spent six years collecting the architectural layout for each one of those buildings. We’ve published our findings in our book “Parliament.” By comparing these plans in detail, we wanted to understand how a political culture is both shaped by and expressed through architecture. Organized as a lexicon, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the book for the first time allows a comparison of all national parliaments in the world.We found a clear pattern. Although each of the 193 United Nations member states has a parliament of some kind — albeit with varying degrees of democracy — their plenary chambers have a very limited number of shapes. Most surprisingly, these buildings have hardly changed since the 19th century.

Source: These 5 architectural designs influence every legislature in the world — and tell you how each governs – The Washington Post

The regional parliament of Nordrhein Westphalia, Germany

Also, don’t miss the website for the book, Parliament, to see schematics of a number of UN Member State’s legislative body, and even the UN in Geneva and interactive photos, facts, and more. Great stuff for policy geeks, parliamentarians, and designers interested in civic engagement and proxemics.

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Inside Negotiations for a Bipartisan Immigration Deal

A great article by Alec MacGillis in the NYT Magazine on how the Republicans and Democrats came together after Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama–with a historic window to negotiate an immigration deal. Who were the players. How did the deal come together. And how it fell apart.

Three years ago, the G.O.P.-led Housewas close to reaching a compromise on immigration — one that might haveneutralized the issue for the 2016 election.This is the inside story of what went wrong.

Source: How Republicans Lost Their Best Shot at the Hispanic Vote – The New York Times

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Howard Raiffa, a Father of Decision Science

Leadership and diplomacy involve making decisions at various levels.

Founder of the Kennedy School of Government. Negotiation expert. Decision science scholar.

You may not have heard about Howard Raiffa, but he is considered a foundational scholar, leader, and teacher who made decision theory and negotiation accessible and important to the organizational practitioner. He is also a key figure in the development of games and simulations to teach key concepts and to apply them in practice.

His first book, Games and Decisions (1957) introduced game theory. Other notable publications include The Art and Science of Negotiation (1982), Smart Choices (1998), and Negotiation Analysis (2003).

The best practical advice, Professor Raiffa wrote, is “to maximize your expected payoff, which is the sum of all payoffs multiplied by probabilities.” He explained that “the art of compromise centers on the willingness to give up something in order to get something else in return.”“Successful artists,” he added, “get more than they give up.”

Source: Howard Raiffa, Mathematician Who Studied Decision Making, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

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What the ‘dissent channel’ cable at State Means

Dozens of diplomats and mid-level officials argue for a U.S. intervention in Syria. You can read the document here. According to Joseph Cassidy, vividly explains how this “means the system is working” in the “pillow fight” that often is foreign policymaking.

The use of the dissent channel, managed by the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff has been occasionally documented, as seen in the book, The Blood Telegram by Gary Bass. In the book reveals the “profoundly disturbing account” of killing–caused by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger–with an estimate of 200,000-500,000 dead in the country we now call Bangladesh. (Not everyone sees the book as an indictment, however; Peter R. Kann sees the benefits of a foreign policy based on “unwavering loyalty to allies and an aversion to interference in another nation’s internal affairs” in his own review (“dissent”?).

The current dissent at the State Department is different for several reasons. According to Chas Freeman, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as reported by Vijay Prasad, this could be a political move to support Secretary Clinton:

What is most astounding about the cable is that it mistakes objective shifts in geopolitical relations for subjective errors. This is an elementary error for observers of international relations. The cable blames Obama for not striking Syria earlier and asks that he do so now. But Obama did not strike Syria in 2013 because he recognized, correctly, that the Russians, Chinese and most of the major countries of the Global South (including India) deeply opposed regime change. It was to finally stop any consideration of regime change that the Russians directly intervened in 2015. The deployment of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles would put any U.S. bombing raid into direct confrontation with the Russians. This is a very dangerous situation. Older habits of U.S. uni-polarity, developed from Gulf War 1 in 1990, no longer apply to an increasingly multi-polar world. It is not Obama’s timidity that led to the failure of aerial bombardment in Syria, as the diplomats contend, but it has been the rising confidence of certain world powers to confront U.S. preponderance. That this is not evident to the diplomats suggests they have a poor understanding of the world.

Source: Brain-Dead Diplomats: Why Did 51 American State Dept. Officials ‘Dissent’ Against Obama and Call for Bombing Syria? | Alternet

The person behind the famous “blood telegram, the “dissenting diplomat”, Archer K. Blood,  turned out provide factually accurate and morally upstanding counsel. As the chief political officer in what was then known as East Pakistan he paid a professional price–and this begs the question whether his approach was the most effective. (Ellen Barry explores this question in her fascinating piece in the NYT, Memo from Bangladesh.)

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Machiavelli, reconsidered.

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“Redemption, rebirth, must take the form of going back to the founding principles” says an expert on the Florentine diplomat.  A lifetime of study helps Professor Maurizio Viroli of Princeton and UT Austin rebrand Machiavelli as a sage observer of political culture and a helpful resource for today. (Also, in his earlier works Viroli worked to redeem Machiavelli from being seen merely as sinister.)

His book, How to Chose a Leader: Machiavelli’s Advice to Citizens, offers solutions to contemporary political predicaments, say, the fallen Berlusconi or the rising Trump, for example. In the LA Review of Books Robert Zaretsky writes:

We are as weak now as we were then. We still want to believe, and not the small stuff. We want, instead, to believe the big stuff. The bigger the lie, the greater our satisfaction; the greater our satisfaction, the deeper our credulity. Yet Machiavelli, contrary to popular belief, does not applaud this sort of dissimulation. Instead, he agonizes over it. Time and again, he urges citizens to exercise their reason, to beware of leaders who appeal to their passions. In troubled times, he warns, citizens turn against minorities within their countries by turning them into scapegoats. This reflex, in turn, lifts to power those who promise to protect the people against their imagined enemies. The enemy of my enemy is not just my friend; he is my leader.

Utah radio interviewer Doug Fabrizio explores the book with Viroli on KUER’s Radio West. It is well worth a listen for a few fresh insights into

 

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Argument Mapping with Debategraph

A great little tool to map out views on the Global Goals, Peace in the Middle East, Nuclear Politics, or more, run by a non-profit founded by Peter Baldwin and David Price. It has been used by CNN, the White House, and the Independent as a unique pedagogical tool to explain complex ideas.

Tutorial Prezi

 

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Making Political Sense of Star Wars

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Yes, Star Wars doesn’t make a lot of sense when viewed through the lens of international relations, even if it is fun to see the political-geek-meets-nerd-world analysis by Seth Masket, a political science at the University of Denver.
Episode I featured a two-minute depiction of life in the Galactic Senate in an attempt to demonstrate the Old Republic’s dysfunction. That scene also revealed that Lucas doesn’t understand how legislatures function, what bureaucrats are, why legislative parties form, the function of the media, etc., but it still attempted to show institutional behavior.
Episode III contained a subplot in which the Emperor sowed discord in the government by appointing a plainly unqualified and inexperienced Jedi to the Council. This is all about institutional competition and the challenges of separation of powers.
Episode IV, of course, was all about the executive branch’s accretion of power at the expense of the legislature, which of course led to a violent rebellion headed by ousted senators. There were a farm boy and some robots, but that was a subplot
Note: Masket’s blog, Mischiefs of Faction, is now hosted by VOX.
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Feeling Uncertain? A Key to Effective Negotiation

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A new book, Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing  by John Holmes of New America offers and exploration through social psychology of how we deal with overwhelming complexity, simplification as a coping mechanism, and the implications for time-sensitive interactions.

Holmes: There has been some suggestion that there are certain professions where you have to deal with ambiguity under a high degree of stress and one of them is negotiation. There’s a lot of literature that says business negotiations require dealing with ambiguity under pressure, which is going to naturally raise everyone’s need for closure. So Kruglanski says, look, one way to combat this is just hire people who are low in need for closure. Now there’s a simple test [for that], there’s a 15-question test, it’s on my website.Via the Atlantic

Take the test and see where you fit. Holmes suggests that tolerance for ambiguity is a key factor in getting to a deal or decision.

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Nudging, but Ethically

BYU faculty in 2013 looked at fluid dynamics as well as human behavior. The painted ‘bug’ is a nudge. http://phys.org/news/2013-11-university-physicists-urine-splash-back-tactics.html

To persuade you need to set the stage. One tactic that behavioral economists have recently explored is nudging, or as Richard H. Thaler writes, “small design changes that can markedly affect individual behavior.”

Thaler has a code of conduct for “good nudging”, focusing on transparency, easy opt-outs, and the encouragement of good beaviour. But like everything, nudging can be used to improper ends:

Some argue that phishing — or evil nudging — is more dangerous in government than in the private sector. The argument is that government is a monopoly with coercive power, while we have more choice in the private sector over which newspapers we read and which airlines we fly.CONTINUE READING THE MAIN STORY27COMMENTSI think this distinction is overstated. In a democracy, if a government creates bad policies, it can be voted out of office. Competition in the private sector, however, can easily work to encourage phishing rather than stifle it.

Source: The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad – The New York Times

Nudging can be a bit faddish, and already may be seen as not working in many cases. But as Peter B. Reiner writes, “modernity is the ultimate temptress”–and nudging (for good) may be just what we need to make better choices.

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Rules Matter in the Vatican Synod

If the process is stacked against you, what can you do? In the case of a high-level Vatican conference involving 300 bishops, delegates and observes, a leaked letter from a few cardinals has caused a firestorm. Some see this as a procedural maneuver–but it could just be a journalistic scoop.

At the Vatican, some conservative cardinals are complaining about a three-week meeting, a synod to discuss challenges to the modern family. In a letter to Pope Francis leaked to the media, 13 of them say new rules for that meeting leave them at a disadvantage and could lead to what they describe as predetermined results on disputed issues. As NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports, the Vatican has denounced the leak.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: The letter was leaked Monday, a week after the Pope got it. Five of the 13 Cardinals have since denied they signed the letter. And today, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi tried to put the controversy to rest.

FEDERICO LOMBARDI: (Through interpreter) It’s not surprising. Observations and doubts were expressed about the new synod rules. But once they’ve been established, the synod fathers must apply them in the best possible way.

Source: Vatican Denounces Letter Criticizing Pope Francis On Family : NPR

Underlying disagreements already exist among social lines–with African representatives emerging as the “standard-bearers” for “traditional Catholic teaching on family issues.”

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