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Obama’s New Deputy Chief of Staff a Former Blogger

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

More than that, but it is a sign of changing times and the mainstreaming of blogging.

Mona Sutphen, a former diplomat, Clinton NSC aide and Rahm Emanuel’s Chief of Staff, has been named White House Deputy Chief of Staff - a powerful, albeit very “insider”, post. Until last February, Sutphen was also briefly a foreign policy blogger at The Next American Century , which was a short-lived vehicle to promote  The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise
 a book Sutphen co-authored with Nina Hachigian.

I have not read their book ( nor heard of it  before today, to be frank) but from listening to Sutphen and Hachigan opine on their infomercial video (see below) The Next American Century sounds more or less as a breezy and happy version of the themes in Thomas P. M. Barnett’s yet to be released Great Powers: America and the World After Bush that I’m reading, minus the sharp elbows thrown by Tom and the latter book’s deep dive into historical and strategic drivers for the 21st century. Otherwise, there’s a lot of big picture congruency going on – no wonder Tom’s so happy about the incoming Obama administration; it seems like it will have at least some personnel in high places who are predisposed toward his strategic views.

Be interesting if anyone out there has a copy of the Sutphen-Hachigan book to see if they cited PNM or BFA in the footnotes or index.

A final point, that Obama is moving such relatively young faces, like Mona Sutphen, to high posts is a good sign. Regardless of how my more liberal readers and fellow FP/mil/Intel/security bloggers may feel, the Democratic bench in these areas range from fair to decidely weak with a shortage of “stars” in the critical late 40′s to middle 50′s age band that normally fill the first through second tier appointive posts (of course, that deficit partly comes from liberal activist hostility toward more conservative Democrats like Sam Nunn or Lee Hamilton who are always shortlisted but never appointed). Normally, you need a talent pool at least 2-3 deep at each position to handle the burnout, transience and delay in confirmation hearings that every administration faces. The Democrats have to build up that pool instead of relying on ancient Carter and aging Boomer, Clinton retreads ( even so, look to seeing a lot of familiar GOP faces seatwarming in the first year in the bureaucracy, unless the Senate rushes through every Obama appointment in record time).

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Thursday, February 15th, 2007

ON BIAS AND THINKING

I’d like to juxtapose a couple of interesting posts that I have read this week that have bearing on how we select information that subsequently shapes our thoughts.

At Complexity and Social Networks Blog, Maria Binz-Scharf asks “How does the way we process information relate to how we search for it?“. A key excerpt:

“Some days ago I attended a talk on human information processing by Thomas Mussweiler from the University of Cologne who spoke at the Columbia Business School. Mussweiler and colleagues conducted an impressive number of experiments on the mechanisms and influences of individual information processing. A simple example would be to ask you to determine your best athletic performance. You have two basic options: 1) You think of every single athletic moment in your life, i.e. you engage in absolute information processing, or 2) you compare what you recollect as some of your best performances to a given standard, e.g. a famous athlete’s performance (or a famous couch potato’s performance). Not surprisingly it turns out that comparison allows to process information in a more efficient manner.

Mussweiler went on to talk about various factors that influence the comparisons we make, most importantly the standards we employ for comparing information. His experiments used a technique calledpriming to activate certain standards – for example, subjects were asked to judge a trait in a person. The result shows that priming a trait concept (such as aggressiveness) will induce the subject to judge the target person according to that trait. In other words, once activated, standards are spontaneously compared to the target person.”

This is very interesting. “Priming” would be an efficiency mechanism for rapid mental screening of a large number of things. It is also a “bias mechanism” that would strongly predispose you to see some evidence of what pattern you are looking for, even if it does not exist. It would be very much like the ” Framing” of George Lakoff in its effect.

How to deal with that effect, our own unintentional biases or being targeted by zealous Lakoffian framers ? Metacognition might be a helpful technique, as suggested in the post “Strategic Learning: Metacognition and Metamemory” at The Eide Neurolearning Blog . The Drs. Edie write:

“High level strategic learning often requires constant self-regulation and error monitoring strategies, metacognition (thinking about the thought processes), sometimes specific memory techniques (metamemory or conscious thinking about memory).”

Such self-regulative monitoring provides a mental check against racing ahead with a dubious but attractive premise. It would also tend to derail the the likelihood of the amygdala becoming overly engaged in the heat of the argument and turning us into red-faced, sputtering, arm-waving, buffoons with a surge of emotionality.

Cross-posted to Chicago Boyz

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